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Brumley v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

November 30, 2018

Melissa Brumley, Plaintiff-Appellant,
United Parcel Service, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:17-cv-00677-Aleta Arthur Trauger, District Judge.

          ON BRIEF: Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          J. Day Peake III, William E. Shreve, Jr., PHELPS DUNBAR LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: CLAY, McKEAGUE, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.


          McKEAGUE, Circuit Judge.

         Melissa Brumley injured her back while unloading heavy packages from a United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS) truck. After receiving workers' compensation and taking a leave of absence, Brumley returned to work without any injury-related restrictions. Several months later, she sued UPS for failure to accommodate, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. The district court granted UPS's motion for summary judgment and denied Brumley's motion for summary judgment as moot. We AFFIRM.


         Brumley works primarily as a "sorter" at a UPS warehouse in Franklin, Tennessee. Sorters do what the title suggests: they sort mail in preparation for delivery. A subset of the sorter position relevant to this case is called "local sort." That position involves taking small packages, weighing 10 pounds or less, from a conveyer belt and placing them in various slots depending on their final destination. The sorter then bundles the sorted packages into a bag and lifts the bag onto another conveyer belt for transportation to a delivery car. According to UPS, filled bags frequently weigh between 20 and 50 pounds and occasionally weigh between 51 and 70 pounds. Brumley claims that, in her five years working local sort, she never lifted a full 70 pounds. But Brumley admits that when she was hired, she knew that working as a sorter might require her to lift packages weighing that much or more. The written job description of "sorter" provides that sorters in all sorting positions must frequently lift 20 to 50 pounds and occasionally lift 51 to 70 pounds.

         Until she injured her back, Brumley also worked as a temporary cover driver, delivering and picking up packages in UPS's familiar brown trucks. As a temporary cover driver, Brumley filled in for sick or vacationing full-time drivers or when routes were especially busy. According to UPS, that position also requires employees to sometimes lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. Brumley confirms she has lifted 70-pound packages working as a driver.

         In December 2015, on one of her delivery routes, Brumley injured her back while unloading heavy packages from the delivery truck. She received workers' compensation benefits for the injury. And in January 2016, she and UPS entered into an agreement for her to perform safety inspections of UPS's package trucks as part of a 30-day Temporary Alternative Work (TAW) arrangement while she recovered from the injury. At the end of the TAW-period, Brumley assumed temporary disability status and went on leave from work through July 2016.

         On July 29, 2016, before she returned to work, Brumley had a follow-up visit with Dr. John Klekamp, the doctor she had chosen from a panel of UPS doctors to treat her for her back injury. Dr. Klekamp gave Brumley two return-to-work notes that included permanent work restrictions. The first instructed Brumley to avoid lifting more than 30 pounds and to avoid pushing or pulling more than 30.5 pounds. The second stated: "[Brumley] may return to work on 07/29/2016. Restrictions: May return to local sort. Restriction: No driving." That same day, Brumley clocked in to work and hand-delivered both notes to her supervisor, Richard Bonee. But Bonee would not allow Brumley to work, because both of Brumley's positions-sorter and driver-required lifting over 30 pounds. So he sent Brumley home. Bonee also informed Brumley that she could receive work accommodations to account for her restrictions.

         Brumley is a member of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 480. On August 16, 2016, she began filing grievances with the Union, complaining that she was improperly denied the right to work with permanent restrictions despite presenting UPS with a return-to-work note from her doctor. On August 18, 2016, UPS Occupational Health Supervisor Jurgen Rosner became aware that Brumley had requested a job-related accommodation.[1] That same day, Rosner sent Brumley a letter informing her that UPS was initiating an internal ADA "interactive process" and asked Brumley to submit two medical forms to allow the company to evaluate her restrictions and identify possible accommodations. Those medical forms were a "Request for Medical Information" form to be completed by Dr. Klekamp and an "Authorization for Release of Health Information" to be completed by Brumley. In his letter, Rosner also explained to Brumley that, "[b]ecause we cannot continue our assessment of your request [for accommodations] until we have received the completed medical forms, it is to your benefit to return this information as quickly as possible, preferably within the next two weeks." The letter was scheduled for delivery on August 22. On September 1, after receiving nothing from Brumley, Rosner sent Brumley a second letter, reminding her to submit the requested medical forms. Later, on September 12, Rosner sent a third letter asking Brumley about the status of her outstanding paperwork. On September 14, Brumley faxed both forms to UPS.

         Once UPS received the forms, Rosner and Human Resources Manager Elveta Cooper coordinated with Brumley to schedule a meeting to discuss potential accommodations for Brumley. They met on October 11, which was-according to UPS-the earliest date that Rosner's and Cooper's schedule would allow. At that meeting, Cooper explained to Brumley that they would review Brumley's restrictions and try to find an appropriate position at UPS that she could fill. Brumley stated, however, that she desired to voluntarily discontinue the ADA interactive process and return to Dr. Klekamp to have her work restrictions lifted. Cooper responded that if Dr. Klekamp removed Brumley's restrictions, Brumley could return to work without accommodations and the interactive process would end.

         So on October 27, 2016, Brumley met with Dr. Klekamp and requested that he remove her restrictions. He did so, and Brumley returned to work a few days later. Because Brumley had returned to work without restrictions, UPS officially closed the ...

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