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Westbrook v. Bridges Community Services

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

September 19, 2019



          TANYA WALTON PRATT, United States District Court Judge Southern District of Indiana

         This matter is before the Court on a Motion for Summary Judgment filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 by Defendant Bridges Community Services (“Bridges”) (Filing No. 69). Pro se plaintiff Curtis L. Westbrook (“Westbrook”) filed this lawsuit against Bridges, alleging claims for gender and disability discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 (“ADA”), and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 701, as well as a claim for breach of contract. After answering the Complaint and denying liability, Bridges filed its Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting that Westbrook was not its employee, and it is not subject to the federal statutes upon which Westbrook’s claims are predicated. For the following reasons, the Court grants Bridges’ Motion for Summary Judgment.

         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 Westbrook 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).

         Bridges is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Muncie, Indiana. Its focus is on providing services to homeless and low-income individuals. Bridges was a sub-grantee agency of Senior Service America, Inc. (“Senior Service”), a federal grant program which administers the Senior Community Service Employment Program (“SCSEP”). The SCSEP grant is funded by the United States Department of Labor as authorized by Title V of the Older Americans Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3056. The purpose of SCSEP is to foster economic self-sufficiency and promote useful part-time opportunities in community service assignments for unemployed, low-income individuals who are 55 years of age or older. The program specifically focuses on individuals who have poor employment prospects in order to increase the number of older individuals who would enjoy the benefits of unsubsidized employment (Filing No. 71-1 at 2; Filing No. 71-2 at 2–3).

         SCSEP provides grants to subsidize low-income seniors in job training and assistance to help them transition into unsubsidized employment in the public or private sectors. Senior Service administers SCSEP grant funds by contracting with and funding a network of local non-profit entities, and these sub-grantees provide SCSEP participants with opportunities through part-time assignments for training, funded by the SCSEP grant, in a wide variety of community service work activities at non-profit and public facilities. The community agencies where SCSEP participants are placed for work assignments are referred to as “host agencies.” (Filing No. 71-2 at 3.)

         Bridges was a sub-grantee and part of the Senior Service network when Westbrook participated in the SCSEP program. Bridges administered SCSEP as a sub-grantee agency in the Muncie area pursuant to its contract with Senior Service. Sub-grantee agencies pay SCSEP participants with SCSEP funds and withhold their taxes. Participants work an average of twenty hours per week at their host agency, and they are limited to spending a maximum of forty-eight months in the program under the SCSEP individual durational limit. Participation and re-enrollment in the SCSEP program are discretionary (Filing No. 71-2 at 3–4).

         Sonya Weatherspoon (“Weatherspoon”) was employed by Bridges as the program director of SCSEP from 2013 to 2017. She accepted applications from individuals who were interested in participating in SCSEP, assisted participants with creating individual employment plans (“IEP”), and worked with participants to find placements at a host agency that fit their IEP, skill set, and education. After participants were placed with a host agency, the host agency supervised the participants, set the participants’ job duties and specific work hours, and provided them with the tools and equipment to complete their tasks. Bridges did not consider the SCSEP participants to be employees of Bridges, and Bridges did not supervise, control, or direct their work tasks or responsibilities at the host agencies. Bridges simply facilitated placement with host agencies and receipt of paychecks through the SCSEP program grant funds (Filing No. 71-2 at 2, 4; Filing No. 71-1 at 3).

         Westbrook applied for the SCSEP program by walking into the Bridges office, filling out an application, and providing the requested information. Westbrook believes that his registration and application for SCSEP occurred in April 2014, and Bridges’ records suggest his application was submitted in May 2014. Following his application, Westbrook first interviewed for placement at a host agency in October 2014. He interviewed with Attic Window, which is a resale facility that sells used clothing and household items. During the interview with Attic Window, Westbrook informed the interviewer that he had a bachelor’s degree, and the interview abruptly ended because he was overqualified for the position. Westbrook had another interview with a host agency in October 2014, this time with Habitat Restore, another second-hand store. He was selected for a position at Habitat Restore as a receiving clerk/delivery clerk/pick-up clerk. Westbrook’s assignment with Habitat Restore was scheduled for October 21, 2014 through June 10, 2015. His responsibilities included receiving and picking up items that people donated to Habitat Restore (Filing No. 71-3 at 7–8; Filing No. 71-2 at 5).

         While working at Habitat Restore, Westbrook either drove himself to the store or took a bus. He was supervised by “John”. Bridges did not direct Westbrook’s work at Habitat Restore, and Habitat Restore set the specific hours for his work (Filing No. 71-3 at 13). Habitat Restore was the only host agency to which Westbrook was assigned during his time in the SCSEP program with Bridges . Id. at 9. Westbrook never performed any work for Bridges at the Bridges office. Id. at 13.

         From January 27, 2015 through February 9, 2015, Westbrook was off work from Habitat Restore because of a surgery. He was medically released to return to work on February 10, 2015, with a “no heavy lifting” restriction until March 10, 2015, after which he could perform his regular duties without any restrictions. During the time Westbrook had the lifting restriction, he was unable to work at Habitat Restore because they could not use him. He eventually worked off and on at Habitat Restore but then decided he was not going back because of physical challenges. He asked Weatherspoon to be reassigned to a different host agency. At that time, Westbrook agreed to return to Habitat Restore to see if he could handle the work or until Weatherspoon found something else for him. When he returned, he realized he could not do the work because of problems with his shoulders and knees. Westbrook informed Weatherspoon that he could not do the work (Filing No. 71-3 at 9–10; Filing No. 71-2 at 5–6, 12).

         Weatherspoon arranged an interview for Westbrook on March 3, 2015, with Work One Center. He felt the interview went well, but he was not offered a position because Work One did not have enough work for him in the resource area (Filing No. 71-2 at 7).

         On March 16, 2015, Weatherspoon spoke with personnel at the City of Muncie to determine if Westbrook could be placed there, but Weatherspoon was informed that Westbrook was not allowed on the City’s premises. Westbrook asked multiple times to be assigned to the Unity Center, a non-profit agency in Muncie, which would require Westbrook to cover “open gym” time for children. However, at the time, the Unity Center was not an approved host agency because it did not have a director, and Weatherspoon was concerned that Westbrook would not have appropriate supervision. Weatherspoon also believed that Westbrook’s degree and employment goals did not fit with the open gym position (Filing No. 71-2 at 6–8).

         On April 1, 2015, Westbrook was scheduled to attend an interview with the Boys and Girls Club for the position of project and facility assistant. He did not attend the scheduled interview, but he did interview a few days later. Bridges was not notified that Westbrook had interviewed. Westbrook was not offered the position but was informed that there were other positions coming available. The Boys and Girls Club interviewer ...

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