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Jenkins v. Vestas-American Wind Technology, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Oregon

April 4, 2014

RICHARD JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
VESTAS-AMERICAN WIND TECHNOLOGY, INC., a foreign corporation, Defendant.

Craig A. Crispin, Crispin Employment Lawyers, Portland, Oregon.

John Judge, Judge, Kostura & Putnam, PC, Austin, Texas. Attorneys for plaintiff

Carol J. Bernick, James G. Parker, Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, Portland, Oregon ttorneys for defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

ANN AIKEN, District Judge.

Plaintiff Richard Jenkins filed suit against defendant Vestas-American Wind Technology, Inc., alleging claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and Oregon common law. Defendant moves for summary judgement pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

From October 2008, through August 2011, plaintiff was employed as a project technician by defendant. Plaintiff traveled to wind farm locations nationwide to perform construction and maintenance on wind turbine towers. Plaintiff's direct supervisor was Stacy Nelson, who was based in defendant's Portland office; plaintiff also reported directly to local supervisors at each job site. The position was physically demanding, requiring plaintiff to lift, push, or carry fifty pounds; climb heights up to 410 feet; work in confined spaces atop towers in adverse weather conditions; stand or walk for prolonged periods; and stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl regularly.

During his employment with defendant, plaintiff sustained several injuries. Most recently, plaintiff experienced a knee injury that required surgery. On March 28, 2011, plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim relating to his knee injury. On April 1, 2011, plaintiff went on leave under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") to recover from knee surgery. After twelve weeks, plaintiff's FMLA leave was exhausted, but he did not have clearance from his doctor to return to work. Defendant granted plaintiff additional leave from June 24, 2011, through August 12, 2011. On August 12, 2011, plaintiff was terminated because he still did not have medical clearance to return to full duty work.

On September 28, 2012, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court, alleging: (1) failure to accommodate and wrongful termination claims under the ADA; and (2) a wrongful discharge claim under Oregon common law. On November 15, 2013, defendant moved for summary judgment. On December 9, 2013, plaintiff moved

to amend his complaint. On March 3, 2014, this Court denied plaintiff's motion to amend, leaving the original complaint as the dispositive pleading.

STANDARDS

Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits, if any, "show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the [moving party] is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Substantive law on an issue determines the materiality of a fact. T.W. Elec. Serv., Inc. v. P. Elec. Contractors Ass'n , 809 F.2d 626, 630 (9th Cir. 1987). Whether the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party determines the authenticity of a dispute. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party shows the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and identify facts which show a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

Special rules of construction apply when evaluating a summary judgment motion: (1) all reasonable doubts as to the existence of genuine issues of material fact should be resolved against the moving party; and (2) all inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts must be viewed in the ...


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