McDonald v. UAW GM Center for Human Resources
OPINION AND ORDER granting 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by District Judge John Corbett O'Meara. (WBar)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 15-12619
Honorable John Corbett O’Meara
UAW-GM CENTER FOR HUMAN
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING
DEFENDANT’S MAY 4, 2016 MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
This matter came before the court on defendant UAW-GM Center for Human
Resources’ May 4, 2016 motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Shannan McDonald
filed a response June 7, 2016; and Defendant filed a reply brief June 14, 2016. Oral
argument was scheduled for September 15, 2016; however, the court determined that
the matter would be submitted on the briefs.
Defendant UAW-GM Center for Human Resources (“CHR”) employed plaintiff
Shannan McDonald as a receptionist from 2004 to 2014. Plaintiff was born with a
genetic disorder known as Crouzon’s Syndrome, a condition resulting from premature
fusion of the sutures of the skull and deformity of the skull. Throughout her
employment, Plaintiff underwent frequent medical procedures related to her medical
condition and went on short-term disability leave nine times.
Dottie Barnett supervised Plaintiff during her entire CHR career. Defendant
contends that Plaintiff “consistently disregarded the amount of time allocated for
breaks (per a Collective Bargaining Agreement) and spent an inordinate amount of
time away from her assigned work area, first floor reception.” Def.’s mot. br. at 1.
Defendant asserts that Barnett counseled Plaintiff over the years in order to correct the
behavior. On June 16, 2014, Plaintiff left the reception desk fifteen minutes early to
go to CHR’s fitness center. Barnett admonished Plaintiff, and Plaintiff swore at
Barnett. CHR disciplined Plaintiff for disregarding her supervisor’s instructions and
for insubordinate language. Plaintiff then resigned.
On July 26, 2015, Plaintiff filed this complaint. After the court dismissed
Plaintiff’s state court claims, the remaining counts are Count I, which alleges
discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101; and
Count III, which alleges retaliation under the same statute. Specifically, Plaintiff
alleges that CHR harassed her and disciplined her due to her disability, denied her a
reasonable accommodation to extend her lunch break, and constructively discharged
her. She also alleges that CHR disciplined her and constructively discharged her in
retaliation for complaints about discrimination.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
To establish a prima facie case for failure to accommodate, a plaintiff must show
the following: 1) she is disabled under the ADA; 2) she is otherwise qualified for the
position; 3) her employer knew or had reason to know of her disability; 4) plaintiff
requested a reasonable accommodation; and 5) the employer failed to provide the
reasonable accommodation. Aldini v. Kroger Co. of Mich., 628 F. App’x 347, 350
(6th Cir. 2015).
The plaintiff bears the “initial burden of proposing an accommodation and
showing that that accommodation is objectively reasonable.” Hedrick v. Western
Reserve Care Sys., 355 F.3d 444, 457 (6th Cir. 2004) (quoting Cassidy v. Detroit
Edison Co., 138 F.3d 629, 633-34 (6th Cir. 1998)). “Where there is more than one
reasonable accommodation, the choice of accommodation is the employer’s.” Smith
v. Honda of Am. Mfg., Inc., 101 F. App’x 20, 25 (6th Cir. 2004).
In this case plaintiff McDonald requested that CHR accommodate her medicallyrequested exercise program by extending her lunch hour. Plaintiff obtained a letter
from her physician that requested CHR to allow her to “continue strengthening
exercises daily for 30 to 60 minutes.” Def.’s Ex. 28. However, Plaintiff’s request to
extend her lunch hour contravened the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, which
provided that Plaintiff was allowed to alter her lunch and break schedule only at the
beginning of each calendar year. Instead, CHR offered that Plaintiff could arrive at
work fifteen minutes earlier each day in order to achieve her requested forty minutes
of exercise. Although the physician’s letter requested that CHR allow Plaintiff to
continue her exercise routine, it did not request that Plaintiff exercise at any specific
time of day, or even at work for that matter. It also did not state that the exercise had
to occur in one continuous session. Therefore, Defendant’s failure to accommodate
Plaintiff’s request was not unreasonable.
Furthermore, there is no evidence that CHR ultimately denied Plaintiff’s request.
The request was forwarded up the chain of command to the co-executive director
level. One of the co-executives was away on business, so no decision was made by
June 18, 2014, the day that Plaintiff was allegedly told that her request would be
approved. However, Plaintiff immediately stopped going to work and then resigned.
Although Plaintiff initially claimed harassment based on her disability, she
abandoned that claim by failing to address it in her response brief. The same is true
for her claim of discrimination based on her disability.
A constructive discharge requires a plaintiff to show the following: 1) the
employer deliberately created intolerable working conditions as perceived by a
reasonable person; 2) the employer did so with the intention of forcing the employee
to quit; and 3) the employee actually quit. Hurtt v. International Servs., Inc., 627 F.
App’x 414, 420 (6th Cir. 2015).
In this case Plaintiff fails to establish both an underlying violation of the ADA
and the additional, aggravating factors to support a constructive discharge. Plaintiff
alleges that her less than two-day suspension, which CHR claims was discipline for
Plaintiff’s direct insubordination and swearing at her supervisor, showed that “the
handwriting was on the wall and the axe was about to fall.” The law is clear, however,
that an employee asserting constructive discharge “has an obligation not to assume the
worst, and not to jump to conclusions too fast.” West v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 374 F.
App’x 624, 640 (6th Cir. 2010). Here, Plaintiff did just that. A supervisor told her it
looked as though CHR would approve her extended lunch request, yet Plaintiff
stopped going to work immediately.
Finally, in order to establish a prima facie case of retaliation under the ADA, a
plaintiff must show the following: 1) she engaged in protected activity under the
ADA; 2) the employer knew of that activity; 3) the employer took an adverse action
against her; and 4) there was a causal connection between the protected activity and
the adverse action. Rorrer v. City of Stow, 743 F.3d 1025, 1046 (6th Cir. 2014). The
plaintiff must “establish that his or her protected activity was a but-for cause of the
alleged adverse action by the employer.” EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., 782 F.3d 753,
768 (6th Cir. 2015).
Plaintiff McDonald’s alleged harassment complaints and her June 17, 2014
formal complaint do not allege conduct because of her disability. Therefore, those
complaints are not protected activity. The ADA is not a “catchall statute,” and a
plaintiff must have engaged in activity covered by the ADA in order to establish a
case of retaliation. Rorrer, supra.
Because the court has found that Plaintiff’s claim of constructive discharge fails,
the only adverse action by CHR was its suspension of Plaintiff. However, as
discussed above, the suspension had nothing to do with Plaintiff’s disability. Rather,
Plaintiff was suspended for insubordination and swearing at her supervisor.
It is hereby ORDERED that Defendant’s May 4, 2016 motion for summary
judgment is GRANTED.
s/John Corbett O'Meara
United States District Judge
Date: September 20, 2016
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon counsel of record on
this date, September 20, 2016, using the ECF system.
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