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Seay v. Eagle Cleaning Service

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

October 15, 2019



          L. Scott Coogler United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ivory Jean Seay (“Plaintiff” or “Seay”), who is proceeding pro se, brings this action against her former employer, Eagle Cleaning Service (“Defendant” or “Eagle”), alleging claims for disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et seq. (“the ADA”). Presently before the Court is Eagle's motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 24.) For the reasons stated below, Eagle's motion (doc. 24) is due to be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND [1]

         On March 7, 2017, Eagle hired Seay to work as a cleaning service agent. On September 19, 2017, Seay told Debra Lewis (“Lewis”), her supervisor, that she was experiencing pain and needed to go to the hospital. Seay was then informed that she needed to work, so she waited to go to the hospital until after her last cleaning assignment. On September 20, 2017, Seay's physician advised her not to return to work the next day due to the medication she had been provided. That same day, after Seay provided this information to Lewis, Lewis terminated Seay's employment.

         Seay claims to suffer from degenerative arthritis in her arms, hips, and lower back. Seay receives injections for this condition. According to Seay, after a fellow employee resigned, Eagle assigned her extra work, which caused her medical condition to deteriorate. Seay states that she told Lewis that the extra work was too much and that additional help was needed. However, even after Lewis informed Seay that a new employee had been hired, she was still being assigned extra work.

         Eagle submitted an affidavit from its President and Owner stating that Seay was terminated because she could not get along with co-workers and because she had 13 absences from work in less than 7 months. (Doc. 25-1 ¶¶ 6-7.) Eagle further avers that it terminated Seay just like it has terminated “all employees with multiple absences over a short time period.” (Id. ¶ 9.) Further, Seay never requested “a reasonable or any accommodation.” (Id. ¶ 8.)

         II. STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact[2] and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A dispute is genuine if “the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., Inc., 357 F.3d 1256, 1260 (11th Cir. 2004). A genuine dispute as to a material fact exists “if the nonmoving party has produced evidence such that a reasonable factfinder could return a verdict in its favor.” Greenberg v. BellSouth Telecomms., Inc., 498 F.3d 1258, 1263 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Waddell v. Valley Forge Dental Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001)). The trial judge should not weigh the evidence, but determine whether there are any genuine issues of fact that should be resolved at trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, trial courts must give deference to the nonmoving party by “view[ing] the materials presented and all factual inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Animal Legal Def. Fund v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 789 F.3d 1206, 1213-14 (11th Cir. 2015) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). However, “unsubstantiated assertions alone are not enough to withstand a motion for summary judgment.” Rollins v. TechSouth, Inc., 833 F.2d 1525, 1529 (11th Cir. 1987). Conclusory allegations and “mere scintilla of evidence in support of the nonmoving party will not suffice to overcome a motion for summary judgment.” Melton v. Abston, 841 F.3d 1207, 1219 (11th Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (quoting Young v. City of Palm Bay, 358 F.3d 859, 860 (11th Cir. 2004)).

         In making a motion for summary judgment, “the moving party has the burden of either negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's case or showing that there is no evidence to prove a fact necessary to the nonmoving party's case.” McGee v. Sentinel Offender Servs., LLC, 719 F.3d 1236, 1242 (11th Cir. 2013). Although the trial courts must use caution when granting motions for summary judgment, “[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986). Further, “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment . . . 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.


         Seay alleges that Eagle violated the ADA by (1) terminating her and (2) retaliating against her. Eagle asserts that summary judgment should be granted in its favor because Seay produced no evidence to demonstrate that she met her prima facie case as to either claim, and that even if she had, she failed to produce any evidence that Eagle's proffered reasons for terminating her were mere pretext for unlawful disability discrimination or retaliation.

         The Eleventh Circuit applies “the burden-shifting analysis of Title VII employment discrimination claims” to ADA discrimination and retaliation claims. Holly v. Clairson Indus., L.L.C., 492 F.3d 1247, 1255 (11th Cir. 2007) (quoting Earl v. Mervyns, Inc., 207 F.3d 1361, 1365 (11th Cir. 2000)); Durley v. APAC, Inc., 236 F.3d 651, 657 (11th Cir. 2000) (ADA); Stewart v. Happy Herman's Cheshire Bridge, Inc., 117 F.3d 1278, 1287 (11th Cir. 1999) (retaliation). Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the plaintiff carries the initial burden of producing circumstantial evidence sufficient to prove a prima facie case of discrimination. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); see also Schoenfeld v. Babbitt, 168 F.3d 1257, 1267 (11th Cir. 1999). If the plaintiff meets her initial burden of establishing a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the defendant to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. Trask v. Sec'y, Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 822 F.3d 1179, 1191 (11th Cir. 2016). If the defendant is successful, “the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to produce evidence that the employer's proffered reasons are a pretext for discrimination.” Id. (quoting Alvarez v. Royal Atl. Developers, Inc., 610 F.3d 1253, 1264 (11th Cir. 2010)).

         A. ...

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