85 F.3d 1311 (8th Cir. 1996), 95-1255, Aucutt v. Six Flags Over Mid-America, Inc.

Docket Nº:95-1255.
Citation:85 F.3d 1311
Party Name:Michael AUCUTT, Appellant, v. SIX FLAGS OVER MID-AMERICA, INC., a Missouri corporation in good standing, Appellee. Equal Employment Advisory Council, Amicus Curiae.
Case Date:June 05, 1996
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

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85 F.3d 1311 (8th Cir. 1996)

Michael AUCUTT, Appellant,


SIX FLAGS OVER MID-AMERICA, INC., a Missouri corporation in

good standing, Appellee.

Equal Employment Advisory Council, Amicus Curiae.

No. 95-1255.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 5, 1996

Submitted Nov. 16, 1995.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Paul Ground, Manchester, MO, argued, for appellant.

Thomas Walsh, St. Louis, MO, argued (Paula Finlay Luepke, on the brief), for appellee.

Before McMILLIAN, FLOYD R. GIBSON, and LOKEN, Circuit Judges.

McMILLIAN, Circuit Judge.

Michael Aucutt appeals from a final judgment entered in the United States District Court 1 for the Eastern District of Missouri granting summary judgment in favor of Six Flags over Mid-America, Inc. (Six Flags). Aucutt v. Six Flags Over Mid-America, Inc., 869 F.Supp. 736, 744 (E.D.Mo.1994). For reversal, plaintiff argues the district court erred in holding that (1) plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case on his Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

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claim or, in the alternative, had failed to rebut the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for his termination proffered by defendant and (2) plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For the reasons discussed below, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

I. Background

After a career in the United States Army, Aucutt was hired by Six Flags in April 1990 as a seasonal security guard at its amusement park in Eureka, Missouri. At the time he was hired, Aucutt was 41 years old. In May 1990, Six Flags made Aucutt a full-time security guard. His duties in this position included patrolling the amusement park and its parking lot. Aucutt held this position until October 1992, when he was discharged, at the age of 44.

During his employment at Six Flags, Aucutt was diagnosed with high blood pressure, angina, and coronary artery disease. He informed his supervisors at Six Flags of these medical conditions. In July 1991, Aucutt became ill while at work. He was transported to a hospital, treated for high blood pressure and released after several days. He returned to work approximately three weeks later with a doctor's statement releasing him for work and stating that he should not lift more than twenty-five pounds. Aucutt alleges that when he returned to work, Tom Robertson, the vice-president of Six Flags, initially told him that he would be discharged but later informed him that he would not be discharged after all. Aucutt also alleges that on the same day, Keith Hendricks, the Admissions Supervisor, told him that the "insurance people did not want him back [at] ... work." Joint App. 45-46. Six Flags denies these allegations. It is undisputed, however, that Six Flags refused Aucutt's repeated requests to be allowed to drive air-conditioned vehicles on warm days. Six Flags was also aware that Aucutt could not perform a "streams course," a mandatory employee obstacle course, without experiencing severe pain.

At the end of the 1992 season, William Haviluk, the General Manager of the Six Flags in Eureka reviewed the park's operating results and decided to engage in a reduction-in-force (RIF) at the park. Haviluk implemented layoffs which affected several of the park's departments. He directed Mike Chilovich, the Manager of Security, to reorganize the Security Department. It was decided that three security positions (two sergeants and one officer) would be eliminated as part of the RIF. In October 1992, after evaluating the officers and sergeants under his supervision, Chilovich concluded that Aucutt would be terminated. Chilovich Aff. p 12. According to Chilovich, Aucutt was selected because of his low productivity and abrasive, "militaristic" attitude towards park patrons. For example, on one occasion Aucutt had made patrons perform push-ups in the parking lot; he had also conducted several unauthorized searches of patrons' vehicles for liquor. Chilovich Aff. p 7-8. Although Chilovich had not personally observed these incidents, he did counsel Aucutt about his negative attitude at work. In February 1992, Chilovich specifically informed Aucutt that a failure to improve his work attitude would result in termination. Chilovich Aff. p 11. However, according to Six Flags, Aucutt continued to demonstrate an abrasive demeanor while on duty.

When Chilovich recommended Aucutt for layoff in October 1992 as part of the RIF, Haviluk concurred. At the time of his layoff, Aucutt was 44 years old and the oldest uniformed security officer at the park. Eight months later, following the termination of another uniformed security officer, a long-term Six Flags employee below the age of 40 was transferred into the Security Department as a uniformed security officer.

After exhausting his administrative remedies, Aucutt instituted the present action on September 24, 1993, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleging his layoff was discriminatorily based upon his age and his medical conditions, in violation of the ADEA and ADA, respectively. On December 6, 1994, upon motion by Six Flags, the district court entered summary judgment in favor of Six

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Flags, holding that Aucutt had failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination under either the ADEA or the ADA. Further, the district court found that even if Aucutt had established a prima facie case of age discrimination, he had failed to rebut the legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for his layoff articulated by Six Flags. Op. at 1318, 1320. This timely appeal followed.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. The question before the district court, and this court on appeal, is whether the record, when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510-11, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Get Away Club, Inc. v. Coleman, 969 F.2d 664, 666 (8th Cir.1992); St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Co. v. FDIC, 968 F.2d 695, 699 (8th Cir.1992). Where the unresolved issues are primarily legal rather than factual, summary judgment is particularly appropriate. Crain v. Board of Police Comm'rs, 920 F.2d 1402, 1405-06 (8th Cir.1990).

B. ADEA Claim

On appeal, Aucutt contends that the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Six Flags on his ADEA claim for three reasons. First, he argues the district...

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