Equal Emp't Opportunity Comm'n v. Celadon Trucking Servs., Inc.

Decision Date30 June 2015
Docket Number1:12-cv-00275-SEB-TAB
CourtU.S. District Court — Southern District of Indiana
Order on Cross Motions for Summary Judgment

This cause is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment: Plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's motion for partial summary judgment on liability under 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(2) [Docket No. 106], filed on October 6, 2014; and Defendant Celadon Trucking Services, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment on all claims [Docket No. 130], filed on November 6, 2014. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part, and Defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Factual Background

Defendant Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. ("Celadon") is an Indiana-based interstate motor carrier company whose drivers operate throughout the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Docket No. 108-1 (Glore Dep.), Ex. 20.1 As an interstate carrier, Celadon is subject to variousDepartment of Transportation (DOT) regulations, including those prescribing health and safety standards for its drivers. Among those requirements are that all drivers pass DOT-sanctioned medical examinations and otherwise possess certain minimum medical qualifications. See 49 C.F.R. §§ 391.41 et seq. As a firm with more than 15 employees, Celadon is also a "covered entity" subject to the protections of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111-12117.

Celadon's job application process consists of several stages. Starting in 2008 and continuing at least through 2011, that process began with an application form that, among other things, asked applicants to answer the following three "medical review" questions:

1. Have you ever been injured, hospitalized, had surgery, been treated by a doctor on an outpatient basis, currently being treated by a doctor [sic], or are you currently on any medications?
2. Have you ever been diagnosed with sleep apnea? If yes, you will need to obtain a sleep apnea form and be released by our medical department prior to attending orientation.
3. Have you ever had a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, or have had angioplasty (balloon) or stent placed? If yes, you will need to have a release from your physician and be cleared by our medical department prior to attending orientation.

Docket No. 132-2 (Chesterman Decl.), Ex. C. at 3-4; Docket No. 114-1 (Swartzlander Dep., pt. 2), Ex. 3. According to Recruiting Director David Chesterman, Celadon asked the three preliminary health questions with an eye towards the efficiency of the orientation process: "Knowing the applicants would have to disclose and/or bring releases for records pertaining to their medical histories in order to pass the DOT physical and receive a required DOT certificate,Celadon asked applicants [the three questions] prior to arrival . . . so that applicants would not needlessly be sent home from orientation for failing to bring the required information." Chesterman Decl. at ¶ 7. Applicants who answered "yes" to any of these questions and disclosed medical issues were provided with a Celadon medical release form and were instructed to return completed medical releases directly to the applicant's assigned recruiter. Docket No. 108-5 (Austin Dep.) at 50-522; Docket No. 108-6 (Brinkley Dep.) at 52-55. No applicants had received job offers by this point in the process. Chesterman Dep. 128; Swartzlander Dep. 71.

Once a prospective driver contacted Celadon, personnel in the company's recruiting department forwarded the applicant's information to a Celadon-employed recruiter, who performed background checks and evaluated applicants' basic qualifications. Those applicants who meet initial suitability criteria, such as an acceptable driver history and background check result, were invited to attend the next step in the process—the driver orientation program, which was conducted in Indianapolis at the company's expense. Docket No. 116-1 (Chesterman Dep.) at 44-61. Until at least 2010, as part of an "orientation check-in," recruiters called prospective drivers before their arrival and went over their responses to the application form, again asking them the three questions about their medical histories and prompting them to obtain release forms if necessary. Brinkley Dep. 43-60; Docket No. 108-7 (Johnson Dep.) at 32-40, Exs. 3-5. Despite the connotations of the term "orientation," attendees at Celadon's driver orientationprogram had not received any offer of employment, even a conditional one. Swartzlander Dep. 69-71 (stating that Celadon recruiters told applicants only that they had an "offer to attend orientation" at this stage); Austin Dep. 88-89. On arriving at driver orientation, drivers received the following "pre-employment acknowledgment letter," calling for their signature under the following statement:

I, [name], understand that the Orientation Program is part of the pre-employment process conducted by Celadon. I further understand that my status is "candidate for employment" and I will not become an "employee" until I have, 1.) successfully completed the Orientation Program and 2.) accepted dispatch.
Additionally, I agree that attending the Orientation Program does not constitute a binding agreement between Celadon and me that will necessarily result in my employment with Celadon. I also understand that an employer/employee relationship will not exist if the above conditions are not met.

