Hansen v. Sioux by-Products, No. C 96-4112-MWB.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
Writing for the CourtBennett
Citation988 F.Supp. 1255
Docket NumberNo. C 96-4112-MWB.
Decision Date16 December 1997
PartiesLeroy A. HANSEN, Plaintiff, v. SIOUX BY-PRODUCTS a/k/a Darling International, Defendant.
988 F.Supp. 1255
Leroy A. HANSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
SIOUX BY-PRODUCTS a/k/a Darling International, Defendant.
No. C 96-4112-MWB.
United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division.
December 16, 1997.

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COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

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Dennis M. McElwain, Smith & McElwain Law Office, Sioux City, IA, for Plaintiff.

Christopher M. Bikus, Roger J. Miller, McGrath, North, Mullin, Kratz, P.C., Omaha, NE, Jeffrey Mohrhauser, Rawlings, Nieland, Probasco, Killinger, Ellwanger, Jacobs & Mohrhauser, Sioux City, IA, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BENNETT, District Judge.


 TABLE OF CONTENTS
                 I. INTRODUCTION ....................................................... 1257
                 A. Procedural Background ........................................... 1257
                 B. Factual Background .............................................. 1258
                 II. LEGAL ANALYSIS ..................................................... 1259
                 A. Standards For Summary Judgment .................................. 1259
                 B. The ADA Claim ................................................... 1261
                 1. Hansen's concession .......................................... 1261
                 2. Hansen's request for remand .................................. 1261
                 a. The applicable statute .................................... 1261
                 b. Application of the statute ................................ 1263
                 C. Retaliatory Discharge ............................................ 1264
                 1. Lack of any filing for workers' compensation benefits ......... 1265
                 2. Lack of a causal connection ................................... 1267
                 III. CONCLUSION ......................................................... 1270
                

Was it an unfortunate coincidence that the plaintiff was fired for poor work performance the same day he was injured on the job, or is something more sinister afoot in this retaliatory discharge case? Can the plaintiff generate a genuine issue of material fact that he is a qualified person with a disability as the result of the injury suffered the day he was fired, such that he can overcome summary judgment on the federal disability discrimination claim upon which this court's removal jurisdiction is founded? If he cannot, should the court remand plaintiff's state-law retaliation claim to the state court in which this lawsuit originated? These are the questions with which the court must grapple in ruling on the defendant's summary judgment motion.

I. INTRODUCTION
A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff Leroy Hansen filed this lawsuit in the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County on October 15, 1996, alleging that he was terminated from his employment in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12001 et seq., and Iowa public policy. The defendant is Hansen's former employer, Sioux By-Products, which is a production facility in Woodbury County, Iowa, of Darling International, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Dallas, Texas.1

Hansen alleges that he was a production worker at Sioux By-Products until he was terminated in late October of 1995. He also alleges that he was terminated shortly after he injured his left arm and elbow in the course of his employment. In Count I of his

Page 1258

complaint, Hansen alleges that Sioux By-Products has refused to continue his employment since the date of his injury, despite his offers to continue his services, because of his physical impairments in violation of the ADA, specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 12112. In Count II of his complaint, Hansen asserts that he was terminated on the same day he was injured at work in retaliation for reporting his injury and seeking medical care under Sioux By-Products' workers' compensation coverage. Thus, Count II asserts wrongful discharge in violation of Iowa's public policy against retaliation for seeking workers' compensation benefits.

On November 21, 1996, Sioux By-Products removed this action to this federal court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441 on the ground that the action presented a federal question — the ADA claim — over which this court would have had original jurisdiction.2 Also on November 21, 1996, Sioux By-Products filed its answer to Hansen's complaint denying Hansen's claims and asserting affirmative defenses, including Sioux By-Products' contentions that Hansen is not a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA and that Hansen failed to mitigate his damages.

