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Seals v. Lee Brass Foundry LLC

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

September 27, 2017

JERALD SEALS, Plaintiff,
v.
LEE BRASS FOUNDRY LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          VIRGINIA EMERSON HOPKINS United States District Judge.

         This is a civil action filed by the Plaintiff, Jerald Seals, against the Defendant, Lee Brass Foundry, LLC. (“Lee Brass”), his former employer. The Complaint alleges that the Defendant “harassed [the] Plaintiff, treated [the] Plaintiff differently[, ] and terminated [the] Plaintiff, ” in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (the “ADAAA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, and 47 U.S.C. §§ 225 and 611.[1] (Count One). The Complaint also alleges that the Defendant “subjected [him] to different terms and conditions of employment because of his race, subjected [him] to racial discrimination and terminated [him] because of his race, African American, ” in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“Section 1981). (Count Two).

         The case comes before the Court on the Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 26). For the reasons stated herein, the motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. STANDARD

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986) (“[S]ummary judgment is proper 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.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The party requesting summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the pleadings or filings that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56(e) requires the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings in answering the movant. Id. at 324. By its own affidavits - or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file - it must designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.

         The underlying substantive law identifies which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). All reasonable doubts about the facts and all justifiable inferences are resolved in favor of the non-movant. Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1023. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id. If the evidence presented by the non-movant to rebut the moving party's evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may still be granted. Id. at 249.

         How the movant may satisfy its initial evidentiary burden depends on whether that party bears the burden of proof on the given legal issues at trial. Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993). If the movant bears the burden of proof on the given issue or issues at trial, then it can only meet its burden on summary judgment by presenting affirmative evidence showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact - that is, facts that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial. Id. (citation omitted). Once the moving party makes such an affirmative showing, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce “significant, probative evidence demonstrating the existence of a triable issue of fact.” Id. (citation omitted) (emphasis added).

         For issues on which the movant does not bear the burden of proof at trial, it can satisfy its initial burden on summary judgment in either of two ways. Id. at 1115-16. First, the movant may simply show that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-movant's case on the particular issue at hand. Id. at 1116. In such an instance, the non-movant must rebut by either (1) showing that the record in fact contains supporting evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion, or (2) proffering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict motion at trial based on the alleged evidentiary deficiency. Id. at 1116-17. When responding, the non-movant may no longer rest on mere allegations; instead, it must set forth evidence of specific facts. Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 358 (1996). The second method a movant in this position may use to discharge its burden is to provide affirmative evidence demonstrating that the non-moving party will be unable to prove its case at trial. Fitzpatrick, 2 F.3d at 1116. When this occurs, the non-movant must rebut by offering evidence sufficient to withstand a directed verdict at trial on the material fact sought to be negated. Id.

         II. FACTS[2]

         A. Lee Brass's Business and Organization

         Lee Brass is a manufacturing facility that produces metal castings or parts for its customers based on specifications provided by the customer. There are multiple steps in the manufacturing process: the Foundry; the Cleaning Room; Test and Pack Department; and Shipping Department. A part is first cast in the Foundry. Thereafter, excess metal is cut off of the part by the saw operators. Afterwards, it is sent to the Cleaning Room in order to be smoothed down, and excess metal removed, before it is sent to the machine shop. The number of parts passing through each phase of Lee Brass's manufacturing process is dictated by the number of customer orders received.

         B. Lee Brass's Human Resources Department and Policies

         Lee Brass's Human Resources Department (“HR”) is run by Jerome Truss. As stated in its employee handbook, Lee Brass has a policy of prohibiting workplace discrimination and harassment based on race and provides employees with multiple options to report concerns of alleged race discrimination. (Doc. 28-2 at 3, ¶6; doc. 28-2 at 14, ¶I and pp. 60-62). The Plaintiff disputes that these policies were effective in this case. (Doc. 34 at 3, ¶8). However, he admits that he received the Employee Handbook.

