Green v. Pittsburgh Plate & Glass Co.

Decision Date25 September 2002
Docket NumberNo. Civ.A. 00-JEO-3494-NE.,Civ.A. 00-JEO-3494-NE.
Citation224 F.Supp.2d 1348
PartiesLevern GREEN, Plaintiff, v. PITTSBURGH PLATE & GLASS COMPANY, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Alabama

Lee Winston, Gordon, Silberman, Wiggins & Childs, Birmingham, AL, for Plaintiff.

John J. Coleman, III, Marcel L. Debruge, Stephen A. Walsh, John G. Dana, Burr & Forman, LLP, Birmingham, AL, for Defendant.

Warne S. Heath, Bradley, Arant, Rose & White, Huntsville, AL, for New Horizons Recovery Center.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

OTT, United States Magistrate Judge.

In this action, the plaintiff, Levern Green (hereinafter "Green"), a former employee of the defendant, Pittsburgh Plate and Glass Company1 (hereinafter "PPG"), asserts that he was the victim of race discrimination and retaliation when the defendant failed to provide him with certain salary continuation benefits and when PPG terminated him, all in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (hereinafter "Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1981a. PPG has filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims. (Doc. 13). The defendant has also filed a motion to strike limited portions of the plaintiff's deposition testimony. (Doc. 23). Upon due consideration, the court finds that the motion for summary judgment is due to be granted and the motion to strike is due to be granted in part and denied in part as stated more fully herein.

I. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is to be granted only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the declarations, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c); See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The party asking for summary judgment "bears the initial burden to show the district court, by reference to materials on file, that there are no genuine issues of material fact that should be decided at trial. Only when that burden has been met does the burden shift to the nonmoving party to demonstrate that there is indeed a material issue of fact that precludes summary judgment." Clark v. Coats & Clark, Inc., 929 F.2d 604, 608 (11th Cir.1991); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 1608, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970).

The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by showing that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of his case on which he bears the ultimate burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548; see FED.R.CIV.P. 56(a) and (b). Once the moving party has met his burden, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by ... affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial,'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. The nonmoving party need not present evidence in a form necessary for admission at trial; however, the movant may not merely rest on the pleadings. Id.

After a motion has been responded to, the court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

The substantive law will identify which facts are material and which are irrelevant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A dispute is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. "[T]he judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. A judge's guide is the same standard necessary to direct a verdict: "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 259, 106 S.Ct. 2505; see Bill Johnson's Restaurants, Inc. v. NLRB, 461 U.S. 731, 745 n. 11, 103 S.Ct. 2161, 76 L.Ed.2d 277 (1983). Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 643 (11th Cir.1997). However, the nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986).

If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505 (citations omitted); accord Spence v. Zimmerman, 873 F.2d 256 (11th Cir.1989). Furthermore, the court must "view the evidence presented through the prism of the substantive evidentiary burden," so there must be sufficient evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 254, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Cottle v. Storer Communication, Inc., 849 F.2d 570, 575 (11th Cir.1988). Nevertheless, credibility determinations, the weighing of evidence, and the drawing of inferences from the facts are the function of the jury, and therefore the evidence of the nonmovant is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The nonmovant need not be given the benefit of every inference but only of every reasonable inference. Brown v. City of Clewiston, 848 F.2d 1534, 1540 n. 12 (11th Cir.1988). "If reasonable minds could differ on the inferences arising from undisputed facts, then a court should deny summary judgment." Allen, 121 F.3d at 643.

B. Facts2

1. Background

Green began working at PPG's facility in Huntsville, Alabama, in May 1985. (Green Depo. at 23-24).3 PPG manufactures and refurbishes aircraft windshields and specialty glass at its plant in Huntsville. (Divasto Aff. at ¶ 3).4 In April 1996, Green filed an EEOC charge along with other persons challenging, among other things, the promotional practices of PPG. In April 1999, a discrimination lawsuit was filed in the Western District of Pennsylvania. (Elbert Drake v. P.P.G.). Green was deposed in that litigation on March 13, 2000. (Doc. 15, Ex. 7). George Ellis, the plant manager, told Green during a union campaign in 1999 that he "had a list of those people that was [sic] on the Drake litigation and they would be dealt with." (Green Depo. at 95, 103). Ricky Jones, another employee at PPG and a co-plaintiff in the Drake litigation described the incident, stating that "George Ellis got pissed off. He got up and started yelling." (Jones Depo. at 230-3).5

On June 3, 1999, Green began an eleven day absence. (Divasto Aff. at ¶ 12; Doc. 21, Ex. 18, p. 7). On June 7, 1999, Green was treated by Dr. Benjamin Fail for a Lumbar disc strain and muscular skeletal pain in his right elbow and left shoulder. (Doc. 21, Ex. 3). Green requested compensation pursuant to PPG's Salary Continuation Plan (hereinafter "the Plan").6 On June 12, 1999, Green authorized Dr. Fail to release his medical records to Kaye Carlton, PPG's plant nurse. (Doc. 21, Ex. 4). PPG did not receive his completed paperwork within fourteen days of when he commenced his June 3, 1999 absence. (Divasto Aff. at ¶ 12). Dr. Fail submitted an "Attending Physician Statement" dated July 9, 1999, in support of the plaintiff's claim. (Doc. 21, Ex. 3). Green ultimately was paid for the eleven days he was out. (Doc. 21, Ex. 18, p. 7).

Green commenced a three month absence7 beginning June 16, 1999. Green did not provide PPG with the requisite paperwork within the required fourteen days. (Divasto Aff. at ¶ 12). He was given "full pay" salary continuation benefits from July 5, 1999, until August 29, 1999.8 (Id. at Ex. H). On August 26, 1999, Dr. Fail authorized Green to work half-days. (Doc. 21, Ex. 5). He worked a few half days and was paid the other half for each under the Plan. (Divasto Aff. at Ex. H).

Two weeks later, about September 10, 1999, Green was unable to work due to depression. (Doc. 21, Ex. 6). On October 4, 1999, the defendant received an "Attending Physician Statement" from Dr. Fail. (Doc. 21, Ex. 5). Green was given partial or full salary continuation benefits for the hours he could not work from then until October 17, 1999. (Divasto Aff. at ¶ 12 & Ex. H). Dr. Fail authorized Green to return to work on October 18, 1999. (Doc. 21, Ex. 5). According to Divasto, while Green was absent from work during September, "PPG only received non-Salary Continuance paperwork." (Divasto Aff. at ¶ 12). She contacted Green on several occasions by telephone or letter, requesting the paperwork for his salary continuance benefits. (Id.).

On November 4, 1999, Green was admitted to Huntsville Hospital due to a "major depressive disorder, severe without psychosis and alcohol abuse." (Doc. 21, Ex. 6). The treating physician, Dr. Scariya Kumar, stated that Green was not able to work and he recommended that Green not return to work until February 1, 2000. (Doc. 21, Ex. 7 & 36). Dr. Kumar noted on December 22, 1999, that Green was suffering from "depression, recurrent, severe alcohol abuse." (Doc. 21, Ex. 7). PPG requested to review Green's medical file. (Doc. 21, Ex. 8 & 9). Green authorized the release of his records to Carlton. (Id.). The records were reviewed by Kurt Loring, the then Director of Human Resources. (Loring Aff. at ¶ 3a).9...

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