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Fike v. Nichols Aluminum-Alabama, LLC

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division

March 5, 2015

SCOTTY FIKE, Plaintiff,
v.
NICHOLS ALUMINUM-ALABAMA, LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

KARON OWEN BOWDRE, Chief District Judge.

In June of 2012, Defendant Nichols Aluminum created three new Team Leader positions in its mill production line and began accepting applications. All applicants for the position interviewed before a four-member panel that scored the applicants on a scale of one to ten in four categories-qualifications, attendance, leadership skills, and performance history. Plaintiff Scotty Fike, who was born missing his left forearm, applied for the Team Leader position. Mr. Fike interviewed well, receiving the fourth-highest score. However, because he did not receive one of the top three scores, Mr. Fike was not offered a position as a Team Leader.

Mr. Fike believes that he was more qualified than the third-highest scoring employee, Vonda Darlene Hughes, and contends that the only reason he did not receive the promotion is because of his disability. Accordingly, he brought the current suit against Nichols for discriminating against him on the basis of his disability in violation of the American with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). (Doc. 1). This matter is now before the court on Nichols' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 14). For the reasons discussed below, this court will GRANT Nichols' motion.

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment allows a trial court to decide cases when no genuine issues of material fact are present and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. When a district court reviews a motion for summary judgment, it must determine two things: (1) whether any genuine issues of material fact exist; and if not, (2) whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

The moving party "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). Once the moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the non-moving party "to demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment." Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir. 1991).

In reviewing the evidence submitted, the court must "view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden, " to determine whether the nonmoving party presented sufficient evidence on which a jury could reasonably find in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254; Cottle v. Storer Commc'n, Inc., 849 F.2d 570, 575 (11th Cir. 1988). In doing so, all evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Graham v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 193 F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999). However, conclusory allegations based on subjective beliefs are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact and do not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment. See Holified v. Reno, 115 F.3d 1555, 1564 n.6 (11th Cir. 1997) (per curiam). After both parties have addressed the motion for summary judgment, the court must grant the motion if no genuine issues of material fact exist and if the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

Mr. Fike began working at Nichols' aluminum and sheet metal manufacturing plant in 2002. Nichols originally hired Mr. Fike to work in the scrap department but promoted him to work as a leveler in the mill department within six months. The leveler position involves operating numerous machines within the mill department and is not managerial in nature. Mr. Fike remained in the leveler position for the next nine-and-a-half years, learning to operate all of the equipment within the mill department and frequently training other employees on the machines. During this time, Mr. Fike earned numerous pay raises and gained the respect of his fellow employees, developing a reputation as a hard worker. Mr. Fike also completed numerous workplace productivity classes.

Mr. Fike's time in the mill department, however, was not entirely without incident. On numerous occasions, supervisors issued write-ups to Mr. Fike for mishaps within the mill department, some of which Mr. Fike took responsibility for and others of which he did not. Additionally, on one occasion Mr. Fike refused to cooperate in an investigation regarding a safety violation that occurred within the mill department. Matthew Crowson, the Training and Employee Relations Administrator, conducted the safety investigation and asked Mr. Fike some questions relating to the violation. Although he was an eye witness to the violation, Mr. Fike refused to tell Mr. Crowson what he had witnessed, choosing instead to protect his fellow workers.

In July of 2011, Nichols hired Ms. Hughes as a fork truck slitter within the mill department. At the time she joined Nichols, Ms. Hughes had a proven record of leadership. She had worked as a team lead at Nucor Steel, a competing metal manufacturing plant, and managed a local restaurant. Additionally, Ms. Hughes had completed numerous leadership courses as well as courses in first aid, OSHA compliance, mobile equipment, and computer technology.

In June of 2012, Nichols created three new Team Leader positions in the mill department. Nichols posted notices of the new position and accepted job bids from interested employees. The job posting provided the following description of the positions:

Skills required:

• Must be able to demonstrate ...

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