         The handbook provides that “[e]mployment is at the will of Lee Brass, and either Lee Brass or the associate may at any time terminate the employment relationship with or without cause.” (Doc. 28-2 at 10; see also doc. 28-2 at 13). It states that “violation of any of the following rules will lead to disciplinary action that may include dismissal[:] . . . Fighting or acts of physical violence on company property[;] Immoral, illegal or disorderly conduct[;] . . . [and] Insubordination[.]” (Doc. 28-2 at 59). The handbook also sets out the following “Disciplinary Procedures:”

Disciplinary Procedures
The purpose of this policy is not primarily to punish, but to correctively encourage behavior modification to discourage repetition of misbehavior by the offender or by another following their example. Record of disciplinary action will become part of a associate's personnel file.
Before administering discipline, the manager should be sure they have all the facts. The associate's past record should be examined in the Human Resources office to determine if the associate has had any previous violations. Associates should be given ample opportunity to present their side before any final decision is made as to the discipline to be administered. The review and decision to issue disciplinary action is to be done in a timely manner.
- A verbal counseling should represent a direct attempt of the manager and associate to deal with a breach of rules at an early stage. It should clarify, in specific terms, what behavior needs attention and define a method and a reasonable time for correction.
- Written warnings represent a more formalized means of correcting behavior and become part of an associate's work record. Should associates have any additional factors or knowledge of extenuation circumstances relating to the incident they should be discussed at this time. The supervisor or department manager will then consider this information when deciding what discipline to administer. In order to maintain consistency, Human Resources must be involved in the preparation of any written warnings. Human Resources will insure that documentation of the event leading to any action is made a part of the offending associate's record.

         All disciplinary actions will be cumulative for a rolling period of 6 (six) months. Group violations are cumulative.

         The usual disciplinary steps will be:

Informal Step

Verbal Counseling

First Step

Written Warning

Second Step

Final Written Warning

Third Step

Subject to Discharge

         Depending upon the violation, the procedure may be at any of the above steps and other required condition/actions may have to be met. (Doc. 28-2 at 59-60).

         C. The Plaintiff's Employment with Lee Brass

         In January of 2012, Seals began his employment with Lee Brass as a “laborer” on the cleanup crew, in the Foundry, which is part of the Maintenance Department. The position of laborer is physically demanding, and required Seals, among other things, to shovel clay by carrying shovel loads of approximately 50 pounds on a regular basis.

         The Plaintiff testified in his deposition that, after about 90 days in the Cleanup Crew, he “got hired on permanent.” (Doc. 28-3 at 10(35)). Seals applied for and was given an open position as a “saw operator” in the Foundry, where his duties were to cut excess metal pieces off of the parts after they are cast from molten metals.

         At the time Seals worked at Lee Brass, there were two different types of saws, referred to as the “big saws” and the “small saws.” Parts are delivered to the sawing area by one of several forklift operators, who transport the parts on a pallet from the area of the Foundry where the parts are cast. The big saws are used to cut larger parts, and the blades can be moved - rather than the operator simply moving the part, as on the small saws - to cut the part at angles. The blade on a big saw is sixteen inches in diameter. When larger or heavier parts need to be sawed, the saw operators use a crane (also referred to as a winch) next to their saws to lift the part onto the sawing table. However, Seals testified that the winch did not always work, and when they did not, the big saw operator would “[b]ring [the part] on a forklift or . . . wait until they get around to fix [the winch].” (Doc. 28-3 at 11(40)).

