United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
disability discrimination action is before the Court on the
motion for summary judgment of Blue Mountain Production
Company. Doc. #75.
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
“[s]ummary judgment is proper only when the record
demonstrates that no genuine issue of material fact exists
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Luv N' Care Ltd. v. Groupo Rimar,
844 F.3d 442, 447 (5th Cir. 2016). “A factual issue is
genuine if the evidence is sufficient for a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the non-moving party, and material if
its resolution could affect the outcome of the action.”
Burton v. Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., 798 F.3d
222, 226 (5th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks omitted). On a
motion for summary judgment, a court must “consider the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party
and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.”
Edwards v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 841 F.3d 360, 363
(5th Cir. 2016).
seeking summary judgment, “[t]he 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.” Nola Spice Designs,
L.L.C. v. Haydel Enters., Inc., 783 F.3d 527, 536
(5th Cir. 2015) (quotation marks and alterations omitted). If
the moving party satisfies this burden, “the non-moving
party must go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits,
or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.
(quotation marks omitted). “Where the nonmoving party
bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party
satisfies this initial burden by demonstrating an absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.”
Celtic Marine Corp. v. James C. Justice Cos., Inc.,
760 F.3d 477, 481 (5th Cir. 2014).
Benny Jackson was born on June 4, 1953. Doc. #102-1 at 12. He
completed high school and subsequently attended Northeast
Mississippi Community College and the University of
Mississippi without earning a degree. Id. at 20-21.
Mountain Production Company (“BMPC”) is a clay
mining and processing facility which primarily manufactures
absorbent clay which is later sold as cat litter. Doc. #75-13
at ¶ 2.
February of 2000, Jackson was hired by BMPC to work as a
chemical operator. Doc. #102-1 at 23, 25. In this role,
Jackson was “responsible for the material that the
operators had to package. [He] had to make sure that the
correct material went to the correct packing line and also
had to make sure that any additives that were needed [were]
put … there.” Id. at 23-34. In sum,
Jackson “was responsible for the quality” of the
absorbent clay produced by BMPC. Id. at 24.
remained a chemical operator throughout his employment with
BMPC. Id. at 26. However, at some point, his shift
changed from the night shift, for which he was hired, to the
day shift. Id. at 27. Additionally, his
“duties and responsibilities changed and evolved”
over time. Id. at 25-26. Specifically, Jackson
occasionally was assigned to mix dye. Id. at 25.
Also, starting in about 2012, Jackson was called upon to
perform lab technician duties on a “daily basis.”
Id. at 26-27. Jackson estimated that, on average, he
spent approximately ten percent of his time in his office (a
small room with control panels and a computer) and the
remainder of his time on the “chemical platform”
or the “packaging area.” Id. at 32-33.
When called upon to mix dye, he did so in the “dye
room, ” also known as the “slurry room.”
Id. at 25.
“chemical platform” was the location where BMPC
mixed sprays, dust, and chemicals, to “put the recipe
together for their blend.” Doc. #77-6 at 7-8. Chemicals
were also mixed in the slurry room. Id. at 16.
Health Problems and Eventual Leave
between 2007 and 2012, Jackson contracted pneumonia and had
to be hospitalized for eight days. Doc. #102-1 at 42-43.
Sometime later, Jackson contracted pneumonia for a second
time but recovered without hospitalization. Id. at
December of 2014, Jackson began to experience
“asthma-like conditions.” Id. at 44.
Jackson went to see Melinda Quinn, a nurse practitioner, who
treated Jackson for an upper respiratory infection.
Id. at 44-45. Jackson's symptoms continued into
January 2015. Id. at 45- 46.
at work one day in January 2015, Jackson developed a fever
and chills. Id. at 46. Jackson told Tyler Cohea that
he was sick and needed to go home. Id. Cohea granted
this request. Id. Jackson then spoke with Quinn, who
referred him to Tippah County Hospital for a chest x-ray.
Id. Jackson underwent the x-ray and was subsequently
diagnosed with COPD. Id. Quinn then referred Jackson
to Dr. Michael Wilons, a lung specialist in Memphis.
Id. at 47.
to seeing Wilons, Jackson informed Rhonda Barnes, BMPC's
Human Resources Coordinator,  that he was “very
sick” and that he was concerned he would not be able to
return to work. Id. at 52-53. Barnes informed
Jackson that he could seek leave under the Family Medical Act
and that there was a “possibility” he could
retire. Id. at 53. Barnes and Jackson also discussed
the potential for Jackson to work in a different area at BMPC
“if [he] could come back.” Id. at 53.
Specifically, Jackson asked Barnes about positions that were
open, and Barnes told Jackson that “if there were
positions open …he could apply.” Doc. #75-3 at
April 16, 2015, BMPC, which maintained a posting policy for
job vacancies,  posted two job openings for
shipping/receiving clerks. Doc. #102-5. Sometime later,
Barnes notified Jackson of the shipping vacancies. Doc. #75-3
at 12; Doc. #102-1 at 115. Jackson offered to take the job
and Barnes replied, “I don't see how you could take
that big a pay cut.” Doc. #102-1 at 115. Jackson
replied that he “would be willing to take a significant
pay cut if it meant me still being able to work and keep my
benefits ….” Id. When Barnes asked how
large a pay cut Jackson would be willing to accept, Jackson
said three or four dollars an hour. Id. at 115-16.
At some point during the conversation, Barnes informed
Jackson that the positions would be posted. Doc. #75-3 at 9.
Jackson never applied for either position. 102-1 at 65.
Jackson explained that, at the time, BMPC maintained a
non-demotion policy which prohibited bidding on jobs with an
equal or lower paygrade, and that the shipping positions were
lower paygrades than his current position. Id. at
100-01. The positions were eventually filled on April 27,
2015, and June 15, 2015. Doc. #102-6.
April 2015, Wilons diagnosed Jackson with mild COPD,
sarcoidosis (a disease ordinarily of the lungs),
asthma. Doc. #102-1 at 47. Wilons prescribed Jackson
inhalers, Prednisone, Qnasl, and Symbicort, and recommended
that Jackson temporarily remove himself from the environment
to which he had been exposed. Id. at 48.
Subsequently, Jackson requested and received leave under the
Family and Medical Leave Act, retroactive to April 27, 2015.
Doc. #75-13 at ¶ 3.
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