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Pitts v. Birmingham Jefferson County Transit Authority

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

March 18, 2019

CHARLENIA PITTS, Plaintiff,
v.
BIRMINGHAM-JEFFERSON COUNTY TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          KARON OWEN BOWDRE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority offered Plaintiff Charlenia Pitts employment as a bus operator on February 2, 2017, and she accepted on February 13. By March 27, the relationship had already soured. Ms. Pitts filed this lawsuit alleging that BJCTA's violations of federal employment laws are to blame. (Doc. 1).

         This matter now comes before the court on “Defendant Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority's Motion for Summary Judgment.” (Docs. 6; see also Doc. 7). In its motion, BJCTA asks this court to enter summary judgment against Ms. Pitts' claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Title VII anti-retaliation provision. For the reasons stated below, this court will GRANT Defendant's motion and will ENTER JUDGMENT for Defendant BJCTA and against Plaintiff Pitts.

         I. Factual Background

         Plaintiff Charlenia Pitts applied for a job with Defendant BJCTA on December 9, 2016. (Doc. 7-2). BJCTA offered her a job as a “Bus operator / Paratransit” on February 2, 2017. (Doc. 7-1).

         Ms. Pitts underwent the required medical examination on February 13. (Doc. 7-6). As part of the medical examination, Ms. Pitts disclosed that she had had a “car accident resulting in back problems/pain in the past, ” but the physician noted that her “Back/Spine” were “Normal.” (Doc. 7-6 at 3-4). Ms. Pitts alleges in her complaint that she discussed her previous back injury with the examining physician but does not allege any specifics about that conversation.

         Ms. Pitts accepted the job as Bus operator / Paratransit the same day as the physical examination. (Doc. 7-1). She signed a document conspicuously titled “EMPLOYEE RECEIPT AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENT, ” (doc. 7-3). By virtue of signing the acknowledgement form, Ms. Pitts indicated she understood and acknowledged that she had received a copy and understood the contents of the job description and that she was willing and able to meet all the job requirements and perform all aspects of the job. (Doc. 7-3). The official job description for a Bus operator / Paratransit clearly states that the position “requires ability to lift, push, pull, assist and secure wheelchair passengers and a minimum 50lbs.” (Doc. 7-4 at 4). Ms. Pitts alleges that she “shared [with BJCTA] that [she] was not able to lift 50lbs at the onset of prescreening interviewing.” (Doc. 1 at 5).

         Ms. Pitts started working for BJCTA on February 20, 2017. Neither her complaint nor her EEOC charge specifies the date she claims to have realized the full extent of her job duties, but upon learning that she “would have to push wheelchairs, and sometimes lift people, [she] requested a reasonable accommodation to transfer to a fixed route that did not require [her] to do those things.” (Doc. 1 at 8). BJCTA denied the transfer request. (Id.).

         Ms. Pitts alleges that in late March, [1] “a large person without an assistant needed help adjusting her position in her wheelchair and [Ms. Pitts] was unable to help.” (Doc. 1 at 8). Instead of providing her an accommodation, Ms. Pitts alleges BJCTA offered her an ultimatum-resign or accept termination. (Doc. 1 at 5). She chose the former but has since characterized BJCTA's actions as amounting to constructive discharge. (Doc. 1 at 8).

         Ms. Pitts timely filed her charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging disability discrimination, and received her right-to-sue letter on February 13, 2018. (Doc. 1 at 8). Proceeding pro se, she then timely filed the action now before the court on May 3, 2018, alleging wrongful termination, failure to accommodate her disability, and retaliation. (Doc. 1 at 4).

         Defendant BJCTA moved for summary judgment before the case was reassigned to the undersigned. (Doc. 6). Magistrate Judge T. Michael Putnam ordered Ms. Pitts' response, attaching the Northern District of Alabama's Rule 56 Notice and Explanation. (Doc. 8). Ms. Pitts subsequently moved for an extension of time to file her response, (doc. 10), which Judge Putnam granted, allowing Ms. Pitts an additional month to respond, (doc. 11). But Ms. Pitts never filed any response.

         II. 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: whether any genuine issues of material fact exist, and whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id.

         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 ...


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