The parties proceeded with discovery. On October 15, 1997, the deadline for dispositive motions,3 Sioux By-Products moved for summary judgment on both of Hansen's claims. Sioux By-Products asserts that Hansen cannot generate a genuine issue of material fact that he is a qualified individual with a disability within the meaning of the ADA, because he is not substantially limited in any major life activity. Consequently, Sioux By-Products contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on Hansen's ADA claim in Count I of his complaint. Sioux By-Products has also moved for summary judgment on Hansen's retaliatory discharge claim in Count II, on the ground that Hansen had not filed any workers' compensation claim at the time he was discharged. Sioux By-Products also seeks summary judgment on Hansen's retaliatory discharge claim on the ground that there is no genuine dispute that Hansen was fired at the end of his probationary period for poor work performance. Sioux By-Products supports this argument with an affidavit averring that the decision to terminate Hansen was made the day before his injury.

Hansen responded to the motion for summary judgment on December 5, 1997, resisting Sioux By-Products' entitlement to summary judgment, at least in part. Neither party requested oral arguments on the motion.

B. Factual Background

The court will not attempt here an exhaustive statement of the undisputed and disputed facts of the case. Instead, the court will discuss disputed and undisputed facts to the extent necessary to resolve the pending motion for summary judgment in its legal analysis. Nonetheless, a brief statement of the factual backdrop for Hansen's claims is provided here to place the court's legal analysis in context.

The parties agree that Hansen applied for a position as a general laborer at Sioux By-Products on September 25, 1995. Following a pre-employment physical examination, which disclosed no impairments, Hansen was hired, effective October 2, 1995. Hansen's duties included backing up trucks, breaking down cardboard boxes, and generally cleaning up the facility.

About 2:30 a.m. on October 26, 1995, Hansen was breaking down a cardboard box when he injured his left elbow. Hansen reported the injury to his foreman, Jim Johnson. Johnson directed Hansen to the local hospital for treatment. According to Hansen, Johnson also told him the company's insurance would take care of everything. However, either at that time or when Hansen returned from the hospital with his arm in a sling, Johnson informed Hansen that he was terminated and need not return to work the

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next day. Although it appears Hansen was not given any reason for his termination at the time, Sioux By-Products has since stated that the reason was Hansen's poor work performance during his probationary period.

There was a labor contract between Sioux By-Products and UFCW Local 1142 in effect at the time of Hansen's employment with Sioux By-Products. That contract provided, in pertinent part, as follows:

ARTICLE XII — SENIORITY

Employees shall acquire seniority rights when they have worked a total of thirty (30) days within the sixty (60) calendar day period following their initial employment. If they are retained in the employ of the company beyond the said thirty (30) days, their seniority shall be established from the first of the said thirty (30) days.

Probationary employees may be terminated without cause and there will be no responsibility for re-employment of probationary employees if they are laid off or discharged during the thirty (30) day probationary period.

Plaintiff's Exhibit 1 In Resistance To Defendant's Motion For Summary Judgment. The parties agree that Hansen was a probationary employee, pursuant to the terms of this agreement, at the time he was discharged. However, they dispute precisely when Hansen's probationary period ended, a matter to which the court will return in its legal analysis.

According to an affidavit submitted by Sioux By-Products, the decision to terminate Hansen was made on October 25, 1995, as the end of Hansen's probationary period approached. Affidavit of Brad Frost, Defendant's Exhibit B. That decision, the affidavit avers, was made at a meeting of Brad Frost, the general manager of Sioux By-Products in Sioux City, Iowa, Larry Meier, the plant manager, and Jim Johnson, the third shift supervisor who was Hansen's direct supervisor. Id. Brad Frost is responsible for making all hiring and firing decisions at the Sioux City facility. Sioux By-Products contends that the decision to fire Hansen was based on his poor work performance and that Frost instructed Johnson to inform Hansen of that decision. Johnson did so the next day at some time after Hansen was injured at work. There is no evidence in the record that Hansen had received any prior notice that his work performance was inadequate.

