McDonald v. UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, 062118 FED6, 17-1875

Docket Nº:17-1875
Party Name:SHANNAN MCDONALD, Plaintiff - Appellant, v. UAW-GM CENTER FOR HUMAN RESOURCES, Defendant-Appellee.
Judge Panel:BEFORE: GIBBONS, STRANCH, and BUSH, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:June 21, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

SHANNAN MCDONALD, Plaintiff - Appellant,



No. 17-1875

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 21, 2018






Many Americans exercise. The go-getters work out before the sun rises. Others purge work stress with some evening calisthenics. Only the lucky few have the time and opportunity to exercise during their lunch break. Shannan McDonald was one: her employer provided an on-site gym. But McDonald asked for an extended lunch break to exercise even longer. Before hearing back from her employer, she quit. She later sued her employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), alleging discrimination for failing to accommodate her disability and that her employer retaliated against her for making the request. McDonald also claims she was constructively discharged. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of her employer. We affirm.


McDonald worked as a receptionist for UAW-GM Center for Human Resources ("CHR") for ten years. She was born with Crouzon syndrome, a genetic disorder. This condition prompted her to undergo multiple surgeries over the years. For each of these surgeries, CHR granted her time away from work.

McDonald was a member of a union, and a collective bargaining agreement ("CBA") covered her employment. The CBA gave CHR authority over work rules and employee schedules. During a designated period each year, CHR allowed employees to select a thirty- or sixty-minute lunch break to be in effect for the remainder of the year. If a thirty-minute break was selected, the employee also was allowed two fifteen-minute breaks, but "under normal circumstances" those breaks were not to be tacked on to the lunch break. McDonald selected a thirty-minute lunch break, which could not begin until 11:00 a.m.

McDonald exercised in CHR's on-site gym during her lunch break "[a]ll the time." In February 2014, without authorization, she began heading for the gym at approximately 10:30 a.m. to give herself an extended lunch break. She exercised with a co-worker named Frank Moultrie.

McDonald worked on the first floor of CHR's building, but she often went up to the second floor to chat with Moultrie, where he worked. They would usually discuss their workout plans. These forays to the second floor caused trouble. However unfairly, rumors spread through CHR about an affair between McDonald and Moultrie. Second-floor employees told McDonald to stay off their floor and to stop exercising with Moultrie. They also called her derogatory names regarding her rumored relationship with Moultrie and the way she dressed. Three second-floor employees filed complaints against McDonald. And a second-floor supervisor complained to management about McDonald's purportedly disruptive trips there. McDonald countered with her own complaint about the way second-floor employees treated her. But she also had trouble with the sixth floor; a worker there, John Ashton, filed a sexual harassment complaint against her, alleging that McDonald made him feel uncomfortable because she was following him around, looking for him, and texting him.

McDonald's immediate supervisor, Dottie Barnett, met with McDonald about these events. She discussed McDonald's conduct towards Ashton. She also discussed McDonald's complaints about the second-floor employees' actions, but McDonald refused to offer her names of specific co-workers. Ultimately, McDonald was told by Barnett and Chris Gallagher, UAW's personnel manager, to stay off the second floor.

On June 3 and June 5, 2014, McDonald emailed Barnett "to ask a favor" even though she "already kn[e]w what the answer [was] going to be." McDonald asked to extend her lunch break to sixty minutes or to tack on a separate ten-minute break so that she could work out longer at the on-site gym. Though she explained that she started exercising two years ago to help with pain from a previous surgery, she did not mention her disability or any need to work out longer at midday to help her perform her job. Anticipating the logical question of why she could not exercise after work, McDonald stated that her physical therapy appointments prevented it.1

On June 6, 2014, after discussing the matter with management, Barnett denied McDonald's request to change her lunch break or tack on a break to it, explaining that "it [was] not feasible" given the policy of lunch breaks remaining in effect for a year. Barnett reiterated that McDonald's lunch break did not start at 10:30 a.m. and warned McDonald that failure to follow the policy on breaks and lunch could result in disciplinary action. Barnett, though, offered an alternative proposal to McDonald: she could arrive fifteen minutes earlier and work out in the morning before her shift started. This made sense because McDonald had mentioned in her e-mail that she arrived to work thirty minutes early. But this did not satisfy McDonald, because, in her words, she "would rather have been able to switch [her] lunch from a half hour to an hour."

