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Mosley v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 20, 2019

GUATEMION MOSLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
TARGET CORPORATION, Defendant.

          ENTRY GRANTING TARGET'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          TANYA WALTON PRATT, JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant Target Corporation's (“Target”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Filing No. 42). Following his termination from Target's distribution warehouse, Plaintiff Guatemion Mosley (“Mosley”) filed this action alleging: (1) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (2) violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, and (3) retaliation in violation of Indiana law. (Filing No. 1.) For the following reasons, Target's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The following facts are not necessarily objectively true, but as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the facts are presented in the light most favorable to Mosley as the non-moving party. See Zerante v. DeLuca, 555 F.3d 582, 584 (7th Cir. 2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

         Target operates regional distribution center T559 in Indianapolis, Indiana (“T559”). (Filing No. 44-1 at 2.) Employees at ¶ 559 receive shipments of merchandise from other distribution centers or suppliers and then sort, store, and ship the merchandise to Target stores for sale to customers. Id. The vast majority of employees at ¶ 559 are “warehouse workers” assigned to work in one or more departments including inbound, outbound, and warehousing. Id. Warehouse workers are expected to be able to work in all of these departments. Id. Employees sometimes work in more than one of these departments in a single shift. Id. at 3; Filing No. 44-3 at 7-8. Warehouse workers constantly lift, move, carry, place, and manipulate boxes, pallets, and individual cartons of merchandise ranging in weight from 1 pound to 60 pounds. (Filing No. 44-1 at 3.) Warehouse workers may be required to lift items from floor level and place items on racks at or above their heads. Id. A warehouse worker must be able to lift and carry merchandise weighing up to 47 pounds regularly and up to 60 pounds on an infrequent basis. (Filing No. 44-2 at 115.)

         Target hired Mosley on September 15, 2015 as a warehouse worker at ¶ 559. Id. at 8. He held the same title throughout his employment and was trained to work in the warehousing department. Id. at 9, 13-14. In this position, Mosley performed various functions, including operating power equipment to place and remove large cartons or pallets of freight on racks. Id. at 13-16. In January 2016, Mosley began working the night shift from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. (Filing No. 44-3 at 21-23.) He reported to Operations Managers Daniel Fleener and Joy Landgrebe and earned $18.73 an hour, including a $1.50 an hour shift differential. Id. at 21-24; Filing No. 44-2 at 11, 16-17, 22-23, 49.

         On March 20, 2016, Mosley suffered an on-the-job injury. (Filing No. 44-2 at 23-25.) Target sent him to receive treatment the same day and his physician gave him work restrictions. Id. at 25-28, 116. Between March 20 and June 13, 2016, Mosley's work restriction grew less severe, but he was still restricted enough that he could not perform his job after he became injured. Id. at 45-47, 52-54, 60-61, 64-65, 71-72, 78-79, 81-83, 116, 118-123.

         If a warehouse worker suffers an injury on the job, Target provides up to twelve (12) weeks of light duty work to employees consistent with restrictions imposed by the employee's healthcare provider. (Filing No. 44-1 at 3.) Because of the physical nature of the warehouse worker position at Target's distribution centers, light duty work is not generally of the type the Team Member worked before the injury. Id. Instead, Target provides discrete tasks, which comply with the employee's medical restrictions, to occupy the employee's day and allow the employee time to heal. Id. Target often provides long term or permanent accommodations to employees as cashier at a Target store, because the physical requirements of that position are lower than other positions, including the warehouse worker position. Id.

         Mosley worked light duty with Target between March 21 and June 13, 2016. (Filing No. 44-2 at 35-36, 38-39, 44-45, 117.) During the time that he was working light duty at the distribution center he had difficulties with management asking him to do activities outside of his restrictions, such as repetitive bending and pushing and pulling. Mosely performed isolated, short-term administrative and light maintenance tasks like laminating, shredding, sorting and counting LEGO toys for a team-building project, sweeping, mopping, cleaning break rooms, folding t-shirts, re-stocking flags, organizing a supply closet, and product labeling. Id. at 32-33, 35-36, 39-42; Filing No. 44-3 at 31-34, 38-40, 54-56. These tasks were mostly limited projects, and Mosley often did not have enough light duty work to fill his day. (Filing No. 44-2 at 51.)

