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Stephen Corey James v. Sutliff Saturn

April 23, 2012

STEPHEN COREY JAMES, PLAINTIFF
v.
SUTLIFF SATURN, INC., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

On June 6, 2009, Plaintiff, Stephen Corey James, filed an employment discrimination action against Defendant, Sutliff Saturn, Inc., alleging race and disability discrimination. We granted Defendant's motion for summary judgment on November 24, 2010. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment on the race discrimination claim, but vacated the grant of summary judgment on the disability discrimination claim. The Court disagreed with our conclusion that Plaintiff failed to properly bring his disability claim before the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission ("PHRC"), and remanded the case for determination of the summary judgment motion on that claim.

II. Background

James began working at Sutliff's Carlisle Pike facility on September 13, 1999 as an appearance technician. (Doc. 21, ¶¶ 2-4). Plaintiff was disciplined on three occasions. The first incident involved Plaintiff's use of Sutliff materials to detail a friend's vehicle. (Id. at ¶ 5). The second and third incidents involved Plaintiff's failure to maintain the prep shop area in a clean, presentable manner. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7, 10). As a result of these incidences, Sutliff transferred Plaintiff to its Harrisburg, Pennsylvania facility.

On November 7, 2005, Plaintiff underwent knee surgery to correct meniscus and cartilage damage. (Id. at ¶ 12); see also doc. 28, Ex. A at pg. 20-21. As a result of this surgery, Sutliff granted Plaintiff twelve weeks of Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave, which expired on February 1, 2006. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14). After expiration of the FMLA leave, Sutliff granted Plaintiff an additional leave of absence. (Id. at ¶ 15); see also doc. 28, Ex. A at 72-73.

Prior to his leave, Plaintiff was the only full-time appearance technician at Sutliff's Harrisburg facility. (Doc. 28, Ex. A at 67.) As a result of his leave, Sutliff promoted another employee to replace Plaintiff while he was recuperating. (Doc. 20, Ex. E.) However, Plaintiff's replacement resigned on February 2, 2006. Id. Sutliff promoted another employee, James Sulzer, to fill the vacant position until such time as James could return to work. Id.However, when Plaintiff returned to work on March 7, 2006, Sutliff terminated his employment allegedly because Sulzer was performing well and there was not enough work to support two positions. (Doc. 21, ¶¶ 21, 22, 24, 32-33). Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated as a result of disability discrimination.

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

We will examine the motion under the well-established standard. Lawrence v. City of Philadelphia, 527 F.3d 299, 310 (3d. Cir. 2008). We "must view all evidence and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and may affirm a grant of summary judgment only if no reasonable juror could find for the non-movant." Id.

B. ADA and PHRA Claim*fn1

The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") prohibits employers from discriminating "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 make out a prima facie case of disability discrimination, Plaintiff must show that he "(1) has a 'disability,' (2) is a 'qualified individual,' and (3) has suffered an adverse employment action because of that disability." Turner v. Hershey Chocolate U.S., 440 F.3d 604, 611 (3d Cir. 2006). ADA disparate treatment claims are analyzed under the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. Shaner v. Synthes, 204 F.3d 494, 500 (2000). If the plaintiff is able to demonstrate a prima facie case, the burden of production shifts to the defendant to identify a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. McDonnell Douglas at 802. If a defendant meets this ...


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