Six days later, on June 12, 2014, McDonald went up the chain of command to Gallagher. She gave him a letter from her doctor stating: "Please allow [McDonald] to continue strengthening exercises daily for 30 to 60 minutes Monday through Friday." Gallagher responded that he would bring McDonald's request to the co-executive directors, Chris Owen and Scott Sanderford. Four days later, on the following Monday morning, McDonald asked Gallagher for a status update on her request. But her request needed approval from both co-executive directors, and Sanderford was out of the office. Gallagher told McDonald that although her request was still under consideration, "we think it's going to be okay." Later that same day, at 10:44 a.m., knowing that her request was not yet approved, McDonald headed to the gym. Barnett caught her and told her to go back to work. McDonald responded with profanity.

After this event, and after she had already warned McDonald that failure to comply with the break policy could result in discipline, Barnett recommended to Gallagher that McDonald be suspended. Barnett, Gallagher, Adams, McDonald, and McDonald's union steward met on June 18, 2014. After McDonald admitted to heading to the gym early and to her profane response to Barnett, McDonald was suspended for the rest of the day and the day after as well. But she never returned to work. She instead went on personal leave, and, on July 10, 2014, she resigned from CHR, writing: I Shannon McDonald am voluntarily terminating my position at the UAW GM Center for Human Resources. My termination date is as of July 10, 2014. This was my decision and again I am just voluntarily terminating/quitting my job at the UAW Gm Center for Human Resources.

McDonald then sued CHR under the ADA for discriminating against her based on her disability and for retaliation. She also sued CHR for constructive discharge. The district court granted CHR's motion for summary judgment and dismissed McDonald's claims. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the district court's granting summary judgment.


We review a district court's granting summary judgment de novo. Williams v. AT&T Mobility Servs., LLC, 847 F.3d 384, 391 (6th Cir. 2017). Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, id., we must affirm the district court if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[T]he non-moving party must present evidence upon which a reasonable jury could find in her favor." Tingle v. Arbors at Hilliard, 692 F.3d 523, 529 (6th Cir. 2012) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251 (1986)). Unsupported allegations are insufficient, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1), as is a "'scintilla' of evidence in support of the non-moving party's position." Tingle, 692 F.3d at 529 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251).

McDonald argues that CHR discriminated against her because of her disability in violation of the ADA by failing to provide her with a reasonable accommodation. She also argues that CHR retaliated against her for engaging in a protected activity under the ADA-requesting an accommodation-when it suspended her. And she alleges that she was constructively discharged, which she adds was another adverse employment action for purposes of her retaliation claim. We address each of these arguments and their shortcomings below.

ADA Discrimination. The ADA requires companies like CHR to make "reasonable accommodations to the known . . . limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability" so long as that accommodation does not cause the company "undue hardship." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(b)(5)(A). Although the ADA does not define "reasonable accommodation, " it does provide examples, such as, of relevance here, "job restructuring [and] part-time or modified work schedules." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(9)(B). But the ADA is not a "catchall" statute. See Rorrer v. City of Stow, 743 F.3d 1025, 1046 (6th Cir. 2014). It "does not endow all disabled persons with a . . . job schedule . . . of their choosing." EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., 782 F.3d 753, 757 (6th Cir. 2015) (en banc).

McDonald must first establish a prima facie case of disability discrimination under the ADA based on CHR's alleged failure to accommodate her disability. See Talley v. Family Dollar...

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