United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
M. AFRICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is a partial motion for summary judgment filed by the
defendant, the St. Bernard Parish Government (“St.
Bernard Parish”). St. Bernard Parish seeks dismissal of
plaintiff Ryan Fink's (“Fink”) claims for
violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (the
“ADA”) and his Fourteenth Amendment right to
procedural due process. For the following reasons, the motion
is granted with respect to Fink's ADA discrimination
worked as a St. Bernard Parish civil service employee from
April 2008 until April 2017, when he was
terminated. According to Fink, in 2015 he was
diagnosed with “pain, decreased muscular strength and
range of motion in both arms” as a result of “a
congenital narrowing of the spinal canal at the C5-C7
levels.” In his opposition to the present motion,
Fink also characterizes his diagnosis as degenerative disc
disease. After a surgery in May 2015 related to
Fink's diagnosis, his treating physician, Dr. John Steck
(“Dr. Steck”), eventually released him to return
to work, restricting Fink from pulling, pushing, lifting, or
carrying more than ten pounds. Fink contends that he was
adequately accommoDated: work until May 2016 because he had a
qualified assistant who was available to lift and carry heavy
equipment. In May 2016, however, the assistant was
laid off. In January 2017, another assistant was
hired for the department. Fink alleges that the newly hired
assistant was “unqualified.”
originally asserted a Fourteenth Amendment claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983, a claim for overtime compensation under
the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201, et
seq. (the “FLSA”), and discrimination and
retaliation claims under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101,
et seq. Because St. Bernard Parish's motion
for partial summary judgment does not address Fink's ADA
retaliation claim or his FLSA claim, this order pertains only
to Fink's ADA discrimination claim.
judgment is proper when, after reviewing the pleadings, the
discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any
affidavits, the Court determines that there is no genuine
dispute of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.
“[A] 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
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The party seeking
summary judgment need not produce evidence negating the
existence of a material fact; it need only point out the
absence of evidence supporting the other party's case.
Id.; see also Fontenot v. Upjohn Co., 780
F.2d 1190, 1195 (5th Cir. 1986).
the party seeking summary judgment carries its burden, the
nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing
that there is a genuine dispute of material fact for trial.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The showing of a genuine issue is
not satisfied by creating “‘some metaphysical
doubt as to the material facts,' by ‘conclusory
allegations,' by ‘unsubstantiated assertions,'
or by only a ‘scintilla' of evidence.”
Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th
Cir. 1994) (citations omitted).
a genuine issue of material fact exists when the
“evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
“Although the substance or content of the evidence
submitted to support or dispute a fact on summary judgment
must be admissible . . ., the material may be presented in a
form that would not, in itself, be admissible at
trial.” Lee v. Offshore Logistical & Transp.,
LLC, 859 F.3d 353, 355 (5th Cir. 2017) (citations
omitted). The party responding to the motion for summary
judgment may not rest upon the pleadings but must identify
specific facts that establish a genuine issue.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The nonmoving
party's evidence, however, “is to be believed, and
all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [the nonmoving
party's] favor.” Id. at 255; see also
Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999).
asserts that St. Bernard Parish violated the ADA by failing
and refusing to accommodate his disability and by retaliating
against him for asserting his rights under the
ADA. The present motion only challenges
Fink's discrimination claim.
prohibits employers from discriminating “against a
qualified individual on the basis of disability.” 42
U.S.C. § 12112(a). “Discrimination includes
failure to make ‘reasonable accommodations to the known
physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified
individual with a disability . . . unless such covered entity
can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue
hardship.'” Feist v. Louisiana, Dep't of
Justice, Office of the Attorney Gen., 730 F.3d 450, 452
(5th Cir. 2013) (quoting § 12112(b)(5)). To succeed on
an ADA claim for a failure to accommodate, a plaintiff must
prove (1) that he is a qualified individual with a
disability, (2) that the disability and its corresponding
limitations were known to his employer, and (3) that his
employer nevertheless failed to make “reasonable
accommodations” for the known limitations. Id.
a threshold requirement in an ADA claim, the plaintiff must,
of course, establish that he has a disability.”
Waldrip v. General Elec. Co., 325 F.3d 652, 654 (5th
Cir. 2003). St. Bernard Parish argues that Fink cannot
demonstrate that he was a qualified individual with a
disability during the relevant timeframe because there is no
evidence he had a disability. The relevant timeframe is the
time during which Fink alleges that he was not properly
accommodated-from May 2016 until his termination in April
defines a disability as “a physical or mental
impairment that substantially limits one or more major life
activities of such individual.” § 12102(1)(A).
“Major life activities include ‘caring for
oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating,
sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking,
breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking,
communicating, and working.'” Kemp v.
Holder, 610 F.3d 231, 235 (5th Cir. 2010). To determine
whether Fink met the ADA definition of disabled, the Court
applies a three-part test. Waldrip, 325 F.3d at 654.
“[The Court] must determine first whether [Fink] ha[d]
an ‘impairment,' next whether the activity on which
he relies is a ‘major life activity,' and, if so,
whether his impairment ‘substantially limit[ed]'
that major life activity.” Id. “[T]hese
terms need to be interpreted strictly to create a demanding
standard for qualifying as disabled.” Id.
(quoting Toyota Motor Mfg., Ky., Inc. v. Williams,
534 U.S. 184, 197 (2002)).
his surgery in May 2015, Dr. Steck approved Fink's return
to work. However, Fink was restricted from pulling, pushing,
lifting, or carrying more than ten pounds. The only
other evidence of a work-related restriction is a memorandum
signed by Dr. Steck from March 2016. In the memorandum, Dr.
Steck noted that Fink was “doing really
well.” Dr. Steck wrote, “The only thing
we are going to limit him to [is] working no more than 40
hours per week. He is going to start working
alleged impairment is his degenerative disc
disease. However, even if degenerative disc
disease qualifies as a physical impairment, Fink cannot point
to any evidence in the record to establish that his disease
substantially limited a major life activity. In fact, he does
not specify a major life activity. The only evidence he cites
are the restrictions imposed by Dr. Steck and deposition
testimony from Dr. Steck, in which he read from a form that
Fink completed in November 2016 stating that his pain
affected his “[e]njoyment of life, mood, ability to
work, sexual activity, [and] ability to perform household
duties.” Even assuming that the foregoing
activities are major life activities, and accepting
Fink's self-reporting as factual, the evidence does not
suggest that his disease was “substantially
limit[ing].” Waldrip, 325 F.3d at 652; see
also Dupre v. Charter Behavioral Health Sys. of Lafayette
Inc., 242 F.3d 610, 614 (5th ...