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Hull v. Arvest Bank Operations, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma

August 11, 2017

STEPHEN CHARLES HULL, Plaintiff,
v.
ARVEST BANK OPERATIONS, INC., d/b/a ARVEST BANK, Defendant.

          ORDER

          TIMOTHY D. DeGIUSTI, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 53], filed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 and LCvR56.1. Defendant Arvest Bank Operations, Inc. seeks a judgment in its favor on all claims asserted in the Amended Complaint: 1) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; 2) age discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. § 101 et seq.; and 3) age and disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act, Okla. Stat. tit. 25, § 1101 et seq.[1]

         Plaintiff Stephen Hull has responded in partial opposition to the Motion. See Pl's Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 63]. Regarding his ADEA claims of age discrimination and retaliation, Plaintiff affirmatively states that he “voluntarily abandons” these claims. See id. at 16. Further, he provides no facts or evidence to support any ADEA claim. Accordingly, the Court finds that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's ADEA claims of age discrimination and retaliation.

         Plaintiff does dispute that Defendant is entitled to summary judgment on his ADA claim. See Id. at 16-30.[2] Defendant has filed a reply brief [Doc. No. 67], and both parties have made supplemental submissions based on evidence subsequently developed during discovery. See Pl.'s Suppl. Resp. Br. [Doc. No. 80]; Def.'s Suppl. Reply Br. [Doc. No. 84].

         Standard of Decision

         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either party. Id. at 255. All facts and reasonable inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id. If a party who would bear the burden of proof at trial lacks sufficient evidence on an essential element of a claim, all other factual issues concerning the claim become immaterial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a dispute of material fact warranting summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant carries this burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and “set forth specific facts” that would be admissible in evidence and that show a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998). “To accomplish this, the facts must be identified by reference to affidavits, deposition transcripts, or specific exhibits incorporated therein.” Adler, 144 F.3d at 671; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). “The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court's inquiry is whether the facts and evidence identified by the parties present “a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         Statement of Undisputed Facts

         Plaintiff began employment with Defendant in Missouri in December 2009. In June 2011, he was promoted to loan manager and moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. From 2011 through 2013, Plaintiff's performance evaluations reflected some criticism of his communication style and interpersonal skills, but he received positive remarks and ratings in all other areas. Throughout his employment by Defendant, Plaintiff's performance was rated as satisfactory or better by his supervisors, and he received no discipline.

         In March 2014, Ron Witherspoon became president of Defendant's Oklahoma City branch and Plaintiff's supervisor.[3] In February 2015, Mr. Witherspoon completed Plaintiff's annual performance appraisal. Plaintiff's overall rating and his ratings in most performance areas, including supervisory skills, were described as “meets requirements, ” and he received ratings of “exceptional” and “commendable” in customer relations and service. See Def.'s Ex. 12 [Doc. No. 53-12] at 4-6. Mr. Witherspoon was critical, however, of the results of Plaintiff's manager evaluation survey by associates under his supervision, and instructed Plaintiff to work on improving these response ratings. Plaintiff attributes some of the negative survey feedback to the pressure of increased financial goals for his department.

         In April or May 2015, a cyst removed from Plaintiff's head was determined to be malignant. In June 2015, Plaintiff was diagnosed with metastatic, stage IV melanoma that had spread to his lungs. Plaintiff also was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and his thyroid was surgically removed in September 2015. In October 2015, Plaintiff began treatment of the melanoma with a cancer medication, Keytruda® (pembrolizumab), administered by infusion every three weeks. His physicians recommended radioactive iodine therapy for the thyroid cancer, but this treatment has been postponed during the melanoma treatment. It is unclear exactly when Defendant learned of Plaintiff's diagnoses and treatment. Plaintiff has testified that he first informed Defendant's human resources manager, Janice Fox, of his melanoma cancer diagnosis in July 2015; Ms. Fox recalls learning of it in August or September. Mr. Witherspoon has testified that his assistant told him in “mid 2015, ” that is “late spring, early summer, like April, May, June time frame, ” that Plaintiff had cancer, although she did not know anything specific, and that he reported it to Ms. Fox. See Witherspoon Dep. 11:25-13:3; 13:21-14:6. Plaintiff did not request an accommodation of his medical condition from Defendant.

         In November 2015, Mr. Witherspoon decided to terminate Plaintiff's employment. According to Mr. Witherspoon, he reached this decision because he “had lost confidence in [Plaintiff's] ability to lead” his department due to a combination of factors, including a former employee's complaint about Plaintiff and an unsatisfactory manager evaluation survey. See Witherspoon Dep. 18:4-11; 38:4-8; 49:17-51:5. Specifically, on October 22, 2015, Rebecca Schoelen resigned; she later cited Plaintiff's management style as a factor in her resignation and accused him of discriminating against female employees. While investigating Ms. Schoelen's complaint, Defendant received another complaint about Plaintiff's communication and leadership styles, and Defendant conducted a new manager evaluation survey regarding Plaintiff. On November 12, 2015, Mr. Witherspoon received the results of the survey, and the scores and comments showed a higher rate of negative feedback compared to the February 2015 survey, although the majority of responses remained positive. Plaintiff was terminated effective November 15, 2017.

         Discussion

         A. Prima Facie Case of ...


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