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Sloan v. Miami Dade Fire Rescue

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

July 3, 2019

Phyllis W. Sloan, Plaintiff,
v.
Miami Dade Fire Rescue, and others, Defendants.

          ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Robert N. Scola, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Phyllis Sloan (“Sloan”) brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (“ADA”) against her employer, Defendant Miami-Dade County (the “County”).

         Now before the Court is the County's motion for summary judgment. (the “Motion, ” ECF No. 68.) Having considered the parties' submissions and the applicable law, the Court grants the Motion (ECF No. 68) for the following reasons.

         1. The Undisputed Material Facts

         Sloan is a female firefighter. She began working for the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue Department (the “County”) in 1997 and remains employed by the County. Sloan claims to be physically disabled as a result of “chronic lateral epicondylitis” in her right elbow, plantar fasciitis and acute bronchial spasms.

         In early 2015, Sloan filed a charge with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”) complaining of discrimination based on her sex and physical disabilities. Over two years later, in October 2017, Sloan was involved in a traffic accident, where she drove a County truck into a gate crossing guard, causing damage to the vehicle. A police report was made for the accident. A crash review panel determined that the accident was preventable. Because the accident was preventable, Sloan received a record of counseling in January 2018. The record of counseling stated that Sloan was being formally counselled regarding County rules requiring that personnel operate emergency vehicles and drive with extreme care at all times. The record of counseling did not result in any suspension and did not affect Sloan's pay or benefits.

         At times during her employment with the County, Sloan received approval for outside employment. But Sloan never earned additional money through those jobs.

         In January and July 2017, Sloan requested approval for outside employment. Both times the County conditionally approved her request but notified her that “future requests will be denied if you do not demonstrate improvement in your attendance” at work. Sloan again applied for approval for outside employment in January 2018. This request was denied in February 2018. The denial of outside employment had no effect on Sloan's salary or benefits as a County employee.

         On March 2, 2018, Sloan filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), claiming she was retaliated against and faced workplace discrimination due to her sex and disability. (ECF No. 1-2 at p. 2.) On April 10, 2018, Sloan filed an internal discrimination complaint with the County's Human Rights and Fair Employment Practices Division. (Id. at p. 4.) This internal complaint was based on retaliation, as well as race, color and sex-based discrimination. On April 17, 2018, Sloan brought this federal action for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). (ECF No. 1.)

         After Sloan twice amended, the operative complaint now asserts four claims under Title VII and the ADA. (ECF No. 20.) In Count I for “Discrimination Based on Sex Under Title VII, ” Sloan alleges that she faced disparate treatment based on her sex when she received the record of counseling and was disapproved for outside employment. (Id. at ¶ 61; ECF No. 60 at pp. 3-4.) Count II is a claim for “Discrimination Based on Disability Under the ADA and ADAAA” on a theory that Sloan's physical disabilities resulted in work absences and, ultimately, her being subjected to disparate treatment through the denial of her request for outside employment. (ECF No. 20 at ¶ 73; ECF No. 60 at p. 4.) For Count III, “Retaliation Under Title VII, ” Sloan claims to have been subjected to disparate treatment in retaliation for filing charges with the EEOC in 2015 and 2018, when the County issued the notice of counseling and denied her request for outside employment. (ECF No. 20 at ¶¶ 82-86; ECF No. 60 at p. 4.) Finally, in Count IV, Sloan brings a claim for “Retaliation under ADA/ADAAA” on the basis that she was denied outside employment in February 2018 in retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint in March 2018. (ECF 20 at ¶¶87-91; ECF No. 60 at p. 4.)

         The County seeks summary judgment on all claims on a variety of bases. As relevant to this order, the County claims it is entitled to summary judgment in this case because Sloan fails to establish that she suffered an adverse employment action, as is necessary to make a prima facie case for each of her four claims under Title VII and the ADA.

         2. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment is proper if following discovery, the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, affidavits and admissions on file show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “An issue of fact is ‘material' if, under the applicable substantive law, it might affect the outcome of the case.” Hickson Corp. v. N. Crossarm Co., 357 F.3d 1256, 1259-60 (11th Cir. 2004). “An issue of fact is ‘genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party.” Id. at 1260. All the evidence and factual inferences reasonably drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970).

         Once a party properly makes a summary judgment motion by demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, whether or not accompanied by affidavits, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings through the use of affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-24. The nonmovant's evidence must be significantly probative to support the claims. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). The Court will not weigh the evidence or make findings of fact. Id. ...


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