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James v. O'Reilly Automotive Stores, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 20, 2018

ANDREA JAMES
v.
O'REILLY AUTOMOTIVE STORES, INC. CIVIL ACTION

          RULING AND ORDER

          BRIAN A. JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is Defendant O'Reilly Automotive Stores, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 11) against Plaintiff Andrea James. No. opposition was filed. For the reasons that follow, the Motion (Doc. 11) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This disability-discrimination suit arises from Andrea James's employment with O'Reilly as a delivery specialist. (Doc. 1-1). After O'Reilly fired her, James sued O'Reilly under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law. (Id.) She alleges that O'Reilly failed to reasonably accommodate disabilities she developed in two car accidents. (Id.). Primarily at issue is whether James could, with reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of an available position with O'Reilly. (Doc. 14). Because the undisputed facts show that she could not, James is not a qualified individual with a disability, and James cannot prove disability discrimination.

         In October 2014, O'Reilly hired Plaintiff as a delivery specialist at O'Reilly store number 633 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 1). Delivery specialists deliver O'Reilly parts to stores and pick up and sign for stock transfers. (Doc. 11-32 at p. 1). The physical requirements for the position include standing and walking for 1-2 hours, bending/stooping for 5-6 hours, reaching above shoulder level for 1-2 hours, pushing/pulling for 5-6 hours, squatting for 1-2 hours, crouching for 5-6 hours, kneeling for 1-2 hours, lifting 26-40 pounds for 1-2 hours, and lifting 41-60 pounds for 1-2 hours. (Id. at p. 2).

         In early 2015, Plaintiff was injured in two car accidents. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 11). Plaintiffs injuries "severely limited . . . her ability to perform heavy lifting, to stand for prolonged periods of time, and to bend." (Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 7). Because Plaintiffs injuries made her physically unfit for the delivery specialist position, O'Reilly temporarily reassigned Plaintiff to light duty assistance work as a customer greeter and front counter clerk in May 2015. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 10).

         Seven months later, O'Reilly received a note from Plaintiffs doctor stating that Plaintiff should avoid lifting items over ten pounds and take frequent sitting breaks. (Id. at ¶ 15). O'Reilly concluded that these temporary restrictions precluded Plaintiff from performing the "essential job duties" of the delivery specialist position, and that O'Reilly could not accommodate the restrictions for any other available position. (Id. at ¶ 16). O'Reilly granted Plaintiff a leave of absence until February 2016, when Plaintiffs temporary restrictions could be updated. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19).

         The update arrived as scheduled through a "Fitness for Duty" form. (Doc. 11-16). In the form, Dr. Christina Austin marked boxes indicating that Plaintiff should be permanently restricted from kneeling/squatting, bending/stooping, pushing/pulling, driving, reaching overhead, lifting items heavier than ten pounds, and standing for more than two hours per day. (Id.). Dr. Austin also marked a box indicating that Plaintiffs medications-Norco, Soma, and Xanax-created a "safety/driving issue." (Id.). And Dr. Austin indicated, in the "miscellaneous restrictions" section of the form, that Plaintiff should work only four hours per day, four days per week. (Id.).

         O'Reilly personnel reviewed the form. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 25). Based on Plaintiffs permanent restrictions, the O'Reilly store manager, district manager, regional director, and leave of absence coordinator determined that O'Reilly could not provide any reasonable accommodation to Plaintiff that would allow her to perform the essential functions of her delivery specialist position or any other position available at store number 633. (Id.). O'Reilly fired Plaintiff less than a month later. (Id. at ¶ 29). Plaintiff responded by filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Doc. 1-1 at ¶ 21). She received a right-to-sue notice in May 2017. (Id.).

         Four months later, Plaintiff sued O'Reilly in the Nineteenth Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Baton Rouge. (Doc. 1-1). Plaintiffs Petition for Damages alleges that O'Reilly violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 etseq., and the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, La. R.S. 23:323, when O'Reilly failed to reasonably accommodate the disabilities Plaintiff developed in two car accidents. (Id.). O'Reilly removed the suit based on federal-question jurisdiction and now moves for summary judgment. (Docs. 1, 11).

         O'Reilly contends that Plaintiff cannot prove disability discrimination because she cannot show that she is a "qualified individual" under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Doc. 14). Plaintiff cannot show that she is a "qualified individual," O'Reilly continues, because Plaintiff cannot show that, with a reasonable accommodation, she could perform the essential functions of any available position at O'Reilly store number 633. (Id.).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is proper if O'Reilly shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court cannot grant summary judgment simply because O'Reilly's motion is unopposed; O'Reilly must point to the absence of a material factual dispute that supports entry of a judgment in its favor. Hetzel v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 50 F.3d 360, 362 n.3 (5th Cir. 1995). In deciding whether O'Reilly has done so, the Court views facts and draws reasonable inferences in Plaintiffs favor. Midwest Feeders, Inc. v. Bank of Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018). Because Plaintiff did not file an opposition, O'Reilly's properly-supported assertions of fact are deemed undisputed. FED. R. ClV. P. 56(e)(2).

         III. ...


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