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Taylor v. Fedex Ground Package System Inc.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 26, 2018

LAVON TAYLOR, Plaintiff,
v.
FEDEX GROUND PACKAGE SYSTEM, INC., Defendant.

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 31)

          Janet C. Hall United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Lavon Taylor (“Taylor”) brings this action against his former employer, FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx”), for discrimination on the basis of disability and failure to accommodate in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). FedEx has moved for summary judgment on both counts. (Doc. No. 31). For the reasons that follow, FedEx's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         FedEx hired Taylor as a part-time package handler on July 30, 2007. Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement (“L.R. 56(a)1 Stat.”) (Doc. No. 33) at ¶ 1; Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement (“L.R. 56(a)2 Stat.”) (Doc. No. 36-3) at ¶ 1. From 2010 to 2011, Taylor also worked fulltime at Yankee Clipper driving a forklift, helping to sort books, and performing minor maintenance on the forklift. L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 4-6; L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 4-6. On March 19, 2010, Taylor injured his knee while playing basketball. L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 7-8; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶¶ 7-8. The next day, Taylor visited the Emergency Room, where he was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”) and referred to a specialist. Lavon Taylor Depo. (Feb. 23, 2017), Ex. P1 (Doc. No. 39) at 28. At an appointment the following week, the specialist, Dr. Daniel Veltri, gave Taylor a note advising that he not engage in lifting or certain kinds of bending and recommended that Taylor arrange to have surgery to repair his ACL. L.R. 56(a)2 Stat., Disputed Facts at ¶ 5. Taylor, using crutches at the time, brought the note to both of his employers-FedEx and Yankee Clipper-in order to take time away from work to recuperate. L.R. 56(a)2 Stat., Disputed Facts at ¶ 4; L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 13, 15. After two weeks treating his knee with medication and icing, Taylor returned to work at Yankee Clipper on a full schedule without accommodations and resumed work at FedEx on light duty. L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 13-15; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶¶ 13-15; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat., Disputed Facts at ¶ 11.

         FedEx terminated Taylor's employment on June 18, 2010. L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 22-23; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶¶ 22-23. The parties dispute the circumstances leading up to the June 18, 2010 termination. According to FedEx, Taylor stopped attending work on June 18, 2010, and was terminated on July 11, 2010. L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶ 21-22. According to Taylor, he went to FedEx to provide a doctor's note and, when he later called to update FedEx on his status, he was told that he had been terminated. L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶ 15.[1] The parties agree that, upon learning of his termination, Taylor reapplied for a part-time package handler position with FedEx and began work on October 6, 2010. L.R. 56(a)1 Stat. at 24-25.

         After returning to FedEx in October, Taylor worked light duty. L.R. 56(a)2 Stat., Disputed Facts ¶ 11. Taylor stopped attending work on December 27, 2010, and underwent surgery to repair his torn ACL on December 28, 2010. LR. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 26, 28; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶¶ 26, 28. Taylor states that he told his supervisor, Jeff O'Connor, the date of his surgery, L.R. 56(a)2 Stat., Disputed Facts at ¶ 18, while FedEx states that Taylor stopped attending work without requesting medical leave, LR. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶ 26; Def.'s Mem. at 4 n.2 . FedEx terminated Taylor's employment on January 4, 2011. LR. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶ 27; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶ 27.

         After his surgery, Taylor could not bear weight on his right knee. L.R. 56(a)2 Stat., Disputed Facts at ¶ 28. On February 18, 2011, Matthew Sobolewski, a physician's assistant in Dr. Veltri's office, noted that Taylor was unable to squat, lift greater than five pounds, crawl, climb, kneel, bend, twist, or engage in any strenuous exercises. Id. at ¶ 30. In early 2011, after resuming work at Yankee Clipper, Taylor was terminated for clipping a bookcase while driving a forklift. LR. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 38-39; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶¶ 38-39.[2] Around November 2011, Taylor began work as a forklift driver at IFCO, a pallet warehouse. LR. 56(a)1 Stat. at ¶¶ 40-41; L.R. 56(a)2 Stat. at ¶¶ 40-41.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         On a motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986); Wright v. N.Y. State Dep't of Corr., 831 F.3d 64, 71-72 (2d Cir. 2016). Once the moving party has met its burden, in order to defeat the motion, the nonmoving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256, and present “such proof as would allow a reasonable juror to return a verdict in [its] favor, ” Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). “An issue of fact is genuine and material if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Cross Commerce Media, Inc. v. Collective, Inc., 841 F.3d 155, 162 (2d Cir. 2016).

         In assessing the record to determine whether there are disputed issues of material fact, the trial court must “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.” LaFond v. Gen. Physics Servs. Corp., 50 F.3d 165, 175 (2d Cir. 1995). “Where it is clear that no rational finder of fact ‘could find in favor of the nonmoving party because the evidence to support its case is so slight, ' summary judgment should be granted.” F.D.I.C. v. Great Am. Ins. Co., 607 F.3d 288, 292 (2d Cir. 2010) (quoting Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. P'ship, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994)). On the other hand, where “reasonable minds could differ as to the import of the evidence, ” the question must be left to the finder of fact. Cortes v. MTA N.Y. City Transit, 802 F.3d 226, 230 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting R.B. Ventures, Ltd. v. Shane, 112 F.3d 54, 59 (2d Cir. 1997)).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. ADA: Disability Discrimination

         The ADA provides that “[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). To establish a claim for disability discrimination, a plaintiff must show that “(1) his employer is subject to the ADA; (2) he was disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (3) he was otherwise qualified to perform the essential functions of his job, with or without reasonable accommodation; and (4) he suffered adverse employment action because of his disability.” McMillan v. City of New York, 711 F.3d 120, 125 (2d Cir. 2013) (quoting Si ...


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