         Not everyone who works on a small saw also works on a big saw. (Doc. 28-3 at 12(43)). Seals testified that that was because people “have to be trained to work on the big saw.” (Doc. 28-3 at 12(43)). Seals agreed in his deposition that it was hard to work on the big saws and agreed with the characterization of that work as “skilled labor.” (Doc. 28-3 at 12(44)). McCormick testified in her deposition that employees did not have to be trained on a small saw but they did have to be trained on a big saw. (Doc. 28-4 at 7(24)-8(25)). She also agreed that safety training on a big saw was conducted prior to employees' using it. (Doc. 28-4 at 8(26)). Derrick Murphy, another employee of the Defendant who has worked there for 29 years, agrees that a big saw required training and that “some guys don't feel comfortable sawing on them big saws.” (Doc. 33-3 at 26(98)). He was never trained on a big saw and did not know how to operate one. (Doc. 33-3 at 27(103)). Stan Hand, the plant manager, testified that employees who worked a big saw made the same amount of money as those who worked a small saw. (Doc. 27-8 at 8(27)). The Plaintiff testified that people who work a big saw get paid more. (Doc. 28-3 at 17(63)).

         After sawing, the saw operator puts each part into a bin next to his or her saw. The parts in the bin are then inspected by a supervisor or a more senior saw operator to ensure that they are cut properly, and then they are sent to the cleaning room. (Doc. 28-3 at 16(58-59)). The saw operator throws the scrap metal that he or she saws off the part into another bucket. The scrap bucket contains only a single alloy at a time. That is because the scrap is melted down again to be reused, and different alloys of scrap cannot be intermingled.[3] Accordingly, a saw operator works on only one type of alloy at a time. Each time a saw operator finishes a job, a forklift operator goes to the saw operator's machine and switches out his or her scrap bucket and replaces it with an empty scrap bucket for use by the operator to receive scraps from the next job. It takes approximately 30 minutes to transition a saw operator from cutting one type of alloy to another type of alloy.

         The job description of saw operator explains that the operator is required to lift between fifty and seventy-five pounds. However, when Seals became a saw operator, he was assigned to a small saw. His supervisor was Kenny Deramus. Seals explained that he sought out that position because he got a pay increase and because “it was lighter weight, ” and “less physically demanding.” (Doc. 28-3 at 11(37)). He explained further that “the parts was so small on the small saw. It was so small, so, I mean, you could stand there and do that all day.” (Doc. 28-3 at 11(38)). Throughout his tenure, he was assigned primarily to do work on a small saw cutting green brass and red brass. However, as will be discussed, when Judy McCormick became his supervisor, she began assigning him to work a big saw.

         D. The Plaintiff's Hospitalization

         In April of 2013, Seals had to leave work in the middle of his shift because he began vomiting blood and was experiencing dizziness, pounding in his ears, and olfactory disturbances. Leslie Underwood, a forklift operator at Lee Brass, recalled the incident in his deposition and stated:

A. . . . I didn't know what was wrong with him. So I went and got Judy [McCormick], and I told Judy about it. I said, he's spitting up blood and stuff. I don't know what's wrong with him.
Q. And what did Judy do?
A. They went to the first aid building.
Q. Okay. So did Judy see him throwing up blood?
A. He had it on the paper towel.
Q. And she saw that?
A. Yeah.
Q. And you were there as well?
A. Yeah.

(Doc. 28-10 at 27(10)).[4] Derrick Murphy, another employee at Lee Brass, also witnessed the Plaintiff vomiting blood.

         Seals began experiencing these symptoms around the start of his shift at 3:00 a.m. Around 7:00 a.m., when Deramus got into work, Seals reported to him that he was feeling ill and asked to be dismissed for the day. Deramus agreed without hesitation.

         Seals then drove himself to the emergency room at Stringfellow Memorial Hospital. The nurse in the E.R. told Seals he was “dying.” The doctors at Stringfellow informed Seals that he was “short on blood” and gave him a blood transfusion. Thereafter, Seals was hospitalized at Stringfellow for approximately eleven days and tests were performed. The testing did not reveal what had caused Seals to become ill, and the Plaintiff has not had a recurrence of these symptoms.[5] When Seals was released from the hospital he was feeling physically well with the exception that he did not have much of an appetite. He was given a doctor's note stating that he could work only “light duty” for a time. Other than this hospitalization, Seals had no medical issues of any kind while he was employed by Lee Brass.

