United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
L. BRASHER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an employment discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”),
codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., as amended,
between Tiffany Hughes (“Plaintiff”), her former
employer Wal-Mart Stores East, LP (“Wal-Mart”),
and former co-worker Michael R. “Rusty” Harris
(collectively, “Defendants”). This matter comes
before the court on Defendants' Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 77). The motion has been fully briefed and is
ripe for decision.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
matter jurisdiction is conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1343 as
to Plaintiff's federal causes of action, and the Court
may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's
state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The
parties do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and
there are adequate allegations to support both. See
28 U.S.C. § 1391.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate when 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.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court views the evidence, and all
reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Jean-Baptiste v.
Gutierrez, 627 F.3d 816, 820 (11th Cir. 2010).
party moving for summary judgment “always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for the motion.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). This responsibility
includes identifying the portions of the record illustrating
the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact.
Id. Alternatively, a movant who does not have a
trial burden of production can assert, without citing the
record, that the nonmoving party “cannot produce
admissible evidence to support” a material fact.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B); see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
56 advisory committee's note (“Subdivision
(c)(1)(B) recognizes that a party need not always point to
specific record materials.... [A] party who does not have the
trial burden of production may rely on a showing that a party
who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible
evidence to carry its burden as to the fact.”).
movant meets its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving
party to establish - with evidence beyond the pleadings -
that a genuine dispute material to each of its claims for
relief exists. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. A
genuine dispute of material fact exists when the nonmoving
party produces evidence allowing a reasonable fact finder to
return a verdict in its favor. Waddell v. Valley Forge
Dental Assocs., 276 F.3d 1275, 1279 (11th Cir. 2001).
is a pharmacist who was employed by Wal-Mart primarily at its
Prattville, Alabama location. Defendant Harris was employed
as Wal-Mart's Market Health and Wellness Director for a
group of stores including the Prattville location. Plaintiff
acknowledges that Harris was in her “chain of command
as a member of the ‘Market Leadership Team.'”
(Doc. 30 at 15). In 2015, Plaintiff sought accommodations for
various medical conditions, specifically, that she be allowed
to use a stool during her shifts and that she be excused from
giving injections. Wal-Mart approved both of those
accommodations on November 5, 2015. On January 7, 2016,
Plaintiff filed her first charge with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging
retaliatory activity prohibited by the ADA, specifically,
that she had not yet been provided with an OSHA-approved
stool to accommodate her disability. Plaintiff's stool
arrived at the pharmacy in February 2016.
April 5, 2016, Wal-Mart's Health and Wellness Compliance
Department sent an email to Plaintiff requesting that she
complete a Conflict of Interest survey (“COI”).
Although Plaintiff had previously submitted COIs as required,
she delayed submitting her COI in 2016, claiming that she was
afraid any mistakes on the form would be used as a basis to
terminate her employment. There is no dispute that a COI is
required of all pharmacists employed by Wal-Mart.
6, 2016, Harris visited the pharmacy while Plaintiff was at
work. Harris attempted to discuss the COI and Wal-Mart's
dress code with Plaintiff. Although there are disputes as to
particular statements made that day, it is beyond dispute
that Harris and Plaintiff engaged in a verbal confrontation
which included raised voices in the presence of customers and
employees. Plaintiff refused to complete her COI that day.
Harris relieved Plaintiff of her duties for the remainder of
her shift and informed her that she was suspended with pay.
When Plaintiff began to make phone calls to various Wal-Mart
corporate numbers instead of leaving, Harris informed
Plaintiff that she was suspended without pay. At some point
during this interaction, Plaintiff alleges that Harris said
she was “unfit” while directing her to leave the
pharmacy. Plaintiff eventually left the pharmacy.
sent Plaintiff a letter giving her until July 31, 2016, to
submit her COI or her employment would be terminated.
Defendants received Plaintiff's completed COI on July 29,
2016. By a letter dated August 9, 2016, Wal-Mart informed
Plaintiff that she would be placed back on the schedule as of
August 17, 2016, but required that she “communicate
with your leadership team, including engaging in discussions
with [Harris]” before resuming her duties. (Doc. 78-10
at 102). The letter further stated that “If you choose
not to confer with the leadership team, please let me know,
and we will respond accordingly and place you on a 30 day
personal leave of absence so you can find another available
position for which you are qualified.” Id.
Plaintiff responded to Harris that she wished to be placed
back on the schedule but refused to meet with him or the
leadership team. Wal-Mart placed Plaintiff on leave until
September 16, 2016, and terminated her employment on
September 27, 2016.
October 1, 2017, Plaintiff's husband presented a
prescription for Plaintiff at Wal-Mart's pharmacy in
Millbrook, Alabama. The prescription triggered a “red
flag” in the computer system because of another
prescription that Plaintiff was already taking. Pursuant to
store policy, the pharmacist called another Wal-Mart
pharmacist for a professional opinion and called
Plaintiff's prescribing physician for clarification. The
treating physician withdrew the prescription, and Wal-Mart
did not fill the prescription.
August 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed a second charge with the
EEOC, again alleging retaliatory activity prohibited by the
ADA. On January 13, 2017, the EEOC issue Plaintiff a Notice
of Right to Sue. Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court
on April 17, 2017, and an Amended Complaint on February 1,