         On June 13, 2016, a Human Resources representative informed Mosley his twelve weeks of light duty period had expired, and because he was unable to perform the functions of his previous job he would need to take a medical leave. Id. at 84-86. Mosley began a leave of absence and received worker's compensation benefits, which was less than what he was paid in his normal wages. Id. at 87-88. He was not able to work in the warehouse during his leave because of the health problems he sustained from his workplace injury. Id. at 88.

         On September 25, 2016, Mosley's physician released him from care and issued the following permanent restrictions:

In an 8-hour work shift, the patient may lift to waist 72 [lbs] occasionally, 30 lbs frequently, and 14 lbs constantly; lift waist to shoulder 47 lbs occasionally, 23 lbs frequently and 9 lbs constantly; push/pull 120/110 [lbs] occasionally, 60/55 frequently, and 24/22 constantly. He may frequently bend, squat, kneel, crawl, climb ladder[s] and stairs, work overhead and at shoulder height.

Id. at 124. These restrictions prevented Mosley from performing the duties required of a warehouse worker at Target. Id. at 95.

         On September 27, 2016, Mosley discussed his permanent restrictions with Lewis Johnson (“Johnson”), a human resources manager at Target. Id. at 95-98; Filing No. 44-4 at 6, 37. The two agreed that Mosley was not able to perform the duties of a warehouse worker because of his restrictions. (Filing No. 44-2 at 96-97; Filing No. 44-4 at 38-39.) Mosley could have still performed the light work duties that were provided to him for twelve weeks and/or he could have performed the position of a packer. However, Johnson told Mosley that he was unable to perform other open positions at the distribution center including the position of packer. (Filing No. 44-4 at 39-40, 48-50.) Johnson offered Mosley a position working part-time in a Target store at a significant reduction in pay rate and no benefits. (Filing No. 44-2 at 96.) Mosley told Johnson he needed to speak with his legal counsel before making that decision. (Filing No. 44-2 at 96-97.)

         On October 13, 2016, Johnson wrote Mosley a letter as a follow-up to their telephone call. (Filing No. 44-2 at 125.) The letter reiterated Mosley's restrictions and recapped their conversation:

We had a conversation on September 27, 2016, in which we discussed potential accommodations. The goal of our conversation was to discuss if you are able to perform the essential functions of your position or any vacant position, if one exists, for which you are qualified. During our conversation I offered you the accommodation of a position within Target stores.

Id. The letter said that if Mosley did not contact Johnson by October 19, 2016 Target would assume that he was not interested in returning to work and would “administratively separate [his] employment.” Id. Johnson wrote Mosley a second letter on October 21, 2016 reiterating Target's position and asking Mosley to contact him. Id. at 126. On October 25, 2016 the two spoke again by telephone. (Filing No. 44-4 at 41-42, 51-53.) Mosley told Johnson he was unable to do any job at the distribution center or a Target store. Id. Mosley told Johnson he planned to challenge his final restrictions and Johnson asked Mosley to update him on the status of that challenge within thirty days. Id.

         In late November 2016, another human resources employee at Target, Chad Molinder (“Molinder”), contacted Mosley. (Filing No. 44-2 at 101.) In that conversation, Mosley told Molinder that Target had to offer him a job that was comparable to his previous position and salary, and that that he was capable of doing the light duty work the company had given him in the twelve weeks immediately following his injury. Id. at 102. Molinder dismissed that idea. Id. Molinder told Mosley he could take a job in a store or apply for other jobs that he thought he was qualified for and capable of performing. Id. Mosley looked at Target's website, but the only job postings he found were for positions in a store, which Mosley was uninterested in, or for jobs in a warehouse that violated his permanent restrictions. Id. at 104-05. Target terminated Mosley on January 1, 2017. (Filing No. 44-1 at 4.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that summary judgment is appropriate if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Hemsworth v. Quotesmith.com, Inc., 476 F.3d 487, 489-90 (7th Cir. 2007). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court reviews “the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw[s] all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Zerante, 555 F.3d at 584 (citation omitted). “However, inferences that are supported by only speculation or conjecture will not defeat a summary judgment motion.” Dorsey v. Morgan Stanley, 507 F.3d 624, 627 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Additionally, “[a] party who bears the burden of proof on a particular issue may not rest on its pleadings, but must affirmatively demonstrate, by specific factual allegations, that there is a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial.” Hemsworth, 476 F.3d at 490 (citation omitted). “The opposing party cannot meet this burden with conclusory statements or speculation but only with appropriate citations to relevant admissible evidence.” Sink v. Knox County Hosp., 900 F.Supp. 1065, 1072 (S.D. Ind. 1995) (citations omitted).

