791 F.3d 938 (8th Cir. 2015), 14-2244, Sellers v. Deere & Co.

Docket Nº:14-2244
Citation:791 F.3d 938
Opinion Judge:RILEY, Chief Judge.
Party Name:Michael Joseph Sellers, Plaintiff - Appellant v. Deere & Company, also known as John Deere Company; Clyde D'Cruz, Defendants - Appellees
Attorney:For Michael Joseph Sellers, Plaintiff - Appellant: Amy B. Pellegrin, Gregory Thomas Racette, Patrick Thomas Vint, HOPKINS & HUEBNER, Des Moines, IA. For Deere & Company, also known as John Deere Company, Clyde D'Cruz, Defendants - Appellees: Frances M. Haas, Attorney, NYEMASTER & GOODE, Cedar Rap...
Judge Panel:Before RILEY, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:July 02, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
SUMMARY

Sellers, a Deere employee for more than 30 years, sued Deere and his supervisor, alleging age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. 621, and the Iowa Civil Rights Act; disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act), 42 U.S.C. 12101; retaliation under the ADEA, ICRA, and ADA; and harassment because of his age and disability. The district... (see full summary)

 
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791 F.3d 938 (8th Cir. 2015)

Michael Joseph Sellers, Plaintiff - Appellant

v.

Deere & Company, also known as John Deere Company; Clyde D'Cruz, Defendants - Appellees

No. 14-2244

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

July 2, 2015

         Submitted: March 24, 2015.

Page 939

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Waterloo.

         For Michael Joseph Sellers, Plaintiff - Appellant: Amy B. Pellegrin, Gregory Thomas Racette, Patrick Thomas Vint, HOPKINS & HUEBNER, Des Moines, IA.

         For Deere & Company, also known as John Deere Company, Clyde D'Cruz, Defendants - Appellees: Frances M. Haas, Attorney, NYEMASTER & GOODE, Cedar Rapids, IA; Frank Boyd Harty, Debra Lynne Hulett, Ryan W. Leemkuil, Angel A. West, NYEMASTER & GOODE, Des Moines, IA.

         Before RILEY, Chief Judge, COLLOTON and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

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          RILEY, Chief Judge.

         Michael Sellers, an employee at Deere & Company (Deere) for over thirty years, sued Deere and his supervisor, Clyde D'Cruz (collectively, defendants), alleging (1) age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA), Iowa Code § 216; (2) disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (3) retaliation under the ADEA, ICRA, and ADA; and (4) harassment because of his age and disability.1 The district court2 granted summary judgment

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in favor of the defendants. Sellers appeals, and we affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background3

         Sellers, who was in his mid to late forties when the events of this case transpired, began working for Deere in 1979 and worked in several positions throughout his tenure. In 2001, D'Cruz, who recently had become Sellers's manager, changed Sellers's position from Supply Management Specialist to Process Pro for the supply management department. This was a lateral job change that did not alter Sellers's pay or benefits, and Sellers remained classified as a " Grade 7" employee. Process Pro was a " dynamic," " fluid" position " in which job assignments and projects c[ould] change" and " responsibilities could be added" at any time.

         Although Sellers and D'Cruz got along well initially, and D'Cruz considered Sellers his " right-hand man," the relationship soon began to deteriorate. Sellers observed D'Cruz had a poor attitude towards older employees and overheard D'Cruz make negative statements about older employees, comparing them to " sheep that can be slaughtered" and repeatedly saying, " We need to get all these old farts [or 'old dogs'] out of here." Upon hearing these statements, Sellers spoke with D'Cruz, telling him these comments " sound[ed] an awful lot like age discrimination" and recommending D'Cruz " temper [his] words." Sellers contends D'Cruz then acted on his words by promoting younger employees, which created a " gap in knowledge" in the supply management department.

         On two occasions in 2003, D'Cruz became frustrated with Sellers and yelled at and berated Sellers in front of other employees. D'Cruz had problems with Sellers's work, noting Sellers struggled when interacting with others and had " analysis paralysis."

         In August 2003, Daria Jerauld became Manager of Supply Management Business Processes. Jerauld directly supervised Sellers and reported to D'Cruz. After Jerauld was hired, Sellers's duties began to increase: he took over the work of other employees, was assigned to supervise three people, and had a number of " tasks thrown at him . . . out of the blue." Sellers told Jerauld he was unsure of taking on the new responsibilities because he had been struggling with depression, but Jerauld told him, " You are the only one who can do this" and warned Sellers not to tell D'Cruz about his depression. In January 2004, Sellers told Jerauld his workload had become unmanageable. " Her response was to simplify the job." Jerauld and D'Cruz continued experiencing problems with Sellers, and in Sellers's 2004 performance evaluation, Jerauld was critical of Sellers and rated him " does not meet expectations."

         Sellers complains that in late 2004 and early 2005, Jerauld forbade him from using conference rooms and D'Cruz refused Sellers's request that any newly assigned duties be put in writing. Sellers made these requests because he was struggling with mental health issues that affected his concentration and short-term memory. Sellers initially began treatment for depression and anxiety in 2000, but his symptoms worsened throughout 2004 and 2005, and in 2005, Sellers was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder arising in

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part from the stress Sellers experienced at work. On March 1, 2005, Sellers took medical leave and has not returned to work since.

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 26, 2005, Sellers filed a discrimination charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging discrimination based on retaliation, age, and disability. The EEOC cross-filed the complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC). After investigating, the EEOC could not determine if Deere had violated any laws and issued Sellers a right-to-sue letter on April 17, 2012. The ICRC also issued a right-to-sue letter, at Sellers's request, on July 26, 2012.

         Sellers then brought the instant suit claiming age discrimination, failure to accommodate his disability, disparate treatment because of his disability, retaliation, and a hostile work environment. Defendants moved for summary judgment on all claims. The district court found Sellers could not establish a prima facie case of discrimination because he had not suffered an adverse employment action and could not prove other elements of his claims and further found Sellers had not alleged sufficient facts to support a hostile work environment claim. The district court granted defendants summary judgment, and Sellers appeals.

         II. DISCUSSION

          " We review de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment to [defendants], viewing the facts in the light most favorable to [Sellers] and giving h[im] the benefit of all reasonable inferences." Tramp v. Associated Underwriters, Inc., 768 F.3d 793, 798 (8th Cir. 2014). Apparently overlooking our en banc decision in Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031 (8th Cir. 2011), Sellers contends, " 'Summary judgment is disfavored in employment discrimination cases.'" (Quoting Simpson v. Des Moines Water Works, 425 F.3d 538, 542 (8th Cir. 2005), abrogated by Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1058 app.). We again reiterate " [t]here is no 'discrimination case exception' to the application of summary judgment." Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1043 (quoting Fercello v. Cnty. of Ramsey, 612 F.3d 1069, 1077 (8th Cir. 2010)). We evaluate Sellers's claim using the usual summary judgment standard and only " will affirm summary judgment if 'there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact...

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