Gordon v. Acosta Sales and Marketing, Inc.
ORDER GRANTING 21 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Xavier Rodriguez. (rf)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
SAN ANTONIO DIVISION
JEFFERY R. GORDON,
ACOSTA SALES AND MARKETING,
Civil Action No. SA-13-CV-662-XR
On this day the Court considered Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Docket
no. 21. For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the motion.
Plaintiff Jeffrey R. Gordon filed this lawsuit alleging employment discrimination and
retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) against Defendant Acosta Sales
and Marketing, Inc., on July 22, 2013. Acosta is a sales and marketing company that helps
various food and consumer product companies with their stock management, sales, and
promotions at large retailers like grocery and drug stores.
A. Undisputed Factual Background1
Acosta employed Gordon as a part-time retail coverage merchandiser (an “RCM”) from
September 2012 to March 27, 2013, when he resigned. Plaintiff’s Deposition, docket no. 22-3,
at 158. As an RCM, Gordon traveled to the various grocery stores he was assigned in the
greater-San-Antonio-area to track product sales, inform store managers about their inventory,
For the purposes of summary judgment, Acosta is not disputing the facts from Gordon’s deposition and other
and help promote ongoing or upcoming deals for his assigned products. Gordon managed his
own schedule, set his own hours, worked mostly alone, and did not report to an office. Id. at 6874. He worked approximately thirty hours per week, visiting two or three stores per day. His
assigned products included items from Procter & Gamble and Kraft.
Gordon has a medical condition called edema, which causes swelling of the extremities.
To treat his condition, Gordon takes medication that is a diuretic, causing frequent urination in
the six to eight hours after it is ingested.
Gordon performed his RCM job duties satisfactorily at all times relevant to this litigation.
Gordon had access to bathrooms at all times while he was working. He was permitted breaks
whenever he desired, including while traveling between his assigned stores. Id. at 152-54.
In “October or November 2012” Gordon told his supervisor, Rudy Ramirez, that he had
edema. He also informed Ramirez that he would be seeking alternate employment within Acosta
and Ramirez supported Gordon’s decision. Ramirez was Gordon’s supervisor on the “purple
team,” which included other RCMs who were assigned different products or different stores. A
major Acosta client, Kraft Foods, asked Acosta to provide RCMs who would only work on Kraft
products in late-2012. Accordingly, Ramirez had Gordon train Mike Urdiales to be an RCM as
part of Kraft’s directive. After training, Urdiales took Kraft responsibilities from Gordon and at
least two other RCMs, Gonzalo Garza, and Eva Naranjo. Id. at 82-83.
Gordon objected to Urdiales’s new assignment and its impact on his own responsibilities.
Ramirez sought to expand the number of Gordon’s store assignments to reflect his loss of Kraft,
but Gordon did not want additional assignments for fear of the wear and tear on his vehicle the
additional travel would cause. Instead, via email on January 8, 2013, Gordon requested his hours
be diminished to twenty-four per week so he could search for alternate employment. Id. at 9495.
In response to the email, Ramirez confronted Gordon at a grocery store on January 9,
2013. The two got in an argument. Ramirez invaded Gordon’s personal space multiple times,
raised his voice, and eventually stated, “I’m your f___ing supervisor. I can tell you to do
whatever I want.” Id. at 92-93. Gordon immediately complained about Ramirez’s conduct in an
email to Ramirez’s supervisor, David Osgood, and a human resources representative, Julie
Conord. Ramirez never mentioned Gordon’s disability in their argument. Gordon’s email to
Osgood and Conord did mention filing an EEOC charge for verbal assault and harassment, but
the email did not discuss any sort of protected characteristic like Gordon’s disability. Later that
day, for the first time, Gordon mentioned a “reasonable accommodation” to Conord and Osgood.
However, Gordon also stated that the accommodation he sought was to be moved away from
Ramirez because of their argument and what he viewed as other problems not related to his
disability. Gordon had already applied for two administrative positions in Acosta’s San Antonio
office and sought a transfer.
