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Head v. City of Columbus Light and Water Department

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division

September 12, 2017

WILLARD HEAD PLAINTIFF
v.
CITY OF COLUMBUS LIGHT AND WATER DEPARTMENT DEFENDANT

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sharion Aycock UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Willard Head filed his Complaint [1] in this Court on May 9, 2016 alleging that his former employer, the City of Columbus, Mississippi Light and Water Department wrongly fired him because of his age and physical disability. Head seeks relief under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. Now before the Court is the Department's Motion for Summary Judgment [35] on all claims. Head filed a Response [40] and the Department filed a Reply [43] making this issue ripe for review.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Head was involved in an automobile accident in 1992 while driving a truck for his then employer, Hardin's Bakery. Because of injuries sustained in the accident, Head had his right hip replaced. Head was unable to continue in his job as a truck driver because of his injury, so he sought re-education as a draftsperson at East Mississippi Community College. During his final semester, Head's instructor recommended him for a mapping position at the Columbus Light and Water Department. Superintendent C.F. Williams hired Head, while still a student, for the mapping position in June of 1995. Head's employment application from 1995 notes “a physical defect which precludes him from performing certain kinds of work.” Specifically, Head noted on his application “hip replacement, no heavy lifting.”

         Head's primary job responsibility was to update and maintain the Department's computerized master map of the electrical system including lines, poles, and other devices. Head received “staking sheets, ” mostly technical drawings, from his supervisor Chief Engineer Rusty Jaudon with changes. Head took the information from the staking sheets and used it to update the master map. Head received training on mapping, especially early on. Occasionally, Head would go out into the field to collect GPS location data on electrical poles or equipment for mapping purposes. The Department also trained Head as a dispatcher.

         Although Head and Jaudon shared an office space in the Department's electrical warehouse for almost nineteen years, Head had personal issues with Jaudon. Head thought Jaudon had unrealistic expectations, that he treated everyone at the Department unfairly, and was generally a poor manager. In particular, Head complained about Jaudon's poor personal hygiene and strong offensive body odor. It was no secret that Head and Jaudon had a tense relationship.

         According to Superintendent Williams, Head was a generally a good employee but over the years he started to lose focus. Jaudon also tasked Head with some additional responsibilities over the years. On at least one occasion, Jaudon sent Head out with a crew to clear some trees after a storm, Head sometimes covered the warehouse when the warehouse personnel were on break, and Head often covered dispatch when the regular dispatcher was out or at lunch. Head complained to Williams that doing physical labor like dragging brush was painful and difficult for him with his artificial hip.

         Head was also tasked with managing the Department's security light program. Customers that wanted to have an overhead security light installed at their property would contact the Department and Head would go out to meet the customer, determine the best location for the security light, and get the customer to sign a contract. Head did not like having these additional tasks and responsibilities. In his opinion, he was hired to do mapping and these other tasks were distractions that took him away from his main responsibility.

         In 2009, Head's job description was updated to the following:

Job Description
Job Title: Engineering Assistant
Area: Electrical Division
Pay Grade: 5
Reports To: Chief Engineer
Job Summary: To assist in the performance of routine, engineering duties in accordance with well established procedures and to perform related field works as required.
Essential Functions:
1. Collect data and prepare documents as instructed.
2. Read maps and blueprints.
3. Prepare work orders.
4. Maintain computerized records.
5. Make simple measurements and recordings.
6. Maintain good public relations and work to enhance the image of the CL&W.
7. Operate utility vehicle as assigned.
8. Use drafting and survey tools and equipment.
9. Operate various computer terminals.
10. Perform other duties as assigned by supervisor.
Educational Requirements: Minimum of high school diploma, GED or equivalent. College level algebra and geometry desirable.
Job Requirements
1. Must have and maintain a valid Mississippi Driver's License.
2. Must be able to add, subtract, multiply, and divide all units of measure.
3. Should have basic working knowledge of electric utility operations and practices.
4. Must have ability to read maps.
5. Must have ability to work with ...

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