United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville
CHARLES R. SIMPSON III, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff, Shala Reitz
(“Reitz”), brought this law suit against
Defendant, Ford Motor Company (“Ford”), alleging:
disability discrimination, failure to accommodate her
disabilities, age discrimination, gender discrimination, and
retaliation. This matter is before the Court on motion for
summary judgment by Defendant. DN 42-1. For the following
reasons, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment will
be GRANTED on all claims.
judgment is appropriate when the moving party can show that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247–48 (1986). A genuine issue
for trial exists when “there is sufficient evidence
favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict
for that party.” Id. In undertaking this
analysis, the Court must view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007).
party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of proof
for establishing the nonexistence of any issue of material
fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). They can meet this burden by “citing to
particular parts of materials in the record” or
“showing that the materials cited do not establish
the…presence of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(1). This burden can also be met by demonstrating that
the nonmoving party “fail[ed] to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear
the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322. The nonmoving party also “must do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to
the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).
Reitz is an hourly employee at Ford Motor Company’s
Kentucky Truck Plant (“KTP”). DN 42-3 at 8; DN
46-1 at 1. She has been employed at the KTP since 1999 when
she started as a Vehicle Assembly Technician. Id. In
2002, she developed thoracic outlet syndrome and suffered a
torn labrum in her left shoulder. DN 42-3 at 13, 19. When her
shoulder reached maximum medical improvement, Reitz’s
physicians cleared her to work but only with permanent work
restrictions. Id. at 15–16. These restrictions
included no overhead pushing and pulling, no use of vibratory
tools, and no overhead work with the left extremity.
KTP, when an employee has been cleared for work but has
workplace restrictions, the Labor Relations Department and
the employee work together to find an appropriate position.
DN 42-3 at 28; DN 42-4 at 92, 98-99. The employee must first
complete a No. Work Available (“NWA”) form.
Id. The employee lists the jobs she can do, then
returns the form to Labor Relations. Id. If Labor
Relations is unable to place the employee in a position where
they can work safely, the employee is placed on NWA leave and
receives short-term disability benefits. Id. This
procedure is outlined in the union contract between Ford and
United Auto Workers Local 862. DN 43-5 at 63-64. When Reitz
returned to work after her shoulder injury, she engaged in
this process several times. DN 42-3 at 28. Labor Relations
placed her in temporary jobs to accommodate her workplace
restrictions. Id at 28, 30, 37, 45, 47-49, 56-59.
2012, Reitz suffered a second injury on the job; she injured
her right elbow. DN 46-1 at 1. In October of 2013, she
underwent her first surgery on her right elbow and went on
medical leave. DN 46-1 at 1; DN 42-3 at 29. She returned to
work in February 2014 and worked in a temporary position in
the “Mod” center. DN 42-3 at 59. In April of
2014, Reitz “bid” into a Material Controller
position in the Materials Planning and Logistics
(“MP&L”) division. Id. at 24, 58-59.
She worked with “C” crew on Friday and Saturday
days, Sunday and Monday nights. Id. Reitz asserts
that she began to request disability-related restrictions
because of her elbow in the spring of 2014. DN 46-1 at 1.
worked as a Material Controller from April to August 2014. DN
42-7. She underwent a second elbow surgery in October of 2014
and returned to work in April of 2015. Id. On or
around this time, Reitz asserts that she asked MP&L
manager, Chris Tierney, “if there was something that I
could do [within the department] to give me some
relief.” DN 46-1 at 2; DN 42-3 at 167-168. He suggested
that she apply for a Process Coach position in the Final
Department. DN 42-8 at 8, 30. Also in April of 2015, Reitz
worked on discrete projects for MP&L supervisor, Paul
Hineman. DN 42-4 at 19-22, 65. These projects included, among
others, preparing the MP&L’s portion of the annual
summer shutdown plan and organizing inventory in the General
Stores. Id. at 19, 27, 30-37. Her official position
remained Material Controller. 42-1 at 3.
summer of 2015, Reitz asserts she continued to complain about
having to work outside her workplace restrictions. DN 46-1 at
1-2. She also asserts she requested a disability
accommodation from Steve Hoffman. DN 42-31 at 4-6.
