Booth v. Nissan North America, Inc., 060719 FED6, 18-5985

Docket Nº:18-5985
Opinion Judge:NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:Michael Adam Booth, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Nissan North America, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.
Attorney:Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant. Stanley E. Graham, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant. Stanley E. Graham, Brittany Stanc...
Judge Panel:Before: GUY, SUTTON, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 07, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Michael Adam Booth, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

Nissan North America, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 18-5985

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 7, 2019

Argued: April 30, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:17-cv-00755-William Lynn Campbell, Jr., District Judge.

ARGUED:

Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Stanley E. Graham, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Stanley E. Graham, Brittany Stancombe Hopper, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: GUY, SUTTON, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judge.

After Michael Booth started working at a Nissan factory in Tennessee, he injured his neck and sought medical treatment. Booth's physician recommended several work restrictions, including that he not reach above his head or flex his neck too much, but the restrictions did not sideline Booth. Indeed, he continued to work on the assembly line for about a decade without incident. But in 2015, the work restrictions became relevant again. Booth requested a transfer to a different position in the factory, which Nissan denied because that position's duties conflicted with Booth's work restrictions. Booth contends that Nissan's denial was disability discrimination that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.

Soon after Booth requested the transfer, Nissan announced plans to restructure the assembly line. While Booth and his co-workers on the line had performed two discrete jobs, Nissan wanted to modify the line so that workers would perform four jobs. Booth alleges that the two additional jobs Nissan assigned to him would have violated his work restrictions-and that when he informed Nissan about this conflict, Nissan told him to see a physician to assess whether he still needed the restrictions. Booth followed that request, and his physician modified the restrictions, clearing him to work all four jobs. Although Booth remains a Nissan employee, he claims that Nissan failed to accommodate him-a separate violation of the ADA-by pressuring him to remove his work restrictions.

Of course, to sue under the ADA, the plaintiff must be disabled. And just because a plaintiff has work restrictions does not mean that he is disabled. Because Booth has not advanced evidence that he is disabled under the ADA (among other reasons), his claims fail. We AFFIRM the district court's decision granting summary judgment to Nissan.

I.

After Booth had begun working at Nissan, he injured his neck in October 2004. Booth visited his physician, who issued a report recommending several permanent work restrictions, including that (1) Booth work overhead or above his shoulders no more than 33% of the time; and (2) Booth flex or extend his neck no more than 66% of the time. Those restrictions did not affect Booth's day-to-day job duties: Booth explained that "[f]rom 2004 through 2015, [he] worked within his original 2005 restrictions." (R. 32, Pl.'s Resp. to Statement of Material Facts at ¶ 9.) In April 2014, Nissan transferred Booth to a different part of the assembly line, the "door line," but Booth's work restrictions did not interfere with his work there, either.

This appeal concerns two events that occurred about a decade after Booth's physician recommended the work restrictions: (1) Booth's requested transfer to a material handling position; and (2) Booth's transition on the door line from a two-job position to a four-job position. We consider each event below.

Material Handling Transfer.

Sometime in September or October 2015, Booth requested a transfer to a material handling position. If Nissan had granted the transfer, Booth would not have seen any changes to his pay or benefits. But Booth alleges that the material handling position was less stressful and thus more desirable than his position on the line. Nissan refers internally to the material handling role as a "preferred" position that it awards to applicants based on seniority and their ability to perform the position's essential functions.

Nissan denied Booth's transfer request. In November 2015, Nissan human resources representative Darron Keith informed Booth that although he had enough seniority to apply for the material handling position, his work restrictions conflicted with the position's requirements. Booth, however, insisted that he could perform the role without violating his restrictions, and asked to speak about Nissan's decision with other supervisors. The next month, Booth met with Debbie Nelson, a manager in Nissan's medical department, to discuss why Nissan had denied his transfer request. Once again, Booth heard that his work restrictions conflicted with the duties of the material handling role. Not satisfied with that explanation, Booth continued to pursue the matter with his supervisors; in October 2016, Booth met with Randy Knight, a Nissan senior manager, to discuss why Nissan denied his transfer application. Knight promised to get back to Booth, but in the interim, Booth remained in his position on the line.

Door Line Transition.

When Booth arrived at the door line in 2014, workers there had to perform two discrete jobs. For Booth, that meant installing the right-side water shield and the left-side regulator. But around the time Booth requested the transfer, Nissan announced plans to overhaul its assembly lines, including the door line. Rather than perform two discrete installation jobs, door line workers would have to install four components of a car. In Booth's case, Nissan wanted him to start installing the left-side door glass and left-side door panel along with the two jobs he was already performing. When Booth met with Darron Keith in November 2015 to discuss the material handling position, he told Keith that the two new installation jobs Nissan...

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