United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
STEVEN A. VANDERBERG PLAINTIFF
REXAM BEVERAGE CAN COMPANY DEFENDANT
B. BIGGERS, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the defendant's motion for summary
judgment. Upon due consideration of the motion, response,
exhibits, and supporting and opposing authority, the court is
ready to rule.
and Procedural Background
plaintiff, Steven Vanderberg, brings this action against his
former employer, Rexam Beverage Can Company, alleging
violations under 29 U.S.C. § 621 for claims arising
under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”). He further alleges violations under 42
U.S.C. § 12101 for claims arising under the Americans
with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Americans
with Disabilities Amendments Act (“ADAA”), as
well as violations under 42 U.S.C. § 2601 for claims
arising under the Family and Medical Leave Act
contends that were it not for his age, sixty-one at the time,
or his alleged disability, suffering from migraine headaches,
Rexam would not have terminated his employment. He further
asserts that his termination was act of retaliation for his
discussion with Rexam about the possible need for FMLA leave
on account of his migraines.
began working for Rexam as a Spray Room Operator in July of
1988. In November of 2003, he was promoted to the position of
Front End Maintainer. One of Vanderberg's primary
responsibilities as front end maintainer was to perform
preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance consisted
of performing daily checks of the five “body-
maker” machines assigned to him, whereby he was to
check and record the pressure readings of the machines'
main twenty-five gauges, and to report any defective or
required that he document this information in what it refers
to as a Preventative Maintenance Sheet (“PM
sheet”), and then submit these forms to his maintenance
supervisor for review and safe-keeping. Accurate
documentation is critical and necessary to alert Rexam to any
mechanical problems so that equipment damage and resultant
monetary loss can be prevented.
January 8, 2015, following the plaintiff's 7 p.m. to 7
a.m. shift, Maintenance Supervisor Jeff Schmidt discovered a
stack of one hundred and fifty (150) photocopies of partially
completed PM sheets that had been left on the copy machine.
The pressure readings of the twenty-five main gauges had been
prefilled in and the readings on all copies were identical.
Additionally, the photocopies were left undated and unsigned.
immediately set out to determine who had made the copies.
After comparing them with recently submitted PM sheets,
Schmidt realized that the copies were identical to the PM
sheets submitted by Vanderberg. Schmidt's investigation
also revealed that Vanderberg had been submitting these
pre-filled photocopied PM sheets since at least December 5,
then directed another mechanic, Barry Richmond, to perform a
check of Vanderberg's assigned machines and record his
findings in a PM sheet. The readings for the gauges submitted
by Richmond differed, and in some instances differed greatly,
from those submitted by Vanderberg earlier that same day.
Moreover, Richmond reported multiple broken or defective
gauges while the PM sheet submitted by Vanderberg contained
no such report.
after, Schmidt communicated this information to the plant
manager, Jason Hurst, and Rexam's Human Resources
Manager, Rose Doyle. On January 15, 2015, Schmidt, Hurst and
Doyle met with Vanderberg to discuss what Schmidt had found.
Vanderberg initially denied making the copies but, when
pressed on the issue, he admitted to making them, contending
he had only done so in error. Eventually he confessed that he
had been submitting pre-filled photocopied PM sheets for
approximately two months.
attempting to explain his actions, Vanderberg claimed he had
only created these copies as a means to make his job more
efficient. He further asserted that if the actual pressure
readings differed from the numbers he had prefilled in, he
would scratch them out and change them accordingly.
Management responded by pointing out that, since December 5,
2014, every PM sheet he had submitted contained the same
readings each day, and that none had been scratched out or
changed. Vanderberg failed to provide an explanation on this
point. It is also undisputed that these numbers fluctuate
daily and thus are not typically identical over an extended
period of time.
January 21, 2015, Rexam terminated Vanderberg's
employment. Rexam informed Vanderberg he was being fired for
falsifying company documents by submitting photocopied,
pre-filled PM sheets, and because, based on the stack of
copies found, the evidence indicated that he intended to
continue to falsify company documents had his actions not
alleges that he has suffered from migraines since 1996, but
that in recent years they have become more frequent and more
severe. According to Vanderberg, severe migraines leave him
totally incapacitated and unable to work. In addition, on two
occasions, once in 2004 and again in 2014, Vanderberg was
transported from work to the hospital because of a migraine.
September 24, 2014, Vanderberg contacted Doyle about the
possible need for FMLA leave on account of his migraines.
Doyle immediately sent him the requisite FMLA paperwork with
an accompanying due date of October 8, 2014. Doyle, however,
did not receive Vanderberg's FMLA forms until December
14, 2014. While the medical certification form was completed
and signed by Vanderberg's doctor, it was not done so
until December 11, 2014, as indicated by the doctor's
dated signature. Moreover, the paperwork that Vanderberg was
responsible for filling out was not only submitted two months
late, it was incomplete and unsigned. Vanderberg never asked
for an extension of time to complete the paperwork, never
inquired further about FMLA leave, and never actually
requested any time off.
Rexam's articulated reason for his termination,
Vanderberg believes he was terminated because of his age, his
migraines, and his inquiry about the possible need for FMLA
leave. Accordingly, he filed a charge with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission on September 24, 2015, and,
after exhausting his administrative remedies, filed the
instant suit. Rexam now moves for summary ...