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Carroll v. The City of Lake Forest Park

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

January 6, 2015

THE CITY OF LAKE FOREST PARK, et al., Defendants.


JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Dkt. No. 26). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the motion in part and DENIES the motion in part for the reasons explained herein.


Plaintiff Nolan Carroll ("Carroll") was a maintenance employee for the Public Works Department of the City of Lake Forest Park ("the City"). He is suing the City and Defendants Frank Zenk ("Zenk") and Scott Walker ("Walker") for disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violations, FMLA discrimination, and wrongful termination in violation of public policy. Defendant Zenk is the Public Works Director for the City, and supervises Defendant Walker, who is the Public Works Superintendent. Walker was Plaintiff's immediate supervisor at the Public Works Department.

Carroll suffers from a variety of medical conditions. He alleges that he was subjected to a series of harsh, humiliating, and discriminatory job actions, culminating in his unlawful termination, in retaliation for having sought Union assistance in dealing with alleged racist and discriminatory remarks made by Adam Brataan, another Public Works Department employee. Defendants deny that they engaged in any unlawful conduct, and claim that Carroll was terminated because of his continuing refusal to follow direction and procedure. Defendants move to dismiss all of Carroll's claims with prejudice as a matter of law.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Generally, "the plaintiff in an employment discrimination action need produce very little evidence in order to overcome an employer's motion for summary judgment. This is because the ultimate question is one that can only be resolved through a searching inquiry-one that is most appropriately conducted by a factfinder, upon a full record." Chuang v. Univ. of California Davis, Bd. of Trustees, 225 F.3d 1115, 1124 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

Pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[t]he 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). In making such a determination, the Court must view the facts and justifiable inferences to be drawn there from in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party "must come forward with 2017specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. '" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). Material facts are those that may affect the outcome of the case, and a dispute about a material fact is genuine if there is sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49. Conclusory, non-specific statements in affidavits are not sufficient, and "missing facts" will not be "presumed." Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, 497 U.S. 871, 888-89 (1990). Ultimately, summary judgment is appropriate 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. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

B. Disability Discrimination Under the ADA

Carroll claims that he was unlawfully discriminated against in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq, the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). The parties agree that the appropriate legal framework for considering Carroll's ADA disability discrimination claim is that established by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). See Hines v. Todd Pac. Shipyards Corp., 127 Wn.App. 356, 370-71 (2005) ("Washington courts have adopted the McDonnell Douglas/Burdine three-part burden allocation framework for disparate treatment cases."). Specifically, Carroll must show

that (1) he belongs to a protected class; (2) he was qualified for the position; (3) he was subject to an adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated individuals outside his protected class were treated more favorably. The burden of production, but not persuasion, then shifts to the employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged action. If the employer does so, the plaintiff must show that the articulated reason is pretextual either directly by persuading the court that a discriminatory reason more likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence.

Chuang, 225 F.3d at 1123-24.

There is no question that Carroll belongs to a protected class or that he was qualified for his position. Defendants argue that Carroll cannot make out a prima facie case for discrimination because he was not subjected to an adverse employment action based on his disability. Instead, Defendants claim that Carroll was disciplined solely for his failure to follow ...

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