         “In much the same way that a court is not required to scour the record in search of evidence to defeat a motion for summary judgment, nor is it permitted to conduct a paper trial on the merits of [the] claim.” Ritchie v. Glidden Co., 242 F.3d 713, 723 (7th Cir. 2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted). “[N]either the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties nor the existence of some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts is sufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment.” Chiaramonte v. Fashion Bed Grp., Inc., 129 F.3d 391, 395 (7th Cir. 1997) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. The Facts

         As an initial matter, the Court must first address Target's contention that its statement of facts should be taken as undisputed. (Filing No. 55 at 2.) Under the Court's Local Rules, a non- movant must, in response to a summary judgment motion, “include a section labeled ‘Statement of Material Facts in Dispute' that identifies the potentially determinative facts and factual disputes that the party contends demonstrate a dispute of fact precluding summary judgment.” Local Rule 56-1(b). Mosley did not include this section in his response brief, although elsewhere within it he attempts to dispute facts recited by Target.[1] The Seventh Circuit has said that a “failure to respond by the nonmovant as mandated by the local rules results in an admission.” Smith v. Lamz, 321 F.3d 680, 683 (7th Cir. 2003).

         In this case, the Court need not decide whether Mosley's omission of a “Statement of Material Facts in Dispute” section amounts to an admission to the facts as Target recounts them. Mosley's factual disputes are immaterial, or the record does not support them, or in some cases, because Mosley mistakes issues of law for issues of fact. The Court will address the facts Mosley asserts are disputed as they arise in each argument.

         B. The Arguments

         Mosely asserts three claims: Count 1: Target discriminated against him on the basis of his disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (the “ADA”), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., Count 2: Target violated the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., (“FMLA”), and Count 3: Target retaliated against him for seeking worker's compensation benefits in violation of Indiana law as stated in Frampton v. Central Indiana Gas Co., 297 N.E.2d 425 (Ind. 1973). (Filing No. 1.) Target seeks summary judgment on all three claims. The Court will address each claim in turn.

         1. Count I: Mosley's Disability Claim

         Count I alleges that Target “intentionally and willfully discriminated against Mr. Mosley because he is disabled and/or because Mr. Mosley has a record of being disabled and/or because [Target] regarded Mr. Mosley as disabled.” Id. at 5. Mosley alleges that similarly situated non-disabled employees were treated more favorably with regards to the conditions of their employment in violation of the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id.

         Target offers two arguments why this claim should not survive summary judgment. First, it contends Mosley is not a qualified individual with a disability under the terms of the ADA. (Filing No. 43 at 9.) And second, Mosley's claim fails because Target offered him a reasonable accommodation when he was injured, and Mosley declined that offer. Id. at 11.

         a. Mosley Is Not a Qualified Individual with a Disability.

         The ADA prohibits employers from “discriminat[ing] against a qualified individual on the basis of disability” in job application procedures and in the hiring or advancement of employees. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). An ADA plaintiff hoping to survive summary judgment must show there is a genuine issue of material fact as to whether “(1) she is disabled; (2) she is able to perform the essential functions of the job either with or without reasonable accommodation; and (3) she suffered an adverse employment action because of her disability.” Majors v. Gen. Elec. Co., 714 F.3d 527, 533 (7th Cir. 2013) (citing Povey v. City of Jeffersonville, Ind., 697 F.3d 619, 622 (7th Cir. 2012)). A “qualified individual” is one who, “with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). Important factors for determining whether a ...


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