Tasha M. McNeil, Plaintiff - Appellant,
Union Pacific Railroad Company, Defendant-Appellee. ACLU Nebraska Foundation, Amicus on Behalf of Appellant.
Submitted: May 16, 2019
from United States District Court for the District of
Nebraska - Omaha
COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
COLLOTON, CIRCUIT JUDGE
McNeil sued Union Pacific Railroad Company, alleging
discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the
Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act (NFEPA). The district
court granted summary judgment in favor of Union
Pacific on all claims. McNeil appeals, and we affirm.
McNeil is a black woman who was employed by Union Pacific.
She worked as a critical call dispatcher in the company's
24-hour dispatch call center. As a dispatcher, McNeil was
responsible for "[r]espond[ing] timely and with a sense
of urgency to incoming phone calls related to critical
incidents on or near railroad property to ensure employee and
Pacific dispatchers are typically scheduled to work five
consecutive days each week. Each workday consists of an
8.25-hour shift. Only one dispatcher is allowed to leave the
center at a time, and dispatchers are not allowed to end
their shift until they are relieved by the next shift's
dispatcher. They are expected to remain to resolve ongoing
calls even after their shift has ended. A dispatcher's
shift is color-coded to represent overtime expectations for
the employee. Depending on which color shift the dispatcher
is scheduled to work, the dispatcher may be expected to work
overtime if another employee fails to show up to work. In
that situation, a dispatcher is required to work up to four
additional hours either before or after her original shift.
took short-term disability leave from December 2012 until
January 2013 due to complications from a pregnancy. She then
took maternity leave until June 17, 2013, when she returned
to work. Shortly after her return, she requested training to
help her readjust to work after six months of leave, but her
supervisor denied the training. At a later date, McNeil's
supervisor disciplined her for an incident that occurred
because she was not familiar with the switchboard mapping
system; McNeil claimed that the incident stemmed from the
earlier denial of training.
January 2014, the company granted McNeil leave under the
Family and Medical Leave Act to care for her sick mother. In
February 2014, she received short-term disability benefits
for depression. In May 2014, McNeil's doctors determined
that she could return to work in June on a part-time
schedule. McNeil's physician cleared her to work four
days a week from 6:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Her physician
specified that the restriction was temporary, and that she
would be able to undertake a full-time schedule on August 1.
Union Pacific prepared to accommodate her temporary
restrictions, but McNeil ultimately decided not to return and
instead transitioned to long-term disability leave.
August 2014, McNeil notified Union Pacific's employee
benefits administrator that she may be ready to return to
work on September 2. Three weeks later, Union Pacific
received McNeil's medical records and work restrictions.
The records included a letter from her doctor stating:
"It is my professional medical opinion that Tasha MCNEIL
may return to work on 09/02/2014. Please allow her only
morning shifts and no overtime." A Union Pacific
employee followed up with McNeil about the restrictions, and
McNeil told her that she was restricted to "day hours
only and no overtime until January."
next month, McNeil e-mailed the company to inquire about her
work status, and an employee informed her that the call
center was unable to accommodate her restrictions and had no
vacancies. A week later, McNeil received a formal letter from
Union Pacific saying that her "supervising department
has been unable to identify a reasonable accommodation that
will permit [her] to safely return to work in [her] assigned
called a manager seeking information about why Union Pacific
denied her request to return to work. During the call, she
told the manager that her medical restrictions were not
permanent. The supervisor told McNeil that if that were so,
then she needed to have her medical provider send a letter
informing Union Pacific of her updated restrictions. Union
Pacific did not receive any updated medical records, and
McNeil went back on long-term disability leave. On June 24,
2015, McNeil received notice that her long-term disability
benefits would soon expire. The company terminated her
employment on October 28, 2015.
sued Union Pacific in Nebraska state court, alleging several
claims of discrimination. Union Pacific removed the
proceeding to federal court, see 28 U.S.C. §
1441(a), and the district court granted summary judgment for
the company on all claims. Summary judgment is appropriate
when "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). We review the ...