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Overton v. Seaborn Health Care, Inc.

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

November 27, 2013

CAROLINE OVERTON, Plaintiff,
v.
SEABORN HEALTH CARE, INC., Defendant.

ORDER

XAVIER RODRIGUEZ, District Judge.

On this date, the Court considered Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Doc. No. 20. After careful consideration, the Court GRANTS the motion.

BACKGROUND

This case arises out of Plaintiff Caroline Overton's employment relationship with Defendant Seaborn Health Care Inc. ("Seaborn"). In 2010, Seaborn won a contract with the U.S. government to provide phlebotomy services at Lackland Air Force Base ("Lackland"). On September 30, 2010, Seaborn hired Ms. Overton to work as a phlebotomist at the Specimen Collection Center at Lackland. Phlebotomists at Lackland have two main responsibilities: they draw blood and they check-in patients using a computer system. At Seaborn, Ms. Overton reported to Jackie Amadio, Seaborn's President. However, Seaborn did not have on-site supervisors at Lackland and so Ms. Overton worked directly under the supervision of Technical Sergeant ("TSgt") Anthony Furlough and Master Sergeant ("MSg.") Melissa Rea.

On May 16, 2011, Ms. Overton reported to Ms. Amadio that she had injured her right arm. Ms. Overton claimed that the injury was caused by repeatedly drawing blood. Her physician diagnosed her with lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow. Ms. Overton then inquired about the possibility of having her work routine changed so that she would not have to draw blood all day. Seaborn accommodated this request, and for one month Ms. Overton drew blood for a half-day while staffing the front desk for the rest of the day. This was the only request for any modification of work conditions that Ms. Overton made before she was discharged.

After resuming her normal job responsibilities for seven months, Ms. Overton's injuries re-appeared in late December, 2011. This sparked a series of injury-related absences from work.[1] Finally, on January 25, 2012, Ms. Overton saw her physician and was cleared to return to work with certain restrictions that were to remain in place until February 8, 2012. These restrictions included a prohibition on using her right arm, wrist, or hand for more than two hours in a day. She was also prohibited from using a keyboard and from lifting more than 20 pounds.

On January 26, 2012, Ms. Overton returned to work at the Specimen Collection Center at Lackland. After drawing blood for two-hours, TSgt Furlough informed Ms. Overton that he interpreted her work restrictions as limiting her to two hours per day of work, after which point she was to return home. The parties offer differing accounts of what unfolded next. According to Seaborn, this set Ms. Overton off into a "tirade, " during which time she "began waving her hands in the air and jabbing her finger at TSgt Furlough." Doc. No. 20. Worse, this "outburst" allegedly occurred in full view of the service members, contractors, and patients in the Specimen Collection Center. Id. According to Defendant, MSgt Rea was unable to calm Ms. Overton, who then left the Specimen Collection Center without resolving the dispute. MSgt Rea then called Ms. Amadio to report the incident and exercised her contractual right to prohibit Seaborn from utilizing Ms. Overton on the Lackland phlebotomy contract.[2] Ms. Overton then allegedly returned to the Specimen Collection Center and was thereafter escorted off base by security. Id.

Ms. Overton frames the events differently. According to Ms. Overton, MSgt Rea and TSgt Furlough were never receptive to her work restrictions. Overton Dep. at 69. As the confrontation ensued, Ms. Overton claims that she was "upset, but not angry." Id. at 85-86. According to Ms. Overton's account there was no profanity and no hysterics. She merely was trying to resolve the situation. Ms. Overton claims to have been humiliated by the experience of having her access badge revoked. Id. at 97. That same afternoon, Ms. Overton was terminated by Seaborn.

On June 28, 2012, Ms. Overton filed an original complaint in this Court. Ms. Overton alleges that Seaborn violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") by: (1) failing to provide her with reasonable accommodation for her disability; and (2) discriminating against her on the basis of her disability. In addition, Ms. Overton brings a claim under ยง 451 of the Texas Labor Code, alleging that she was terminated in retaliation for filing a worker's compensation claim. On September 13, 2013, Seaborn filed this motion for summary judgment. Doc. No. 20.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is proper when the evidence 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); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-252 (1986). Rule 56 "mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails... 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." Curtis v. Anthony, 710 F.3d 587, 594 (5th Cir. 2013) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)).

The court must draw reasonable inferences and construe evidence in favor of the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Although the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, a nonmovant may not rely on "conclusory allegations, unsubstantiated assertions, or only a scintilla of evidence" to create a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to survive summary judgment. Freeman v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, 369 F.3d 854, 860 (5th Cir. 2004).

DISCUSSION

1. Americans with Disabilities ...


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