United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BORDEN, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge. This matter
is before the court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed
by Jones Utility and Contracting Company, Incorporated
(“Jones Utility”) on August 31, 2018 (Doc. 88),
as supplemented on October 26, 2018. Doc. 100. Jones Utility
seeks summary judgment on all of Plaintiff Mandy
Powrzanas' claims arising under the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101,
stemming from her employment with Jones Utility. The court
heard oral argument on December 11, 2018, and with briefing
complete, the summary judgment motion is ripe for
disposition. After careful consideration of the parties'
submissions, the applicable law, and the record as a whole,
the court finds that Motion for Summary Judgment (Docs. 88
& 100) is due to be granted.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), summary judgment is
proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine
dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” The party seeking summary
judgment “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 [dispute] of
material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 47
U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). The
movant meets this burden by presenting evidence showing that
there is no dispute of material fact or that the nonmoving
party has failed to present evidence in support of some
element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of
proof. Id. at 322-23. There is no requirement
“that the moving party support its motion with
affidavits or other similar materials negating the
opponent's claim.” Id. at 323.
the moving party has met its burden, Rule 56 “requires
the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own
affidavits, or by the ‘depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate
‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.'” Id. at 324 (quoting former
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The nonmoving party need not present
evidence in a form necessary for admission at trial, but she
may not merely rest on her pleadings. Id. at 324.
“[T]he plain language of Rule 56(c) 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.” Id. at 322.
the nonmovant has responded to a motion for summary judgment,
the court shall grant the motion if there is no genuine issue
of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The substantive law
will identify which facts are material and which are
irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
“[T]he judge's function is not himself to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
Id. at 246. His guide is the same standard for
directing a verdict: “whether the evidence presents a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Id. at 251- 52; see also
Bill Johnson's Rests., Inc. v. N.L.R.B., 461 U.S.
731, 745 n.11 (1983).
nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The evidence
supporting a claim must be “substantial, ”
Marcus v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance
Company, 651 F.2d 379 (5th Cir. 1981), and a mere
scintilla of evidence is not enough to create a genuine issue
of fact. Young v. City of Palm Bay, 358 F.3d 859,
860 (11th Cir. 2004); Kesinger v. Herrington, 381
F.3d 1243, 1249-50 (11th Cir. 2004). If the nonmovant's
evidence is so thoroughly discredited by the rest of the
record evidence that no reasonable jury could accept it, the
“court should not adopt that version of the facts for
purposes of ruling a motion for summary judgment.”
See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380-81 (2007)
(“Respondent's version of events is so utterly
discredited by the record that no reasonable jury could have
believed him. The Court of Appeals should not have relied on
such visible fiction . . . .”); Lewis v. City of
West Palm Beach, Fla., 561 F.3d 1288, 1290 n.3 (11th
Cir. 2009). If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249 (citations omitted);
accord Spence v. Zimmerman, 873 F.2d 256 (11th Cir.
1989). Furthermore, the court must “view the evidence
presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary
burden, ” so there must be sufficient evidence on which
the jury could reasonably find for the nonmovant.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. The nonmovant need not be
given the benefit of every inference but only of every
reasonable inference. Brown v. City of Clewiston,
848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n.12 (11th Cir. 1988).
STATEMENT OF FACTS
following facts construed in favor of Powrzanas, the
nonmovant, are relevant to the motion for summary judgment.
Jones owns and manages Jones Utility. Doc. 90-3. Ricky Jones
is Powrzanas' father. Doc. 66 at 4. By all accounts, the
relationship between Powrzanas and her father has been
tumultuous. Doc. 90-1 at 113. But Powrzanas' mother,
Donna Jones, largely mediated any disputes between them. Doc.
90-1 at 26 & 113. Donna Jones passed away in April 2015
(Doc. 90-1 at 45), and without her as a buffer between
Powrzanas and Ricky Jones, the relationship deteriorated.
Doc. 90-1 at 48. Powrzanas testified that Ricky Jones was
never a supportive father and that he “cussed [her]
every day of [her] life.” Doc. 90-1 at 27.
was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in January 2015. Doc. 90-1 at
36. On November 25, 2015, Ricky Jones introduced Powrzanas
and the rest of his family to his new girlfriend, Pat Jones.
