United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
For Christopher Proudfoot, Plaintiff: Wayne A. Ely, LEAD ATTORNEY, KOLMAN ELY, P.C., Penndel, PA; W. Charles Sipio, Kolman Ely, P.C., Penndel, PA.
For Arnold Logistics, LLC, Defendant: Gene M. Linkmeyer, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jacobs Law Group PC, Philadelphia, PA; Kevin J. Kinney, Krukowski & Costello, S.C., Milwaukee, WI.
Christopher C. Conner, Chief United States District Judge.
Presently before the court in the above-captioned matter is the motion (Doc. 22) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 filed by defendant Arnold Logistics, LLC (" Arnold Logistics" ). Arnold Logistics seeks summary judgment as to both claims asserted by plaintiff Christopher Proudfoot (" Proudfoot" ), a former employee who alleges that Arnold Logistics discriminated and retaliated against him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ). 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the motion.
I. Factual Background & Procedural History
On June 21, 2011, Proudfoot began working as a sanitation laborer at Arnold
Logistics' distribution facility in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 24 ¶ ¶ 4-5; Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 4-5). In this role, Proudfoot was responsible for sweeping the building and parking lot, picking up trash inside and outside of the building, and checking product aisles for signs of damage and for dangerous conditions. (Doc. 24 ¶ 6; Doc. 31 ¶ 6). Warehouse manager Roger Danner (" Danner" ) supervised Proudfoot. (Doc. 24 ¶ 7; Doc. 31 ¶ 7). According to Proudfoot, Danner expressed a high opinion of Proudfoot's work performance. (Doc. 24 ¶ 8; Doc. 31 ¶ 8; Doc. 30-2, Proudfoot Dep. 17:20-18:3, Oct. 31, 2013 (" Proudfoot Dep." )).
In his complaint, Proudfoot alleges that he suffers from Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder and from a learning disability that adversely affects his reading comprehension skills. (Doc. 1 ¶ ¶ 20-21; see Doc. 24 ¶ 9; Doc. 31 ¶ 9). Specifically, Proudfoot testified in his deposition that, due to his learning disability, he " ha[s] trouble comprehending at times" and has difficulty " understand[ing] people's body language." (Proudfoot Dep. 23:14-23:18). Proudfoot did not inform Arnold Logistics of these disabilities when he was hired, nor did he request accommodations for these disabilities at any point during the course of his employment. (Doc. 24 ¶ ¶ 10-11; see Doc. 30-3, Danner Dep. 25:13-25:16, Feb. 17, 2014 (" Danner Dep." )). Proudfoot did, however, inform Danner within two months of his start date that he suffered from claustrophobia, at which point Danner altered Proudfoot's work assignments accordingly. (Doc. 24 ¶ 12; Doc. 31 ¶ 12; Danner Dep. 25:17-26:1).
Additionally, Proudfoot testified that he " received a lot of psychological abuse" from general manager Mike Dobbs (" Dobbs" ). (Proudfoot Dep. 16:13-16:14; see also Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 41-42). He asserted that Dobbs regularly addressed him as " dumbass" and " retard." (Proudfoot Dep. 59:7-59:13; see also Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 41-42). Proudfoot also testified that his co-workers teased him regularly, for example, by giving him a falsely labeled Valentine's Day card, communicating with him online using a fake female identity, and taunting him with insults such as, " [D]on't forget your car seat." (Proudfoot Dep. 49:15-50:22, 52:17-54:6, 59:1-59:6; see also Doc. 31 ¶ 40). Co-worker Virginia Haas testified in her deposition that she and many of the other employees at Arnold Logistics viewed Proudfoot as a " little weird" and that she thought there was " something wrong with him." (Doc. 30-8, Haas Dep. 17:10-17:17, Feb. 17, 2014; Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 36-37). Proudfoot relies upon the preceding examples in support of his contention that his co-workers regarded him as disabled. (Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 36-37; see also id. ¶ 14).
On February 28, 2012, Proudfoot's co-worker, Lindsay Haskins (" Haskins" ), reported to Danner that as she gathered with other staff members for a meeting, Proudfoot approached her, spread his arms out, and knelt beside her, motioning as if he was going to hug her. (Doc. 24 ¶ 14; Doc. 31 ¶ 14; Doc. 30-4, Haskins Dep. Ex. B at 1, Feb. 17, 2014 (" Haskins Dep." ) (Haskins's written report)). At Danner's request, Haskins and Proudfoot each prepared written reports of the incident. (Doc. 24 ¶ ¶ 15, 17; Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 15, 17; see Haskins Dep. Ex. B at 1(Haskins's written report); Proudfoot Dep. Ex. 1 at 1 (Proudfoot's written report)). According to Proudfoot, Danner warned that he would be terminated if he refused to do so. (Doc. 31 ¶ 17; Proudfoot Dep. 21:11-21:21).
