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Callais v. United Rentals North America, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

May 17, 2019

UNITED RENTALS NORTH AMERICA, INC. Fact Offered as Undisputed Response



         Before the Court is Defendant United Rentals North America, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 40) against Plaintiff Philip Callais. For the reasons that follow, the Motion (Doc. 40) is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This is a disability-discrimination case. Plaintiff is a veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He worked as a truck driver for United Rentals. United Rentals fired him after he committed three safety violations in two years. In response, he sued.

         He alleges that United Rentals discriminated against him because he is a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder. He invokes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law (LEDL), La. R.S. 23:301 et seq., and a law that prohibits employers from discriminating against veterans, La. R.S. 23:331. The undisputed facts, viewed in his favor, follow. See Midwest Feeders, Inc. v. Bank of Franklin, 886 F.3d 507, 513 (5th Cir. 2018).

         In October 2013, United Rentals hired Plaintiff as a flatbed driver at its Gonzales, Louisiana facility. (Doc. 43 at p. 44). His duties included (1) "transporting valuable equipment to customer locations on time in a safe manner," (2) "maintaining driver's logs and complete pre-trip inspections," and (3) "adhering to all safety requirements particular to equipment." (Doc. 40-6 at ¶ 8).

         When United Rentals hired Plaintiff, it provided him its employee handbook. (Doc. 43 at p. 88). The handbook states that "employees have a responsibility to make [United Rentals] aware of any necessary accommodations" by "contacting] ... [a] human resources representative without delay." (Id.). Plaintiff never told any United Rentals human resources representative that he needed an accommodation for his post-traumatic stress disorder. (Doc. 56-3 at p. 4).

         For the first few months Plaintiff worked at United Rentals, Plaintiff did not drive a truck. (Id. at ¶ 20). He instead performed "assembly work" and "truck inspection." (Id.). Frustrated with that arrangement, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Id. at ¶ 21). But Plaintiff withdrew the charge about two months later, when United Rentals allowed him to drive. (Id. at ¶ 22).

         During his time at United Rentals, Plaintiff regularly met with a psychologist for treatment of his post-traumatic stress disorder. (Id. at ¶ 24). In the course of that treatment, he filled out a form indicating that he did not have "a physical impairment that limits his ability to perform the essential functions of his position." (Doc. 43 at p. 67).

         In August 2014, United Rentals cited Plaintiff for a disciplinary violation for failing to conduct a "360 hazard assessment." (Id. at p. 69). This is a "Level 1 Safety Offense," which "result[s] in discipline, up to and including termination." (Id. at p. 81). United Rentals then transferred Plaintiff to its Plaquemine, Louisiana facility. (Id. at p. 27).

         Upon his transfer, Plaintiff told his new supervisors about his post-traumatic stress disorder. (Id. at p. 28). They said that it was "no problem." (Id.). At this time, Plaintiff neither needed nor requested an accommodation. (Id. at p. 29).

         About six months after transferring to Plaquemine, Plaintiff received a second disciplinary citation for a "Level 1 Safety Offense." (Id. at p. 75). Plaintiff again failed to perform a "360 hazard assessment"; this time, though, he caused his truck to strike a "large, metal light pole and knock it to the ground." (Id.).

         After committing his second safety violation, Plaintiff decided he needed two accommodations: (1) two 15-minute breaks during driving routes and (2) leave from work to attend VA appointments. (Id. at p. 18). He also asked his supervisors not to "broadcast" these accommodations to his co-workers. (Id.). Plaintiff did not request the accommodations from United Rentals' human resources department, as United Rentals' policy requires. (Id. at p. 23). Nor did he update his medical form to reflect that he needed the accommodations. (Id.). He nonetheless took the requested breaks and attended his VA appointments. (Doc. 56-3 at pp. 10-11).

         Almost a year-and-a-half later, in July 2016, Plaintiff received another disciplinary citation for a "Level 1 Safety Offense." (Id. at p. 85). This was his third such citation in less than two years. (Id.). Plaintiff-again-failed to perform the required "360 hazard assessment." (Id. at p. 86). But this citation was more serious: Plaintiff drove an "articulating boom off the rear of his trailer while failing to put the dove tail down," which "could have resulted in serious injury, including death[.]" (Id.). Plaintiff acknowledged that he failed to "take the time to put out cones" and failed to "do a thorough 360 hazard assessment." (Id. at p. 88).

