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Summers v. Target Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

May 14, 2019



          William C. Griesbach, Chief Judge United States District Court

         Claiming that his supervisor was the cause of anxiety/panic attacks he experienced at work, Plaintiff Craig Alan Summers sued his former employer, Target Corporation, for violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., by failing to reasonably accommodate his disability by transferring him to another store and failing to engage in the interactive process to resolve his problem. Summers also alleges that Target's failure to transfer him to another store violated the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA), Wis.Stat. § 111.31, et seq., because it forced him to resign, thus constituting a constructive discharge. The court has jurisdiction over Summers' ADA claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Currently before the court is Target's motion for summary judgment. In its motion, Target argues that Summers is not disabled for purposes of the ADA, Summers' accommodation request was not reasonable, Summers cannot bring an independent claim for failing to engage in the interactive process, and the WFEA does not provide for a private right of action. For the reasons that follow, Target's motion will be granted.


         Summers joined Target around November of 2015. He completed his training at a store in Appleton and was then assigned to a store in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Summers' supervisor at the Green Bay store was Jessy Lundin. Summers had previously worked with Lundin at The Home Depot. Lundin had been terminated from The Home Depot and joined Target before Summers. Although Lundin was instrumental in helping Summers secure his position at Target, Summers did not wish to work alongside Lundin and did not think he would be under Lundin's supervision at the time he accepted the position at Target.

         Summers began working at the Green Bay store in January of 2016. About a month later, Lundin approached Summers and requested that he keep the circumstances surrounding Lundin's termination at The Home Depot a secret and that he not discuss the matter with others. Also around this time Lundin recommended that Summers be promoted to a store team leader. During the next six months, the relationship between Summers and Lundin became strained as the result of certain interactions that occurred between the two at the store. For example, Lundin told Summers that a display in the sporting goods section for which Summers was partially responsible was not up to standard and “makes me want to go home and shoot off my [assault rifle].” Summers Dep., Dkt. No. 19-1 at 7:24-8:1. Lundin also referred to Summers as “the whitest black man that I know, ” id. at 10:24-25, and in a meeting with other employees said that Summers' choice for who should lead a particular store initiative was lousy and that as a result of the initiative's failure Lundin would not be able to afford presents for his kids and would have to live on welfare and food stamps.

         In August of 2016 Summers was placed on a six-month development plan that he had to successfully complete in order to be promoted to a store team leader. Each month Summers was to meet with Lundin to discuss his progress under the plan. On December 29, 2016, Summers met with Lundin for one such meeting. In the course of the meeting, Summers asked where things stood with the plan to which Lundin responded, “I knew you were going to come in here demanding about being promoted early and all that.” Id. at 104:24-25. Lundin proceeded to outline some areas where he thought Summers needed to improve. The meeting concluded with Lundin asking Summers if he should contact the District Leader to tell him to prepare Summers' replacement.

         Following this meeting Summers reached out to Ricardo Vargas, the district human resources manager, explained his concerns about working with Lundin, and expressed his desire to be relocated to a different store. Vargas informed Summers that if he transferred he would need to restart his development plan and encouraged Summers to remain at his current store.

         When Summers came to work on January 2, 2017, for the first time after the meeting, he experienced rapid heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and dizziness, which resulted in him leaving for the day. Summers later texted Vargas, once more requesting that he be transferred to a different store. Two days later Summers spoke over the phone with Logan Rankin, the district team leader, about relocation to a different store. Summers was informed that he could either return to his current store or stop working at Target all together. Summers emailed Lundin on January 5, 2017, to inform him that he would not be in the following day because he was still experiencing the earlier symptoms.

         On January 6, 2017, Summers awoke to heart palpitations and shortness of breath and made an appointment to see his primary care physician, Dr. Daniel Lemkuil, later that day. Dr. Lemkuil diagnosed Summers with anxiety, stress, palpitations, and panic disorders and prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medication. Summers also applied for medical leave that same day. Target's policy required that his request be completed by a therapist, supported by proof of an actual disability, and approved by Target. In order to complete his medical leave request, Summers was also seen by Daniel Gesell, a licensed clinical therapist. The reports of Dr. Lemkuil and Gesell attributed Summers' conditions to the work environment at his current store and recommended relocation to a different store to treat his conditions. Summers' medical leave request was approved on January 18, 2017, effective as of January 6, 2017.

         Over the course of the next three months Dr. Lemkuil and Gesell submitted the medical documentation required by Target in order for Summers to remain on medical leave. During this time, Summers reached out to members of Target's upper management and requested assistance with his situation and expressed a desire to be transferred to a different store. On April 10, 2017, Summers resigned from his position at Target. That same day Summers started in a position at an Aldi as a store manager-in-training that was in close proximity to the Target store at which he previously worked. Summers left the position after three days because his panic symptoms resurfaced.

         Summers filed a charge of discrimination against Target with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on April 17, 2017. The EEOC concurrently filed the charge with the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, Equal Rights Division (ERD). On May 22, 2017, the ERD informed Summers that the EEOC would handle the matter. On September 15, 2017, the EEOC determined after investigating Summers' claims that “there was reasonable cause to believe that [Target] violated the ADA because it participated in a relationship which had the effect of subjecting its employee to discrimination when, through its agent, it failed to engage [Summers] in the interactive process and subsequently denied him reasonable accommodation” and that “[Target's] action forced [Summers] to resign his employment.” Dkt. No. 19-9 at 2. Summers initiated this lawsuit on January 8, 2018.


         Summary judgment should be granted when the moving party shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, the time and expense of the parties and the court should not be wasted on a trial when there are no material facts in dispute, one party is entitled to judgment on those facts, and thus there is nothing to try. In deciding a motion for summary judgment, all reasonable inferences are construed in favor of the nonmoving party. Foley v. City of Lafayette, 359 F.3d 925, 928 (7th Cir. 2004). The party opposing the motion for summary judgment must “submit evidentiary materials that set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Siegel v. Shell Oil Co., 612 F.3d 932, 937 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoted source and internal quotation marks omitted). “The nonmoving party must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Id. Summary judgment is properly entered against a party “who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish ...

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