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Wright v. Oshkosh Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

March 24, 2017

WAYNE L. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,


          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Wayne L. Wright filed this action against his former employer, Defendant Oshkosh Corporation (“Oshkosh”), alleging that Oshkosh discriminated against him on the basis of his disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213. More specifically, Wright alleges that Oshkosh failed to reasonably accommodate his disabilities and terminated him due to his disabilities. Wright also alleges a breach of contract claim against Oshkosh for failure to pay his 2013 bonus. This Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1367. This case is now before the Court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 19.) For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted and this case will be dismissed.


         On December 12, 2011, Plaintiff Wayne Wright began working for Defendant Oshkosh Corporation as its Enterprise IT Strategy Execution Office Leader (“SEO Leader”). The SEO Leader position was created for the purpose of “further developing and fine tuning the Enterprise IT Strategy, teaching it to the incoming IT leaders, and assisting them to develop methodologies to implement and execute the Enterprise IT Strategy within their individual service domains.” (DPFOF ¶ 10, ECF No. 32.) Oshkosh asserts the SEO Leader position was intended as a temporary position, with the need for the position dissipating after approximately two years-although Wright contends that the position was never presented to him as temporary. (ECF No. 38, ¶¶ 8-9.)

         Wright suffered from a variety of medical conditions during his employment at Oshkosh. During his interviews for the SEO Leader position, Wright informed Oshkosh that he was a “disabled vet” due to back and ankle injuries. Oshkosh subsequently provided Wright with a chair with lumbar support, a stool on which to rest and flex his ankle, and a monitor stand in an effort to accommodate Wright's back and ankle difficulties. In order to perform his duties as the SEO Leader, Wright asserts he needed to stand up and stretch his back and ankle every hour, move his arms, and could not stand for periods longer than 30 minutes. (Id. ¶ 77.) Wright informed Oshkosh in February 2012 that he suffered a heart attack and underwent heart surgery prior to starting at Oshkosh. Wright told Oshkosh he did not need any accommodations arising from his heart problems. Throughout his employment, Wright also alerted Oshkosh to other medical conditions, such as diverticulitis and thoracic outlet syndrome.

         On May 16, 2013, Wright was diagnosed with idiopathic hypersomnia, a sleeping condition. The Corporate Vice President of IT, Dave Schecklman, asked Wright whether he required any accommodations related to his sleep-related issues. Wright replied that he did not. On June 25, 2013, Wright notified Corporate Segment Human Resources Manager Melanie Bruins that he had a health condition that impacted his ability to get sleep, was taking medications for the condition, and needed to monitor his blood pressure throughout the day. Bruins informed Wright that it would not be a problem to monitor his blood pressure at work as needed. She also told him that if he needed any other accommodations, such as equipment or leave, he should notify her. Bruins also informed Wright that Oshkosh provided short term disability and family medical leave if needed. Wright told Bruins that the purpose of notifying her was so that human resources would be apprised of his condition and that he did not need any accommodations for his idiopathic hypersomnia.

         Wright experienced nausea, heartburn, and dizziness on September 30, 2013 and believed he was suffering from a heart attack. He returned to work on October 3 and notified Schecklman that he may have suffered a mild heart attack, needed to undergo a stress test, and may need a heart catheter. Schecklman told Wright to take whatever time off work was needed and advised Wright to look into going on short-term disability. Prior to the elimination of the SEO Leader position, Oshkosh also offered to provide Wright with whatever time off was needed to resolve his medical conditions and offered Wright a medial leave of absence, which Wright refused.

         On October 4, 2013, Oshkosh eliminated the SEO Leader position and terminated Wright's employment-although Shecklman had originally notified Bruins of the decision in late August or early September of 2013. Schecklman and Bruins met with Wright on October 4 to discuss the decision. Wright's medical conditions and symptoms were not discussed. Bruins told Wright the decision was not based upon Wright's performance. Wright asked if there were other positions at Oshkosh for which he could apply, which Schecklman seemingly denied. (PPFOF ¶ 107, ECF No. 37.) Two director-level IT positions were open at the time of Wright's termination-a Level 18 IT Services ESG Leader position and a Level 17 Global Data Center Director position. Wright claims he did not apply because Oshkosh told him he could not, whereas Oshkosh asserts that Wright was not qualified for either open position. (ECF No. 38, ¶¶ 53, 60, 69.) The SEO Leader, ESG Leader, and Global Data Center Director positions were all sedentary jobs with similar physical and mental requirements.

         Wright did not receive bonus compensation from Oshkosh for work performed during the 2013 fiscal year. When Wright first accepted Oshkosh's offer of employment, the offer letter indicated that “[b]onus payout is subject to conditions of employment as defined in the [Management Incentive Plan] and final approval by the Board of Directors.” (DPFOF ¶ 17.) Wright also received a letter from Oshkosh near the end of 2012 regarding bonus eligibility for fiscal year 2013:

Bonus compensation is subject to conditions of employment. The Oshkosh Corporation Board of Directors, upon review and recommendation by the Human Resources Committee of the Board of Directors, maintains the final approval of any bonus payment to management. The Oshkosh Corporation Board of Directors may amend, approve, or terminate incentive bonus consistent with the best interests of the shareholders of the company at any time. Therefore, this letter is not representative of any agreement to pay or promise to pay a bonus . . . . to be eligible for bonus compensation, you must be an employee of the company on the date of final approval by the Board of Directors, typically at the November 2013 Board Meeting following the fiscal year close. If you are not an employee of the company for any reason on the date of final approval, you are not eligible for any bonus payment.

(Id. at ¶¶ 30-31) (emphasis added). Wright was not an Oshkosh employee during the November 2013 Board of Director's meeting.

         Approximately three weeks after his termination, Wright submitted an application for disability benefits to the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Some of the conditions Wright identified as preventing him from working included degenerative ankle disease, coronary disease and high blood pressure, idiopathic hypersomnia, and thoracic outlet syndrome. He claimed that his conditions became severe enough to stop working on May 16, 2013 and that he was first unable to work on October 7, 2013. The SSA determined in September 2014 that Wright was 100% disabled and has continuously awarded him monthly disability benefits.

         Wright also submitted an Application for Disability Compensation and Related Compensation Benefits to the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) in July 2014. Wright wrote he was “claiming total disability because of a service-connected disability which has . . . prevented [him] from securing or following any substantially gainful occupation.” (DPFOF ¶ 124.) He further claimed that his “constant back, ankle, left shoulder, left elbow, regular gout attacks coupled with the hypersomnia and severe depression and anxiety makes it impossible for [him] to obtain reasonable gainful employment.” (Id. ΒΆ 128.) Wright asserted his conditions affected his full-time employment beginning on August ...

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