         United Rentals fired Plaintiff five days later. (Id. at p. 54). In response, Plaintiff sued United Rentals for discriminating against him based on his post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran status. (Docs. 1, 12). He alleges discriminatory-termination and failure-to-accommodate claims under the ADA and LEDL, as well as a veteran-discrimination claim under La. R.S. 23:331. (Id.).[1]

         United Rentals moves for summary judgment. (Doc. 40). It asks the Court to dismiss Plaintiffs disability-discrimination claims because Plaintiff is not "disabled" under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and even if he were, United Rentals had legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for firing him. (Doc. 40-1). The Court should dismiss Plaintiffs veteran-discrimination claim, United Rentals argues, because Plaintiff cannot point to facts showing that United Rentals fired or disciplined him for attending any medical appointment related to his veteran benefits. (Id.).

         Plaintiff opposes. (Doc. 65). He originally filed a deficient opposition brief and Local Civil Rule 56(b) statement. (Doc. 63.). In that brief, he plucked passages from cases United Rentals cited and declared each to be "distinguishable." (Id.). In the accompanying statement, he block-quoted over 100 pages of testimony, raised legal arguments, and provided impertinent commentary.[2] (Id.).

         The Court struck the brief and statement on its own motion, alerting Plaintiff that both filings were deficient in various respects. (Doc. 64.). The Court warned him that his filings suggested that he hoped to avoid summary judgment by improper means: bloating the record and obfuscating the issues. (Id.). So the Court ordered him to file an amended brief and statement within four days. (Id.). He complied. (Doc. 65).

         Unfortunately, his second effort is no better than his first. (Compare Docs. 47, 47-1 with Docs. 65, 65-1). His brief is-again-a mishmash of quotations, which again-makes it difficult for the Court to divine the arguments he intends to make. (Doc. 65). His second Local Civil Rule 56(b) statement is shorter than his first; it again, however, contains improper argument. (Doc. 65-1). Even worse, it smacks of gamesmanship: it contains 51 denials of properly supported facts cited in United Rentals' Local Civil Rule 56(b) statement. (Doc. 65-1). Most of the denials are unfounded; consider the following:

Fact Offered as Undisputed

"Plaintiff was provided with a Policy Procedure Bulletin, containing United Rentals' Equal Employment Opportunity Policy."

"Denied as written. There is ... a contested material fact whether [United Rentals] has anything even remotely credible."

"During his hiring, Plaintiff also received a copy of the Employee HandbookM"

"Denied.[United Rentals'] policy and procedure bulletin is in conflict with its employee handbook."

"The Safety Policy provides that 'United Rentals is committed to a safety culture . . .'"

"Denied.. . . [United Rentals] cared not about safety, but to obtain a clean bill from Plaintiff."

"To be a flatbed driver at United Rentals . . . Plaintiff had to maintain a commercial driver's licensef.]"

"Denied as written. In fact, one form of illegal discrimination involved . . ."

"Plaintiffs duties as a CDL driver, Class A, included [lists duties] . . ."

"Denied as written. [United Rentals] failed to properly train the plaintiff."

"To maintain his Class A commercial driver's license, Plaintiff waas required to renew his medical certification every two years."

"Denied as written. [United Rentals'] handling of his medical certification was yet another aspect of the illegal discrimination].]"

"Plaintiff received a copy of the Company's Policy and Procedure Bulletin, outlining its safety policies and procedures."

"Denied as written. . . . [United Rentals] did not follow its own policies and procedures[.]"

"Upon his return to work, Plaintiff did not update or change his medical documentation [.]"

"Denied as written. No one at [United Rentals] advised Plaintiff of the necessity to update or change his medical documentation."

         This list is illustrative. After combing the record, the Court finds that Plaintiff lacks a good-faith basis for 51 of his 54 denials. Plaintiffs unfounded "as-written" denials betray a lack of candor to the Court. If Plaintiff s counsel files any similarly improper Local Civil Rule 56(b) statement in ...

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