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Booth v. Nissan North America, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

June 7, 2019

Michael Adam Booth, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Nissan North America, Inc., Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued: April 30, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee at Nashville. No. 3:17-cv-00755-William Lynn Campbell, Jr., District Judge.

         ARGUED:

          Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Stanley E. Graham, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

         ON BRIEF:

          Constance Mann, THE LAW OFFICES OF CONSTANCE MANN, Franklin, Tennessee, for Appellant.

          Stanley E. Graham, Brittany Stancombe Hopper, WALLER LANSDEN DORTCH & DAVIS, LLP, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

          Before: GUY, SUTTON, and NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judges.

          OPINION

          NALBANDIAN, Circuit Judge.

         After Michael Booth started working at a Nissan factory in Tennessee, he injured his neck and sought medical treatment. Booth's physician recommended several work restrictions, including that he not reach above his head or flex his neck too much, but the restrictions did not sideline Booth. Indeed, he continued to work on the assembly line for about a decade without incident. But in 2015, the work restrictions became relevant again. Booth requested a transfer to a different position in the factory, which Nissan denied because that position's duties conflicted with Booth's work restrictions. Booth contends that Nissan's denial was disability discrimination that violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq.

         Soon after Booth requested the transfer, Nissan announced plans to restructure the assembly line. While Booth and his co-workers on the line had performed two discrete jobs, Nissan wanted to modify the line so that workers would perform four jobs. Booth alleges that the two additional jobs Nissan assigned to him would have violated his work restrictions-and that when he informed Nissan about this conflict, Nissan told him to see a physician to assess whether he still needed the restrictions. Booth followed that request, and his physician modified the restrictions, clearing him to work all four jobs. Although Booth remains a Nissan employee, he claims that Nissan failed to accommodate him-a separate violation of the ADA-by pressuring him to remove his work restrictions.

         Of course, to sue under the ADA, the plaintiff must be disabled. And just because a plaintiff has work restrictions does not mean that he is disabled. Because Booth has not advanced evidence that he is disabled under the ADA (among other reasons), his claims fail. We AFFIRM the district court's decision granting summary judgment to Nissan.

         I.

         After Booth had begun working at Nissan, he injured his neck in October 2004. Booth visited his physician, who issued a report recommending several permanent work restrictions, including that (1) Booth work overhead or above his shoulders no more than 33% of the time; and (2) Booth flex or extend his neck no more than 66% of the time. Those restrictions did not affect Booth's day-to-day job duties: Booth explained that "[f]rom 2004 through 2015, [he] worked within his original 2005 restrictions." (R. 32, Pl.'s Resp. to Statement of Material Facts at ¶ 9.) In April 2014, Nissan transferred Booth to a different part of the assembly line, the "door line," but Booth's work restrictions did not interfere with his work there, either.

         This appeal concerns two events that occurred about a decade after Booth's physician recommended the work restrictions: (1) Booth's requested transfer to a material handling position; and (2) Booth's transition on the door line from ...


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