Doc. 90-1 at 47. Ricky and Pat Jones married on January 7,
2016. Doc. 90-1 at 45. Pat and Powrzanas did not get along
and were in conflict almost immediately-so much so that
Powrzanas believed Pat was on a mission to “shut [her]
down.” Doc. 90-1 at 42 & 45. The tension between
Powrzanas and Pat Jones increased the friction between
Powrzanas and Ricky Jones.
Employment at Jones Utility
began her employment at Jones Utility in 2007 as a secretary
and administrative assistant. Docs. 104-2 at 2 & 90-1 at
18. Essentially, Powrzanas was in charge of running the
office of the company. Doc. 104-1 at 7. Powrzanas worked in
this capacity off and on until she resigned for the final
time on March 3, 2016. Doc. 90-1. It is undisputed that Ricky
Jones has a temper, and that Jones' temper sometimes
resulted in disagreements with Powrzanas at work. Doc. 90-1.
At times, the arguments between Powrzanas and Ricky Jones
occurred almost daily. Doc. 90-1 at 47. In some instances,
the arguments escalated into shouting matches where both
parties used profane language. Doc. 90-1 at 48. During one
argument, Ricky Jones punched a flowerpot and a desk and
fractured bones in his hand. Docs. 66 at 63 & 117-2 at
10. On another occasion, Jones waved a gun around and placed
it in his mouth threatening to kill himself. Doc. 117-2 at
17. At times, Ricky Jones has threatened violence against
Powrzanas and others. Doc. 66 at 7-8.
resigned from Jones Utility on February 12, 2016. Doc. 90-1
at 47. However, after speaking with her father, she agreed to
return to work. Doc. 90-1 at 52. The long-running dispute
came to a volatile crescendo on March 2, 2016, when
Powrzanas, Shawna Stewart (Powrzanas' sister), Pat Jones,
Ricky Jones, and others went to a work lunch at Buffalo Wild
Wings. Doc. 90-1 at 53 & 55. A dispute ensued because
Ricky Jones believed that Powrzanas and Stewart were treating
Pat Jones poorly. Doc. 90-1 at 53-55. The argument spilled
out into the parking lot where Ricky Jones threw a box of
leftover food at a car and sped away. Doc. 90-1 at 54.
Powrzanas testified that she told Stewart and others present
that she was quitting her job because she was not going to be
humiliated in public. Doc. 90-1 at 54.
testified, and Ricky Jones agreed, that they had
conversations about her fibromyalgia while she worked at
Jones Utility. Docs. 90-1 at 40 & 117-2 at 11. During
fibromyalgia flare-ups, Jones permitted Powrzanas to lie down
on a couch in the office and to take breaks during the day as
needed. Docs. 88 at 11 & 90-1 at 37. Powrzanas told Ricky
Jones that their arguments were exacerbating her fibromyalgia
symptoms. Doc. 90-1 at 47. On March 3, 2016, she resigned
from her employment with Jones Utility. Doc. 90-1 at 40.
Social Security Disability Application
2016, Powrzanas filed an application for Social Security
Disability Insurance benefits. Doc. 90-1 at 15. In the
application, she alleged that she became disabled on March 3,
2016 due to fibromyalgia and other health problems. Doc.
101-1. She further stated that she was in constant pain, was
unable to perform household cleaning tasks, struggled with
personal hygiene tasks, was unable to independently manage
finances, and was unable to do most things that she used to
enjoy. Doc. 101-2. She alleged that she stopped working due
to her health conditions. Doc. 101-1. In this lawsuit, she
claims that the working conditions at Jones Utility were the
reason that she became disabled. Doc. 117.
these facts, Powrzanas brings claims for ADA discrimination
and ADA retaliation. Doc. 1 at 4-5. Jones Utility asserts
that summary judgment is due to be granted on Powrzanas'
disability discrimination claim because (1) Powrzanas'
Social Security Disability application proves that she is not
a “qualified individual” under the ADA, (2) she
was not denied a “reasonable accommodation” under
the ADA, and (3) she was not ...