United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division
Cogburn Jr. United States District Judge
MATTER is before the court on defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment. Having considered the parties'
motions and reviewed the pleadings, the court enters the
worked for defendant beginning in October 2007 as a trailer
truck mechanic in defendant's Transportation Office in
Shelby, North Carolina. In 2009, plaintiff was promoted to
parts clerk. In his new role, plaintiff was responsible for
safely and correctly organizing, storing, and managing parts.
In doing so, plaintiff was sometimes required to lift and
shelve products that could exceed fifty pounds in weight.
2014, plaintiff suffered a stroke and was given a 90-day
medical leave of absence. The stroke primarily impacted the
left side of his body, including movement in his left arm and
leg, facial drooping, slurred speech, and the loss of
peripheral vision in his left eye. Plaintiff returned to work
on September 2, 2014 after 82 days of medical leave and
extensive physical and occupational therapy. Plaintiff's
healthcare provider released him to return to his prior job
of parts clerk without restrictions.
time of his return, plaintiff continued his rehabilitation
and expected to continue improving, and his supervisors
indicated they would do their best to accommodate him as long
as he could reasonably perform most of his job functions.
While plaintiff was still fully capable of performing much of
his past work, certain issues arose. Supervisors observed
plaintiff leaving tasks undone and not safely and properly
stocking and shelving parts; however, they declined to
reprimand plaintiff or otherwise discuss these issues with
him, in light of his full release from his healthcare
provider and belief that plaintiff would continue to improve.
December 2015, plaintiff attended a meeting with his
supervisors and a human resources manager. One of
plaintiff's supervisors had noticed plaintiff fall
backwards when attempting to enter a forklift, due to
plaintiff's inability to properly grasp the forklift with
his left hand and balance himself. Other observations
similarly suggested that plaintiff's condition had not
improved since returning, and reflected a possible impairment
that would require accommodation. After plaintiff filed the
necessary paperwork requesting an accommodation, defendant
denied the request, saying that he was no longer able to
perform the essential functions of his position. Instead,
defendant offered plaintiff a job transfer. Two weeks later,
an opening for the position of Driver Coordinator became
available, which plaintiff was qualified to perform within
his restrictions. However, plaintiff experienced difficulties
adjusting to the new position and carrying out its functions,
leading to various errors and ending in his termination in
April 2016. As a result of these experiences, plaintiff has
filed suit against defendant and claims discrimination under
the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
judgment is warranted “if the movant shows 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). A factual dispute is genuine “if
the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is
material only if it may affect the suit's outcome under
governing law. Id. The movant has the “initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal citations omitted). The
burden then shifts to the nonmoving party. That party
“must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 322 n.3. The
nonmoving party may not rely upon mere allegations or denials
of allegations in pleadings to defeat a motion for summary
judgment. Id. at 324. Instead, that party must
present sufficient evidence from which “a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Sylvia Dev.
Corp. v. Calvert Cnty., Md., 48 F.3d 810, 818 (4th Cir.
Court views evidence and any inferences from evidence in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “‘Where the
record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of
fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine
issue for trial.'” Ricci v. DeStefano, 557
U.S. 557, 586 (2009) (quoting Matsushita v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). The
question posed by summary judgment is whether the evidence
“is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.
claim in this matter under the ADA is twofold: (1) he alleges
that he was denied a reasonable accommodation for his
disability; and (2) he was wrongfully terminated due to his
disability. As to damages, plaintiff argues that an award
back pay is warranted; however, since back pay is only
awarded if plaintiff is successful, that issue will not be
reached for the reasons that follow on the substantive
Whether plaintiff was denied a reasonable accommodation
the Court will consider plaintiff's allegation that he
was denied a reasonable accommodation. To support a prima
facie claim for a failure to accommodate under the ADA,
plaintiff must now present evidence that could establish: (1)
that he had a disability within the meaning of the statute;
(2) that the employer had notice of his disability; (3) that
with reasonable accommodation he could perform the essential
functions of the position; and (4) that the employer refused
to make such accommodations. See Wilson v. Dollar Gen.
Corp., 717 F.3d 337, 345 (4th Cir. 2013). If
plaintiff successfully establishes these four elements,
defendant may still avoid liability by showing “that