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Cody v. Prairie Ethanol, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 15, 2014

Brice S. Cody, Plaintiff - Appellant
v.
Prairie Ethanol, LLC, Defendant - Appellee

Submitted June 12, 2014.

Page 993

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of South Dakota - Sioux Falls.

For Brice S. Cody, Plaintiff - Appellant: Stephanie E. Pochop, Johnson & Pochop, Gregory, SD.

For Prairie Ethanol, LLC, Defendant - Appellee: Amy Bauer Conway, Kristin Berger Parke, Richard W. Pins, Stinson & Leonard, Minneapolis, MN; Tim R. Shattuck, Woods & Fuller, Sioux Falls, SD.

Before LOKEN, BRIGHT, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 994

GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.

Brice S. Cody appeals the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment in favor of Prairie Ethanol, LLC (" Prairie Ethanol" ) on his claim of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 12201, et seq. For the reasons described below, we affirm.

I. Background

Prairie Ethanol manufactures ethanol. In November 2006, Prairie Ethanol hired Cody as a plant operator in its Mitchell, South Dakota plant. Plant operators manage the plant's processes and computer control system. They make adjustments, often quickly, to prevent the plant machinery from " swinging." Failure to prevent swinging can cause an operator to " lose the plant." Swings and losses of the plant cause the plant to slow down or go offline, which can result in a significant decrease in production. Thus, it is critical to operate the plant without swings and without it being lost.

On June 11, 2007, Cody injured himself at work when he hit his hardhat on a crossbeam of a metal storage rack, causing an injury to his neck. As a result, a doctor recommended work restrictions, including that Cody not lift more than ten pounds, only perform ground work, not perform " over the shoulder work," and work with minimal bending or twisting of his neck and back. The restrictions changed over time but still generally involved restrictions on his ability to lift, bend, and perform over-the-shoulder work. It is undisputed that Prairie Ethanol accommodated Cody until August 2008. Cody alleges that, at this point, Becky Pitz, the plant's technical manager, told him that Prairie Ethanol could not allow him to remain on light duty forever and asked him almost every day when he would be able to return to full duty.

Meanwhile, on August 22, 2007, Prairie Ethanol promoted Cody to lead operator. Lead operators communicate the needs and concerns of the plant operators to management. They also must strive for maximum efficiency in plant operations and work ...


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