United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
H. ENGLAND, III UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Plaintiff John Anthony Witherspoon initiated this action
against his former employer Defendant WTI Transport, Inc.
(“WTI”) asserting claims for disability
discrimination and retaliation pursuant to Title I of the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12111 et
seq., as amended, (“ADA”), based on his
termination. (Doc. 1). WTI moves for summary judgment. (Doc.
29). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for review. (Docs.
30, 33, 35, 38). For the reasons stated below, WTI's
motion for summary judgment, (doc. 29), is GRANTED IN PART
AND DENIED IN PART.
Standard of Review
Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is proper if the pleadings, the discovery, and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits “show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and
that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” “Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary
judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to
establish the existence of an element essential to that
party's case, and on which that party will bear the
burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 447 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party
bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine
issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then
shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to “go
beyond the pleadings” to establish there is a
“genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 324.
(citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute
about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
Court must construe the evidence and all reasonable
inferences arising from it in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co.,
398 U.S. 144, 157, (1970); see also Anderson, 477
U.S. at 255 (all justifiable inferences must be drawn in the
non-moving party's favor). Any factual disputes will be
resolved in Plaintiff's favor when sufficient competent
evidence supports Plaintiff's version of the disputed
facts. See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275,
1276-78 (11th Cir. 2002) (a Court is not required to resolve
disputes in the non-moving party's favor when that
party's version of the events is supported by
insufficient evidence). However, “mere conclusions and
unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to
defeat a summary judgment motion.” Ellis v.
England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir. 2005) (per
curiam) (citing Bald Mtn. Park, Ltd. V. Oliver, 836
F.2d 1560, 1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Moreover, “[a] mere
‘scintilla' of evidence supporting the opposing
party's position will not suffice; there must be enough
of a showing that the jury could reasonably find for that
party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573, 1577
(11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
Summary Judgment Facts
A. Witherspoon's Position and Job Duties
a trucking company that provides flatbed carrier service to
manufacturers to deliver their products. (Doc. 31-1 at
¶2). WTI sends its trucks to customer locations for
loading, transport, and unloading. (Id. at ¶3).
WTI contends that, depending on the size of its customer and
the number of loads it ships, the loading is performed in one
of three ways. (Id.). Some large customers have
their own personnel on0si8te who perform the loading onto WTI
trailers. (Id.). For other customers who do not have
frequent loads, the over-the-road (“OTR”) drivers
may perform the loading. (Id.). And, according to
WTI, for customers with a significant number of loads but
without their own loading personnel, WTI provides a Loader, a
WTI employee who drives the truck to the customer's
facility, performs the loading, and leaves the loaded trailer
at the customer's facility where the OTR Driver takes the
load to its ultimate destination. (Id.).
hired Plaintiff John Anthony Witherspoon
(“Witherspoon”) on May 18, 2001. (Id. at
¶4). WTI contends it hired Witherspoon to deliver loads
to TAMKO, a local manufacturing customer and that his job
included securing the load for TAMKO, requiring him to throw
tarps and straps over the load to secure it on both sides of
the truck. (Doc. 31-1 at ¶4). Witherspoon disputes this
characterization, contending that he was hired, continually
employed, and performed work for WTI as a
“Loader” or a “Tuscaloosa Loader.”
(Doc. 34 at ¶3). In addition to an affidavit attesting
to his position, Witherspoon provides payroll documentation
that lists his position as “Loader, ”
“Loader Tuscaloosa, ” and “Tuscaloosa
Loader.” (Doc. 34 at 9-11).
April 2004, Witherspoon sustained a lower back injury and was
restricted by his physician from throwing straps and tarps,
which WTI accommodated. (Doc. 31-1 at ¶5). According to
WTI, in July 2005, its business with TAMKO ended, and WTI
transferred Witherspoon to work as a Loader at GAF, another
manufacturer approximately one-half mile from
Witherspoon's reporting location. (Doc. 31-1 at ¶6).
WTI contends Witherspoon drove a truck with an empty trailer
from WTI to GAF, had the trailer loaded at GAF, and then
drove it back to the WTI facility for an OTR Driver to
transport it to its ultimate destination. (Id.). WTI
further contends that, because of the short distance between
WTI and GAF, Witherspoon was not required to secure the load
with straps. (Id.).
disputes this characterization, first pointing to payroll
documents dated June 9, 2005 and September 7, 2005, listing
his position as “Loader” and “Loader
Tuscaloosa, ” and not as a Loader for any particular
client. (Doc. 34 at 9-10). Witherspoon attests that he
performed, among other duties, load securement work for
multiple WTI customers, and not as a dedicated loader just
for any one customer. (Id.). Specifically,
Witherspoon states that, along with another WTI Loader, he
performed work for multiple WTI customers, including GAF,
Tamko, Nucor Steel, U.S. Pipe, ASIPCO, GAF, Atlas Roofing,
Scott's Turf, and more. (Id. at ¶4).
Disputing WTI characterization of his duties, Witherspoon
attests that, along with another WTI Loader, he performed
load securement work using various securing methods for
multiple companies and performed other job duties, including
short haul driving, truck recovery when drivers left trucks
for various reasons, giving road tests for drivers, etc.
(Id. at ¶¶5=6).
also offers an affidavit from Nakia Steele
(“Steele”), who was employed as a driver for WTI
in Tuscaloosa for over ten years, including during
Witherspoon's employment. (Doc. 34 at 7-8). Steele
attests that, including during the end of 2013 and the
beginning of 2014, she observed Witherspoon load and secure
trailers for WTI at Nucor, GAF, and TAMKO. (Id. at
¶4). Steel further attests that Witherspoon accomplished
these duties without “throwing chains” “by
walking into the loaded trailers from a loading platform and
securing the appropriate straps or chains onto each side of
the trailer from above, rather than standing on one side of
the trailer and throwing chains across the trailers”
and that this is the same methods she and numerous other WTI
drivers and loaders used to secure loaded trailers at Nucor
and TAMKO (Id. at ¶¶5-6).
to WTI, in May 2014, GAF notified WTI that it was reducing
the number of loads WTI would ship. (Doc. 31-1 at ¶7).
WTI contends that, based on the reduction in loads from the
customer, it concluded that GAF business did not justify
having an assigned Loader. (Id. at ¶8). WTI
states it eliminated the GAF Loader position and assigned the
OTR Drivers to perform the loading for remaining GAF loads.
(Id.). Therefore, WTI asserts, it had only one other
Loader position, which was occupied at the time and remains