Acosta did not provide the transfer.
altercation, disciplining Ramirez.
They did investigate and follow-up on the
Acosta assured Gordon that Ramirez would not act
inappropriately again, but Gordon continued to complain he was afraid of Ramirez “retaliating”
for Gordon reporting his behavior to Ramirez’s boss and continued to push his transfer.
There is no evidence Ramirez continued to harass Gordon after the altercation. Though
Gordon initially alleged more harassment, he later admitted the only negative action taken was
Ramirez singling him out in an email about scheduling. When Acosta’s attorney showed Gordon
that an identical email had been sent to multiple co-workers at his deposition, Gordon stated
Ramirez had not “done anything” to him since the January 9, 2013 altercation. See id. at 140.
To address Gordon’s concerns that Ramirez would “retaliate” against him for reporting
the altercation to his supervisors, Osgood and Harvey Shaner, another Acosta employee, met
with him on February 5, 2012. Osgood assured Gordon that Ramirez would not treat him poorly
again and that there would be no “retaliation.” At this meeting, Gordon mentioned his disability
to Osgood and Shaner for the first time to discuss his transfer. Shaner took extensive notes of
the meeting while Osgood spoke. Towards the end, Shaner accused Gordon of lying about his
disability in order to secure the RCM position. Gordon was offended by Shaner’s remark and
terminated the meeting. Gordon immediately complained about the meeting to Conord, stating
he “expressed to Mr. Osgood that I have been diligent in continuing in a position while dealing
with a medical issue,” but no reasonable accommodation was offered. Id. at 120. To this point,
Gordon had performed his RCM duties satisfactorily.
By February 12, 2013, Gordon determined he wanted to change the scheduling of his
medications in order to better manage his edema, which would cause him to urinate with greater
frequency at work. He emailed Conord mentioning the change in medication issue, and asking
for an “accommodation” that he be moved from Ramirez’s supervision to an administrative
position. Id. at 129-134. Conord responded by asking for Gordon to provide a doctor’s note
certifying his condition. Gordon secured a note from his doctor, Dr. Quiroz. Dr. Quiroz wrote a
letter to Acosta stating that Gordon’s medication caused frequent urination so he needed close
proximity to a bathroom. She did not indicate any other accommodations were necessary, and
did not recommend Gordon be transferred, including to any administrative position. Id. at 149-
150. Gordon forwarded Dr. Quiroz’s letter to Conord on March 22, 2013, continuing to request
the accommodation of a transfer.
Acosta responded to the accommodation request on March 27, 2013, stating it could meet
Gordon’s accommodation in his RCM position, as Gordon had unlimited and free access to
bathrooms at all times. Acosta said using the bathroom would not impact its evaluation of
Gordon’s performance, and that all relevant supervisors had been made aware of the condition.
Id. at 151.
Gordon reacted to Acosta’s email negatively because he viewed it “as retaliatory in
nature.” He did not call or email Conord to discuss the accommodation further. Instead, he
tendered his resignation, because he “no longer had faith in [Acosta’s] system” on March 27,
2013. Id. at 156.
B. Procedural History
Despite threatening EEOC action in early January after his altercation with Ramirez,
Gordon did not file an EEOC complaint for failure to provide an accommodation, hostile work
environment, and retaliation, until March 29, 2013. See id. at 168. Gordon later amended his
EEOC complaint to include a constructive discharge claim. The EEOC decided not to pursue
Gordon’s claims further after he explained to an investigator that: 1) he always had access to a
bathroom, 2) he was never told he could not take as many bathroom breaks as he needed, and 3)
that Acosta had complied with his doctor’s requests. Id. at 171-72.
