United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
JOHNETTE L. MADISON, Plaintiff,
PATRICK DONAHOE, UNITED STATES POSTMASTER GENERAL, Defendant.
CHARLES R. SIMPSON, III, Senior District Judge.
This matter is before the court on the motion of Defendant Patrick Donahoe, the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service (hereinafter, the "Postal Service"), to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. (DN 28). Plaintiff Johnette L. Madison ("Madison") has filed a response to the Postal Service's motion (DN 33), to which the Postal Service has replied (DN 36). Fully briefed, the matter is now ripe for adjudication. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the Postal Service's motion (DN 28).
The following facts are undisputed. Madison is an African-American female over the age of forty who was formerly employed by the Postal Service at its Main Processing Plant in Louisville, Kentucky. During the course of her employment, Madison filed and participated in several EEO complaints against the Postal Service.
In 1993, Madison suffered an on-the-job injury which affected her left shoulder and required that she be placed on permanent restrictions, including limited hours walking and sitting per day and limitations on lifting, pushing, and pulling. To accommodate these limitations, the Postal Service created a modified rehabilitation position for Madison as a Review Clerk in the Dead Letters Unit. Madison was the only employee in the Dead Letters Unit, and her work area was located within the Manual Letters Unit. Madison held this position until she voluntarily retired from the Postal Service on November 30, 2007.
Madison's claims in this action stem from the Postal Service's March 2007 reconfiguration of the Manual Letters Unit. The reconfiguration was ordered by the Plant Manager as a result of ongoing renovations in the area and as an attempt to increase efficiency in the unit. As a result of the reconfiguration, Madison's work area was moved to the front of the Manual Letters Unit and against the side wall. When Madison returned to work after the reconfiguration was completed, she asked a coworker to move her work area so that her injured left side would not be exposed to passing traffic in the aisle. After being alerted to Madison's repositioning of her work area, Mike Ferrari ("Ferrari"), the Manager of Distribution Operations, returned the work area to its reconfigured position and instructed Madison not to move it. Despite this order, Madison again moved her work area on March 29, 2007. Ferrari then requested that Madison's supervisor, Carolyn Pettus ("Pettus"), conduct a Pre-Disciplinary Interview for Madison's failure to follow instructions and working outside her restrictions by repositioning her work area. As a result of the interview, Pettus requested discipline for Madison in the form of an N-TOL #1 Letter of Warning that was later reduced to a "job discussion." Both Ferrari and Pettus were aware of Madison's medical restrictions at all times relevant to this action.
At some point in March 2007, Madison informed the Postal Service that the reconfigured position of her work area violated her restrictions, and she requested an accommodation. Madison argued that the placement of her desk was dangerous because she could not see people or equipment moving behind her. Ferrari and a union steward reviewed Madison's restrictions and concluded that the reconfiguration did not violate the restrictions, resulted in a reduced flow of traffic behind Madison's desk, and limited the need for Madison to turn to her injured side. They also noted that Madison had a swivel chair at her work station to alleviate any need to twist and turn her body.
Around that same time, Ferrari also made several changes to Madison's job duties. Ferrari took away a portion of Madison's workload after determining that postal regulations required that a certain type of mail (referred to by the parties as "bank mail" or "write up") be handled in Atlanta. Also, on the instruction of the Plant Manager, Ferrari removed the telephone from Madison's desk because it was determined that Madison did not need a phone to complete her duties.
In early April 2007, Madison was ordered to participate in another Pre-Disciplinary Interview after she moved a sorting rack from one side of her desk to another. Madison was eventually issued an N-TOL #1 Letter of Warning in May 2007 for failing to follow instructions in moving her desk area. The letter of warning was subsequently reduced to an "official job discussion."
As a result of these actions, Madison filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint with the Postal Service on June 4, 2007, alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, age, and disability. Madison also brought claims of retaliation and hostile work environment. A hearing on these allegations was held on May 8, 2008. The Administrative Law Judge who presided over Madison's hearing concluded that no discrimination or retaliation had occurred and entered a Decision and Order on September 25, 2009 dismissing Madison's claims. Madison appealed the decision to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of Federal Operations. However, the Office of Federal Operations upheld the administrative law judge's order dismissing Madison's case.
Madison filed this action in September 2011 alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2002(e) et seq. for employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, and age discrimination, as well as discrimination based on physical disability. In the complaint, Madison also alleges that she was retaliated against for prior EEO activity and was subjected to a hostile work environment.
The court will consider the motion as one for summary judgment because the parties have submitted various exhibits and referred to documents outside of the pleadings. Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of specifying the basis for its motion and of identifying that portion of the record which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).
Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the non-moving party is required to do more than simply show there is some "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The rule requires the non-moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue exists by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute[.]" Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the ...