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Anthony v. Trax International Corp.

United States District Court, D. Arizona

April 16, 2018

Sunny Anthony, Plaintiff,
Trax International Corporation, Defendant.


          Eileen S. Willett United States Magistrate Judge.

         On August 2, 2016, Sunny Anthony (“Plaintiff”) filed this action against her former employer, TRAX International Corporation (“TRAX” or “Defendant”). (Doc. 1). In her two-count Complaint, Plaintiff alleges discrimination and retaliation under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).

         Pending before the Court are the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment (Docs. 44, 46). Both parties have moved for summary judgment on the discrimination claim in Count One. Defendant also moves for summary judgment on the retaliation claim in Count Two. After reviewing the parties' briefing, the Court will grant Defendant's Motion (Doc. 44) and will deny Plaintiff's Motion (Doc. 46).[1]


         In April 2010, Defendant hired Plaintiff for a Technical Writer I position. (Doc. 51 at 1, ¶ 1). The job description for the Technical Writer I position stated that the applicant must possess a bachelor's degree in English, journalism, or a related field. (Id. at 3, ¶ 8). Contrary to Plaintiff's averment on her employment application, Plaintiff does not have a bachelor's degree. (Id. at 2-3, ¶¶ 2, 5-6).

         In January 2012, Plaintiff submitted a written complaint to her supervisor concerning the alleged hostile and aggressive behavior of a co-worker. (Id. at 7, ¶¶ 21-22). Plaintiff alleged that the co-worker's behavior adversely affected her mental and physical health. (Id., ¶ 22). The co-worker was terminated shortly after Plaintiff submitted her complaint. (Id., ¶ 23).

         In April 2012, Plaintiff applied for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) due to Plaintiff's own health conditions. (Id., ¶ 24). Plaintiff's physician indicated that Plaintiff suffered from a number of conditions, such as fatigue, excessive weight gain, panic attacks, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue, which would likely continue until May 30, 2012. (Id. at 8, ¶ 25, 28). Defendant approved the leave with an effective date of April 4, 2012. (Id. at 7, ¶ 24). On June 1, 2012, Plaintiff requested to work from home. (Id. at 9, ¶ 30). The request was denied on June 4, 2012. (Id.).

         In a June 25, 2012 letter, TRAX's Benefits Coordinator notified Plaintiff that her FMLA leave would be exhausted as of June 27, 2012. (Id., ¶ 32). The letter also instructed Plaintiff to respond no later than June 28, 2012 to discuss “options going forward” and stated that failure to respond by the deadline “will result in termination of your employment.” (Id. at 10, ¶ 33). On July 24, 2012, the Benefits Coordinator emailed Plaintiff explaining that, consistent with TRAX's precedent, Plaintiff will be given an additional thirty days of leave time before TRAX takes action with respect to the expiration of Plaintiff's FMLA leave. (Id., ¶ 35). The email explained that unless Plaintiff provides a full work release by July 26, 2012, Plaintiff will be terminated from her employment. (Id.). Plaintiff did not submit a full work release, and Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment effective July 30, 2012. (Id., ¶ 36).

         On September 17, 2012, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. at 11, ¶ 40). On March 2, 2016, the EEOC issued a cause determination in Plaintiff's favor. (Doc. 47 at 8, ¶ 36; Doc. 53 at 7, ¶ 36).


         Summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence, when reviewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, demonstrates “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). Substantive law determines which facts are material in a case and “only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under 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).

         Because “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . [t]he evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor” at the summary judgment stage. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)); Harris v. Itzhaki, 183 F.3d 1043, 1051 (9th Cir. 1999) (“Issues of credibility, including questions of intent, should be left to the jury.”) (citations omitted).

         When moving for summary judgment, the burden of proof initially rests with the moving party to present the basis for his motion and to identify those portions of the record and affidavits that he believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the movant fails to carry his initial burden of production, the non-movant need not produce anything further. The motion for summary judgment would then fail. However, if the movant meets his initial burden of production, then the burden shifts to the non-moving party to show that a genuine issue of material fact exists and that the movant is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 250; Triton Energy Corp. v. Square D. Co., 68 F.3d 1216, 1221 (9th Cir. 1995). The nonmovant need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in his favor. First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Serv.Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968). However, he must “come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal citation and emphasis omitted); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1).

         Finally, conclusory allegations unsupported by factual material are insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Taylor v. List,880 F.2d 1040, 1045 (9th Cir. 1989); see also Soremekun v. Thrifty Payless, Inc., 502 F.3d 978, 984 (9th Cir. 2007) (“[c]onclusory, speculative testimony in affidavits and moving papers is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and ...

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