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Graham v. Arctic Zone Iceplex, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 23, 2019

James Graham, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Arctic Zone Iceplex, LLC, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued April 9, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division. No. l:17-cv-01742 - William T. Lawrence, Judge.

          Before Kanne, Barrett, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.

          Barrett, Circuit Judge.

         James Graham, Jr., sued Arctic Zone Iceplex, his former employer, for discrimination. According to Graham, Arctic Zone failed to accommodate his disability and ultimately fired him for it. The district court granted summary judgment to Arctic Zone. We affirm.

         I.

         In December 2014, Arctic Zone hired Graham as its head mechanic and maintenance supervisor. Graham's responsibilities included maintaining Arctic Zone's ice rink and operating its Zamboni, a machine that smooths the surface of ice on a rink.

         Graham's tenure at Arctic Zone was not without issues. Shortly after he began working at the rink, Arctic Zone received customer complaints about his attitude. And the customers were not the only ones who noticed. Arctic Zone observed Graham's attitude problems firsthand, as well as his difficulty completing tasks on time. Arctic Zone did not write Graham up, however, for either the insubordination or timeliness issues at the time that they occurred.

         In February 2015, Graham was injured on the job. He did not work from February to May of that year. During that time, he received worker's compensation. Graham returned to work in May with certain medical restrictions, including the requirement that he work sitting down. In an effort to accommodate him, Arctic Zone assigned Graham to the task of skate sharpening. Arctic Zone asserts that skate sharpening is a job that can be accomplished from a seated position; Graham maintains that the task requires standing. Yet he did not inform Arctic Zone of his belief that skate sharpening did not meet his restrictions. He alleges that there were a few times when he was caught sitting down to rest and was told to get back to work.

         Starting in August 2015, Graham transitioned back to full-time work. Arctic Zone assigned him to work evenings rather than during the day, which it attributes to seasonal need. Graham characterizes this as a "demotion" to the position of "night mechanic."

         In October 2015, Graham caused a Zamboni accident. Arctic Zone says that the accident resulted in "over two feet of jagged plastic" protruding from the rink wall and onto the rink itself. Arctic Zone suggests that the plastic was a hazard to its customers.

         Arctic Zone fired Graham on the day of the accident. It gave five reasons for doing so in his Termination Notice. They can be summarized as follows: (1) poor attitude about his change in position; (2) poor attitude toward customers (citing customer complaints); (3) lack of timeliness in completing his duties; (4) insubordination with management; and (5) the Zamboni accident, which put customers in danger and caused Arctic Zone to lose revenue while the rink was being repaired.

         Graham sued Arctic Zone for discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. See 42 U.S.C. ยง 12101. He alleged two violations: first, that Arctic Zone failed to reasonably accommodate his disability; and second, that it terminated him because of his disability. The ...


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