United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
CHRISTOPHER C. DIGGS PLAINTIFF
THE BURLINGTON NORTHERN AND SANTA FE RAILWAY COMPANY DEFENDANT
SHARION AYCOCK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Diggs filed his Complaint  in this Court on November 4,
2015 against his former employer, The Burlington Northern and
Santa Fe Railway Company (“BNSF”). This matter is
presently before the Court upon Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment . Diggs has answered  and BNSF
replied , making this motion ripe for review.
and Procedural Background
Diggs was hired by BNSF in 1992, first as a brakeman and
later as a conductor. According to Diggs, he was subjected to
racial harassment by other BNSF employees over the years.
Regarding this harassment, Diggs filed a race discrimination
lawsuit against BNSF in 2000. He settled his claim in 2001,
and this Court dismissed his case with prejudice. See
Diggs v. The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway
Company, Civil Action No.: 1:00-cv-001-D-D (N.D. Miss.
April 27, 2001).
2009, Diggs took off work from BNSF because of health issues
related to his foot. Around this time, he was diagnosed with
diabetes, as well. Because of complications arising from his
foot and his other health problems, Diggs was off work for
several years. Diggs had an operation on his foot, but still
he could not return to his current position, which required
standing for long periods. His podiatrist, Dr. Boles, advised
further surgery only as a last option because of its
potential risks and recommended he take a sedentary job.
Thereafter, Diggs took a BNSF exam for a job that was more
sedentary but failed twice. Then, in 2013, he was diagnosed
with an autoimmune myonecrosis, also known as myositis. This
illness causes pain, inflammation, and weakness, and the
doctor treating him for this illness, Dr. Housley,
recommended a sedentary job as well. However, treatment for
this illness was effective immediately, and Diggs reported
feeling normal. Furthermore, in June 2014, Diggs had a second
surgery on his foot that corrected his remaining issues.
After his surgery, Diggs was released to work with no
restrictions by Dr. Boles, and Dr. Housley similarly released
him for work in August of 2014.
an absence of over five years, Diggs asked to return to his
job at BNSF. Diggs provided documentation of his recovery to
his division train master, Isiah Waller. Waller forwarded the
information to the supervisor, Carter Tuggle, and BNSF's
medical staffer, Ben Gillam. In response, BNSF sent Diggs a
form letter, asking him to complete a fitness for duty
questionnaire. Also, Dr. Laura Gillis, BNSF's medical
director, asked Diggs to provide further information from his
doctors regarding symptoms, treatment, medication side
effects and recommended activity restrictions. Further,
because Diggs had been diagnosed with diabetes, Gillis asked
that he fill out an enclosed medical status form regarding
his treatment for diabetes.
Diggs' doctors attempted to send the required information
to Dr. Gillis. Dr. Housely and his staff sent records
regarding his myonecrosis to BNSF on July 22, November 22,
and again on December 11, of 2014. Dr. Glasgow, who was
treating Diggs' diabetes, similarly filled out multiple
medical releases, the first dated October 16, 2014. Again,
BSNF deemed Diggs' information incomplete, so Dr. Glasgow
sent another form to BNSF on April 21, 2015. Next, Dr. Boles
sent BNSF a release as to Diggs' foot injury on August 4,
2014, releasing him to work without restriction. Because of
similar inadequacies, he sent another letter on November 2,
2014. However, on December 8, 2014, Dr. Gillis explained to
Diggs that she had received completed records from Dr. Boles,
but had somehow received nothing from the other doctors.
was unable to complete his medical file until two years
later. BNSF explains that though the doctors were sending
documents, Dr. Gillis found their documentation incomplete.
For example, she found that one letter referred to
“enclosed visit notes, ” but the doctor had
failed to enclose the referenced notes. In any event, on
September 9, 2016, Diggs provided the final missing documents
to Gillis, and he was released for full-duty work on
September 12. However, Diggs complains that Dr. Gillis
intentionally prolonged his return to work for two years
without legitimate reason. During his five year leave, he
remained employed by BNSF, but he was placed on
“vocational rehabilitation” status. Dr. Gillis
reports that she requested Diggs' medical records
pursuant to normal practice for the Medical Department in
Diggs brought this claim of race discrimination under Title
VII and disability discrimination under the ADA. He argues
that management at BNSF did not want him to return to work at
all, both because he is African American, and because he had
been temporarily disabled.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs summary judgment. Summary
judgment is warranted when the evidence reveals no genuine
dispute regarding any material fact, and the moving party is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
The Rule “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after
adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party
who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).
moving party “bears the initial responsibility of
informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and
identifying those portions of [the record] which it believes
demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact.” Id. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The
nonmoving party must then “go beyond the
pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'”
Id. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (citation omitted). In
reviewing the evidence, factual controversies are to be
resolved in favor of the non-movant, “but only when ...
both parties have submitted evidence of contradictory
facts.” Little v. Liquid Air Corp., 37 F.3d
1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc). When such contradictory
facts exist, the Court may “not make credibility
determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120
S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). Conclusory allegations,
speculation, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic
arguments are not an adequate substitute for specific facts
showing a genuine issue for trial. TIG Ins. Co. v.
Sedgwick James of Wash., 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir.
2002); SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir.
1997); Little, 37 F.3d at 1075.
has alleged that BNSF management did not allow him to return
to work for two years after his doctors had cleared him to
work because he is ...