Chesterman Dep., Ex. 9; Docket No. 108-2 (Osborn Dep.), Ex. 9.

The orientation program lasted three to four days. On the first day, applicants underwent physical examinations designed to ensure that they met DOT-mandated driver health standards. Chesterman Dep. 182-185. The exams were conducted by staff from Community Health Network, who issued applicants a DOT medical certificate upon passing the medical examination. Chesterman Decl. at ¶ 10; Exs. D, E, F; Docket No. 140-1 (Hon Decl., pt. 1) at ¶¶ 2-8. Celadon required all applicants for driver positions to pass a DOT physical and receive a certification from Community Health in order to receive a job offer. Hon Decl. at ¶ 9. The orientation program included several other steps, the completion of which were all prerequisites to receiving a job offer: a road driving test, a HAZMAT film and test, a truck maintenance course, a logbook procedures class and examination, and—depending on the applicant's driver record—a defensive driving course. Osborn Dep. 46-48, 107-109, Ex. 9; Docket No. 108-4 (Perkins Dep.) at 36-38, Ex. 11. See generally Chesterman Dep. 182-196. The company madean employment offer only after the orientation manager had certified that an applicant had completed orientation and the company's safety department had verified that the applicant's application file was complete. Chesterman Dep. 70-71, 106-107, 178-179, Ex. 10; Osborn Dep. 107-109; Perkins Dep. 36-38; Docket No. 108-3 (Steele Dep.) at 33-34, 51-56. According to Orientation Director Jessica Perkins, in 2013 Celadon began making conditional offers of employment to applicants at the beginning of orientation; employment with the company remains contingent on completing all of the orientation program's requirements, including the DOT physical exam. Perkins Dep. 30-32. The testimony of other Celadon officials, however, suggests that the company still withholds offers of any type until the conclusion of orientation. Chesterman Dep. 127-128; Osborn Dep. 46-48.

The EEOC brings this suit on behalf of two groups of applicants who sought jobs at Celadon during the period when the procedures described above were in place. The first group consists of 23 unsuccessful applicants, 22 of whom never received certifications that they had passed the required DOT physical and thus never received employment offers, and the last of whom—Jermaine Smith—passed his DOT physical but did not provide a required medical release form and was denied an employment offer on that basis.3 See Chesterman Decl. at ¶¶ 12-15; Hon Decl. at ¶¶ 4-8; Docket No. 132-6 (Wilcher Dep.) at 101-103. The second group, a subset of the first, consists of six applicants—David Gasser, Stephen Hudetts, William Smith, Harvey Landry, Patricia Kimbrell, and Haywood Glaze—who were likewise refused employment by Celadon after Community Health personnel did not certify them as havingpassed their DOT physical exams. Docket No. 132-1 (Pryzbylski Decl.) at ¶ 5. The EEOC claims that these six individuals were not only subject to Celadon's policy of pre-hire medical inquiries and examinations, but were also victims of intentional employment discrimination on the basis of real or perceived disabilities.

Class member Anthony Stinard filed an EEOC charge of discrimination on April 29, 2009; additional class members filed charges thereafter. Docket No. 118-3. The EEOC issued letters of determination regarding these charges in April 2011, Docket No. 118-4, and it filed the present lawsuit on February 29, 2012.

Legal Analysis
Preliminary Evidentiary Dispute

As an initial matter, Celadon argues that seven of the exhibits relied upon by the EEOC in its partial motion for summary judgment are not authenticated documents and are thus inadmissible. Def.'s Br. 44.4 In doing so, it relies upon the general rule that to be admissible, documents that a party seeks to offer into evidence must be "authenticated by and attached to an affidavit that meets the requirements of [Fed. R. Civ. Pro.] 56(e)[,] and the affiant must be a person through whom the exhibits could be admitted into evidence." Scott v. Edinburg, 346 F.3d 752, 760 n.7 (7th Cir. 2003) (quoting 10A Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 2722, at 379-390, 382-384 (3d ed. 1998)). "There is no single way to authenticate evidence," however, and a document's "distinctive characteristics, taken in conjunction...

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