The original complaint (docket no. 1) asserts four causes of action based on Gordon’s
disability and treatment at Acosta: 1) failure to provide a reasonable accommodation; 2)
retaliation; 3) hostile work environment; and 4) constructive discharge. Acosta filed this motion
for summary judgment to dismiss all the causes of action on October 20, 2014. Docket nos. 21
and 22. Gordon responded on November 6, 2014. Docket no. 25.
A court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue
of any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P.
56(a). To establish that there is no genuine dispute over any material fact, the movant must
submit evidence that negates the existence of some material element of the nonmoving party=s
claim or defense. Lavespere v. Niagra Machine & Tool Works, Inc., 910 F.2d 167, 178 (5th Cir.
1990), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 859 (1993). If the crucial issue is one for which the nonmoving
party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the movant can merely point out that the evidence in
the record is insufficient to support an essential element of the nonmovant=s claim or defense. Id.
Once the movant carries its initial burden, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to show that
summary judgment is inappropriate. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986);
Fields v. City of South Houston, 922 F.2d 1183, 1187 (5th Cir. 1991).
In order for a court to conclude that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the court
must be satisfied that no reasonable trier of fact could have found for the nonmovant, or, put
differently, that the evidence favoring the nonmovant is insufficient to enable a reasonable jury
to return a verdict for the nonmovant. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
n.4 (1986); Lavespere, 910 F.2d at 178. In making this determination, the court should review
all the evidence in the record, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmovant and
without making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Lytle v. Household Mfg.,
Inc., 494 U.S. 545, 554–555 (1990). The court also considers Aevidence supporting the moving
party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached.@ Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530
U.S. 133, 151 (2000).
Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination against an employee on the basis of physical
or mental disability “in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or
discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and
privileges of employment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). A plaintiff may establish a claim under the
ADA with either direct or circumstantial evidence of discrimination. Daigle v. Liberty Life Ins.
Co., 70 F.3d 394, 396 (5th Cir. 1995). When relying on circumstantial evidence, the claim is
analyzed in the burden shifting framework established by the Supreme Court in McDonnell
Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). The McDonnell framework has three steps: 1) a
plaintiff must make a prima facie showing of discrimination; 2) if the prima facie case is made,
the employer must give evidence of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory purpose for its actions; and
3) once the employer offers a legitimate purpose, the plaintiff must prove this reason was
pretextual. McInnis v. Alamo Cmty. Coll. Dist., 207 F.3d 276, 280 (5th Cir. 2000).
A. Reasonable Accommodation
The definition of “discriminate” in the ADA includes “not making reasonable
accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual
with a disability.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5). Under McDonnell, a plaintiff has the burden of
establishing a prima facie case in a failure-to-accommodate claim. To do so a plaintiff must
show: “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.” Feist v. Louisiana, Dep't of
Justice, Office of the Atty. Gen., 730 F.3d 450, 452 (5th Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks
omitted); Gonzalez v. Texas Health & Human Servs. Comm'n, No. 5:13-CV-183-DAE, 2014 WL
6606629, at *5 (W.D. Tex. Nov. 19, 2014). “Qualified individual with a disability” means “an
individual with a disability 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). Acosta does not dispute that Gordon is a “qualified individual with a disability,” or
that it is a covered employer. This claim hinges on whether Acosta “failed to make reasonable
accommodations for known limitations.”
Covered employers must make “reasonable accommodations” necessary to allow an
employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of his job.
§ 2112(b)(5)(A). The definitions section of the ADA states a reasonable accommodation may
(A) making existing facilities used by employees readily
accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and
(B) job restructuring, part-time or modified work
schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or
modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or
modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the
provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar
accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
Id. at § 12111(9).
“An employee who needs an accommodation because of a disability has the
responsibility of informing [his] employer.” E.E.O.C. v. Chevron Phillips Chem. Co., 570 F.3d
606, 621 (5th Cir. 2009). “When a qualified individual with a disability requests a reasonable
accommodation, the employer and employee should engage in flexible, interactive discussions to
determine the appropriate accommodation.” E.E.O.C. v. Agro Distrib., 555 F.3d 462, 471 (5th
Cir. 2009).2 “When an employer’s unwillingness to engage in a good faith interactive process
leads to a failure to reasonably accommodate an employee, the employer violates the ADA.”
