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Manuel Mota v. Aaron's Sales and Lease

September 4, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.


Now before me are a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Aaron's Inc.,*fn1 plaintiff Manuel Mota's response and defendant's reply. For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendant's motion.


Plaintiff claims that defendant, his former employer, discriminated against him. Defendant terminated plaintiff's employment on January 30, 2010 after plaintiff lost his Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Medical Certification. Dkt. No. 17-2, Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts at ¶ 40. Plaintiff contends that instead of firing him defendant should have reassigned him to a Customer Service Representative position -- the only position in an Aaron's store that did not require an employee to drive. Id. ¶ 34.

Defendant's stores "sell and deliver furniture, electronics and appliances to customers." Id. ¶ 5. Defendant hired plaintiff on August 18, 2009 as a Manager Trainee. Id. ¶ 9. Manager Trainees "assist the Customer Accounts Department in lease agreement renewal -- i.e., collecting payments." Id. ¶ 13. The job description for the Manager Trainee position states that Manager Trainees are required to "[s]afely operate[ ] company vehicle[s]" and possess good "driving skills." Id. ¶ 12. Further, the job description requires that, pre-employment, candidates for the Manager Trainee position have a "[s]atisfactory . . . D.O.T. Physical." Dkt. No. 17-3 at 38. At his deposition, plaintiff explained that Manager Trainees call customers and drive the company truck to collect payments and deliver or pick up furniture from customers. Dkt. No. 17-2 at ¶ 16. The General Manager of the store where plaintiff worked explained that "including the time Mr. Mota spent behind the wheel of an Aaron's delivery truck and visiting customers at their homes, on average Mr. Mota spent a total of approximately 3-4 hours a day out in the field." Dkt. No. 17-4 at ¶ 10. Plaintiff counters that he spent "only 2.7% of his working hours at Aaron's" driving a company truck." Dkt. No. 18 at 1.

On October 20, 2009 plaintiff completed a "Medical Examination Report for Commercial Driver Fitness Determination" and applied for PennDOT medical certification.*fn2 Dkt. No. 17-2 at ¶¶ 17-18, 23. Plaintiff initially obtained medical certification from PennDOT. Id. ¶ 17. Approximately one month later, PennDOT "contacted Plaintiff and informed him that his medical certification had been issued in error and that it would be revoked."*fn3 Id. ¶ 24. Without medical certification, plaintiff could no longer legally operate one of defendant's commercial delivery trucks. Id. ¶ 40.

Plaintiff contends that PennDOT revoked his medical certification because he has monocular vision. Id. ¶ 24. He has been "blind from birth in one eye." Dkt. No. 17-3 at 16:5-7.

On the form he submitted to PennDOT when applying for medical certification, plaintiff noted that he had a history of "eye disorders or impaired vision" and further explained "[n]o vision on [sic] the Right Eye also Lazy Eye." Dkt. No. 17-2 at ¶¶ 20-21. Importantly, he certified that his impaired vision "does not affect any activity on [sic] my normal life. Corrective Glasses." Id. ¶ 21. He certified that the information on the form was "complete and true." Id. ¶ 22.

After PennDOT revoked plaintiff's medical certification, defendant contends that plaintiff did not ask defendant for any kind of accommodation. Dkt. No. 17-2 at ¶ 42. His manager tried to have him moved into a non-driving Customer Service Representative position. Id. ¶ 33. Plaintiff contends that he believed that his supervisor "was trying to accommodate him to remain as an employee at Aaron's so [plaintiff] did not believe that he needed to go any farther up the supervisor ladder." Dkt. No. 18 at 2. According to Aaron's staffing guidelines, the store where plaintiff worked required only two Customer Service Representatives. Dkt. No. 17-2 at ¶ 37. The store where plaintiff worked, however, employed three Customer Service Representatives at the time in question. Id. ¶ 39. Ultimately, defendant terminated plaintiff because he could not legally drive a delivery truck and because no additional Customer Service Representatives were needed. Id. ¶¶ 39-40.


The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating that "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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). If the movant sustains its burden, the non-movant must set forth facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing law. Id. The "existence of disputed issues of material fact should be ascertained by resolving all inferences, doubts and issues of credibility against" the movant. Ely v. Hall's Motor Transit Co., 590 F.2d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 1978) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

To establish "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed," a party must:

(A) cit[e] to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or

(B) show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce ...

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