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Jones v. James Skinner Co.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 20, 2018

DARIN JONES, an individual; Plaintiff,
THE JAMES SKINNER CO., a Nebraska corporation; Defendant.


          Laurie Smith Camp Chief United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 21, filed by Defendant The James Skinner Co. (Skinner Co.). For the reasons stated below the Motion will be granted.


         Unless otherwise indicated, the following facts are those stated in the parties' briefs, supported by pinpoint citations to admissible evidence in the record, in compliance with NECivR 56.1[1] and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56.

         Skinner Co.'s Plant Manager, Jason Sims, hired Plaintiff Darin Jones as the Director of Maintenance on October 28, 2015. Jones was “responsible for the overall management and coordination of Skinner's maintenance department, project team, safety program and engineering projects . . . .” Def.'s Br., ECF No. 23, Page ID 188. He managed approximately thirty-six employees and spent a substantial amount of time performing repairs and other managerial work on Skinner Co.'s production floor. Jones reported to Jason Sims until Sims was terminated in or around December 2015. Shortly thereafter, Jones began reporting to Dennis Nolan who was promoted to Vice President of Operations on January 1, 2016.

         In January 2016, Nolan noticed that Jones was taking long lunch breaks, arriving to work late, leaving work early, and spending most of his time in his office instead of on the production floor. Nolan also thought Jones too often relied on his subordinate, Jason Tejral, to train him on certain job duties, and, at one point, Jones asked Tejral to draft a list of the actions Jones should take to improve his job performance. Skinner Co. hired Tejral on January 18, 2016, but he previously worked for Skinner Co. from 2001 to 2014. Nolan also claimed he received multiple reports from one employee that Jones “threatened certain Skinner employees, ” but Jones denies he ever threatened another employee.

         When Jones was hired, he informed Skinner Co. that he suffered an aortic aneurism in 2014 and that he was regularly taking blood-thinning medication. On one occasion in January 2016, he went to the hospital after work with what he believed was food poisoning. Jones found out he had a bowel obstruction and called Nolan to inform him. Nolan asked Jones to report back to him when he returned, and Jones missed one day of work. He returned to work with no physical restrictions and, when he returned, Jones told Nolan he had a dissection in his aorta. Jones also missed a day of work on February 11, 2016, to see a doctor, but does not remember why. Jones never requested accommodation or modification of his job duties due to any physical or medical condition and no Skinner Co. employee ever made comments about Jones's health.

         On February 19, 2016, Nolan terminated Jones's employment during a one-on-one meeting. During the meeting, Jones acknowledged that Tejral had been training him on certain aspects of his job. However, Jones testified at his deposition that he regularly received compliments from upper management regarding his job performance and that he received multiple pay raises and bonuses. Nolan did not tell Jones why he was being terminated during the meeting, and Jones testified that he did not know why he was terminated. In its internal documents, Skinner Co. recorded that Jones was terminated for unsatisfactory performance. Jones was forty-nine years old when Skinner Co. hired him.

         In his Complaint, ECF No. 1, Jones claims Skinner Co. terminated him because he was disabled and because of his age in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 623, the Nebraska Fair Employment Practices Act (NFEPA), Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-1104, and the Nebraska Age Discrimination in Employment Act (NADEA), Neb. Rev. Stat. § 48-1004. He also claims Skinner Co. terminated his employment in retaliation for requesting an accommodation in violation of § 12203 of the ADA and § 48-1114 of the NFEPA.


         “Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, presents no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Garrison v. ConAgra Foods Packaged Foods, LLC, 833 F.3d 881, 884 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). “Summary judgment is not disfavored and is designed for every action.” Briscoe v. Cty. of St. Louis, 690 F.3d 1004, 1011 n.2 (8th Cir. 2012) (quoting Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1043 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court will view “the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party . . . drawing all reasonable inferences in that party's favor.” Whitney v. Guys, Inc., 826 F.3d 1074, 1076 (8th Cir. 2016) (citing Hitt v. Harsco Corp., 356 F.3d 920, 923-24 (8th Cir. 2004)). Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, “Rule 56(e) permits a proper summary judgment motion to be opposed by any of the kinds of evidentiary materials listed in Rule 56(c), except the mere pleadings themselves.” Se. Mo. Hosp. v. C.R. Bard, Inc., 642 F.3d 608, 618 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986)). The moving party need not produce evidence showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Johnson v. Wheeling Mach. Prods., 779 F.3d 514, 517 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325). Instead, “the burden on the moving party may be discharged by ‘showing' . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.” St. Jude Med., Inc. v. Lifecare Int'l, Inc., 250 F.3d 587, 596 (8th Cir. 2001) (quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325).

         In response to the moving party's showing, the nonmoving party's burden is to produce “specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial.” Haggenmiller v. ABM Parking Servs., Inc., 837 F.3d 879, 884 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Gibson v. Am. Greetings Corp., 670 F.3d 844, 853 (8th Cir. 2012)). The nonmoving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, and must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Wagner v. Gallup, Inc., 788 F.3d 877, 882 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042). “[T]here must be more than the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute” between the parties in order to overcome summary judgment. Dick v. Dickinson State Univ., 826 F.3d 1054, 1061 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Vacca v. Viacom Broad. of Mo., Inc., 875 F.2d 1337, 1339 (8th Cir. 1989)).

         In other words, in deciding “a motion for summary judgment, facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a genuine dispute as to those facts.” Wagner, 788 F.3d at 882 (quoting Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042). Otherwise, where the Court finds that “the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, ” there is no “genuine issue of material fact” for trial and summary ...

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