Walker v. Baldor Electric Company, No. 1:92CV337-D-D (N.D. Miss. 1994)

Decision Date01 August 1994
Docket NumberNo. 1:92CV337-D-D.,1:92CV337-D-D.
PartiesJOHN E. WALKER, Plaintiff, v. BALDOR ELECTRIC COMPANY, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi

This is an employment discrimination case predicated upon the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and a pendant state law claim for unlawful discharge. At this time, the period for discovery has passed, and the defendant has moved for summary judgment. The court finds the motion to be well taken. As this opinion will discuss, plaintiff's ADA claim is not viable since it concerns actions which the employer took prior to the effective date of the ADA, and the state law claim falls victim to Mississippi's long standing employment-at-will doctrine.

Asserted Facts

John Walker, a Vietnam veteran, was hired by Baldor Electric Company (Baldor) on June 26, 1989. He was fired three years to the day, on June 26, 1992. During his three years at the plant, Mr. Walker developed a history of disruptive disputes with co-workers. Mr. Walker does not contest the existence of these disputes, but he does challenge the severity of these confrontations as claimed by the company. In the first incident, Walker accused an employee named Boykin of mishandling a set-up procedure. Walker became angry and stated he was going to his truck to get his shotgun to "blow Boykin's brains out," but another worker interfered and stopped Walker from leaving the plant and going to his truck. When he was questioned about this incident at his deposition, Walker testified that he remembered a conflict with Boykin and that he remembered being stopped by another employee. However, he had no recollection of threatening Boykin with a shot gun. A second similar incident involved the plaintiff and an employee named Charlie Prude. In his deposition, the plaintiff acknowledged that he had a confrontation with Mr. Prude, but he denied using profanity.

On June 18, 1992, the plaintiff had another argument with a supervisor named Wyckoff. Plaintiff was complaining about the volume of work that the prior shift was leaving for him. Walker threatened bodily harm to Wyckoff, the second shift supervisor. According to witnesses, Walker threatened to "cut him [Wyckoff] off." Walker admits to raising his voice to Wyckoff but denies using threatening language or profanity.

Following the incident with Wyckoff on June 18th, the plaintiff was suspended by the company pending an investigation of the matter. On or about July 23, 1992, Mr. Walker brought a note to the personnel department at Baldor Electric. The note was from a registered nurse at the Tuscaloosa Department of Veteran Affairs. The note described Mr. Walker as suffering from a disorder known as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he suffers as a consequence of his Vietnam experience. The disease is characterized by an explosive temper, depressed moods, nightmares, shortness of breath, palpitations and tremors. On the afternoon of Friday, June 26, 1992, plaintiff received a call from the personnel department informing him that he was fired from his job. The ADA took effect one month later on July 26, 1992. Two days later on July 28, 1992, the plaintiff approached a company manager and requested reemployment. The request was denied. The articulated reason for denying reemployment was a company policy of not rehiring Baldor workers who were previously terminated. According to the affidavit of the plant manager, Ed Holderfield, it had been company policy since July of 1991 to not rehire fired employees.


Summary judgment is appropriate only if the record reveals that there is no genuine issue of any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. F.R.C.P. 56(c). The pleadings, depositions, admissions, answers to interrogatories, together with any affidavits, must demonstrate that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). "Where the record, taken as a whole, could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Federal Sav. and Loan Ins. v. Krajl, 968 F.2d 500, 503 (5th Cir. 1992). The facts are reviewed drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Reid v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 784 F.2d 577, 578 (5th Cir. 1986). However, summary judgment is mandated after adequate discovery and upon proper motion against a party who fails to make a sufficient showing to establish the existence of an essential element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. 317, 322.


