United States District Court, D. Nevada
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Dkt. No. 30)
ANDREW P. GORDON, District Judge.
On or about March 8, 2011, Centennial Imports, Inc. ("Centennial") hired Paige Poole as a Sales/Internet Consultant. On or about June 30, 2011, Centennial promoted Poole to Internet Sales Manager (also called Internet BDC Manager or BDC Manager). On July 25, Centennial's human resources consultant, AdvanStaff HR, sent a letter to Poole informing him that it had received his request for a medical leave of absence and that, "[i]n accordance with the Employee Handbook, you are entitled to take an unpaid leave of absence with the approval of both the General Manager and Executive Management." The letter stated that Poole may be required to provide medical documentation of his reason for leave, the date that leave would begin, and the expected duration of the disability.
On September 19, 2011, Poole informed Jan Sheinfeld, Centennial's General Manager, that Poole would undergo knee surgery in two days. In response, Sheinfeld discharged Poole and told him that he could return if he provided a doctor's note releasing him to work. On September 21, 2011, Poole had knee surgery. On October 6, he filed a charge of disability discrimination with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter to Poole on January 20, 2012.
On April 17, 2012, Poole filed his Complaint in this case, claiming that Centennial violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing him because of the alleged disability resulting from his third knee surgery without affording him a reasonable accommodation. Centennial has moved for summary judgment.
A. Legal Standard - Summary Judgment, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for summary adjudication when the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case. A dispute as to a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party. "Summary judgment is inappropriate if reasonable jurors, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor." A principal purpose of summary judgment is "to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims."
In determining summary judgment, courts apply a burden-shifting analysis. "When the party moving for summary judgment would bear the burden of proof at trial, it must come forward with evidence which would entitle it to a directed verdict if the evidence went uncontroverted at trial. In such a case, the moving party has the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of fact on each issue material to its case." In contrast, when the nonmoving party bears the burden of proving the claim or defense, the moving party can meet its burden in two ways: (1) by presenting evidence to negate an essential element of the nonmoving party's case; or (2) by demonstrating that the nonmoving party failed to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to that party's case on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. If the moving party fails to meet its initial burden, summary judgment must be denied and the court need not consider the nonmoving party's evidence.
If the moving party satisfies its initial burden, the burden then shifts to the opposing party to establish either that a genuine issue of material fact exists or that the moving party is not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To establish the existence of a factual dispute, the opposing party need not establish a material issue of fact conclusively in its favor. It is sufficient that "the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." In other words, the nonmoving party cannot avoid summary judgment by relying solely on conclusory allegations that are unsupported by factual data. Instead, the opposition must go beyond the assertions and allegations of the pleadings and set forth specific facts supported by competent evidence that shows a genuine issue for trial.
At summary judgment, a court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. The evidence of the nonmovant is "to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." But if the evidence of the nonmoving party is merely colorable or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.
B. The Americans with Disabilities Act
The ADA provides that "[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability[.]" To establish a prima facie case under the ADA, Poole must demonstrate that "(1) he is disabled within the meaning of the ADA; (2) he is a qualified individual able to perform the essential functions of his job with [or without] ...