United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REBECCA J. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA, INC., Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
RUSS WALKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Rebecca J. Robinson brings this action against defendant
Michelin North America, Inc. (“Michelin”),
alleging employment discrimination and retaliation pursuant
to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”), the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §
12101 et seq. (“ADA”), and the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 42 U.S.C. §
621 et seq. (“ADEA”). See Doc.
Michelin is a tire manufacturer. Plaintiff was employed by
Michelin from July 27, 1998 until August 27, 2013. Doc. 24-4
at ¶ 14. She was hired to the position of
“production operator, ” a tire builder position.
Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiff was a tire builder and
machine operator throughout her time as defendant's
employee and held the “confection/finishing
operator” job title from approximately 2003 until her
termination from employment. Id. ¶¶ 17-18.
This lawsuit concerns allegations of discrimination under the
ADA for defendant's failure to accommodate
plaintiff's disability and her wrongful termination, and
allegations of retaliatory termination under the ADA, ADEA,
and Title VII for plaintiff's bringing a discrimination
charge against defendant with the EEOC. Doc. 8 ¶¶
30-33, 38-41, 56-62.
action is presently before the court on defendant's
motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 22. Plaintiff
filed an opposition to the motion for summary judgment,
see Doc. 28, and defendant replied, see
Doc. 29. Upon review of the motion and the record, the court
concludes that defendant's motion for summary judgment is
due to be granted.
movant is entitled to summary judgment if it “shows
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). For summary judgment purposes, an issue
of fact is “material” if, under the substantive
law governing the claim, its presence or absence might affect
the outcome of the suit. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). If the movant fails to
satisfy its initial burden, the motion for summary judgment
will be denied. Kernel Records Oy v. Mosley, 694
F.3d 1294, 1300 (11th Cir. 2012), cert. denied, 133
S.Ct. 1810 (2013). If the movant adequately supports its
motion, the burden shifts to the opposing party to establish
- “by producing affidavits or other relevant and
admissible evidence beyond the pleadings” - specific
facts raising a genuine issue for trial. Josendis v. Wall
to Wall Residence Repairs, Inc., 662 F.3d 1292, 1315
(11th Cir. 2011); Dietz v. Smithkline Beecham Corp.,
598 F.3d 812, 815 (11th Cir. 2010); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A).
“All affidavits [and declarations] must be based on
personal knowledge and must set forth facts that would be
admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence[.]”
Josendis, 662 F.3d at 1315; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).
The court views the evidence and all reasonable factual
inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.
Miller's Ale House, Inc. v. Boynton Carolina Ale
House, LLC, 702 F.3d at 1315; Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).
However, “the nonmoving party ‘must do more than
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts, ” and “[i]f the evidence is merely
colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment may be granted.” Graham v. State Farm Mut.
Ins. Co., 193 F.3d 1274, 1282 (11th Cir. 1999) (internal
citations omitted). “If no reasonable jury could return
a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party, there is no
genuine issue of material fact and summary judgment will be
granted.” Morton v. Kirkwood, 707 F.3d 1276,
1284 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted) (internal quotation
AND UNDISPUTED FACTS
Material Facts Regarding Plaintiff's Employment
was employed by Defendant from July 27, 1998 to August 27,
2013. Doc. 24-4 at ¶ 14. She worked as a machine
operator and tire builder during the entirety of her employment
with Michelin. Doc. 24-1 at 8; Doc. 24-4 ¶ 17. Machine
operator and tire builder jobs at the defendant's
facility are labor-intensive and physically demanding. Doc.
24-4 ¶ ¶ 3, 6. Plaintiff's specific job title
from 2003 until the termination of her employment was
“confection/finishing operator, ” a position
which involves significant lifting, pushing, and pulling, and
frequent use of arms and hands to complete the job duties of
the position. See Doc. 24-1 at 11, 22; Doc. 24-4
¶¶ 17, 18. From approximately January 2012 to July
2012, plaintiff was placed on a temporary data entry
assignment due to work restrictions resulting from an injury.
Doc. 24-1 at 16; Doc. 24-4 ¶ 19. This temporary data
assignment was not a formal position. Doc. 24-4 ¶ 19.
Plaintiff's employment was terminated on August 27, 2013,
following a 12-month medical leave of absence, based on her
inability to return to work as, or perform the essential job
functions of, a confection finishing operator, an open and
available machine operator and tire builder position, or any
other comparable position. See Doc. 24-1 at 24-25;
Doc. 24-4 ¶ 23; Doc. 24-5 ¶¶ 7, 9, 24, 25.
Material Facts Regarding Plaintiff's Injury
was injured on the job on June 27, 2011, which permanently
limited her ability to carry large weights and lift objects.
