United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States District Judge
Donnell Jones (“Plaintiff”) filed this case
against his former employer, CCBCC, Inc.
(“Defendant”), alleging disability
discrimination, failure to accommodate, and wrongful
termination in violation of Maryland state law. ECF 1-3.
Discovery is now concluded, and the parties have filed
cross-motions for summary judgment, along with various
oppositions, replies, and supplements. ECF 26, 27, 28, 29,
38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46. I have reviewed the
filings, and have determined that no hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons
that follow, I will deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF 38, and grant Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment, ECF 42.
began working for Coca-Cola Refreshments (“CCR”)
in October, 2002, in a position requiring him to hold a
Commercial Driver's License
(“CDL”). ECF 42-3 (Borella Dep.) at 23:20-23; ECF
42-4 (Plaintiff Dep.) at 10:2-7; 39:12-40:2. As a delivery
merchandiser, Plaintiff drove a truck to deliver Coca-Cola
products to customers in Maryland. ECF 42-4 at 107:4-109:1.
At all relevant times, Plaintiff suffered from a detached
retina in his right eye, which left him unable to pass the
physical examination administered to CDL holders. ECF 42-5,
Response 16. CCR required Plaintiff to obtain Maryland's
intrastate vision waiver to maintain his position, which he
did, last renewing his waiver in 2017. ECF 42-4 at
102:11-103:4; 111:5-11. During his entire tenure as a
delivery merchandiser, Plaintiff performed his job duties
without incident, and earned positive performance
evaluations. ECF 42-2 (Padgett Dep.) at 36:13-22; ECF 43-18
(Cook Dep.) at 60:3-12; ECF 26-9 (Waters Dep.) at 21:10-21.
April, 2016, Defendant acquired CCR. ECF 42-2 at 10:3-19.
Plaintiff became an employee of Defendant as part of that
transition. Id. (responding “I am” when
asked if he is aware that Plaintiff transferred from
Coca-Cola Refreshments to Defendant). Plaintiff's daily
job remained the same after the transition, including his job
description, his truck, his supervisors, and his
compensation. ECF 42-4 at 158:17-159:5 (responding
“That is correct” when questioner stated that his
job description as a delivery merchandiser “didn't
change” and that he had the same supervisors).
as an interstate motor carrier, requires its drivers to
comply with safety requirements imposed by the United States
Department of Transportation (“USDOT”), including
the USDOT vision waiver for employees unable to pass the
required vision test. ECF 42-2 at 13:13-24; 24:14-20. In
January, 2017, Plaintiff underwent his first required USDOT
medical evaluation as an employee of Defendant, and he failed
to meet the visual acuity requirement. ECF 43-22.
Defendant's risk management company, Hireright, Inc.
(“Hireright”), notified Defendant that Plaintiff
would need the federal USDOT vision waiver in order to
continue driving. ECF 42-4 at 50:3-14; ECF 43-22 (email from
Hireright stating, “So unfortunately for now his exam
will report as unqualified until a copy of a Federal Vision
Exemption is provided.”). Upon notification that
Plaintiff did not meet the relevant requirements, Defendant
immediately removed Plaintiff from the role of delivery
merchandiser, and informed him that he would need to obtain
the interstate vision waiver. ECF 42-4 at 50: 2-14
(“And he explained to me that I could no longer
drive.”); see also ECF 42-3 at
110:17-25; ECF 42-7 (Wine Decl.) ¶ 4.
Plaintiff's suggestion, Defendant allowed him to work by
training new delivery merchandisers. ECF 42-4 at 50:15-51:11.
As such, Plaintiff trained drivers from January 12, 2017
through February 9, 2017. Id. at 56: 16-21.
Eventually, however, the training role was no longer needed.
ECF 26-10 (Waters Dep.) at 60:6-16 (explaining that the
company typically does not have a training position
available). On February 9, 2017, Defendant provided Plaintiff
with a letter noting that he did not have an approved Federal
Vision Waiver, and stating:
At this time, you are being placed on a 60 day unpaid
personal leave of absence. During this time, you are allowed
to apply for open position [sic] for which you are qualified
following our standard interview and selection process. . . .
If at the end of 60 days, you have not been selected for
another role then you will, at that time, be separated from
ECF 43-28. Supervisory employees, Terry Waters and Craig
Cook, met with Plaintiff on February 10, 2017, and instructed
him to apply for open non-driving positions with the company.
ECF 42-4 at 61:18-63:21. However, Plaintiff refused to sign
the February 9, 2017 letter, left after work on February 10,
2017, and did not apply for any open positions. ECF 42-4 at
61: 21- 62: 6; ECF 42-5, Response 19.
February 21, 2017, Plaintiff emailed the Human Resource
(“HR”) portal, stating:
This is my request for reasonable accommodations - while I am
able to do my job duties, the company has added a new
technical requirement - while that is being fixed, I request
accommodations of assignment to other duties.
ECF 43-15. Plaintiff's email did not mention a
disability. HR responded that it had forwarded his request to
the appropriate HR representative, and that Plaintiff should
expect a response soon thereafter. Id.; ECF 42-4 at
employees attempted to reach Plaintiff by telephone for
several days. ECF 42-7 ¶ 5 (“After receiving
Donnell Jones's February 21 request for accommodation,
CCCI made several attempts to contact Mr. Jones to discuss
his request.”); ECF 43-17 (text exchanges between
Plaintiff and Human Resources). On March 6, 2017, a Human
Resource Business Partner, Angenella Fleming, spoke to
Plaintiff by telephone. ECF 42-4 at 129:6-130:2. Following
the conversation, Plaintiff texted Fleming to ask whether, if
he received his interstate waiver while on leave, he could
return to his prior position as delivery merchandiser without
having to reapply. ECF 43-17. Fleming confirmed
Plaintiff's understanding. ECF 42-4 at 76: 2-12.
April, 2017, USDOT denied Plaintiff's application for an
interstate vision waiver. ECF 42-4 at 77:3-21. Because
Plaintiff could not fulfill the requirements to serve as a
delivery merchandiser, and had not applied for any other
positions, Defendant terminated his employment. See
ECF 42-3 at 44:12-22. According to Plaintiff, he did not
receive a letter of ...