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Lee v. Transam Trucking, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

July 16, 2018

DEANNA M. LEE, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Deanna M. Lee claims that defendant TransAm Trucking, Inc. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (“ADA”), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on disability, including pregnancy, and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating based on gender, including pregnancy. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2(a)(1), 2000e(k). This matter comes before the court upon defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 50). For the reasons explained below, defendant's motion is granted.

         I. Facts

         The following facts are either stipulated in the pretrial order-now the operative pleading-are uncontroverted in the parties' briefing, or where controverted, are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.

         Plaintiff's Employment with Defendant

         Defendant is a transportation company that primarily uses tractor trailers to transport refrigerated product throughout the United States. Plaintiff worked for defendant's wholly owned subsidiary TAFS-formerly TransAm Financial Services, Inc.- starting around June 22, 2015 as a Sales Account Manager. TAFS is a factoring company, meaning it targets smaller transportation companies, and buys their accounts receivable. Plaintiff's job duties were “among other things, to make cold calls, bring in new business, and collect supporting documents to set up the new clients.” (Doc. 55, at 2.) Plaintiff was expected to do 2.5 hours outbound call time known as “talk time” or 70-75 outbound dials daily and she was required to meet a sales quota of closing five new clients each month. Defendant's telephone system automatically recorded and generated daily reports of each sales account manager's daily usage, including: each manager's name; extension; time logged into the system; outbound calls made; and outbound call time.

         George McWilliams supervised plaintiff between June 2015 and December 2015. Ryan Haase supervised her from January 2016 through May 2016, when her employment was terminated. Nick Bird, Emily Eagan, Jessica Nelson, Josh Goode, and Jaime Heredia were also employed by defendant as management while plaintiff worked there.

         Plaintiff's Pregnancy

         Plaintiff became pregnant in November 2015 and informed defendant that same month. During her pregnancy, plaintiff was not entitled to Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave because she had not been employed by defendant for one year. Regardless, defendant approved discretionary intermittent leave for plaintiff to attend pregnancy-related doctor appointments. Despite plaintiff's failure to provide defendant with a Certification of Health Care Provider form until February 2016- the form was requested on November 24, 2015- defendant did not deny plaintiff permission to attend any pregnancy-related appointments, and she did attend several between November 2015 and May 2016.

         Plaintiff could perform all essential job functions of her job and in February 2016 provided a physician's note to defendant that stated she was able to work without restriction. Plaintiff testified that she had a high-risk pregnancy, gestational diabetes, and preterm labor, and that these were the only disabilities she suffered while working for defendant. Plaintiff managed her gestational diabetes by monitoring her blood sugar levels and watching her diet. Plaintiff testified that her pregnancy was high-risk because she had preterm contractions and could have had preterm labor. Plaintiff took medication to manage her preterm contractions. Plaintiff's baby was born May 18, 2016. Any and all preterm contractions she had before May 17, 2016 were nonproductive or non-labor contractions.

         Plaintiff testified that in May 2016, Mr. Haase asked her, in front of co-workers, whether she was going to need to put puppy pads around her chair in case her water broke. Plaintiff testified that on May 16, 2016, Mr. Haase asked her how she was feeling and whether she thought her doctor was going to put her on bed rest. Plaintiff responded that she did not know. He had previously asked her how she managed her gestational diabetes.

         May 16-17, 2016-The Termination of Plaintiff's Employment

         On May 16, 2016, defendant's director of sales, Jaime Heredia, reported to human resources that plaintiff's talk time was “considerably low, ” that she only had one closed deal for the month, and that she would not meet the monthly expectations at her current pace. (Id. at 8.) Defendant issued a Disciplinary Report dated May 17, 2016, the day after Mr. Heredia's email detailing plaintiff's performance. It stated, “Disciplinary action taken: Written Warning.” (Id. at 9.)

         At around 2:00 p.m. on May 17, 2016, Ryan Haase and Nick Bird met with plaintiff in a private room to discuss the written warning. Plaintiff refused to sign the report because she believed it contained false information, including the amount of talk-time she had accrued. Plaintiff claims that she repeatedly received good feedback from management about her performance at work. Plaintiff claims that her preterm labor and contractions started because of the meeting and that she told Mr. Haase and Mr. Bird about her condition. She claims they responded that the meeting would only take a minute. Plaintiff left the meeting for a pre-scheduled and approved pregnancy-related doctor's appointment, at which her doctor put her on bed rest.

         After the meeting, both Mr. Haase and Mr. Bird reported that plaintiff said the report was “bullshit” multiple times during the meeting. Plaintiff claims that the memoranda allegedly submitted by Mr. Haase and Mr. Bird were drafted by Emily Eagan, defendant's human resources VP.

         According to defendant's written policies, signed by plaintiff, insubordination or disrespectful conduct are grounds for immediate termination of an employee's employment. Defendant claims that after the 2:00 p.m. meeting, before plaintiff's doctor placed her on bed rest, human resources had decided to terminate plaintiff's employment based on her insubordinate and disrespectful behavior. Ms. Eagan e-mailed Mr. Haase, Mr. Bird, Mr. Heredia, Ms. Vilarreal, and Mr. Goode on May 17, 2016 at 3:17 p.m. asking for Mr. Haase and Mr. Bird's “very detailed, accurate, description of what happened in the meeting today with Deanna.” (Doc. 51-15.) The e-mail stated that “We will be discharging her IF she returns to work tomorrow due to her insubordination. It's pretty apparent that she intended to end her employment. I will plan on being down at TAFS tomorrow before 8am so we can terminate her employment.” (Id.)

         Plaintiff claims this decision was made after plaintiff texted Mr. Haase on May 18, 2016, to inform him that she had been placed on bed rest. Mr. Haase responded to plaintiff's text, as dictated by Ms. Eagan, “FYI - After our meeting yesterday, we considered your employment to be terminated. You will be receiving a letter from HR.” (Doc. 58-8.)

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact” and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

         The party moving for summary judgment has the burden to show “the lack of a genuine issue of material fact.” Ascend Media Prof'l Servs., LLC v. Eaton Hall Corp., 531 F.Supp.2d 1288, 1295 (D. Kan. 2008) (citing Spaulding v. United Transp. Union, 279 F.3d 901, 904 (10th Cir. 2002) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986))). Once the moving party meets this initial burden, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to “set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (citing Spaulding, 279 F.3d at 904 (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986))).

         The nonmovant may not rest on his pleadings or “rely on ignorance of the facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial.” Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 259 (1986)); Conaway v. Smith, 853 F.2d 789, 794 (10th Cir. 1988). Instead, the nonmovant is required to set forth specific facts, by referencing affidavits, deposition transcripts, or exhibits, from which a rational trier of fact could find for him. Fed R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); see also Ascend Media, 531 F.Supp.2d at 1295 (citing Adams v. Am. Guar. & Liab. Ins. Co., 233 F.3d 1242, 1246 (10th Cir. 2000)). Summary judgment is not a “disfavored procedural shortcut”-it is an “integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.” Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 327 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff makes six claims in the pretrial order: (1) Defendant violated the ADA by terminating her employment based on her pregnancy and related disabilities; (2) by harassing her based on her pregnancy and related disabilities; (3) by retaliating against her for requesting leave for her pregnancy or related conditions by terminating her employment for requesting such leave; (4) and by falsifying her work performance records; (5) that defendant violated Title VII by ...

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