Wells v. Nisbet Inc.

Decision Date28 April 2022
Docket Number1:19-cv-786
PartiesDartez Wells, Plaintiff, v. Nisbet, Inc., Defendant.
CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Southern District of Ohio
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING MOTION FOR ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY
SUSAN J. DLOTT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff's Memorandum in Opposition and Defendant's Reply. (Docs. 16, 22, 24.) Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Additional Discovery, [1] to which Defendant filed a Response and Plaintiff filed a Reply. (Docs. 23, 25, 26.) For the reasons that follow Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 16) will be GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and Plaintiff's Motion for Additional Discovery (Doc. 23) will be DENIED.

I. BACKGROUND
A. Facts[2]

Defendant Nisbet, Inc. (Nisbet) manufactures roof and floor trusses, as well as prefabricated wall panels, for newly constructed homes. (Haight Dep., Doc. 21 at PageID 303.) Plaintiff Dartez Wells, an African American, began working at Nisbet through an employment agency, and he was later hired as a panel fabricator in Nisbet's components department on February 1, 2016. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 276; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 551.) Prior to hiring Wells, Caprice Haight, Nisbet's director of human resources, conducted a criminal background check and learned that Wells had four felony convictions, including convictions for robbery, drug abuse, trafficking cocaine, and trafficking heroin, as well as five misdemeanors. (Doc. 16-1 at PagelD 275; Doc. 22-1 at PagelD 551; Haight Dep., Doc. 21 at PagelD 305-06.) Haight shared this information with Daryl Matlock, Wells's supervisor, and Rodney Bays, Nisbet's director of manufacturing, and the decision was made to hire Wells. (Haight Dep., Doc. 21 at PageID 30508.)

After Nisbet hired Wells, Wells suffered an off-duty injury. Specifically, in the early morning hours of July 16, 2017, Wells and his girlfriend were returning to his mother's house after a night out. (Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 96-97.) While driving, Wells saw Jonathan Lowe, a childhood friend, walking down the sidewalk. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 277; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 552; Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 105.) Lowe flagged Wells down, and Wells parked the car and got out to speak to him. (Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 99-100.) After Wells exited the vehicle, his girlfriend moved into the driver's seat because she was concerned with Wells's level of intoxication. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 277; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 552.) Wells and Lowe spoke for approximately five to ten minutes when an individual suddenly approached them and fired several shots in their direction, five of which struck Wells. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 277-78; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 552-53.) Wells was transported to University Hospital for treatment. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 278; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 553.) Wells suffered several injuries as a result of the shooting, including hepatic injury, diaphragm injury, colon perforation, right maxillary fracture, left rib fracture, left traumatic pneumothorax, and contusion of left lung. (Doc. 22-3 at PageID 564.)

According to Haight, Nisbet first learned of Wells's injuries on July 17, 2017, at which time Nisbet did not know the details of the incident and only knew Wells was in the hospital awaiting surgery. (Haight Decl., Doc. 15-1 at PageID 240.) While Wells was in the hospital, Nisbet provided him with Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) paperwork. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 278; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 553.) Haight testified that Nisbet provided Wells twelve weeks of FMLA leave from July 7, 2017 to October 8, 2017. (Haight Decl., Doc. 15-1 at PageID 241.) Wells disputes this alleged fact and claims he requested six weeks of FMLA leave from July 16, 2017 to August 28, 2017. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 278; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 553; Doc. 2111 at PageID 422.) Wells's physician indicated that from August 28, 2017 to October 28, 2017, Wells could have returned to work on a part-time schedule of two days per week and three hours per day. (Doc. 21-11.)

Wells testified that on or around August 28, 2017, he contacted Nisbet regarding returning to work on a part-time basis and performing light-duty work, and he was informed that no such work was available. (Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PagelD 109-14, 151.) Haight testified that Nisbet did not have a written light-duty work policy, but the unwritten policy is that lightduty work is only available to employees who are injured on the job. (Haight Dep., Doc. 21 at PageID 315.) According to Wells, however, Nisbet had light-duty work available at the time he requested to return to work. (Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 112-13.)

On September 12, 2017, Haight and Matlock met with Wells to stress the need for him to cooperate with the police to apprehend the shooter. (Haight Decl., Doc. 15-1 at PageID 241; Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 152-53.) According to Wells, however, the police never contacted or questioned him regarding the shooting. (Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 106.) During the meeting, Wells requested to return to work, but Haight explained her and Nisbet's serious safety concerns surrounding Wells returning to work given that the shooter had yet to be apprehended. (Doc. 15-3.) More specifically, Haight informed Wells that if he were to return to work before the shooter was apprehended, Nisbet was concerned the shooter could show up to the workplace to “finish what he started” with Wells and endanger other employees. (Id.)

Ultimately, Wells's employment with Nisbet was terminated on October 31, 2017. (Doc. 16-1 at PageID 280; Doc. 22-1 at PageID 555.) Haight testified that Wells was terminated because of the troubling circumstances of the shooting, Wells's failure to cooperate with the investigation of the shooter, and a concern for the safety of other employees if Wells returned to work with the shooting unresolved.[3] (Haight Decl., Doc. 15-1 at PageID 243; Wells Dep., Doc. 14-1 at PageID 114.) An individual believed to be the shooter was apprehended in February 2018 (Haight Dep., Doc. 21 at PageID 336; Doc. 21-23), but the case against the suspect was eventually dismissed (Doc. 15-5).[4]

B. Procedural Posture

Wells filed this lawsuit against Nisbet on September 14, 2019. (Doc. 1.) In his Complaint, Wells alleges: (1) race discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Ohio Revised Code §§ 4112.02 and 4112.99; (2) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Ohio Revised Code §§ 4112.02 and 4112.99; (3) wage discrimination in violation of Ohio Revised Code §§ 4112.02 and 4111.17; (4) violation of his rights under the FMLA; and (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress. (Id.) Wells seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, costs, prejudgment and post judgment interest, and any other relief the Court deems just and equitable.

On October 18, 2021, Nisbet filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 16.) Wells filed a Memorandum in Opposition as well as a Motion for Additional Discovery.

(Docs. 22, 23.) In the Motion for Additional Discovery, Wells requests the Court to require Nisbet to produce payroll records responsive to his Request for Production of Documents so he can prove his claim for wage discrimination and defend against summary judgment. (Doc. 23.) The Court held oral argument on the pending motions on March 30, 2022. These matters are now fully briefed and ripe for this Court's review.

II. STANDARDS GOVERNING MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 governs motions for summary judgment. Summary judgment is appropriate if “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). The movant has the burden of showing that no genuine issues of material fact are in dispute. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 (1986); see also Provenzano v. LCI Holdings, Inc., 663 F.3d 806, 811 (6th Cir. 2011). The movant may support a motion for summary judgment with affidavits or other proof or by exposing the lack of evidence on an issue for which the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24 (1986). In responding to a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the pleadings but must “present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 257 (1986).

A court's task is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. at 249. [F]acts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.” Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) (emphasis added); see also E.E.O.C. v. Ford Motor Co., 782 F.3d 753, 760 (6th Cir. 2015) (en banc) (quoting Scott). A genuine issue for trial exists when there is sufficient “evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252; see also Shreve v. Franklin Cnty., Ohio, 743 F.3d 126, 132 (6th Cir. 2014) (“A dispute is ‘genuine' only if based on evidence upon which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party.”) (emphasis in original) (citation omitted). “Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3).

III. ANALYSIS
A. Motion for Additional Discovery Pursuant to Rule 56...

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