United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. Hale, Judge United States District Court
Jonathan Luttrell formerly worked for Defendant Ford Motor
Company as a vehicle assembler. Luttrell sued Ford after his
employment was terminated in February 2016. Luttrell asserts
claims for gender and race discrimination and retaliation
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Kentucky
Civil Rights Act (KCRA), disability discrimination under the
Americans with Disabilities Act and the KCRA, age
discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
and the KCRA, and retaliation under the Kentucky Workers'
Compensation Act. (Docket No. 1) Ford seeks summary judgment
on all claims asserted by Luttrell. (D.N. 17) For the reasons
discussed below, Ford's motion will be granted.
began working as a vehicle assembler for Ford at its
Louisville, Kentucky plant in 2012. (See D.N. 17-3,
PageID # 83-84) From February 2013 to October 2015, Luttrell
often took medical leave. (See, e.g., D.N. 17-8,
PageID # 196; D.N. 25-1, PageID # 430) Then, on October 23,
2015, Luttrell suffered an injury to his shoulder while at
work. (D.N. 25-1, PageID # 431; D.N. 17-19, PageID # 247)
Luttrell filed a workers' compensation claim on November
6, 2015. (D.N. 25-1, PageID # 431; see D.N. 17-21,
PageID # 270) That claim was later denied. (D.N. 25-14)
However, UniCare, Ford's third-party administrator for
disability benefits (D.N.
PageID # 58; D.N. 25, PageID # 403), placed Luttrell on a
medical leave of absence and granted him disability benefits
through November 12, 2015. (D.N. 25-10, PageID # 449)
December 2015, Luttrell filed an Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) charge against Ford, alleging
discrimination and retaliation on the basis of race, age,
sex, and disability. (D.N. 25-4) On January 25, 2016, Ford
sent Luttrell a letter informing him that his leave of
absence had expired on November 12, 2015, and that his
employment would be terminated if he did not return to work
within five working days. (D.N. 17-3, PageID # 168) The
letter further provided that if Luttrell was unable to report
for work due to illness or disability, he was required to
contact the plant physician to schedule an appointment to
meet and discuss his medical condition. (Id.) After
Luttrell failed to respond to the letter, Ford terminated his
employment effective February 8, 2016. (D.N. 17-4, PageID #
filed this suit against Ford on December 1, 2016, asserting
claims of gender discrimination, race discrimination, civil
rights retaliation, disability discrimination, age
discrimination, and workers' compensation retaliation.
(D.N. 1) Ford now seeks summary judgment on all of
Luttrell's claims. (D.N. 17)
judgment is required when the moving party shows, using
evidence in the record, “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);
see 56(c)(1). “A ‘genuine issue of
material fact exists when there is sufficient evidence for a
trier of fact to find for the non-moving party.'”
Bush v. Compass Grp. USA, Inc., 683 Fed.Appx. 440,
444 (6th Cir. 2017) (quoting Brown v. Battle Creek Police
Dep't, 844 F.3d 556, 565 (6th Cir. 2016)).
“[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Id. (emphasis in
original) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)).
purposes of summary judgment, the Court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Loyd v. Saint Joseph Mercy Oakland, 766 F.3d 580,
588 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at
255). However, the Court “need consider only the cited
materials.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3); see Shreve v.
Franklin Cty., 743 F.3d 126, 136 (6th Cir. 2014). If the
nonmoving party “fails to properly support an assertion
of fact or fails to properly address another party's
assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), ” the fact
may be treated as undisputed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). To survive
a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must
establish a genuine issue of material fact with respect to
each element of each of his claims. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986) (noting that
“a complete failure of proof concerning an essential
element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders
all other facts immaterial”).
raises claims of discrimination based on gender, race, age,
and disability and retaliation. (D.N. 1) The Court will
discuss each claim in turn.
Gender, Race, and Age Discrimination
complaint, Luttrell raises discrimination claims based on
gender, race, and age and alleges facts that purportedly
support those claims. (See D.N. 1) Luttrell's
response in opposition to summary judgment does not address
Ford's arguments with respect to those claims or state
that the claims are waived. (See D.N. 25)
plaintiff's “failure to respond potentially could
constitute waiver of any opposition to [a defendant's]
motion.” Collins v. Waste Mgmt. of Ky. Holdings,
Inc., No. 06-175-ART, 2008 WL 2794661, at *5 (E.D. Ky.
July 18, 2008). “This holds true in the summary
judgment context . . . if the moving party has met its
initial burden under Rule 56(c).” Id.
“[U]nder Rule 56(c), a party moving for summary
judgment always bears the burden of demonstrating the absence
of a genuine issue as to a material fact.” Carver
v. Bunch, 946 F.2d 451, 454 (6th Cir. 1991).
“[T]he movant must always bear this initial burden
regardless if an adverse party fails to respond.”
Id. at 455. The Supreme Court has clarified,
however, that this burden “may be discharged by
‘showing'-that is, pointing out to the district
court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the
nonmoving party's case.” Catrett, 477 U.S.