Loulseged v. Akzo Nobel Inc., 178 F.3d 731, 736 (5th Cir. 1999). However, the interactive
process is a shared responsibility and when the breakdown in communication is “traceable” to
the employee, the employer is not liable. Id.
“The ADA provides a right to reasonable accommodation, not to the employee's
preferred accommodation.” Agro Distrib., 555 F.3d at 471. “When no reasonable
accommodation can be made to the plaintiff's prior job, he may be transferred to another
position.” Jenkins, 487 F.3d at 315 (citing § 12111(9)(B)). “The plaintiff bears the burden of
proving that an available position exists that he was qualified for and could, with reasonable
accommodations, perform.” Id. 315-16 (citing Foreman v. Babcock & Wilcox Co., 117 F.3d
800, 810 & n. 14 (5th Cir. 1997)). “A disabled employee has no right to a promotion,” or, “to
choose what job to which he will be assigned.” Id. at 316 (citing Allen v. Rapides Parish Sch.
Bd., 204 F.3d 619, 622-23 (5th Cir. 2000)).
Acosta argues that it provided Gordon a reasonable accommodation, though not his
preferred option, and thus his claim fails to meet the third prong of the Feist test. Specifically,
Acosta says it permitted Gordon to take as many bathroom breaks as he needed without negative
repercussions and that there was always a bathroom available to him, whether he was in the car
traveling or in a store.
Docket no. 22 at 12. Acosta also argues that Gordon ended the
interactive process because he resigned rather than reply to Conord’s email with reasons or
alternatives for why the offered accommodation would not suffice. Id. at 13-14.
“The accommodation, however, does not have to be the ‘best’ accommodation possible, so long as it is sufficient
to meet the job-related needs of the individual being accommodated . . . .” 29 C.F.R. pt. 1630, App., § 1630.9
Gordon argues that Acosta’s offered accommodation was not reasonable, that there was
another accommodation available, administrative assistant positions for which he applied and
was qualified for, that Acosta refused to provide. He requested a specific accommodation and
Acosta’s option was not the option he requested. Gordon further argues that Acosta, not he, cut
off the interactive process because Conord’s response forced Gordon to “accept the
accommodation offered him or quit.” Docket no. 25 at 14.
Gordon told his immediate supervisor, Ramirez, that he had edema in October or
Gordon invoked the words “reasonable accommodation” and “specific
accommodation” with Acosta employees Conord and Osgood on multiple occasions, but used
the term in reference to his desire to be transferred away from Ramirez after their altercation.
His desire for an “accommodation” was connected to what he viewed as intolerable behavior by
his boss, not his covered medical condition. Only after his discussion with Osgood and Shaner
in early February, where Gordon felt he was treated harshly by Shaner, did Gordon connect his
medical condition clearly to his “accommodation” request. Conord immediately urged Gordon
to acquire a doctor’s note. Upon receipt of the doctor’s note from Dr. Quiroz, which stated
Gordon needed “close proximity to the bathroom facilities” but stopped short of stating he
required a transfer, Acosta responded to the accommodation request. Acosta was clear that
Gordon could perform his essential RCM job duties, that he could take as many bathroom breaks
in the car or at his sites as he wanted without any negative view or repercussions from the
company, and that all his supervisors were aware of the condition and would not react negatively
to bathroom breaks. Plaintiff’s Deposition, docket no. 22-3, at 151. Gordon was displeased by
this response, however, and resigned.
