United States District Court, D. Colorado
A. BRIMMER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on defendant American Honda
Motor Company, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket
No. 38]. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1331.
case arises out of an employment dispute. Plaintiff began
working for defendant in 1987. Docket No. 38 at 3, ¶ 3.
At all times relevant to this lawsuit, plaintiff was a Senior
District Parts & Service Manager (“DPSM”) in
defendant's Zone 10, which encompasses the states of
Colorado, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and West Texas. Id.,
¶¶ 4-5. DPSMs are assigned to specific districts
within their respective zones and are responsible for
improving the performance of parts and service departments at
dealerships within their districts. Id.,
¶¶ 6-7. Candidates for DPSM positions are informed
during the interview process that travel and relocation are
core components of the job. Id. at 4, ¶ 12.
Conducting in-person visits to dealerships enables DPSMs to
build rapport with dealers, personally observe parts and
service operations, verify the accuracy of dealer reports,
inspect inventory, handle customer complaints, and assess
vehicles for problems. Id., ¶ 11. While working
as a DPSM, plaintiff spent 80% of his time traveling.
Id., ¶ 13.
of an effort to reorganize its districts, defendant
transferred plaintiff from the Utah/Western Colorado District
to the Denver District on or about April 1, 2014.
Id. at 5, ¶¶ 21-22. Plaintiff lived in a
hotel in Denver during the week and commuted back home to
Salt Lake City on the weekends. Id. at 5-6, ¶
25. On May 13, 2014, plaintiff experienced a panic attack
while visiting a dealership in Thornton, Colorado.
Id. at 6, ¶ 27. After being taken to a local
hospital, plaintiff returned home to Salt Lake City.
Id., ¶¶ 28-29. He was diagnosed with
anxiety and depression. Id., ¶ 30. Defendant
granted plaintiff an initial leave of absence from work
through June 23, 2014. Id., ¶¶ 31-32.
18, 2014, plaintiff gave defendant a note from his physician
requesting that plaintiff's duties be confined to Salt
Lake City until July 30, 2014. Id. at 7, ¶ 35.
Defendant rejected the proposed accommodation on the basis
that it would eliminate an essential function of
plaintiff's position, namely, in-person contact with
dealerships. Id., ¶ 36. Instead, defendant allowed
plaintiff to remain on leave provided that he did not
continue to work. Id., ¶¶ 37-39.
defendant's instructions to stop working, plaintiff
contacted dealers on or about June 13, 2014 via his personal
email. Id., ¶ 39. On July 2 and August 1, 2014,
defendant granted plaintiffs' requests to extend his
leave of absence, thereby continuing plaintiff's leave
through the end of August 2014. Id., ¶¶
40-41. On August 20, 2014, plaintiff submitted reasonable
accommodation request forms proposing that his duties be
confined to Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas.
Id. at 8, ¶¶ 43-44; see also
Docket No. 39-6 at 3. The forms stated that the anticipated
end date of these restrictions was “unknown.”
Docket No. 38 at 8, ¶ 44; see also Docket No.
39-6 at 3. On August 29, 2014, plaintiff's treating
physician, Dr. Gregory S. Daynes, submitted a note stating
that plaintiff had “reached the maximum effectiveness
of [his] current treatment” and that it was
“imperative that he work remotely and . . . from Salt
Lake City.” Docket No. 39-7; Docket No. 38 at 8, ¶
45. That same day, defendant's Senior Associate Relations
Representative, Catherine Petrillo, informed plaintiff that
defendant could not agree to the proposed accommodation.
Docket No. 38 at 8, ¶ 47. Ms. Petrillo offered plaintiff
continued medical leave or reassignment to a Utah-based
position as soon as one became available. Id.,
¶ 48. She also told plaintiff that he was required to
stop all work while on leave and that failure to do so would
result in his termination. Id. at 9, ¶ 49. On
September 2, 2014, plaintiff contacted dealers via his
personal cell phone and email account. Id., ¶
October 6, 2014, plaintiff requested that defendant move the
employee working in the Denver-based Collision Select
Position into plaintiff's role as DPSM and then transfer
the Collision Select position to Salt Lake City where it
could be filled by plaintiff. Id., ¶ 53.
