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Rue v. Hickman's Egg Ranch Inc.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 12, 2016

April Rue, Plaintiff,
v.
Hickman's Egg Ranch Incorporated, Defendant.

ORDER

Honorable G. Murray Snow United States District Judge

Pending before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment by Defendant Hickman’s Egg Ranch Incorporated (“Hickman’s”). (Doc. 41.) Also pending is the Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by Plaintiff April Rue. (Doc. 43.) For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s motion and denies Plaintiff’s motion.

BACKGROUND

On March 28, 2013, Hickman’s hired Rue to work in the accounting department. On Monday, April 15, two weeks after starting her new job, Rue fractured her right ankle in a car accident. Rue provided her supervisor a note from West Valley Hospital stating “No work until follow up w/ ortho” and requested time off. (Doc. 42-1 at PDF 60.) Hickman’s gave Rue the requested time off.

On April 18, Rue came to work and used a wheelchair. The parties dispute whether she was able to perform the non-sedentary aspects of her work. Following her return to work, she frequently arrived late and occasionally left early.[1] Rue provided her supervisor with a note dated April 25 from a physician’s assistant at Maricopa Integrated Health System that read, “It is my medical opinion that April Rue may return to sedentary work and must remain non-weight bearing to her right leg.” (Doc. 42-1 at PDF 62.) Hickman’s placed Rue on unpaid leave of absence until she was able to perform in her position without restrictions. Rue went on unpaid leave and never indicated to Hickman’s that she could return to work. Rue alleges that Hickman’s “effectively terminated” her and seeks relief under the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Doc. 48 at 8.)

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

The Court grants summary judgment when 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). In making this determination, the Court views the evidence “in a light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Warren v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441 (9th Cir.1995). Where the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court “evaluate[s] each motion independently, ‘giving the nonmoving party in each instance the benefit of all reasonable inferences.’” Lenz v. Universal Music Corp., 2015 WL 5315388, at *2 (9th Cir. Sept. 14, 2015) (quoting ACLU v. City of Las Vegas, 333 F.3d 1092, 1097 (9th Cir.2003)). “[A] party seeking summary judgment always 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.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

The party opposing summary judgment “may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [the party’s] pleadings, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Brinson v. Linda Rose Joint Venture, 53 F.3d 1044, 1049 (9th Cir. 1995). Substantive law determines which facts are material, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). “A fact issue is genuine ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.’” Villiarimo v. Aloha Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). Thus, the nonmoving party must show that the genuine factual issues “can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party.” Cal. Architectural Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818 F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250).

II. Analysis

“To state a prima facie case under the ADA, a plaintiff must prove that he is a qualified individual with a disability who suffered an adverse employment action because of his disability.” Sanders v. Arneson Products, Inc., 91 F.3d 1351, 1353 (9th Cir. 1996). The threshold question is whether the plaintiff’s “impairment is a ‘disability, ’ as that term is used in the ADA.” Id. at 1354.

“Disability” as used in the ADA is defined as: “(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual; (B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as having such an impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1). The non-exhaustive list of “major life activities” includes “walking, ” “standing, ” and “working.” Id. § 12102(2)(A).

A. “Substantially Limits”

“An impairment is a disability within the meaning of [the ADA] if it substantially limits the ability of an individual to perform a major life activity as compared to most people in the general population.” 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(j)(1)(ii). Congress provided that “[t]he term ‘substantially limits’ shall be construed broadly in favor of expansive coverage” and that “[a]n impairment need not prevent, or significantly or severely restrict, the individual from performing a major life activity in order to be considered substantially limiting.” Id. § 1630.2(j)(1)(i)-(ii). “Nonetheless, not every impairment will constitute a disability.” Id. ยง ...


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