Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. C.R. England Inc.

Decision Date03 May 2011
Docket NumberNos. 09–4207,09–4217.,s. 09–4207
Citation644 F.3d 1028,43 NDLR P 29,24 A.D. Cases 897
PartiesEQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff–Appellant,andWalter Watson, Intervenor–Plaintiff,v.C.R. ENGLAND, INC., Defendant–Appellee.Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff,andWalter Watson, Intervenor–Plaintiff–Appellant,v.C.R. England, Inc., Defendant–Appellee.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Tenth Circuit

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Anne Noel Occhialino (James L. Lee, Deputy General Counsel, Lorraine C. Davis, Acting Associate General Counsel, P. David Lopez, General Counsel, with her on the briefs), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Office of General Counsel Appellate Service, Washington, D.C., for PlaintiffAppellant.Russell T. Monahan, Cook & Monahan, Salt Lake City, UT, for IntervenorPlaintiffAppellant.Scott A. Hagen (Michael E. Blue, with him on the briefs), Ray Quinney & Nebeker P.C., Salt Lake City, UT, for DefendantAppellee.Before KELLY, EBEL, and HOLMES, Circuit Judges.HOLMES, Circuit Judge.

INTRODUCTION

PlaintiffAppellant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) initiated this suit against DefendantAppellee C.R. England, Inc. (C.R. England) under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101–213. The alleged ADA violations arise from the employment relationship between C.R. England and Walter Watson, a former driver and trainer for the company. Mr. Watson subsequently intervened in the suit, alleging similar claims under the ADA and additional claims under Utah state law. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of C.R. England on all claims and disposed of the case. This appeal followed. Exercising jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291, we affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment on all claims.

BACKGROUND

Walter Watson was diagnosed with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (“HIV”) in 1999. In November 2002, Mr. Watson began working as a truck driver for C.R. England, a company based out of Salt Lake City. Shortly after his employment began, Mr. Watson voluntarily informed C.R. England's human resources manager, Carrie Johansen, that he was HIV positive.1 In December 2002, Mr. Watson entered into an independent contractor operating agreement (“ICOA”) with C.R. England, under which his status changed from that of an employee driver to an independent-contractor driver.2 On that same day, Mr. Watson signed a Vehicle Lease Agreement (“Lease Agreement”), under which he leased a truck from Opportunity Leasing, Inc., a sister company of C.R. England.

After working for C.R. England under the ICOA for a few months, Mr. Watson decided to become a driver-trainer for the company. In order to become a trainer, Mr. Watson completed C.R. England's five-day “Train–the–Trainer” course in February 2003. On the first day of training, Mr. Watson was called into Ms. Johansen's office. She expressed concern about his ability to become a trainer in light of his HIV-positive status. Later that same day, Mr. Watson and Ms. Johansen met with C.R. England's general counsel, Nelson Hayes, to further discuss Mr. Watson's status as a trainer. Mr. Watson, Ms. Johansen, and Mr. Hayes met again one or two days later to discuss C.R. England's concerns about Mr. Watson's role as a trainer and possible courses of action that might assuage its concerns. During the second meeting, Mr. Hayes broached the idea of disclosing Mr. Watson's HIV-positive status to potential trainees and asked Mr. Watson if he had any thoughts or ideas as to how this could be done. In response, Mr. Watson suggested drawing up some sort of form that could be given to potential trainees.

The end result of these meetings was an acknowledgment form, drafted by Mr. Hayes, which informed a potential trainee that his trainer was HIV-positive, but did not reveal Mr. Watson's identity. Specifically, the form read:

Trainee hereby specifically acknowledges that he/she has been fully informed that his/her Trainer suffers from a communicable health condition (HIV).

Trainee agrees to fully inform himself/herself on the condition (HIV), including avoidance of communication of the disease. Trainee further agrees to keep confidential any and all information relating to Trainer's condition, except as required to protect the health and welfare of any person.

EEOC App. at 398 (Acknowledgment and Agreement Form, dated Feb. 7, 2003). C.R. England contemplated that potential trainees would sign the acknowledgment form before they began training with Mr. Watson. Mr. Watson never objected to the disclosure of his HIV status or to the use of the acknowledgment form.

Mr. Watson's first and only potential trainee, Eddie Seastrunk,3 was presented with the form and signed it without protest on February 7, 2003. The form was not shown to any other potential trainee.

