United States District Court, D. Maryland
Counsel and Mr. Van Meter:
employment discrimination case, Plaintiff Landon Scott Van
Meter alleges that Defendants Hite Roofing, Hite Associates,
Inc., and Carl Belt Inc. (collectively, the
“Defendants”) committed various violations of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”),
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act
(“ADAAA”), and Maryland law, including disability
discrimination, denial of accommodation, and retaliation.
(ECF No. 1). This case has been referred to me by consent of
the parties for all proceedings pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636 and Local Rules 301 and 302. (ECF No. 16). Currently
pending before the Court is Defendants' unopposed Motion
for Summary Judgment, filed on September 8, 2017. (ECF No.
29). As the Clerk of Court advised in her September 8, 2017
letter to Plaintiff, Plaintiff's response to that motion
was due September 25, 2017. (ECF No. 30). Because no such
response had been received by that date, the Court then
issued a Letter Order to Plaintiff explaining that if no
response or properly supported Motion for Additional Time was
filed with the Court by October 16, 2017, the Court would
rule upon the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
accordingly. (ECF No. 31). No response from Plaintiff has
been filed to date. Thus, the Court will consider
Defendants' Motion as unopposed. No hearing is necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
outlined below, Defendants' Motion is GRANTED.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” A dispute
as to a material fact “is genuine if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P.
Development Ltd. Partnership, 115 F.Supp.3d 593, 600 (D.
Md. 2015) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Specifically, a district court is
obligated to carefully review an unopposed motion for summary
judgment. Thomas-Fish v. Ford Motor Co., Civ. No.
GLR-16-496, 2017 WL 2954772, *2 (D. Md. Mar. 2, 2017) (citing
Maryland v. Universal Elections, Inc., 729 F.3d 370,
380 (4th Cir. 2013)). “Although the failure of a party
to respond to a summary judgment motion may leave
uncontroverted those facts established by the motion, ”
the Court must still determine whether the moving party is
entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law pursuant to
Rule 56. Custer v. Pan American Life Ins. Co., 12
F.3d 410, 416 (4th Cir. 1993).
preliminary matter, Defendants' Motion is supported by a
declaration from the president of Defendant Carl Belt, Inc.
stating that Plaintiff was not at any time an employee of
Carl Belt Inc., Carl Belt Inc. is a separate corporation
distinct from Hite Roofing and Hite Associates, Inc., and
Carl Belt Inc. does not do business as Hite Roofing or Hite
Associates, Inc. (ECF No. 29-3 [Decl. of Carl O. Belt, Jr.]).
Based on this unchallenged declaration, there is no basis for
liability against Defendant Carl Belt, Inc. See Lofthouse
Manufacturing Ltd. V. Ports America Baltimore, Inc.,
Civ. No. CCB-15-3821, 2016 WL 4662337, *3 (D. Md. Sep. 7,
2016). The Court's analysis will proceed with regard to
Hite Roofing and Hite Associates, Inc., the remaining
Court first considers Plaintiff's claims under the ADA
and ADAAA in Counts I, II, and IV of the Complaint. As a
threshold matter, to bring a claim based on the ADA,
Plaintiff must show that he is a qualified individual with a
disability. Taylor v. Rite Aid, Corp., 993 F.Supp.2d
551, 563 (D. Md. 2014). The ADA defines a disability as
“(A) a physical or mental impairment that substantially
limits one or more major life activities of such individual;
(B) a record of such an impairment; or (C) being regarded as
having such an impairment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12102(1).
Plaintiff attached to his Complaint medical records that
establish he had an accident at work that required medical
treatment and follow-up appointments. Without more, the Court
is reluctant to find that Plaintiff has created a factual
issue as to being impaired in a way that limits a major life
activity. This is especially so considering that the record
contains medical certifications from Plaintiff's
physicians reflecting the fact that he was cleared to return
to work two days before his purported discharge. (ECF No.
29-4 [Ex. 6 to Decl. of Randy Rice]).
even if the Court were to assume that Plaintiff meets the
statutory definition set forth above, Plaintiff has not
offered any evidence that he was discharged beyond the
allegations in his Complaint. By contrast, Defendant Hite
offers a Declaration from its president unequivocally stating
that Plaintiff was not discharged, but was merely sent home
from work for the day because he was being disruptive. (ECF
No. 29-4 [Ex. 6 to Decl. of Randy Rice]). Plaintiff's
employment status was clarified with his union and in
follow-up communications with him, yet Plaintiff refused to
return to work. Id. This is buttressed by the
findings of the Department of Labor, Licensing, and
Regulation regarding Plaintiff's subsequent claim for
unemployment. Id. Accordingly, the Court will grant
Defendants' Motion as to Plaintiff's claims for
disability discrimination and failure to accommodate.
Court next turns to Plaintiff's claim of retaliation in
Count III. To analyze a retaliation claim under the ADA when
the plaintiff does not have sufficient direct or indirect
evidence of retaliation, the Court must engage in a
three-part, burden-shifting analysis. Parkinson v. Anne
Arundel Medical Center, Inc., 214 F.Supp.2d 511, 517 (D.
Md. 2002). “[U]nder the burden-shifting method of
proof, to establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a
plaintiff must show that: (1) [h]e engaged in a protected
activity; (2) [his] employer acted adversely against him; and
(3) h[is] protected activity was causally connected to his
employer's adverse action.” Rhoads v.
F.D.I.C., 257 F.3d 33, 392 (4th Cir. 2001). The employer
then has the burden “to rebut the presumption of
retaliation by articulating a legitimate nonretaliatory
reason for its actions.” Id. If the employer
does so, the plaintiff “must demonstrate that the
proffered reason is a pre-text for forbidden
retaliation.” Id. (internal citations
omitted). At all times, the plaintiff retains “the
ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that she was
the victim of retaliation.” Rhoads v.
F.D.I.C., 286 F.Supp.2d 532, 539 (D. Md. 2003). Here,
Plaintiff has met no such burden because he has not offered
evidence to prove that Defendants took adverse action against
him as noted above. Although his Complaint alleges that,
after a conversation with Randy Rice, President of Hite
Associates, Inc., “Plaintiff took this exchange to mean
he was terminated, ” Defendants thereafter clarified
that Plaintiff had not been terminated and repeatedly
requested his return to work without response. (ECF No. 29
[Defs.' Mot. for Summ. J., at 6-7]). The Court will grant
Defendants' Motion as to Plaintiff's retaliation
the Court considers Plaintiff's claim of “violation
of Maryland public policy” in Count V of his Complaint
for “adverse employment action as a result of filing
workers' compensation claim.” (Compl., at 13). The
Court assumes that Plaintiff's claim is based on §
9-1105(a) of the Labor and Employment Article of the Maryland
Code, which provides, “An employer may not discharge a
covered employee from employment solely because the covered
employee files a claim for compensation under this
title.” As previously considered, Plaintiff has failed
to prove that such a discharge took place. Moreover,
Plaintiff's failure to file a union grievance and exhaust
his remedies under the collective bargaining agreement
governing his employment as established by Defendants'
supporting affidavit (ECF No. 29-4 [Decl. of Randy Rice, at
¶14]) independently deprive him of asserting such a
claim. Childers v. C & P Telephone Co., 881 F.2d
1259, 1264 (4th Cir. 1989). The Court will grant
Defendants' Motion as to Plaintiff's Maryland law
foregoing reasons, Defendants' unopposed Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 29) is GRANTED and judgment is
entered in favor of the Defendants. The Clerk is directed to
CLOSE this case. Despite the informal nature of this letter,
it is an Order of the Court and will be docketed as such.
Mark Coulson, United ...