         E. Seals's First Attempt To Return to Work

         Seals attempted to return to work the day after he was released from the hospital. He gave his “light duty” doctor's note to either Deramus or Ray Wood, both of whom had supervisory authority over him. One or both of them told him that he could not return to work until he was cleared of all restrictions.[6] No one explained to him why he was not allowed to work light duty. (Doc. 28-3 at 41(157)).[7] Deramus told Seals that, before going home, he should go to HR and speak with Truss, which Seals did. Truss confirmed to Seals that he could not return to work until his doctor cleared him of restrictions. Seals did not encounter McCormick that day.

         In his declaration, Truss states that Lee Brass allowed employees to work light or restricted duty only where the medical condition precipitating the need to work light duty was caused by an injury that occurred in the course of the employee's job duties. (Doc. 28-2 at 3, ¶7). He states that Deramus has never allowed light duty otherwise. (Doc. 28-2 at 3, ¶8). In his declaration, Wood denies ever giving light duty to anyone not hurt on the job. (Doc. 28-9 at 2-3, ¶3). In her deposition, McCormick stated that employees only get light duty for “job-related injuries, ” and she did not know of an incident where anyone got light duty for a non-job-related incident. (Doc. 28-4 at 47(182)).

         In his deposition the Plaintiff pointed to Richard Bearden, an employee at Lee Brass, and said that after Bearden hurt his back moving a hot water heater at his home, “[h]e had to be on light duty. He didn't do anything.” (Doc. 28-3 at 44(172)-45(173)). Bearden worked on the cleanup crew with Seals prior to Seals transferring to the position of saw operator. Seals claims Bearden asked Seals if he could “cover” for him because of his back injury. Seals encouraged Bearden to report his injury to their supervisor at the time, Ray Wood, which Bearden reported to Seals that he had done. According to Seals, Wood gave Bearden a back brace to wear. The Defendant disputes that Bearden was given light duty.

         After being told he could not return to work without a full release, Seals “begg[ed] the doctor to give me a excuse without no restrictions so I can go back to work and won't get evicted out my house.” (Doc. 28-3 at 74(289)). Seals testified that the following exchange took place between him and his doctor: “I'm about to be evicted out my house, about to lose my car. He was like, you can't lift nothing heavy. I said, well, my job that I do have, it's on a small saw. I'm not lifting nothing heavy. [The doctor said are you] sure? You sure? I said I'm positive.” (Doc. 28-3 at 74(291-292)).

         F. The Pill Cap Endoscopy Procedure

         Several days after he was released from the hospital, Seals returned to the hospital and had a “pill cap” endoscopy where he swallowed a small camera which was used to examine his digestive tract.[8] In order for the endoscopy to be successful, Seals was required to be active and walk around while the camera passed through his system over the course of several days. He had a small bag related to the procedure strapped to his side as he walked around.

         G. Seals Returns to Work

         Three or four days after the start of the pill cap endoscopy, while that procedure was ongoing, and despite the fact that the doctor had not yet given him the results, Seals had already been cleared to return to work by his doctor and brought a note to that effect to the HR department at Lee Brass. On the day he brought in his new doctor's note, Seals ran into McCormick, who at that time was not yet his supervisor[9], outside the HR office. McCormick noticed the equipment that Seals was wearing related to the endoscopy procedure and inquired about it. This was the first conversation Seals had ever had with McCormick. Regarding that conversation, the following exchange took place in the Plaintiff's deposition:

Q. Okay. And when you were bringing in your paperwork, you said you had a conversation with her, and she said, that's serious.
A. Yes. She said, I heard that was very serious. I said, yes, ma'am.
First she asked me what that was.
A. . . . And I told her what [the pouch] was. I said it's monitoring my body taking pictures where they can see what's going on.

