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Gilmore v. Boeing Co.

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

February 14, 2018



          Marsha J. Pechman United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on the parties' Motions for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the Motions (Dkt. Nos. 32, 36), the Responses (Dkt. Nos. 54, 69), the Replies (Dkt. Nos. 61, 76), and all related papers, and having considered the statements of the parties at oral argument, the Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion in its entirety and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion in its entirety.


         Plaintiff Michael Gilmore filed this action against The Boeing Company (“Boeing”) for employment discrimination on the basis of race and disability. Plaintiff asserts claims for employment discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, and failure to accommodate his disability under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (“WLAD”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981, et seq. (“Section 1981”), and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (“ADA”).

         Plaintiff, who is African American and suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, worked for Boeing as a Nondestructive Inspection Technician (“NDI Technician”) from September 2011-August 2015 in its Tukwila and Auburn facilities. (Dkt. No. 1 at 3, 5; Dkt. No. 69 at 2.) As an NDI Technician, Plaintiff was tasked with inspecting airplane parts for imperfections and defects. (Dkt. No. 36 at 2-3.) As these parts were later to be incorporated into passenger airplanes, accuracy and attention to detail in their inspection were critical. (Id. at 2.)

         As a result of his sleep apnea, Plaintiff claims he suffered from daytime somnolence which made it difficult for him to stay awake at work. Boeing claims Plaintiff was repeatedly observed sleeping at work, and was repeatedly advised to request an accommodation. The relevant timeline of events is as follows:

         Between 2011-2012, Plaintiff was observed sleeping at work several times. (Dkt. No. 36 at 3.) When confronted by his supervisor, Paul Adams, Plaintiff explained that he had a medical condition. (Id.) Mr. Adams advised Plaintiff to initiate a request for accommodation with Boeing Medical. (Id.)

         In 2013, after Mr. Adams observed him sleeping at work several more times, Plaintiff identified his condition as sleep apnea. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff requested to work a later shift, which he explained would help him accommodate his sleep apnea. (Id.) Mr. Adams granted the request and again advised Plaintiff to initiate a request with Boeing Medical. (Id.)

         In June 2014, Mr. Adams again observed Plaintiff sleeping at work. (Id.) Mr. Adams referred the matter to Human Resources for discipline. (Id. at 4-5.)

         On July 15, 2014, after learning of the pending discipline, Plaintiff submitted medical documentation to Boeing Medical. (Id. at 5; Dkt. No. 38, Ex. D.) Boeing's Reasonable Accommodation Procedure required that such documentation identify both “the medical necessity of the requested accommodation” and the employee's “functional limitations.” (Dkt. No. 36 at 3 n.2.) Plaintiff's documentation showed he had been diagnosed with sleep apnea on June 1, 2010, but did not identify functional limitations nor recommended any accommodation. (Dkt. No. 38, Ex. D.)

         On July 25, 2014, Boeing issued Plaintiff a Corrective Action Memorandum (“CAM”) for sleeping at work (the “July 2014 CAM”). (Dkt. No. 36 at 5; Dkt. No. 40, Ex. S.)

         In January 2015, Joseph Benavides assumed supervision over Plaintiff and other NDI Technicians in his group. (Dkt. No. 36 at 6.) During a team meeting, Mr. Benavides greeted Plaintiff by saying “good morning, sunshine, ” and thereafter referred to him as “sunshine” several more times. (Id.; Dkt. No. 69 at 5.) At the same team meeting, Plaintiff claims he overheard Mr. Benavides use the term “little hood rats.” (Id. at 6.) On January 27, 2015, Plaintiff told Mr. Benavides he found the term “sunshine” racially offensive. (Dkt. No. 38, Ex. H.)

         Around the same time, Mr. Benavides confronted Plaintiff regarding problems with his attendance, including chronic lateness. (Dkt. No. 36 at 6.) Plaintiff explained that he suffered from sleep apnea and asked Mr. Benavides for help using his leave benefits. (Id.) Mr. Benavides advised Plaintiff to contact Boeing Medical, and provided him with a Reasonable Accommodation and Health Care Provider Form (the “Reasonable Accommodation Form”). (Id.)

         On January 23, 2015, Plaintiff submitted the Reasonable Accommodation Form to Boeing Medical along with documentation from his physician stating he needed to “come into work occasionally late as he will sleep through alarm.” (Dkt. No. 36 at 6-7; Dkt. No. 38, Ex. E.) Boeing's Disability Management Representative reviewed the request with Plaintiff, and together they agreed he would use Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave and personal leave to adjust his schedule as needed. (Dkt. No. 36 at 7; Dkt. No. 38, Ex. H.) Plaintiff claims he was not late to work once offered this accommodation. (Dkt. No. 36 at 7; Dkt. No. 38-7 at 192:4-10.)

         Around May 2015, Plaintiff voluntarily transferred from Boeing's Tukwila facility to its facility in Auburn. (Dkt. No. 36 at 3.) Plaintiff requested a later shift in Auburn, but was told this would not be feasible given the facility's production environment and shift schedule. (Id. at 7.) Mr. Benavides advised Plaintiff to continue using FMLA and personal leave to adjust his schedule as needed. (Id.)

         On July 13, 2015, Plaintiff received a second CAM for failing to comply with a company policy requiring NDI Technicians to log out of a document called the “NDI log” (the “July 2015 CAM”). (See Dkt. No. 40, Ex. U.) The NDI log was used to record and track airplane part inspections, and Boeing claims that failure to exit the log properly resulted in lost data and lost production time. (Dkt. No. 36 at 8.) Boeing claims that prior to the July 2015 CAM, Plaintiff and other NDI Technicians were repeatedly warned that failure to exit the log properly would result in discipline. (Id.)

         On August 11, 2015, Plaintiff received a third CAM for violating Boeing's “No Walk Away Policy, ” which prohibited employees from leaving a certain machines unattended. (Id. at 9.) Boeing claims Plaintiff improperly left an AUSS machine unattended for over an hour, and as a result “gallons of water spilled out of the tank and onto the shop floor near live electrical outlets.” (Id.; Dkt. No. 40, Ex. M.)

         Pursuant to company policy, Plaintiff was terminated in August 2015 for having received his third CAM in ...

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