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Reese v. Krones, Inc

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

October 3, 2019

MICHAEL F. REESE, SR., Plaintiff,
KRONES, INC., Defendant.



         1. Introduction

         Plaintiff Michael Reese filed this action against defendant Krones, Inc., his employer, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for failure to accommodate his disability. (ECF No. 39.) Both Reese (ECF No. 55) and Krones (ECF No. 57) have moved for summary judgment. Reese has also asked the court to strike Krones's corrected documents or to apply Krones's previously filed responses. (ECF No. 79.) The court construes this request as a motion to strike. All parties have consented to the full jurisdiction of a magistrate judge. (ECF Nos. 4, 18.) Briefing on the motions is closed and all are ready for resolution.

         2. Facts and History

         In its motion for summary judgment Krones complied with Civ. L. R. 56(a)(1)(A) and 56(a)(1)(B). (ECF No. 57 at 3-8.) However, by not responding to Krones's proposed findings of fact (ECF No. 58), Reese's response (ECF No. 65) failed to comply with Civ. L. R. 56(b)(2)(B). Accordingly, the court deems Krones's proposed findings of fact admitted. See Civ. L. R. 56(b)(4) (“The Court will deem uncontroverted statements of material fact admitted solely for the purpose of deciding summary judgment.”).

         Krones, located in Franklin, Wisconsin, manufactures fully integrated packaging and bottling line systems, as well as integrated brew house and processing systems, IT solutions, and warehouse logistics systems. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 5.) Reese has worked as Maintenance Support Staff in the Facilities Maintenance Department of Krones since April 19, 2010. (Id., ¶ 4.) The job requirements include “lifting/carrying objects weighing a maximum of 50 pounds; climbing, sitting, bending, and reaching; frequent standing and walking; extensive physical exertion approximately 50% of the workday; and using dollies, mowers, floor sweepers, automobiles, trucks, and forklifts to accomplish tasks.” (Id., ¶ 8.) Mark Doolittle was Reese's supervisor from December 30, 2012, to March 23, 2017. (Id., ¶ 9.)

         Throughout his time at Krones Reese had issues with his performance, attendance, and behavior. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 11.) He was given two written warnings in 2014 about attendance issues and abusing his sick time. (Id., ¶¶ 14-15.) In 2015 Reese hurt his ankle while playing tennis. (Id., ¶ 16.) He told Doolittle about this injury the next day but continued to both work and play tennis. (Id.) On December 29, 2015, he was put on work restrictions by Dr. Robbin Papendick, Krones's occupational medicine physician, and Dr. Patrick Spiering, Reese's primary care doctor. (Id., ¶ 18.) Reese was not permitted to climb ladders, climb stairs if carrying anything, lift anything over twenty pounds, and could only squat for one hour each day. (Id.) These restrictions were in place until February 2, 2016. (Id.) Whenever Krones could, it gave Reese lighter or alternative work or put him on paid leave if there was not work for him to do. (Id., ¶ 20.) Reese was released to work full-time without any restrictions on June 20, 2016. (Id., ¶ 22.) Reese knew he was no longer subject to any work restrictions (Id., ¶ 23), and Krones believed that Reese's ankle and foot were better (Id., ¶ 24).

         In July 2016 Reese talked with Doolittle about Krones buying a motorized cart for him to use at work. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 25.) Krones determined that the cart was not in the budget and not something that was used in the department where Reese worked. (Id.) Reese never told Krones that having a motorized cart was necessary for him to do his job. (Id., ¶ 30.)

         In August 2016 Reese received a warning about his performance and conduct during an emergency for his department. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 27.) During a power outage throughout the facility Reese was not available to help because he was in the basement. (Id.)

         In January 2017 Reese's ankle was bothering him again, although not to the point where he needed medical attention or work restrictions. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 28.) Reese asked Doolittle about replacing the flooring of the bucket lift. (Id.) Krones decided to not replace the flooring because doing so would require replacing the entire bucket lift, which was not within the budget. (Id.) Reese never told Krones that replacing the flooring was necessary for him to do his job. (Id., ¶ 30.)

         In January and February 2017 Reese was reprimanded for not following directions, not wearing appropriate eye protection, not cleaning up his break area, and not completing his work in a timely manner. (ECF No. 58, ¶¶ 31, 32, 34.) On February 28, 2017, he was suspended for three days “for failing to follow directions, violating the Company's safety standards, and overall performance issues.” (Id., ¶ 33.) He was not suspended because of any alleged disability. (Id.)

         Even though Reese was supposed to return to work on March 2, 2017, he used vacation and sick time and did not return until March 20, 2017. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 36.) On March 20, 2017, one of Reese's jobs was to move twenty-five banker's boxes. (Id., ¶ 37.) This was not the first time Reese had completed this task, and after finishing he worked for the rest of the day. (Id.) Reese worked on March 21, 2017, but called in sick the next day. (Id., ¶ 38.) He also called in sick on March 23, 2017, but did come in to complete an incident report. (Id., ¶ 39.) March 23, 2017, was the last day Reese was at work. (Id., ¶ 40.)

         On May 25, 2017, Dr. Jamie Edwards told Krones that Reese was “totally disabled due to neck and back pain.” (ECF No. 58, ¶ 41.) Dr. Edwards said Reese could return to work in June 2017, depending on how his treatment went. (Id.) Reese received short-term disability benefits from Krones's benefit carrier from March 24, 2017, to September 17, 2017, and long-term disability benefits from September 18, 2017, to the present. (Id., ¶¶ 46-47.) Beginning on October 1, 2017, Reese began receiving Social Security disability benefits because it was “found that [Reese] has a long-term medical condition that prevents him from any job for which he is qualified.” (Id., ¶ 48.) As of June 26, 2019, Krones's accounting system listed him as an employee on inactive status. (Id., ¶ 49.)

         2.1 EEOC Charge

         Reese filed a discrimination complaint on March 3, 2017, with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development Equal Rights Division (ERD). (ECF No. 58, ¶ 50.) His complaint alleged discrimination by Krones on the basis of his age and disability. (ECF No. 58, ¶ 51; ECF No. 62-1 at 1.) It contained the following alleged occurrences of discrimination:

On 2-24-17, I was very loudly screemed at by two different bosses from 2 different department. I was humiliated because it was unjustified and there were 8 other coworks present. My depression began again. Then on ...

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