(Doc. 28-3 at 49(191-192)). Seals also testified that she said “I'm glad to see you back in good health.” (Doc. 28-3 at 36(137)). Seals told McCormick that he had been hospitalized, but did not tell McCormick about the specific symptoms which had put him in the hospital.[10] It is undisputed that Seals never gave McCormick any paperwork or doctor's note indicating that he had been in the hospital or was having medical issues of any kind.

         Woods was Seals's supervisor when the Plaintiff returned from the hospital.[11] Seals told Woods that he was not supposed to lift anything heavy. Woods told Seals he would not need to since he worked a small saw. When Seals returned to work after his hospitalization, he continued to be assigned to a small saw, as he had been before his hospitalization.

         H. McCormick Takes Over Supervising the Saws

         Sometime after Seals was released to full duty, in late spring or summer of 2013, McCormick, the supervisor over the cleaning room, took supervisory authority over the saws in order to improve the efficiency of the manufacturing process and make sure that the jobs that were more urgent were prioritized. When Stan Hand became the plant manager[12], he kept McCormick with supervisory authority over the saws because he thought that would streamline the process of finishing the metal castings.

         McCormick was viewed by those she supervised as a tough boss because she is a hard worker and expected the same work ethic from those she supervised. McCormick was strict with every employee she supervised. When McCormick was the supervisor of the cleaning room as well as over saws, she would walk back and forth between the Cleaning Room and the saws, which is a short distance across a small alley. Seals and the other saw operators chatted with each other during the day, which McCormick did not like. In the course of his job duties, Seals also spoke with the forklift operators, who were Derrick Murphy, Leslie Underwood, and Mike Mason.

         The Plaintiff contends that McCormick was not as friendly to African American employees as to Caucasian employees. (Doc. 28-3 at 47(182)). However, Seals testified that McCormick was friendly with the African American employees who she supervised in the Cleaning Room.[13] According to Seals, McCormick also was friendly with Lewis Butts, an African American forklift operator. Seals claims that McCormick did not like to chat with the saw operators, all of whom were African American, but she was more friendly with the employees in the Maintenance Department. Seals alleges that at the time he worked at Lee Brass, African American employees were somehow precluded from working in the Maintenance Department.

         McCormick told all of the saw operators, including Seals, that they sometimes took bathroom breaks too frequently. All of the employees who worked on the saws were African American. Seals talked to Lamar Willingham, Stacey McClellan, and Lewis Butts about their feeling that McCormick was discriminating against them because they were African American.

         Seals claims that, after McCormick became his supervisor, she timed him when he went to the bathroom and would tell him he had been in the bathroom too long or had gone to the bathroom too frequently. McCormick told all the saw operators, all of whom were African American, that they needed to try and limit the number of bathroom breaks they took and try to make them as short as possible. Seals claims that McCormick watched all the saw operators closely and would make them re-cut parts if she felt a part was not cut properly; Seals does not know if she supervised the employees in the Cleaning Room as closely.

         Wood and Deramus allowed the saw operators to end their shifts early so they had more time to shower, but McCormick made the saw operators work until the scheduled end of their shifts. Seals claims that McCormick treated the saw operators differently than Wood or Deramus had because, if they were late coming off a break, McComick would issue a write-up, where Deramus and Wood would not have. However, McCormick never wrote up Seals. McCormick required the saw operators to be at their saws five minutes before the horn signaling the start of work went off. Seals testified that McCormick treated all the saw operators the same way and the saw operators discussed her supervisory style amongst themselves.

         I. The Plaintiff's Medical Condition and Belief That He Was Disabled

         Seals never told anyone at Lee Brass he was “disabled.” When asked in his deposition whether he had “a physical condition which makes you disabled, ” the Plaintiff testified “Not at this point now.” (Doc. 28-3 at 83(325-326)). However, he testified that while he worked for the Defendant, “[t]he symptoms that [he] experienced going in the hospital, that made me disabled.” (Doc. 28-3 at 83(326)). He also testified to “spitting up some black mucus, ” after he left the hospital. (Doc. 28-3 at 83(326)). Seals's disability claim is based on his contention that he was regarded by Lee Brass as being disabled.

