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Andrews v. Green Bay Packaging Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

March 5, 2019




         Pending is the Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (Docket #19). Plaintiff has filed a response and Defendant has filed a reply. For the reasons set forth herein, the motion is GRANTED.

         Defendant Green Bay Packaging, Inc. (“Green Bay”) is a privately held corporation with its headquarters in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Green Bay operates the Arkansas Kraft Division, a mill outside of Morrilton, Arkansas (“the Mill”). Plaintiff Lonnie Russell Andrews (“Andrews”) was employed at the Mill from approximately 1989 to the date of his termination in August, 2017. Prior to his termination Andrews was an Electrical and Instrumentation Maintenance Technician. On October 30, 2017, Andrews filed suit against Green Bay in the Circuit Court of Conway, Arkansas. Green Bay removed the case to this Court on December 1, 2017. Andrews alleges causes of action for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate and retaliation pursuant to the Arkansas Civil Rights Act, Ark. Code Ann. §16-123-107; wrongful termination; breach of the collective bargaining agreement; and violations of public policy. Green Bay seeks summary judgment on each of Andrews' claims. Andrews does not dispute that Green Bay is entitled to summary judgment on his breach of contract/collective bargaining agreement claim and on his claim for wrongful termination based on public policy.

         The Court will examine the remaining claims.


         Request for Accommodation

         On January 8, 2016, Andrews provided Green Bay with a letter, sent on behalf of Dr. Jeremy Saul, stating that he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) and anxiety and asked that Green Bay “consider accommodating any reasonable accommodations that the patient has requested to help alleviate his anxiety and post-traumatic stress symptoms.” (ECF No. 21-3, p. 2). The letter did not list any particular accommodations requested. (Id.). On January 18, 2016, Andrews provided a letter listing the accommodations he sought. (ECF 21-4, p. 2). Andrews' January 18, 2016, accommodation request seeks the following accommodations, to be provided for an indefinite period of time:

a. Andrews asked not to be “forced to go to the Machine Room E&I Shop for any reason” because he had been “threaten[ed] and bull[ied]” there.
b. Andrews asked that he not have any contact with Steve Ballard, a co-worker who screamed at him.
c. Andrews asked to have no contact with his supervisor Lucas Law and that any instructions given to him by Mr. Law be in writing with a witness present.
d. Andrews asked that only under “extreme situations” should he have to work with Monty West because he did not “trust him”.
e. Andrews asked that he be excused from any situation where he felt “vulnerable or at risk.” f. Andrews asked that he be free to ask for additional accommodations as he deemed fit.

(Id.). In a January 21, 2016 e-mail, Andrews stated “it was not my desire to formally ask for accommodations for this disability (PTSD).” (ECF No. 21-5, p. 2). On January 25, 2016, Green Bay acknowledged Andrews' request and asked that he provide a medical certification showing that the accommodation requests came directly from his medical provider. Green Bay informed Andrews that once it received the medical certification, it would review the accommodations and follow up with Andrews' medical provider if necessary. (ECF No. 21-6, p. 2). In a January 25, 2016 e-mail Andrews refused to go back to his doctor for medical certification. (ECF 21-6, p. 3). On January 26, 2016, Andrews withdrew his request for accommodation during mediation with Green Bay. (ECF No. 20-3, p.49-50). Andrews claims that he withdrew his request for accommodations because he thought he was going to be fired. (Id.). On February 16, 2016, Ms. Drilling sent an e-mail to Andrews asking him if Green Bay had permission to contact his doctor with questions. (ECF No. 21-7, p. 2). On February 17, 2016, Andrews e-mailed Green Bay stating he “cannot give the approval” for Green Bay to contact his doctor. (Id.).

         Green Bay asked Andrews again during a February 22, 2016 meeting if William Cone, Green Bay's Vice President and General Manager - Arkansas Kraft Division, could contact Andrews' doctor. Andrews refused. (ECF 20-3 p. 234). During the February 22, 2016 meeting, Mr. Cone advised Andrews that Green Bay needed to talk to his doctor to discuss his accommodations and because they had numerous employees that had expressed concern about his change in behavior and about him potentially causing harm to himself or others. (ECF No. 20-3, p. 234). On February 29, 2016 Green Bay placed Andrews on paid leave until an appointment with a psychiatrist could be made. (ECF No. 20-3, p. 60). On March 8, 2016, Andrews had an examination with Counselling Associates, Inc. (Id.). Counseling Associates, Inc. sent a fax to Green Bay on that date stating, “CAI cannot determine if Lonnie is fit to return to work or not.” (Id. at p. 61).

         On March 11, 2016, Mr. Cone and Ms. Drilling met with Andrews to discuss his accommodation requests (ECF No. 20-3, p. 63). During the March 11, 2016 meeting, Andrews again withdrew his accommodation requests stating, “I am not asking for accommodations” and further stating “you can put me back in the crew tomorrow; I'm not asking for accommodations.” (Id.).

         On March 15, 2016, Andrews sent an e-mail to Green Bay restating that he was no longer seeking accommodations. (ECF No. 21-9, p. 2). Andrews stated that he was still concerned for his safety while on company property. On March 17, 2016, Green Bay sent Andrews a follow-up e-mail reminding him that it needed specific information from his physician to further consider any accommodations. (ECF No. 21-10, p. 2). By email dated March 21, 2016, Andrews stated: “[t]his ...

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