Doc 28-1 ¶ 3; Doc. 24-4 ¶ 23; Doc. 24-5
¶¶ 5, 24. After her injury, Plaintiff was unable to
perform the machine operator job and was immediately placed
on work restriction. Doc. 24-1 at 14; Doc. 24-5 ¶ 7.
Between June 2011 and July 2012, plaintiff experienced no
improvement in her condition, and she had elbow surgery in
July 2012. Doc. 24-1 at 15. She underwent a second elbow
surgery in November 2012. Id. Plaintiff continued to
experience pain, and her work restrictions remained the same
after both surgeries. Id. at 17. Between August 2012
and January 2013, plaintiff had a significant amount of pain,
regularly visited the doctor, and was unable to work as a
tire builder/machine operator. Id. at 19-20. She did
not experience any improvement in her medical condition
between January and March 2013. Id. at 20. Although
plaintiff had some improvement in April and May of 2013, she
continued to have significant pain through August 2013, when
her employment with defendant was terminated. See
Id. at 23-24.
Material Facts Regarding Plaintiff's Ability to Perform
the Essential Functions of the Confection/Finishing Operator
confection/finishing operator, otherwise known as a machine
operator and tire builder, plaintiff “was responsible
for operating a tire building machine, and loading and
assembling various ‘input' products into tires that
were being manufactured.” Doc. 24-4 ¶ 18.
Plaintiff's June 2011 injury resulted in her being unable
to perform her job duties as a machine operator and tire
builder. Doc. 24-1 at 14, 17, 19; Doc. 24-5 ¶ 7. A
Functional Capacity Evaluation (“FCE”) conducted
on March 7, 2013 determined that Plaintiff did not meet the
identified strength classification needed to fulfill the
physical demands of the machine operator position. Doc 24-1
at 21-22, 54-55. At all times between her injury and
termination, plaintiff remained on work restriction and was
not able to perform the job requirements of a machine
operator or tire builder. Doc. 24-1 at 24-25; Doc. 24-5
¶ 24; Doc. 24-4 ¶ 23.
Material Facts Regarding Defendant's 12-Month Leave of
relevant section of defendant's medical leave of absence
policy states that:
Employees on leave for longer than twelve (12) weeks may be
permanently replaced and reassigned depending on business
necessity (i.e., the nature of their current job, required
training period, etc.) and applicable legal requirements. If
the Company protects an employee's job during a Medical
Leave that exceeds or is otherwise not covered by FLA, the
Company is doing so as an accommodation under applicable law.
… The maximum duration of any Medical Leave of Absence
for regular, full-time employees is typically twelve (12)
months. … [i]f a regular, full-time employee is unable
to return to a full-time, regular job at the end of a twelve
month period, employment may be terminated.
Doc. 24-1 at 44-45.
applied for and was approved for a medical leave of absence
on August 21, 2012. Doc. 24-1 at 53; Doc. 24-5 ¶ 7; Doc.
24-4 ¶ 21. When plaintiff applied for leave, she
understood that her employment could be terminated if she was
unable to return to work after 12 months. Doc. 24-1 at 18,
19, 25. Between August 2012 and August 2013, while plaintiff
was on leave, plaintiff neither contacted defendant to ask to
return to work in any capacity, nor did she inform defendant
that she would be able to return to work at any point. Doc.
24-1 at 20-25; Doc. 24-5 ¶ 9. Plaintiff testified that
she was not able to return to work as a tire builder or
otherwise at the conclusion of her medical leave of absence,
consistent with the medical evaluations she had received.
Doc. 24-1 at 25. When plaintiff spoke with Roy Speights, area
personnel manager for defendant, at the end of her medical
leave, plaintiff stated that her condition was worsening.
Id.; Doc. 24-5 ¶¶ 21, 25. Plaintiff did
not request additional leave, and did not indicate that she
would be able to return to work in the future. Id.
at ¶ 9.
plaintiff's medical leave of absence, she never asked to
return to work in any capacity and did not request any
accommodations in order to allow her to return to work or
perform her essential job functions. Id. at ¶
9. Yet, over the course of plaintiff's leave of absence
period, defendant continued to evaluate plaintiff's
suitability for open and available machine operator and tire
March 2013, defendant asked plaintiff's treating
physician to evaluate her for her suitability for three open
positions based on her work restrictions and FCE results: the
Fischer Windup operator position, the FE Complexor operator
position, and the confection/finishing operator
position. Doc. 24-5 ¶¶ 10, 11. See
also Doc. 24-1 at 22-23. Upon evaluation of the work
requirements, plaintiff's physician determined that
plaintiff would not be able to perform the FE Complexor
operator or confection/finishing operator roles, and
plaintiff may be able to perform the Fischer Windup operator
position with some modification and additional equipment.
Doc. 24-5 at ¶ 12. However, by the time defendant
received the physician's determination, the Fischer
Windup operator position had been filled due to business
necessity and was no longer available. Id.
¶¶ 13-14. In May 2013, ...