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Gibbs v. Meridian Roofing Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Western Division

December 18, 2017

RONALD GIBBS, Plaintiff,



         This civil case is before the Court on Defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint (Doc. 9), [1] Plaintiff's motion for leave to file an amended complaint (Doc. 11), and the parties' responsive memoranda (Docs. 10, 12, 13).


         From July 30, 2007 to April 14, 2015, Atlas Roofing employed Plaintiff as a line worker in the felt mill plant at the Franklin Facility. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 7). Throughout that period, Atlas Roofing considered Plaintiff to be a conscientious and diligent employee who satisfactorily performed the duties of the general laborer position. (Id.)

         Nearly twenty years prior to his employment with Atlas Roofing, Plaintiff was beaten during a robbery and suffered a herniated disc and fractured vertebrae. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 8). This injury has plagued him ever since, rendering him, at times, unable to straighten his back or stand without enduring severe pain. (Id.)

         In early 2014, this injury flared up again, and on February 16, 2014, Plaintiff's treating physician, Kali Hollingsworth, MD, took Plaintiff off work in anticipation of back surgery. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 9). On April 3, 2014, Plaintiff had back surgery. (Id.) During this period, Plaintiff was on a short-term disability under Atlas Roofing's medical insurance. (Id.) The company also required Plaintiff to use his available leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. (Id.)

         While he was recovering, Holian tried to convince Plaintiff to resign and apply for social security disability benefits, telling him that he would never work for Atlas Roofing again. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 10). Holian told Plaintiff that, with the condition of his back, he was a liability to the company. (Id.) Atlas Roofing had just completed 750, 000 hours without any lost time, and if the company allowed Plaintiff to return and he reinjured his back, it would ruin that safety record. (Id.) Holian even went so far as to write a letter to the Social Security Office in Franklin, Ohio to assist Plaintiff in obtaining social security disability benefits. (Id.)

         On July 28, 2014, Dr. Hollingsworth released Plaintiff to return to work with certain restrictions, including a prohibition on lifting more than 10 pounds. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 11). Defendant Holian refused to accommodate these restrictions, telling Plaintiff that Atlas Roofing did not offer “light-duty” work to its employees. (Id.) Plaintiff therefore went back to Dr. Hollingsworth, who reluctantly released Plaintiff to return to work without restrictions. (Id.)

         On August 6, 2014, Plaintiff returned to work as a full-time line worker. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 12). He continued to attend physical therapy and receive medical treatment from his surgeon, sometimes during work hours. (Id.) Holian again refused to accommodate these medical treatments, assessing Plaintiff 0.5 points under its Absenteeism Policy every time he missed work to attend therapy or receive treatment. (Id.)

         On August 18, 2014, while attempting to lift a 50 pound bag of titanium oxide, the bag broke, forcing Plaintiff to the concrete floor and exacerbating the injury to his back. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 13). Plaintiff, however, did not file a worker's compensation claim for fear of retaliation. (Id.)

         Over the week, Plaintiff continued to work his regular shift despite his back pain. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 14). On August 25, 2014, he was scheduled to work a 12-hour shift, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; he also had scheduled a physical therapy session for 3:00 p.m. that same day, hoping the therapy would help alleviate his back pain. (Id.) Although he had informed management of his intentions two days earlier, and had arranged for coworkers to cover his shift, Kidder refused to allow him to leave. (Id.) When Plaintiff sought treatment anyway, Kidder charged him with walking off his shift and suspended him for three days without pay. (Id.)

         When Plaintiff returned from suspension, members of his workshift, including Kidder, the Production Supervisor, and coworkers Elvis Angel, Jake Hoskins, Tony Whitt, and Daryl Roberts, began to taunt Plaintiff for missing work because of his back, claiming that he was shirking work and jeopardizing the company's safety record. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 15). Although Plaintiff complained to Holian about this harassment, it continued unabated during the remainder of his employment with Atlas Roofing. (Id.)

         Beginning in November, 2014, Plaintiff sought treatment from Stephen Pledger, M.D., a back surgeon, who eventually scheduled Plaintiff for additional back surgery on March 30, 2015. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 16). Holian, however, refused to accommodate Plaintiff by allowing time-off to begin the protocol leading up to the scheduled surgery, even after Dr. Pledger himself contacted Holian to explain the situation. (Id.) Eventually, Plaintiff had to cancel that surgery. (Id.)

         Thereafter, on April 2, 2015, Dr. Hollingsworth again took Plaintiff off work for one month to rest his back. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 17). While he was off, Holian again tried to convince Plaintiff to resign and apply for social security disability benefits. (Id.)

         Plaintiff met with Holian on April 13, 2015, at which time Holian again told him that he would never return to work for Atlas Roofing, and that his only options were to resign or be terminated. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 18). Holian then prepared a letter of resignation, on which Plaintiff wrote that he was being forced to resign. (Id.)

         At all times herein, Plaintiff has been ready, willing and able to perform the duties of a line worker in the felt paper mill at the Franklin Facility, with or without accommodation. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 19).

         Plaintiff subsequently filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that Atlas Roofing had retaliated against him on the basis of disability. (Doc. 11-1 at ¶ 18). On February 2, 2017, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter. (Id.)

         On April 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed the Complaint. (Doc. 1). The Complaint asserts claims against Defendants for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Ohio Revised Code § 4112.02(A).

         On August 30, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the Complaint does not state a plausible claim for disability discrimination, and, further, that Holian and Kidder-employees of Atlas Roofing-are not “employers” and cannot ...

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