         J. McCormick Starts To Have the Plaintiff Operate a Big Saw

         McCormick wanted Seals to move from working on a small saw to working on a big saw.[14] Some months after he was released from the hospital in April 2013, McCormick began to regularly move Seals from working on the small saws to working on the big saws. None of Seals's previous supervisors had ever had him work on a big saw. McCormick moved Seals from a small saw to a big saw because, of the saw operators who normally worked on a small saw, Seals had been employed with Lee Brass the longest and was the most experienced. On multiple occasions McCormick required Seals to use a big saw to cut larger parts that needed to be sawed, which he was able to do. He successfully operated a big saw and cut large parts using it over twenty times in a period of approximately three months. However, in his deposition, Seals testified that he “didn't know how to use [a big saw].” (Doc. 28-3 at 17(63)).

         Once, on an unspecified date, when McCormick asked Seals to use a big saw, he told her that he could not lift the heavier parts onto the sawing table and protested that he had not been trained on a big saw. McCormick responded that his inability to lift was not a problem because he could use the crane next to the saw to lift heavy parts, to which Seals responded that the crane in question did not work. Seals testified that McCormick then told him that he needed to go operate a big saw “if he wants the job” so Seals complied and operated a big saw successfully that day. (Doc. 28-3 at 36(139)). Since the crane was not working, Seals got the larger parts onto the saw table by having a forklift operator lift them for him.

         K. The Events Leading to the Plaintiff's Discharge

         On August 21, 2013, Seals was operating a small saw cutting red brass. He had already told McCormick, that day, that he was not feeling well. (Doc. 28-3 at 57(224)). McCormick asked Seals if he needed to go home and Seals said he was alright and was just feeling woozy but he could manage. McCormick told Seals to let her know if he needed to leave.

         At some point thereafter, on that same day, McCormick told Seals that he needed to use a big saw to cut a job. McCormick wanted Seals to work on a big saw to cut a “hot job” of parts that were also made of red brass and which needed to ship out as soon as possible. A “hot job” is an order of parts that must ship from Lee Brass very soon to meet customer requirements. When hot jobs arise, everyone in the manufacturing process must strive to get the order ready on time.

         In his deposition Seals stated:

I could not do it. I mean, I told her that. And she was like, well, I don't see nothing on the doctor. I said, because I told the doctor, Ms. Judy, that -- the doctor asked me did I have a light duty job. I said, well, yes, what I do out there, the little parts, they are light. . . . So when she sent me to go over there, I told her, I said, Ms. Judy, I don't supposed to be lifting this heavy stuff. I say, you know, I was in the hospital back in April.

(Doc. 28-3 at 49(192)-50(193)). Although McCormick had assigned Seals to use a big saw more than twenty times, Seals testified that this was the first occasion where he told McCormick he could not operate a big saw due to his hospitalization in April.

         The following exchange then took place in the Plaintiff's deposition:

A. . . . [McCormick] left. She came back. Well, I don't see nothing in your file talking about you can't lift nothing heavy or nothing like this. I said, well, it's nothing that's going to be in my file, Ms. Judy, because I always worked on the small saw since I signed up to be a saw operator. You're going to work on the big one today. I said, no, no, I'm not. So -- yes, you are. She grabbed me by my arm.[15] I said, hey, don't do that. Don't touch me. So she left and went and got Stan Hand. He came back. I explained to him. We standing up there. I'm explaining to him, Stan, I can't lift this. Well, why don't you just quit. Just go on and quit. I said, I ain't no quitter, Mr. Stan Hand. I don't give up on nothing. Because he hadn't been there long being the plant manager. I don't know where he came from.
A. . . . He's like, why don't you just quit, just give up and just quit. I said, no, I ain't going to quit. I got bills to pay, and I don't quit at nothing that I do, but I can't go over there and lift that - I'm not going to go over there and lift that heavy stuff. I'm not fixing to do that. Okay, just stay where you're at. They left, him and Judy left. Ms. Judy came back, told me to come to the office.