On February 11, 2003, before he left on his first training assignment, Mr. Watson requested “home time” beginning February 16, 2003, and ending February 18, 2003. The stated reason for his request for time off was “family time.” EEOC App. at 1035 (Home Time Request, dated Feb. 11, 2003). When C.R. England denied Mr. Watson's request because he had not given the required two-weeks notice, Mr. Watson responded: “OK, just when ava[i]lable.” Id. at 1037–38.

On February 12, 2003, Mr. Watson and Mr. Seastrunk were dispatched on their first drive together, delivering a load to Omaha, Nebraska. After they delivered the initial load, Mr. Watson and Mr. Seastrunk were sent to pick up a second load in Omaha, but the second load was canceled while they were en route. The two men were sent to pick up yet another load in the Omaha area within minutes, but that load was also quickly canceled, and they were then dispatched to pick up the second, previously canceled load. C.R. England employee Christie Wakeland testified that this series of events was not unusual for this part of the country, noting that load cancellations “happen[ed] very frequently” and that this type of occurrence “wasn't out of the ordinary at all.” EEOC App. at 403 (Dep. of Christie Wakeland, dated July 25, 2007).

This series of dispatches and the subsequent cancellations that occurred left Mr. Watson feeling stressed and distraught. In response to the final cancellation, Mr. Watson demanded that he be given immediate “home time,” and stated that he could “not wait two more weeks.” EEOC App. at 426.4 C.R. England's driver manager, Cynthia Horsley, refused his request because she “ha[d] to have 2 weeks notice”; however, she did tell Mr. Watson that if he “want[ed] to re-submit [his] hometime for the 2 week time frame, [she] w [ould] do what [she] c[ould] to get [him] there as close to that request as [she] c[ould].” Id. at 427. Mr. Watson then refused the load, demanded that his trainee be reassigned, and stated that he was “deadheading” (i.e., driving with an empty truck) to his family home in Florida, despite the denial of his home time request. Id. at 428. In explaining his immediate departure, Mr. Watson stated that he couldn't handle the “stress level” anymore, and that he needed to go to Florida because that is where his doctor was located and he [needed] to see [his] Dr.” Id. Ms. Horsley then responded: “ok[,] pls [sic] leave [E]ddie [Seastrunk] at the [truck stop] and I will get him picked up.” Id. at 429. Mr. Watson deadheaded to Florida that same day.

Due to these occurrences, Mr. Watson was terminated from his trainer position on February 14, 2003. The stated reasons for the termination were that (1) Mr. Watson “sat up with his student and burned up [his] h[ou]rs,” and therefore was unable to drive when he was needed 5; (2) he “refused a load,” which he was not permitted to do as a trainer; and (3) he “deadheaded ... over 1000 miles home.” Id. at 432. At this time, Mr. Watson was still a driver for C.R. England under the ICOA.

Mr. Watson remained in Florida with his leased truck from mid-February until early March 2003—a period of more than two weeks. During that time, Mr. Watson did not accept any new loads, generated no income, and failed to make his weekly lease payments on his truck. C.R. England attempted to contact Mr. Watson on at least two occasions during this period in order to determine what Mr. Watson's intentions were with regard to his ICOA and Lease Agreement, but received no response. On March 4, 2003, C.R. England terminated Mr. Watson's Lease Agreement, and Opportunity Leasing repossessed his truck. At that time, Mr. Watson owed approximately $3000 under the Lease Agreement. C.R. England eventually sent his debt to a collection agency.

In August 2003, Mr. Watson filed a formal complaint with the EEOC, alleging that C.R. England discriminated and retaliated against him because of his illness. The EEOC issued a determination regarding Mr. Watson's complaint in September 2004, concluding that C.R. England had violated Mr. Watson's rights under the ADA. In September 2006, EEOC initiated the instant suit by filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, asserting that C.R. England had violated the ADA by (1) [d]isclosing and requiring Mr. Watson to disclose medical information concerning his disability, in writing, to driver trainees before they could be trained by Mr. Watson”; and (2) [u]nlawfully limiting, segregating and/or classifying Mr. Watson on the basis of his disability.” Watson App. at 26 (Compl. and Jury Demand, filed Sept. 27, 2006). In March 2007, Mr. Watson intervened in this action, alleging multiple ADA violations—including discrimination, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, and retaliation—as well as several tort claims under Utah state law—including intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and invasion of privacy. See id. at 32–39 (Compl. in Intervention, dated Mar. 22, 2007).6

In March 2008, EEOC moved for partial summary judgment on the issues of (1) whether Mr. Watson was a ...

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