Court is satisfied that Ford has met its initial burden with
respect to Luttrell's gender, race, and age
For a prima facie case of reverse race discrimination, a
plaintiff must show that (1) “the defendant is [that]
unusual employer who discriminates against the majority,
” (2) the plaintiff satisfactorily performed the job,
(3) the plaintiff was impacted by an adverse employment
action, and (4) “the defendant treated minority
employees who were similarly situated to the plaintiff more
favorably than [the plaintiff was treated].”
Sanders v. Owens, No. 3:09-CV-00536-R, 2011 WL
3878309, at *10 (W.D. Ky. Sept. 1, 2011) (quoting Morris
v. Family Dollar Stores of Ohio, Inc., 320 Fed.Appx.
330, 339 (6th Cir. 2009)).“In order for . . . employees
to be considered similarly-situated . . . the plaintiff must
prove that all of the relevant aspects of his employment
situation are nearly identical to those of the [female and
minority] employees who he alleges were treated more
favorably.” Id. at *11 (quoting
Morris, 320 Fed.Appx. at 340).
Luttrell alleges that female and African American employees
were treated more favorably than he was treated after
suffering similar injuries (D.N. 1, PageID # 3-4), Ford
points out that Luttrell's claims are based on nothing
more than his testimony that he saw an African American woman
and African American men working “light duty”
jobs after they were injured on the assembly line. (D.N.
17-1, PageID # 71-72 (citing D.N. 17-3, PageID # 138))
Luttrell has not shown or even argued that all
“relevant aspects of his employment” were
“nearly identical” to those of the African
American workers he observed on light duty. See
Sanders, 2011 WL 3878309, at *11; see also Scott v.
Donahoe, 913 F.Supp.2d 355, 364 (W.D. Ky. 2012) (finding
that female employees were not similarly situated to male
plaintiff “because they worked in different positions .
. . and/or had different physical restrictions”).
Because Luttrell has failed to show that these African
American workers were “similarly situated” to
him, his reverse-discrimination claims based on gender and
race fail. See Sanders, 2011 WL 3878309, at *10-11;
Gooden v. Ryan's Rest. Grp., Inc., No.
5:04-CV-179-R, 2007 WL 855326, at *10 (W.D. Ky. Mar. 14,
2007) (requiring a reverse-discrimination plaintiff to
“compare Defendant's treatment of a similarly
situated person of a minority class with Defendant's
treatment of Plaintiff”).
To establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under
the ADEA, a plaintiff must come forward with evidence that:
(1) he was at least 40 years old at the time of the alleged
discrimination; (2) he was subjected to an adverse employment
action; (3) he was otherwise qualified for the position; and
(4) after he was rejected, a substantially younger applicant
Coomer v. Bethesda Hosp., Inc., 370 F.3d 499, 510-11
(6th Cir. 2004). “The fourth element may be satisfied
‘by showing that similarly situated non-protected
employees were treated more favorably.'”
Id. at 511 (quoting Talley v. Bravo Pitino
Rest., Ltd., 61 F.3d 1241, 1246 (6th Cir. 1995)).
“If the plaintiff successfully establishes a prima
facie case, the burden of production shifts to the defendant
to articulate a non-discriminatory reason for its adverse
employment action.” Id. “If the
defendant comes up with such a reason, the plaintiff must
then demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the
defendant's proffered reason was a pretext for age
discrimination.” Id. (quoting Burzynski v.
Cohen, 264 F.3d 611, 622 (6th Cir. 2001)).
age-discrimination claim appears to be based on his
allegation that Ford denied his applications for
forklift-operator jobs and hired younger, less experienced
individuals for those jobs instead. (See D.N. 1,
PageID # 3) Ford points out that “forklift positions
are bid jobs, awarded on the basis of seniority pursuant to
the applicable collective bargaining agreement.” (D.N.
17-1, PageID # 69; see D.N. 17-4, PageID # 184)
Ford's “goal of complying with the collective
bargaining agreement is a legitimate nondiscriminatory
reason” for awarding forklift jobs to other employees
instead of Luttrell. See Haley v. Gen. Elec. Co., 3
Fed.Appx. 240, 247 (6th Cir. 2001). Because Luttrell has not
shown that this reason was a pretext for age discrimination,
his claim must fail. See Coomer, 370 F.3d at 510-11.
Court finds that Ford has adequately demonstrated the
deficiencies in Luttrell's discrimination claims based on
gender, race, and age. The Court will therefore grant summary
judgment to Ford on these claims. See Max Arnold &
Sons, LLC v. W.L. Hailey & Co., 452 F.3d 494, 507
(6th Cir. 2006) (“[T]he moving party need not support
its motion for summary judgment with evidence; instead, it
only must point out the deficiencies of the nonmoving
Sixth Circuit recognizes two types of disability
discrimination claims-disparate treatment and failure to
accommodate.” Brown v. Humana Ins. Co., 942
F.Supp.2d 723, 731 n.3 (W.D. Ky. 2013). Because Luttrell
appears to allege both types in this case (see D.N.
25, PageID # ...