No one ever told Gordon he could not use the restroom, or that frequent use of the
restroom was a problem. Both parties maintain that Gordon was able to satisfactorily meet the
essential job duties of the RCM position with his disability at all relevant times, including with
Acosta provided Gordon a reasonable accommodation as a matter of law. The existence
of a preferred option is insufficient on its own for the claim to survive summary judgment. See
Agro Distrib., 555 F.3d at 471. Gordon’s edema required he be in close proximity to bathrooms
and be able to take bathroom breaks freely. Acosta’s accommodation offered such access in his
RCM position. Gordon was not entitled to his preferred option: a transfer to an administrative
Gordon argues that he needed “greater” access to bathrooms, but the
undisputed testimony is that he had unlimited, unfettered access to bathrooms at all times as an
RCM while at work or traveling for work without fear of repercussions.
Though not advanced in the summary judgment brief, Gordon argued during his
deposition that Acosta’s accommodation was unreasonable because: 1) Acosta could not
guarantee that he could use bathrooms at the stores when they do not control them, and 2) he did
not have access immediate to bathrooms while driving. But Gordon could not recall a single
time he was not able to use the public restroom when needed it at one of his assigned grocery
stores. Gordon also admitted that he could stop to use the bathroom whenever he pleased while
traveling car. Plaintiff’s Deposition, docket no. 22-3, at 178-79.
Even if the accommodation Acosta offered Gordon was not reasonable, or he could have
been provided “greater” bathroom access, Gordon’s failure-to-accommodate claim fails because
he ended the interactive process. See Griffin v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 661 F.3d 216, 225 (5th
Cir. 2011) (holding an employee with diabetes retired and cut off the interactive his employer
It is disputed whether Gordon was even qualified for these positions.
sent him a letter refusing his requested and preferred accommodation). When the employee
resigns, the end of the interactive process is traceable to him such that the employer is not liable.
Callies v. Donahoe, No. CIV.A. H-12-3710, 2014 WL 4215370, at *6 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 25, 2014)
(holding an employer could not be liable for failure-to-accommodate when a plaintiff ended the
interactive process by not responding to the employer’s most recent offer of accommodation
before his termination for failing a drug test). Gordon’s subjective belief that he had “lost faith”
in Acosta’s process does not relieve him engaging in the interactive process.
Gordon’s failure-to-accommodate claim fails as a matter of law because he was offered a
reasonable accommodation and, upon learning of that accommodation but believing it
unsatisfactory, he resigned his position, cutting off the interactive process.
B. Hostile Work Environment
Hostile work environment claims under the ADA are “modeled after the similar claim
under Title VII.” McConathy v. Dr. Pepper/Seven Up Corp., 131 F.3d 558, 563 (5th Cir. 1998).
To prevail, a plaintiff must show:
(1) that [he] belongs to a protected group; (2) that [he] was
subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) that the harassment
complained of was based on [his] disability or disabilities; (4) that
the harassment complained of affected a term, condition, or
privilege of employment; and (5) that the employer knew or should
have known of the harassment and failed to take prompt, remedial
Flowers v. S. Reg'l Physician Servs. Inc., 247 F.3d 229, 235-36 (5th Cir. 2001). Moreover, the
disability-based harassment must “be sufficiently pervasive or severe to alter the conditions of
employment and create an abusive working environment.” Id. (quoting McConathy, 131 F.3d at
Acosta argues Gordon’s hostile work environment claim should be dismissed because he
was subjected to one inappropriate altercation with a supervisor that was not based on his
disability. Additionally, Acosta argues the treatment was not severe and pervasive, as it
amounted to nothing more than one disagreement among coworkers that is not legally actionable.
Gordon argues his supervisor, Ramirez, was aware of his disability, singled him out because of
that disability, and failed to support and train Gordon.
Gordon’s hostile work environment claim fails for several reasons. First, the harassment
he complains of was not due to his disability. The altercation between him and Ramirez was due
to Gordon’s complaints and objections to a change in job responsibilities for a legitimate
business reason and Ramirez’s reaction to those objections. This episode was not related to
Gordon’s disability, as his conversations with HR and in his deposition in this case make clear.