In his written statement, dated February 28, 2012, Proudfoot averred that he
has a learning disorder. (Doc. 24 ¶ 18; Doc. 31 ¶ 18; Proudfoot Dep. Ex. 1 at 1). Specifically, he wrote: " I have a learning disorder but I still do my best to learn." (Proudfoot Dep. Ex. 1 at 1). On March 12, 2012, Proudfoot met with Danner and Human Resources (" HR" ) manager Sharon Kay (" Kay" ) for approximately two to three minutes to discuss the incident involving Haskins. (Doc. 24 ¶ 20; Doc. 31 ¶ 20; Proudfoot Dep. 24:12-25:12). During this meeting, Kay questioned Proudfoot and reviewed Proudfoot's and Haskins's written statements. (Doc. 31 ¶ 20; Proudfoot Dep. 25:13-26:7). After the meeting, neither Danner nor Kay contacted Proudfoot again regarding the incident involving Haskins. (Doc. 31 ¶ 20; Proudfoot Dep. 26:8-26:18).
On March 14, 2012, Proudfoot's co-worker, Jeff Cooper (" Cooper" ), also a sanitation laborer, approached Danner. (Doc. 24 ¶ ¶ 21-22; Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 21-22). Cooper reported that Proudfoot " was making threats against" Dobbs. (Doc. 24 ¶ 23; Doc. 31 ¶ 23). In Danner's words, " [Cooper had] thought about it and if something came from what he knew, he would feel bad that he didn't act on it." (Danner Dep. 22:19-22:24). Danner immediately contacted Kay, who instructed that Cooper and Proudfoot draft written statements regarding Cooper's allegations. (Doc. 24 ¶ ¶ 24-25; Doc. 31 ¶ ¶ 24-25). Cooper and Proudfoot subsequently prepared written statements describing the incident. (Doc. 24 ¶ 26; Doc. 31 ¶ 26). Cooper's statement, dated March 14, 2012, reads as follows:
Yesterday morning Chris Proudfoot told me that he was tired of Mike Dobbs. And said that he was going to get messed up if he didn't leave " me" alone. I said then do it and stop talking about it. He said, " I'm not going to do it. I'll have someone else do it."
Then later about 2:50 p.m. he told me that if Mike Dobbs doesn't " leave me alone I'm going to jump on him" and you will have to pull me off.
This is what I was told and I will stand by it.
(Danner Dep. Ex. D at 1). Proudfoot's statement, also dated March 14, 2014, reads as follows:
Mike Dobbs -- at times tends to get on my nerves! Yes he is a boss! But the manner in which he conducts himself is not professional. It has been said by Jeff [Cooper], to avoid Mike Dobbs.
Despite that and Mike Dobbs stating he is not my boss and in a rude and arrogant tone, [h]ow can you go to Mr. Mike Dobbs.
Then with Jeff [Cooper] (" aka" " Mr. Kissbutt" ), I simply said that Mike Dobbs is getting on my nerves and he is not easy to talk to!
It's simple. I am tired of the teasing and harassment and I request for it to stop!!
(Proudfoot Dep. Ex. 2 at 1).
On March 15, 2012, Proudfoot, Danner, and Kay met for approximately thirty minutes to discuss Cooper's allegations. (Doc. 24 ¶ 27; Doc. 31 ¶ 27; Danner Dep. 14:2-14:3; Doc. 30-6, Kay Dep. Ex. E at 1, Feb. 17, 2014 (" Kay Dep." ) (Kay's interview notes)). Proudfoot denied that he had threatened to arrange for someone to harm Dobbs. (Kay Dep. Ex. E at 2 (Kay's interview notes)). Kay then asked him to describe the teasing and harassment he reported in his written statement. (Doc. 24 ¶ 32; Doc. 31 ¶ 32; Kay Dep. 18:22-19:25). According to Kay, Proudfoot asserted that he was " busted by a variety of people" and that his co-workers would move trash cans during his shift, but he was otherwise unable to name specific co-workers or to provide further examples of
harassment. (Doc. 24 ¶ 33; Doc. 31 ¶ 33; Kay Dep. 19:8-19:19; Kay Dep. Ex. E at 2 ...