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Santos v. Wincor Nixdorf, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division

March 23, 2018

MICHELLE SANTOS, Plaintiff,
v.
WINCOR NIXDORF, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          ROBERT PITMAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court are Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Dkt. 43), the responsive pleadings, and Wincor's Objections to and Opposed Motion to Strike Portions of the Declaration Submitted in Support of Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, (Dkt. 48). Having reviewed the filings, the relevant law, and the factual record, the Court issues the following order.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Santos's Employment and Termination

         The claims in this case arise out of Defendant Wincor Nixdorf, Inc.'s (“Wincor”) termination of Plaintiff Michelle Santos's (“Santos”) employment. Santos began working for Wincor in October 2014 in Austin, Texas as a Project Analyst. (Santos Dec., Dkt. 45-1, at 1). Staffmark-a staffing agency-placed Santos in the position and administered her payroll, but Wincor directed and supervised Santos's work. (Id.). Santos's supervisor at Wincor was Danielle Mathews (“Mathews”). (Id.). Mathews testified in her deposition that she “always” intends for Staffmark's placements to become permanent employees of Wincor. (Mathews Depo., Dkt. 45-3, at 64-65). Santos never made it that far.

         About a month into her job, in November 2014, Santos notified Mathews that she was pregnant. (Dkt. 45-1, at 2). For the next few months, Santos's work continued in much the same way as it had since she began working there in October. (Id.). Santos was as an hourly, non-exempt employee earning $25 per hour. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., Dkt. 43, at 3; Pay stubs, Dkt. 43-3). She worked in the finance department of Wincor's Logistics Facility and received overtime pay if she recorded more than 45 hours of work in one week. (Def. Mot. Summ. J., Dkt. 43, at 3; Pay stubs, Dkt. 43-3). Staffmark placements, like Santos, were trained on the job for about six months, rather than completing a formal training program. (Dkt. 45-1, at 1; Dkt. 45-3, at 79-80).

         Towards the end of January 2015, Santos's physician instructed her to work from home because of several serious pregnancy-related conditions that developed during her high-risk pregnancy. (Dkt. 45-1, at 1). Santos sent Mathews an email explaining her situation:

Hi Danielle,
Hope you had a good weekend.
This email is concerning my recent stay at the hospital. Please note that unfortunately I'm having complications with my pregnancy and need your support and understanding with the following please.
I know you've expressed to me several times that you do not mind me working from home which is great because right now I really need to accept your offer.
Due to complications I'm having with my high[-risk] pregnancy I need to work from home. After conversation with Dr regarding my condition and regarding work, please note that I'm still able to work and fully perform all my duties however with a few accommodations at home.
Please confirm if this is a reasonable accommodation with you.
I know my high risk pregnancy has been a bit challenging for me but thank God I'm finally at ¶ 3rd trimester an God willing I will have my baby in my arms soon. As we discussed recently on my 1 on 1, Dr will be inducing me on the 13th of March and as we've previously discussed and agreed, I'm only planning on taking that first week off to heal (03/16 thru 03/20) after that, I will work a couple of weeks from home (that way I can breast feed and bond with baby's first days of life) and then things shall resume to normal.
Upon review, please kindly provide feedback.
Awaiting your reply…
Thank you,
Michelle C. Santos

         (January 2015 emails, Dkt. 45-5, at 5-6).

         Mathews responded:

Hello Michelle
Please send me the Dr's note regarding the below. Working at home on a short term basis on the days you aren't feeling well is different from what you are proposing. I do commiserate with your situation and hope we can make this work.
After recent conversations here, I'm a little concerned with your motivation. I'm also concerned with how we can make some recent adjustments work while you are not in the office, i.e. emails. Please provide your thoughts on how we can work on this situation.
Thanks
Danielle

(Id. at 5).

         Santos replied to Mathews with the note from the doctor and expressed that she was “very motivated” and proposed sending draft emails to Mathews for her approval. (Id.). Mathews forwarded the email thread with Santos to Chad Lyon (“Lyon”), who was her contact at Staffmark. (Id. at 1). In her email to Lyon, Mathews said:

Hi Chad
I wanted to keep you in the loop on the below.
I haven't come up with a plan, yet, or decided what I want to do. We had been having a few problems, and though overall Michelle is a smart woman, I don't like the idea of a contractor still in ...

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