Next, the claim fails because the harassment was not pervasive or severe enough to alter
the conditions of his employment. According to Gordon’s own deposition, Ramirez did not take
any further negative action against him after their altercation.
In early 2013, Gordon was
concerned Ramirez would retaliate against him for reporting their altercation to Ramirez’s
supervisors, but there is no evidence to allow a reasonable trier of fact to find Ramirez did
anything else that could objectively be called harassment.
Gordon argues in his brief that Ramirez continued to “single him out” and “accus[e] him
of not scheduling his stores” in an accusatory tone. This is a reference to one email where
Ramirez told Gordon to schedule his stores. However, when confronted at his deposition with
multiple emails from the same date to coworkers worded the exact same way, and after admitting
that he had not actually scheduled his stores due to a software malfunction, Gordon could not
maintain his claim of being singled out. Plaintiff’s Deposition, docket no. 22-3, at 134-141.
One altercation not related to his disability is not enough to show harassment pervasive or
severe enough to survive summary judgment. See McConathy, 131 F.3d at 564 (“It is a simple
fact that in a workplace, some workers will not get along with one another, and this Court will
not elevate a few harsh words or “cold-shouldering” to the level of an actionable offense.”);
Staples v. Caremark, L.L.C., No. CIVA SA-08-CV-831-XR, 2009 WL 3634079, at *4 (W.D.
Tex. Oct. 29, 2009) (three incidents of a supervisor specifically doubting a plaintiff’s disability
and its impact on his work not severe enough to survive summary judgment).
Lastly, even if the Ramirez altercation was due to Gordon’s disability, Acosta took quick
and decisive action to remedy the problem when it investigated and disciplined Ramirez. And,
as stated above, no further harassment or incidents occurred after the discipline. No reasonable
trier of fact could find Gordon was subjected to a hostile work environment given the summary
judgment evidence. Therefore, Acosta is granted summary judgment on this claim.
The McDonnell framework also applies to retaliation claims. See Long v. Eastfield
College, 88 F.3d 300, 304 (5th Cir. 1996). In order to establish a prima facie case for retaliation
a plaintiff must be able to show that 1) he engaged in activity protected by the ADA; 2) that he
suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) that a causal connection exists between the
protected activity and the adverse employment action. Tabatchnik v. Cont'l Airlines, 262 F.
App'x 674, 676 (5th Cir. 2008). Gordon argues that by threatening to take his complaints about
Ramirez following their altercation to the EEOC on January 9, 2014, the subsequent “adverse
employment actions” he suffered were causally related to the threat. The adverse employment
action here, he argues, was the refusal of the “reasonable accommodation.”
In his email to Osgood and Conord, Gordon only reported inappropriate behavior by
Ramirez that arose after Gordon objected to Ramirez’s supervisory decisions. Gordon was not
claiming that the incident occurred because of his disability, and neither Osgood nor Conord
knew about his disability at that time. Gordon was making threats because he felt he was
verbally assaulted. He cannot be said to have opposed an unlawful employment practice when
the employer had no reason to believe Gordon was complaining about illegal discrimination. See
Alack v. Beau Rivage Resorts, Inc., 286 F. Supp. 2d 771, 775 (S.D. Miss. 2003) (“Although
express complaints to supervisors about perceived discriminatory practices constitute protected
activity, the “wide range” of protected activity clearly does not include those situations where the
opposition relates not to unlawful employment practices but to a personal grievance.”) (quoting
Garcia–Paz v. Swift Textiles, Inc., 873 F.Supp. 547, 559–60 (D. Kan. 1995)). Gordon further
confirmed that he was not complaining about illegal discrimination in later discussions with
Osgood and Conord when he never linked his concerns about Ramirez’s behavior or “retaliation”
to his edema. Gordon’s concerns were ordinary workplace issues and personal grievances; any
connection to his disability in this case was made post hoc and then immediately addressed when
it was raised.