Defendant did not accept this proposal because the Collision
Select position required even more travel than the DPSM
October 9, 2014, plaintiff traveled to Colorado and visited
at least four dealerships. Id., ¶ 54. After
learning of plaintiff's conduct, defendant's Senior
Manager of Parts and Service Operations, Bryan Morris, again
instructed plaintiff to stop contacting dealers. Id.
at 9-10, ¶ 56. The next day, plaintiff visited another
dealership. Id. at 10, ¶ 57. On October 11,
2014, defendant terminated plaintiff's employment.
Id., ¶ 58.
filed this lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the
District of Utah on May 26, 2016. Docket Nos. 1-28 at 2. The
case was transferred to this Court on November 21, 2016.
Docket No. 1. In his complaint, plaintiff asserts claims for
age and disability discrimination under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
(“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq.,
and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”),
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., failure to provide
reasonable accommodations in violation of the ADA,
retaliation, and denial of disability benefits under the
Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
(“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 1001-1461.
Docket No. 5. Defendant moved for summary judgment on
all claims on November 17, 2017. Docket No. 38. On December
12, 2017, plaintiff filed a response to defendant's
motion for summary judgment, Docket No. 53, to which
defendant replied on December 27, 2017. Docket No. 55.
judgment is warranted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
56 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);
see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
248-50 (1986). A disputed fact is “material” if
under the relevant substantive law it is essential to proper
disposition of the claim. Wright v. Abbott Labs.,
Inc., 259 F.3d 1226, 1231-32 (10th Cir. 2001). Only
disputes over material facts can create a genuine issue for
trial and preclude summary judgment. Faustin v. City
& Cty. of Denver, 423 F.3d 1192, 1198 (10th Cir.
2005). An issue is “genuine” if the evidence is
such that it might lead a reasonable jury to return a verdict
for the nonmoving party. Allen v. Muskogee, 119 F.3d
837, 839 (10th Cir. 1997).
“the moving party does not bear the ultimate burden of
persuasion at trial, it may satisfy its burden at the summary
judgment stage by identifying a lack of evidence for the
nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant's
claim.” Bausman v. Interstate Brands Corp.,
252 F.3d 1111, 1115 (10th Cir. 2001) (internal quotation
marks omitted) (quoting Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores,
Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998)). “Once
the moving party meets this burden, the burden shifts to the
nonmoving party to demonstrate a genuine issue for trial on a
material matter.” Concrete Works of Colo., Inc. v.
City & Cty. of Denver, 36 F.3d 1513, 1518 (10th Cir.
1994). The nonmoving party may not rest solely on the
allegations in the pleadings, but instead must designate
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 324 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). “To
avoid summary judgment, the nonmovant must establish, at a
minimum, an inference of the presence of each element
essential to the case.” Bausman, 252 F.3d at
party moving for summary judgment bears the ultimate burden
of persuasion at trial, it must “support its motion
with credible evidence . . . that would entitle it to a
directed verdict if not controverted at trial.”
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 331. This “shifts
the burden of production to the party opposing the motion and
requires that party either to produce evidentiary materials
that demonstrate the existence of a ‘genuine issue'
for trial or to submit an affidavit requesting additional
time for discovery.” Id. When reviewing a
motion for summary judgment, a court must view the evidence
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.
Disability Discrimination Claims
asserts two claims for disability discrimination under the
ADA: failure to accommodate and discriminatory discharge.
Docket No. 51 at 2; Docket No. 53 at 14-18. While there are
some differences between the analyses applied to these two
claims,  a plaintiff seeking to establish a prima
facie case under either theory must generally “show
that (1) he is disabled as defined under the [ADA]; (2) he is
qualified, with or without reasonable accommodation by the
employer, to perform the essential functions
of the job; and (3) he was discriminated against because of
his disability.” Adair v. City of Muskogee,823 F.3d 1297, 1304 (10th Cir. 2016) (quoting 42 U.S.C.
§ 12112(a)); see also Punt, 862 F.3d at 1050
(stating that employee asserting a failure-to-accommodate
claim “must make an initial showing that (1) [he] is
disabled; (2) [he] is ‘otherwise qualified'; and
(3) [he] requested a plausibly reasonable
accommodation”). “Discrimination” under the