After careful consideration, the court is of the opinion that the dispositive issue in the motion for summary judgment is the fact that the alleged discrimination took place prior to the effective date of the ADA. Simply stated, prior to July 26, 1992, disability based discrimination by a private employer1 was not an illegal, impermissible reason for an employment decision. The ADA became effective on that date, and the Act has no retroactive provisions. 42 U.S.C. § § 12101-12117; O'Bryant v. City of Midland, 9 F.3d 421, 422 (5th Cir. 1993); Daniels v. Allied Electrical Contractors, Inc., 847 F. Supp. 514, 516 (E.D. Tex. 1994); Barraclough v. ADP Automotive Claims Serv. Inc., 818 F. Supp. 1310 (N.D. Calif. 1993). Obviously, the occurrences and the dates of events which give rise to this claim are very important. The three incidents of conduct where Walker displayed threatening conduct to other employees all occurred prior to the effective date of the Act. The final occurrence with Walker and Wyckoff resulting in Walker's suspension pending an investigation occurred on June 18, 1992. He was placed on suspension at that time and was notified that he was fired on the afternoon of June 26, 1992. The ADA became effective on July 26, 1992, exactly one month later. Two days later, on July 28th, the plaintiff approached his former employer and requested reinstatement. As noted above, he was denied reinstatement based upon company policy which precluded rehiring terminated employees from Baldor.

In order to circumvent the preclusive fact that the employment action which Walker complains of occurred prior to the effective date of the ADA, he advances a "continuing injury" theory of liability. In other words, the plaintiff asserts that when he asked to be reinstated two days after the effective date of the Act, the discriminatory conduct which occurred prior to the effective date "continued" into a period which was covered by the Act. This court's research reveals that the reported and unreported decisions considering similar "continuing injury" concepts to sidestep the effective date of the Act and to "piggyback" the employer's conduct into a period of ADA coverage have failed. The "continuing violation" argument and the alternate question of retroactivity of the ADA have been widely rejected. Daniels v. Allied Elec. Contractors, Inc., 847 F. Supp. 514, 516 (E.D. Tex. 1994); Waller v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 1994 WL 243718 (E.D. Tex. Jan. 18, 1994); Malek v. Martin Marietta Corp., 1993 WL 463451, 64 Empl. Prac. Dec., para. 42,930 (D. Kan. Oct. 15, 1993); Morrison v. Detroit-Macomb Hosp. Corp., 1993 WL 316009, 62 Empl. Prac. Dec., para. 42,368 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 25, 1993).

In Morrison, supra, a Michigan district court describes two instances where the "continuing violation" theory would successfully extend conduct into a period of coverage under the ADA.

The discriminatory act complained of occurred before the effective date of the applicable provisions of the ADA, and consequently, plaintiff is not entitled to relief under the ADA. To avoid this result, plaintiff argues that as recently as July 27, 1992, she sent another letter to Guinana requesting job accommodation pursuant to the ADA; that DMHC failed to accommodate her, that such refusal constitutes a 'continuing violation' of the ADA . . . . Plaintiff misconstrues the 'continuing violation' doctrine, which falls 'into two categories of narrowly defined exceptions . . . .'

Morrison, 1993 WL 316009, 62 Empl. Prac. Dec. para. 42,368 (E.D. Mich. Jan. 25, 1993). The first exception is found where employers continue to impose disparate work assignments or pay between similarly situated employee groups. Each act of disparate treatment is a new act of discrimination which is renewed each time it occurs. The second exception exists where there has been a longstanding and demonstrable policy of discrimination. "[W]here there has been a longstanding policy of discrimination, repeated attempts to gain employment or promotions may each trigger the running of a new limitations period." Morrison, supra. The Morrison court found that neither exception applied in that case. Likewise, this court is not convinced that either exception applies in the case sub judice. There is no evidence in the summary judgment record before the court of either (1.) disparate treatment, or (2.) longstanding policies of discrimination which were renewed with each new act. Disability based discrimination by private employers was not an illegal or impermissible reason under federal law prior to July 26, 1992. In the case at bar, the substantive events occurred prior to this time. The fact that plaintiff asked for and was denied reinstatement two days after the Act went into effect does not constitute the necessary "continuing violation." To hold otherwise would render the effective date of the Act a mockery and a nullity in contradiction to express legislative intent that the effective date was to be July 26, 1992.

A close analogy is found in instances where requests for reinstatement do not constitute a continuing violation so that an otherwise expired...

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