United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
J. CAUTHRON, JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, along with Plaintiff's Response and
Defendant's Reply thereto. (See Dkt. Nos. 28,
34, 40.) Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for
Summary Judgment, along with Defendant's Response and
Plaintiff's Reply thereto. (See Dkt. Nos. 27,
33, 37.) The motions are now at issue.
began working for Defendant as a part-time teller in 2010.
During her time there, she was subject to Defendant's
attendance policy, which-among other things-provides the
parameters for addressing an employee's tardiness.
Essentially, the attendance policy permits Defendant to take
certain steps to warn the employee as he or she accumulates
late arrivals over a 12-month span. Most importantly, though,
the policy grants Defendant the authority to dismiss an
employee after he or she accumulates nine late arrivals
within this time frame. (See Dkt. No. 28-2, p. 4.)
August 2015, Danielle Ford became Plaintiff's direct
supervisor. At some point thereafter, Plaintiff began
struggling to show up to work on time. Indeed, as early as
December 2015, Ford began to take note of Plaintiff's
tardiness. Throughout the early months of 2016, Ford remained
aware of this and discussed it with Plaintiff multiple times.
By June 2016, though, Defendant's records reflected that
Plaintiff had accumulated eight late arrivals. (See
Dkt. No. 28-12.) Under Defendant's attendance policy,
then, she was one late arrival away from being subject to
dismissal. On June 24, 2016, Defendant issued Plaintiff a
Written Warning detailing her late arrivals and cautioning
her that “[i]mmediate and sustained improvement is
2013, Plaintiff injured her neck in an Oklahoma tornado. Her
injuries required extensive medical treatment-including
surgery around May 2015. By March 2016, though, it became
clear to Plaintiff and her doctor that the surgery was
unsuccessful, and that she would likely need an additional
one. (Dkt. No. 34-36.) So, at that point, Plaintiff began
consistently updating Ford about this. Plaintiff also spoke
with Ford multiple times about her injuries causing her
tardiness. She recalls, moreover, that Ford criticized her
for mentioning her neck issues at work. (Dkt. 34-12, p. 5.)
By June 27, 2016, Plaintiff's doctor had essentially
determined that Plaintiff should undergo a second surgery
stemming from the 2013 tornado, but had not yet confirmed a
specific date. (Dkt. No. 34-37.) Plaintiff soon thereafter
communicated this to Ford.
around June 28, 2016, Plaintiff approached Henry Patton, a
Market Director for Defendant, and Ford's supervisor. She
complained to Patton that she believed Ford began targeting
her ever since Ford learned that Plaintiff would need medical
leave for her upcoming surgery. (Dkt. No. 34-12, pp. 17,
20-21.) Patton notified Ford that Plaintiff approached him,
and the next day, Ford directly confronted Plaintiff about
this. About a week later, on July 8, 2018, Plaintiff received
a subpar performance review-consisting mostly of Ford marking
“needs improvement” in every category, without
offering any explanation. (Dkt. No. 34-25.)
August 23, 2016, Plaintiff arrived to work eight minutes
late-marking her ninth late arrival over the past 12 months.
As a result, later that day, Ford and Patton jointly decided
to move to dismiss Plaintiff. (Dkt. No. 28-23; Dkt. No.
28-21, p. 5.) Ford then contacted Defendant's HR
department and requested to terminate Plaintiff, based solely
on her excessive tardiness. Though multiple HR officials
believed these grounds for termination were somewhat
“petty, ” by the next day, August 24, 2016, HR
had approved Ford's request to terminate Plaintiff. (Dkt.
No. 34-9, p. 1.) That same day, Plaintiff requested medical
leave for her upcoming surgery. Plaintiff was ultimately
dismissed on August 25, 2016. The lone justification
Defendant proffered for Plaintiff's termination was her
violation of its attendance policy.
then initiated this litigation, arguing that Defendant
violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”) and the Oklahoma Anti-Discrimination Act
(“OADA”). Specifically, she advances
discrimination and retaliation claims under both the ADA and
the OADA. Defendant now moves for summary
judgment-maintaining that the undisputed record demonstrates
it acted appropriately and terminated Plaintiff for a
legitimate business reason: her excessive tardiness. I.
Standard A key policy goal and primary principle of
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 is “to isolate and dispose of factually
unsupported claims or defenses.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Fed.R.Civ.P. 56
sets the standard for summary judgment:
A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim
or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which
summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary
judgment 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).
judgment is appropriate “after adequate time for
discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make
a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex
Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. “[T]his standard provides
that the mere existence of some alleged factual
dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise
properly supported motion for summary judgment; the
requirement is that there be no genuine issue of
material fact.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). It is
also well established that the “party seeking summary
judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing
the district court of the basis for its motion . . . which it
believes demonstrate[s] the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at
322. “As to materiality, the substantive law will
identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts
that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
“When the moving party has carried its burden under
Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that
there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . .
. . 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., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (footnote omitted).
“In its review, the Court construes the record in the
light most favorable to the party opposing summary
judgment.” Garratt v. Walker, 164 F.3d 1249,
1251 (10th Cir. 1998).