September 10, 2015, Reitz interviewed for a Process Coach
position. DN 42-9 at 44. She did not receive the minimum
average score necessary to pass the interview. DN 43-10.
Under KTP policy, an employee who fails an interview must
wait one calendar year before interviewing for another
position. DN 42-9 at 200. Reitz asserts she never knew that
she failed the interview and, instead, did not receive the
promotion because Ford discriminated against her. DN 46-1 at
September 12, 2015, Ford assigned Reitz to the Stamping
Department. DN 42-3 at 67. Reitz asserts the
“press” broke and a team lead told her she could
leave early. 42-14 at 1-2; DN 46-1 at 3. She then left the
plant and drove to the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant on
Westport Road. DN 42-12; DN 42-13; DN 46-1 at 3. There, she
saw Senior Process Coach, David Richardson, Frame/Engine/Tire
Team Manager Steve Streicher, and Labor Relations
Representative Jake Weimer. Id. There is a dispute
between the parties as to whether MP&L Supervisor Paul
Hineman was with Reitz when she arrived or was already
sitting at the table with the other employees. Id.
Ford proceeded to investigate whether Reitz had been
“absent without leave” (“AWOL”) from
the KTP. DN 42-1 at 8; DN 46-1 at 4.
the investigation, Paul Hineman refused to answer any
questions during the investigation because of his pending
divorce. DN 42-9 at 84-89, 96, 109. Process Coach Brett Knipp
emailed Labor Relations and said he could not find Reitz at
3:30 p.m. and therefore marked her AWOL for one hour. DN
42-16. On September 25, 2015, Ford disciplined Reitz for
being off the job without permission. DN 42-3 at Exhibit 5.
She received a reprimand and a balance of shift penalty.
Id. Reitz asserts she complained about this
discipline because other male workers did not receive the
same discipline. DN 46-1 at 4.
October 22, 2015, Reitz asked Team Manager Mark Burnam to be
off work without pay on October 23 and 24 to visit her ill
stepfather in Florida. DN 42-17. Burnam approved the request.
Id. Personnel Supervisor Chuck Hoffman alerted Labor
Relations that Reitz’s timecard showed she was paid for
ten hours of work in the General Stores on the October 23. DN
42-18. Instead of being off work on both October 23 and 24,
she had asked MP&L Supervisor Paul Hineman if she could
work in the General Stores on the night of October 23. DN
42-3 at Exhibit 8. Ford initiated an investigation into
Reitz’s shift because it potentially violated the local
union contract. DN 42-4 at 146, 152.
November 20, 2015, Reitz caused an accident while driving a
forklift. DN 42-3 at Exhibit 10. Ford disciplined her for
poor and careless workmanship the same day and assessed her a
balance of shift penalty. Id.
December 4, 2015, Labor Representative James Hoagland
interviewed Reitz regarding her shift on October 23. DN 42-3
at Exhibit 8. Reitz told Hoagland that she started at 7 p.m.
on the 23rd and had to be at the airport by 4:20
a.m. the next day. Id. Hoagland noted it was
impossible for her to have made her flight if she worked a
full 10-hour shift. Id. Reitz responded that she
could have if she had “taken all breaks on the
end.” Id. Reitz met with Hoagland again on
December 7, 2015. DN 42-3 at Exhibit 6. Hoagland informed
Reitz that it was against KTP policy to “take your
breaks and lunch out the door.” DN 42-3 at Exhibit 6;
42-4 at 26. Finally, Hoagland asked for documentation of
Reitz’s flight to Florida. DN 42-3 at Exhibit 6. She
never provided such documentation. DN 42-3 at Exhibit 7.
December 9, 2015, Reitz called Ford’s Corporate
Harassment Hotline. DN 42-19; 46-1 at 5. Reitz alleged the
“…L[abor] R[elations] and management are
harassing, bullying & threatening her via ongoing
investigations and constant repetitive interviews. She also
alleges that she is being treated differently than coworkers
(was given AWOL when seen at a Sports Bar after work with
other hourly employees who left early were not). She alleges
that her ongoing medical issues are also being held against
her.” DN 42-19.
between December 9, 2015 and December 17, 2015, Reitz also
filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”). DN 42-3 at 126; 46-1 at 5-6.