Second, assuming Gordon did engage in protected activity, Gordon did not suffer an
adverse employment action.
As discussed above, Acosta did not refuse him a reasonable
accommodation or create a hostile work environment. Gordon admitted during his deposition
that Ramirez took no other negative action toward him after their altercation.
Third, even if Acosta did take adverse employment action and Gordon’s threat to go to
the EEOC for verbal assault was a protected activity, he could not show a causal connection
between the two. Gordon has offered no facts and there is no evidence to support a causal
connection between the threatened EEOC complaint and any negative actions taken towards him
aside from Gordon’s subjective belief. Jones v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc., No. CIV A 3:07-CV-1383L, 2009 WL 1904842, at *6 (N.D. Tex. July 2, 2009), aff'd, 392 F. App'x 275 (5th Cir. 2010). In
fact, Conord worked with him extensively, and Acosta assured him that Ramirez would take no
further negative action toward him. Therefore, Acosta is granted summary judgment on the
D. Constructive Discharge
Gordon has the burden of showing constructive discharge. See Jurgens v. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, 903 F.2d 386, 390–91 (5th Cir. 1990). To establish a
constructive discharge claim, Gordon must show that his working conditions were “so
intolerable that a reasonable employee in [his] position would [have felt] compelled to resign.”
Hockman v. Westward Commc'ns, LLC, 407 F.3d 317, 331 (5th Cir. 2004) (internal citations
Courts consider the following factors when determining whether a reasonable
employee would feel compelled to resign: 1) demotion; 2) reduction in salary; 3) reduction in job
responsibilities; 4) reassignment to menial or degrading work; 5) reassignment to work under a
younger supervisor; 6) badgering, harassment, or humiliation by the employer calculated to
encourage the employee's resignation; or 7) offers of early retirement or continued employment
on terms less favorable that the employee's former status. See Brown v. Kinney Shoe Corp., 237
F.3d 556, 566 (5th Cir. 2001) (citing Brown v. Bunge Corp., 207 F.3d 776, 782 (5th Cir. 2000)).
Proof of “constructive discharge requires a greater degree of harassment than that required by a
hostile environment claim.” Lauderdale v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice, Institutional Div.,
512 F.3d 157, 167 (5th Cir. 2007) (citing Kinney Shoe, 237 F.3d at 566). Aside from arguably
reduced job responsibilities, which Gordon himself insisted upon after Ramirez suggested only a
change in his responsibilities, Gordon shows none of the factors courts consider for constructive
discharge. See Kinney Shoe Corp., 237 F.3d at 566. Additionally, the Court found Gordon was
not subjected to an actionable hostile work environment above.
Gordon cites a Tenth Circuit case to argue his constructive discharge claim should
survive because Acosta offered him a “Hobson’s Choice” of equally intolerable options which
would have caused him to be worse than the status quo. Mitchell v. Mobil Oil Corp., 896 F.2d
463, 467-68 (10th Cir. 1990). Mitchell cites Bodnar v. Synpol, Inc., 843 F.2d 190, 193 (5th Cir.
1988) for the proposition that such a choice is sufficient evidence to support a constructive
discharge claim. Notwithstanding that Mitchell and Bodnar are forced retirement constructive
discharge cases, Acosta did not offer Gordon two equally intolerable options that were worse
than the status quo. In fact, they offered him the status quo plus additional assurances he could
continue to take breaks as often as he needed.
Therefore, the Court finds as a matter of law that
Gordon was not constructively discharged because he has demonstrated none of the Kinney Shoe
factors and his claims for hostile work environment already failed.
For all of the above stated reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s motion for summary
judgment. Docket no. 21. Plaintiff shall take nothing by his claims and his claims are dismissed
on the merits. Judgment in favor of Defendant shall issue separately according to Rule 58.
Defendant is awarded costs and shall file a bill of costs pursuant to the local rules.
It is so ORDERED.
SIGNED this 22nd day of December, 2014.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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