(Doc. 28-3 at 50(194-195). Despite his protestations regarding lifting, it is undisputed that, at this time, Seals was in good physical shape and was physically capable of weightlifting, which had been a hobby of his. However, Seals testified that he had not done any weightlifting since April of 2013. (Doc. 28-3 at 92(364)). Seals believes he could bench press between 425 and 475 pounds at that time. (Doc. 28-3 at 58(228)-59(229)).

         The Plaintiff also testified that he told Hand that he had not been trained on a big saw, and that Hand told him to stay on a small saw. (Doc. 28-3 at 57(221)). Hand had been the Plant Manager for only a few weeks, was not working there when the Plaintiff was hospitalized, and Seals had not spoken to him previously.[16] Seals did not cut any parts on a big saw that day.

         Afterwards, and at some point that same day, Seals began to cut green brass on a small saw. Seals then had an interaction with Underwood, who was operating a forklift. The Plaintiff testified:

Ms. Judy went over there and told him something, and then he came over there on this forklift and brought me some things to cut. And I asked him, I said, put it on the floor. I said, I'll get to it. I ain't feeling too bright, man.

(Doc. 28-3 at 61(238)). The Plaintiff testified that the parts Underwood brought were red brass. (Doc. 28-3 at 62(243)). Underwood then said: “You going to cut them, motherfucker. You're going to cut them now. She want them cut. You going to cut them.” (Doc. 28-3 at 61(239)). Seals responded: “[Y]ou can put them on the floor. I'll cut them when I'm finished, when I'm finished with this right here.” (Doc. 28-3 at 61(239)). The Plaintiff also testified: “I said, I don't care what she said. I'm going finish this first, and then I'll get to that when I got time, if I have time.” (Doc. 28-3 at 61(239)). Seals also admits that he swore back at Underwood. After that, McCormick left. (Doc. 28-3 at 64(249)).

         McCormick testified that when Underwood attempted to change the pallet that Seals was working on, Seals became angry, and she spoke to the Plaintiff and told him that Underwood was only doing what she had told him to do. (Doc. 28-4 at 35(134)).[17] She states that at that time Seals threw a part that he had in his hand. (Doc. 28-4 at 35(135-136)). The Defendant alleges that this part was thrown at Underwood, but the Plaintiff disputes that he threw anything. (Doc. 28-3 at 65(253-254)).[18] When Underwood was asked in his deposition if he knew why the Plaintiff had been terminated, he stated he “didn't see him do nothing.” (Doc. 28-10 at 29(109-110)).[19] Murphy was present as well and did not see the Plaintiff throw anything, but also admits that he did not watch the entire altercation. (Doc. 33-3 at 18(66)).

         According to Hand, both McCormick and Underwood then reported this incident to him. In Hand's deposition, the following exchange took place:

A. [McCormick] told me that [Seals] had threw a part, and it bounced off the wooden pallet and almost hit Leslie [Underwood].
Q. Okay. Where was -- what was he throwing the part at? I mean, what, was he throwing it at the bins or was he throwing it at something else?
A. According to her, he was throwing it at Leslie.
Q. Oh, okay.
Q. Did she say she saw that?
A. Yes.
Q. And what did Leslie Underwood tell you?
A. Actually, Leslie was the first one that burst in my office and tell me that he had -- Jerald was cussing him and threw a part at him.
Q. And what did he tell you?
A. He told me that he was trying to set up this hot part that Judy needed to get out. And I think Derrick Murphy was helping Leslie at the time. And he stated to Derrick that he didn't want to do that part, and Derrick went and got Leslie. And when Leslie got over there on his forklift, he told him he was going to cut it. I ...

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