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Murray v. Warren Pumps, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

April 25, 2016

RAYMOND MURRAY, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
WARREN PUMPS, LLC and COLFAX AMERICAS, Defendants, Appellees.

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. Douglas P. Woodlock, U.S. District Judge]

Michael O. Shea, with whom Law Office of Michael O. Shea, P.C. was on brief, for appellant.

Mark W. Batten, with whom Elizabeth A. Kowal and Proskauer Rose LLP were on brief, for appellees.

Before Howard, Chief Judge, Selya and Lipez, Circuit Judges.

HOWARD, Chief Judge.

Plaintiff Raymond Murray sued his former employer Warren Pumps, LLC and its parent company Colfax Americas, claiming that their actions toward him violated the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and its Massachusetts analog. 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a), (b)(5)(A); M.G.L. ch. 151B, § 4(16). He also asserted a state common law claim that he had been terminated from his employment for raising complaints about suspected workplace safety violations, in contravention of Massachusetts public policy. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all claims. We affirm.

I.

Given the summary judgment posture, we recite the facts in the light most favorable to Murray as the non-moving party. See Henry v. United Bank, 686 F.3d 50, 54 (1st Cir. 2012) . Warren Pumps manufactures pumps for both the commercial market and for purchase by the government for use in sophisticated end products such as submarines. Murray's job responsibilities for Warren Pumps primarily encompassed ensuring that workplace practices in the plant complied with health and safety requirements. When Warren Pumps first hired Murray in 2003, the company knew that he had physical limitations related to a permanent back condition. Specifically, Murray was restricted from lifting items over 35 pounds and from standing or sitting for long periods of time. In light of this knowledge, the company and Murray agreed that he would perform his job in a manner that accommodated his limitations as needed. Although Murray believed that his supervisor did not always abide by this agreement, he left Warren Pumps in 2005 simply to pursue another employment opportunity.

In 2008, Murray was recruited back to Warren Pumps by his former supervisor Matt Korzec, and he resumed his prior duties of monitoring workplace safety. Although his physical limitations largely remained the same, his lifting restriction now was capped at 10 pounds. Additionally, Murray was restricted from extended walking, standing and sitting, from climbing ladders, and from using certain hand tools. The company knew of these restrictions when it rehired Murray and also knew that periodically he would need time off to attend medical appointments. As before, the parties did not expect Murray to tax his physical limitations while performing his normal job responsibilities. Therefore, they again agreed that Murray should self-monitor his workplace activities and accommodate his back condition as necessary when doing his job.

Throughout his second term of employment, Murray again reported many workplace safety violations pursuant to his job duties. He was, however, often dissatisfied with Korzec's decisions about whether and how to rectify reported problems. Murray also disliked that Korzec sometimes requested him to take on tasks involving some measure of physical labor. To Murray, many of the requested tasks conflicted with his physical restrictions. On occasion Murray voiced an objection, but many times he did not.

In the spring of 2011, Murray decided to take his complaints about workplace safety to the company's headquarters. He alerted the company about the practices of a welder at the plant who, Murray alleged, had been using a "vertical and overhead" position without proper certification for doing so. Murray also reported that Korzec had been "breaking laws" and had allowed "unapproved repairs to castings to the [Department of Defense's] and customers['] equipment." He urged the company to "[d]o a little research and see how many castings or screws have failed and how many were repaired on weekends [w]ith no inspection people around." Within a week, Greg Miller, the vice president of quality for defendant Colfax, met with Murray to discuss his concerns about the welding practices. As a result, Miller reviewed the particular welder's time cards and customer files but discovered nothing to substantiate Murray's complaints.

Murray's employment with Warren Pumps ended on June 1, 2011. During a meeting with him that day, Crystal Baker, the vice president of human resources, and Brian Mills, the vice president of manufacturing, told Murray that he seemed "unhappy" working at Warren Pumps. They presented him with two options for separation: a severance package or a six-week sunset term. Murray accepted neither, and he was terminated. Murray, in turn, filed this action alleging federal and state disability discrimination claims and a state wrongful discharge claim. After discovery, the defendants secured summary judgment on all counts. See Murray v. Warren Pumps, LLC, No. 11-40176-DPW, 2013 WL 5202693 (D. Mass. Sept. 12, 2013). This timely appeal followed.

II.

We review de novo the district court's decision to award the defendants summary judgment. Henry, 68 6 F.3d at 54. A moving party is to be spared a trial when there is no genuine issue of any material fact on the record and that party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-25 (1986). Where a defendant's motion for summary judgment demonstrates "an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, " Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325, the plaintiff must adduce specific facts showing that a trier of fact reasonably could find in his favor, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. Conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation will not make the grade. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24; Pina v. Children's Place, 740 F.3d 785, 795-96 (1st Cir. 2014) . The party's allegations must find adequate support in the record. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24; Pina, 740 F.3d at 796.

III.

The ADA prohibits an employer from discriminating against an otherwise qualified individual based on a real or perceived disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112; see id. § 12102; 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2; see also Farrisv.Shinseki, 660 F.3d 557, 562 (1st Cir. 2011); Orta-Castrov.Merck, Sharp & Dohme Quimica P.R., Inc., 447 F.3d 105, 112 (1st Cir. 2006). The plaintiff bears the burden of presenting evidence to establish each element under the particular theory of disability discrimination alleged. See Lebronv.Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, 770 F.3d 25, 31 (1st Cir. 2014); Faiolav.APCO Graphics, Inc., 629 F.3d 43, 47 (1st Cir. 2010); Quiles-Quilesv.Henderson, 439 F.3d 1, 6-7 (1st Cir. 2006) . Massachusetts has comparable prescriptions. See M.G.L. ch. 151B § 4(16); see also Godfreyv.Globe Newspaper ...


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