Ford received notice of the complaint on December 17, 2015.
DN 42-1 at 13. Reitz alleged the discrimination she
experienced took place from April 1, 2014 to December 11,
2015. Id. In her complaint, she made the following
allegations: (1) she asked Management for workplace
restrictions starting in April 2014 but her requests were
ignored (2) Management assigned her outside of her department
to positions that should have been assigned to less-senior
employees regularly (3) Labor Relations disciplined her more
harshly than her male co-workers (4) Management required her
to work in areas that do not meet safety specifications (5)
she applied and interviewed for a Management position but was
not selected and (6) she told Labor Relations and her
supervisors about these conditions but nothing changed. DN
42-3 at Exhibit 13. She claimed this treatment amounted to
violations of the American with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), the Age Discrimination and Employment
Act (“ADEA”), and Title VII of the Civil Rights
act (“Title VII”). Id.
December 15, 2015, Reitz began medical leave; she sought
treatment at a local psychiatric hospital for stress and
anxiety disorder. DN 42-3 at 119-121, 130. Reitz asserts that
she advised Senior Process Coach Sanda Velic she needed a
disability accommodation around “Christmastime.”
DN 42-31 at 4-6. Reitz also asserts that, at some point
before January 1, 2016, Chris Tierney “told [Reitz]
that he would have MP&L openings after the first of the
year in 2016, which she would be considered for.” DN 46
at 14. Reitz asserts Tierney never mentioned these openings
to her again. Id.
returned to work, at the earliest, on February 26, 2016. DN
42-20. Reitz was not at work for the first three weeks of
March. Id. The EEOC filed an official charge of
discrimination against Ford on March 29, 2016. DN 42-3 at
Exhibit 13. Reitz further asserts she approached Labor
Relations in March of 2016 with verbal requests for
disability accommodation. DN 42-31 at 4-6.
requested a personal day for April 1, 2016. DN 46-4. Process
Coach Brett Knipp denied her request. DN 42-24. She did not
come to work on April 1 and Knipp marked her AWOL.
Id. Knipp also denied personal days for April 1 for
two male employees. Id . But, when neither came into
work on April 1, Knipp retroactively gave each vacation days
instead of marking them AWOL. DN 42-24. Both male employees
have seniority over Reitz at the KTP. Id. Reitz also
asserts she continued to verbally request a disability
accommodation from Steve Hoffman at this time. DN 42-31 at
April 8, 2016, Reitz met with Personnel Supervisor Chuck
Hoffman as part of the investigation into her hotline
complaint. DN 42-18. She repeated her concerns from her
hotline and EEOC complaints. Id. On April 9, 2016,
Reitz went to Building Chairman Rodney Janes and informed him
that she had worked through her breaks and was not paid for a
shift. DN 46-7. She also told him that she should have been
granted a personal day on April 1. Id. Janes relayed
these concerns to Chuck Hoffman. Id.
of Ford’s investigation into Reitz’s hotline and
EEOC complaints, senior Labor Relations Representative Lonnie
Corkum emailed MP&L Team Managers, David Richardson, Mark
Burnam, and Jeff Whyte, and all the Process Coaches and
Senior Process Coaches Reitz worked under since 2014. DN
42-21. Corkum asked whether Reitz had complained about any
unfair treatment. Id. Corkum specifically asked
whether Reitz had raised the following complaints: (1) Reitz
had been disciplined more harshly than male co-workers; (2)
Reitz had been assigned outside of her workplace
restrictions; (3) Reitz had worked in areas that did not meet
safety specifications. Id. All but MP&L
Supervisor Paul Hineman responded that they had no knowledge
of any complaints. Id.
April 21, 2016, Senior Labor Relations Representative
Christina Peace emailed Labor Relations Representative James
Hoagland and told him to discipline Reitz for leaving her
shift early on October 23, 2015. DN 46-11. On April 25, 2016,
Peace emailed Suzie Furton in the Equal Employment Planning
Department and asked whether she should inform the EEOC
investigator that Reitz would be disciplined for being off
the job without permission. DN 46-8. Furton responded that
she should not contact the investigator. Id. On May
10, 2016, Ford ...