Since his termination by Sioux By-Products, Hansen has performed a variety of other jobs, including baling hay, and drilling holes into pieces of steel, and he has applied for a job as a cement finisher. Hansen also spent a period of time caring for his sister when she was ill. Although he continues to complain of pain and other difficulties with his arm and elbow, Hansen is able to drive, shop, work, and otherwise care for himself.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS
A. Standards For Summary Judgment

This court has considered in some detail the standards applicable to motions for summary judgment pursuant to...

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  • Napreljac v. John Q. Hammons Hotels, Inc., No. 4:05-cv-00160-JEG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • November 8, 2006
    ...as the report of a workplace injury, courts have relied on other evidence to deny summary judgment. E.g., Hansen v. Sioux By-Products, 988 F.Supp. 1255, 1268-69 (N.D.Iowa 1997). Other than the argument that JQH falsified a workers' compensation claim form which it then used to terminate Nap......
  • Brown v. Farmland Foods, Inc., No. C00-4139-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 28, 2001
    ...case of wrongful discharge, aff'd in part, rev'd in part and remanded by, 267 F.3d 828 (8th Cir.2001); and Hansen v. Sioux By-Prods., 988 F.Supp. 1255, 1257-58 (N.D.Iowa 1997), which held that termination the same day that the plaintiff was injured at work and reported the injury satisfied ......
  • Richards v. Farner-Bocken Company, No. C 00-3014-MWB (N.D. Iowa 6/1/2001), No. C 00-3014-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 1, 2001
    ...was sufficient to establish a causal connection for purposes of a prima facie case of wrongful discharge); Hansen v. Sioux By-Products, 988 F. Supp. 1255, 1257-58 (N.D.Iowa 1997) (termination the same day that the plaintiff was injured at work and reported the injury satisfied the requireme......
  • Knutson v. AG Processing, Inc., No. C01-3015-MWB (N.D. Iowa 10/29/2002), No. C01-3015-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • October 29, 2002
    ...case of wrongful discharge, aff'd in part, rev'd in part and remanded by, 267 F.3d 828 (8th Cir. 2001); and Hansen v. Sioux By-Prods., 988 F. Supp. 1255, 1257-58 (N.D.Iowa 1997), which held that termination the same day that the plaintiff was injured at work and reported the injury satisfie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Napreljac v. John Q. Hammons Hotels, Inc., No. 4:05-cv-00160-JEG.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States State District Court of Southern District of Iowa
    • November 8, 2006
    ...as the report of a workplace injury, courts have relied on other evidence to deny summary judgment. E.g., Hansen v. Sioux By-Products, 988 F.Supp. 1255, 1268-69 (N.D.Iowa 1997). Other than the argument that JQH falsified a workers' compensation claim form which it then used to terminate Nap......
  • Brown v. Farmland Foods, Inc., No. C00-4139-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • December 28, 2001
    ...case of wrongful discharge, aff'd in part, rev'd in part and remanded by, 267 F.3d 828 (8th Cir.2001); and Hansen v. Sioux By-Prods., 988 F.Supp. 1255, 1257-58 (N.D.Iowa 1997), which held that termination the same day that the plaintiff was injured at work and reported the injury satisfied ......
  • Richards v. Farner-Bocken Company, No. C 00-3014-MWB (N.D. Iowa 6/1/2001), No. C 00-3014-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • June 1, 2001
    ...was sufficient to establish a causal connection for purposes of a prima facie case of wrongful discharge); Hansen v. Sioux By-Products, 988 F. Supp. 1255, 1257-58 (N.D.Iowa 1997) (termination the same day that the plaintiff was injured at work and reported the injury satisfied the requireme......
  • Knutson v. AG Processing, Inc., No. C01-3015-MWB (N.D. Iowa 10/29/2002), No. C01-3015-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • October 29, 2002
    ...case of wrongful discharge, aff'd in part, rev'd in part and remanded by, 267 F.3d 828 (8th Cir. 2001); and Hansen v. Sioux By-Prods., 988 F. Supp. 1255, 1257-58 (N.D.Iowa 1997), which held that termination the same day that the plaintiff was injured at work and reported the injury satisfie......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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