United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons provided below, the Court denies
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment .
Cooper was a nurse in the Transitional Care Unit
(“TCU”) at Wesley Medical Center in Hattiesburg,
Mississippi. In April 2014, she injured her shoulder and took
leave. In July 2014, Cooper's doctor cleared her to
return to work with restrictions. Defendant determined that
Cooper could not safely return to work in the TCU because
lifting and pushing patients was an “essential
function” of her job. So, Defendant advised Cooper to
apply for a vacant position in its network for which she was
qualified. Cooper applied for one such position, but
Defendant hired another candidate. Defendant finally
terminated Cooper's employment on August 8, 2014.
filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, alleging
violations of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”). The EEOC determined that there was
reasonable cause to believe that Defendant had violated the
ADA and invited Defendant to informal negotiations to address
the alleged unlawful employment practices. Negotiations
failed, and the EEOC filed this lawsuit against Defendant.
argues that the Court should grant summary judgment as to
Plaintiff's claim that Defendant failed to accommodate
Cooper when she sought to return to work after taking
leave. Rule 56 provides that “[t]he court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Sierra Club, Inc. v. Sandy
Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d 134, 138 (5th Cir.
2010). “An issue is material if its resolution could
affect the outcome of the action.” Sierra Club,
Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. “An issue is
‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a
reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist.,
626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010).
Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d
156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine
fact issue exists, “the court must view the facts and
the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party.” Sierra Club,
Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, “[c]onclusional
allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences,
unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do
not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a
genuine issue for trial.” Oliver v. Scott, 276
F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).
the ADA, it is unlawful for an employer to fail to
accommodate the known limitations of an employee's
disability.” Credeur v. Louisiana, 860 F.3d
785, 792 (5th Cir. 2017). To prove a failure-to-accommodate
claim, a plaintiff must show that: “(1) the plaintiff
is a ‘qualified individual with a disability;' (2)
the disability and its consequential limitations were
‘known' by the covered employer; and (3) the
employer failed to make ‘reasonable accommodations'
for such known limitations.'” Id. (quoting
Neely v. PSEG Texas, Ltd. P'ship, 735 F.3d 242,
247 (5th Cir. 2013)).
Whether Lifting Was an Essential Function
Defendant argues that Plaintiff cannot establish that Cooper
was a “qualified individual” under the ADA
because the evidence demonstrates that she could not perform
the “essential functions” of her job with or
without a reasonable accommodation. Specifically, Defendant
contends that Cooper could not lift or carry at least 50
pounds or push up to 300 pounds. In response, Plaintiff
argues that these physical requirements were not actually
“essential functions” of her job.
the ADA, a “qualified individual” is one
“who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can
perform the essential functions of the employment position
that such individual holds or desires.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 12111(8). “Fact-finders must determine whether a
function is ‘essential' on a case-by-case
basis.” Credeur, 860 F.3d at 792 (quoting
EEOC v. LHC Group, Inc., 773 F.3d 688, 698 (5th Cir.
2014)). “The term essential functions means the
fundamental job duties of the employment position the
individual with a disability holds or desires. The term . . .
does not include the marginal functions of the
position.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(n)(1). The Court
must give “consideration . . . to the employer's
judgment as to what functions of a job are essential, and if
an employer has prepared a written description . . ., this
description shall be considered evidence of the essential
functions of the job.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8).
“courts should not give blind deference to an
employer's judgment, but should instead evaluate the
employer's words along with its policies and
practices.” Credeur, 860 F.3d at 794. EEOC