United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Aberdeen Division
DOROTHY G. BLUITT PLAINTIFF
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP DEFENDANT
OPINION AND ORDER
M. BROWN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is Wall-Mart Stores East, LP's motion for
summary judgment. Doc. #50.
Rule 56(a) 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). In
evaluating summary judgment issues, 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).
Background and Procedural History
1988, Dorothy Bluitt began work as a cashier at the Wal-Mart
store in Columbus, Mississippi. Doc. #57-1 at 44-45. After
working there for three years, Bluitt left Wal-Mart for a
higher paying job at Fred's Discount. Id. at 45.
Bluitt stayed with Fred's for approximately four years
and then returned to Wal-Mart in 1995 as a sales associate in
the shoe department. Id. at 47, 65. One year later,
she transferred to a “people greeter” position.
Id. at 69. Bluitt suffered work injuries in 2001,
2002, and 2007, but was able to continue working.
Id. at 85-91.
2014, Bluitt was promoted to the position of department
manager for cosmetics. Id. at 77. One year later,
she transferred to the position of CAP Team Associate.
Id. at 81. As a CAP Team Associate, Bluitt's job
duties included unloading trucks, stocking shelves, and
zoning. Id. at 81-82; Doc. #50-2 at ¶
January 2016 Injury and Subsequent Reassignments
working on January 16, 2016, Bluitt fell from a ladder and
injured her knee. Doc. #50-1 at 95-96. Soon after, Bluitt
presented to a physician and had x-rays taken of her knee.
Id. at 104. Nine days after the injury, Bluitt saw
Russell Linton, M.D., for treatment. Doc. #57-12. Linton
diagnosed Bluitt with an MCL sprain and declared her unable
to work pending the results of an MRI. Id. at 2.
February 3, 2016, Linton cleared Bluitt to return to work
with a “[m]ust be seated” restriction. Doc.
#57-13 at 3. That day, Bluitt returned to work on temporary
assignment as a door greeter. Doc. #50-1 at 105; Doc. #57-10.
In this role, Bluitt's primary duties were to check
receipts and answer customer questions. Doc. #57-16 at 10.
“late spring/early summer of 2016, ” Wal-Mart
commenced a company-wide initiative which replaced the people
greeter position with the position of customer host. Doc.
#50-2 at ¶ 13. As a part of this process, Wal-Mart
eliminated the people greeter position at its Columbus store.
Id. The essential functions of the customer host
position required that candidates be able to “[m]ove,
lift, carr[y], and place merchandise and supplies
weighing up to 25 pounds without assistance.” Doc.
#50-1 at Ex. 39.
about September 16, 2017, Bluitt was placed in a Temporary
Alternative Dutyposition on the night shift in a
“night door” position. Doc. #50-3 at 9. This
position-which was functionally loss prevention but was coded
as “maintenance” for administrative purposes-
required Bluitt to watch the door and “go around the
store and pick up returns.” Id. at 9-10; Doc.
#50-4 at 15. Bluitt shared these duties with Lisa Moore,
another employee with physical limitations. Doc. #50-4 at 15.
During this time, Bluitt felt that Pam Wilson, the co-manager
and night shift supervisor, treated her unfairly by making
her walk around the store, even when Moore, who Bluitt
believed had no walking restrictions, was available to do so.
Doc. #50-1 at 152.
Leave and Termination
September 22, 2016, Bluitt underwent a Physical Work
Performance Evaluation at the Columbus Orthopaedic Clinic.
Doc. #50-1 at PageID #381. The evaluation determined Bluitt
suffered from numerous physical restrictions, including an
inability to squat, crouch, climb stairs, and climb ladders.
Id. at PageID #384. The ...