United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
C. Nye U.S. District Court Judge
before the Court is Defendant Bingham County's Motion for
Summary Judgment. Dkt. 27. After the Motion was fully
briefed, the Court held oral arguments and took the matter
under advisement. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES the Motion.
Rick Lindstrom filed this suit alleging that Bingham County
(“the County”) failed to reinstate him to his
position in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), and discriminated against him in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”) and the Idaho Human Rights Act
(“IHRA”), by failing to accommodate his
disability and terminating his employment.
County employed Rick Lindstrom at Rattlesnake Landfill
(“Rattlesnake”), located outside of Shelley,
Idaho, as the Landfill Manager from July 26, 2004, until
March 10, 2015. This was a full time position.
Lindstrom's duties generally included operating the scale
house when customers arrived, operating heavy machinery
throughout the landfill, and supervising other employees.
during 2007, Lindstrom began to experience pain in his feet.
This situation gradually got worse. When Lindstrom's foot
pain became a problem, he would rotate tasks with other
landfill employees in order to have an opportunity to do a
seated task. During 2013 and 2014, Lindstrom spent most of
his time in the scale house or in vehicles to limit the time
he spent standing. The scale house and all landfill vehicles
had heaters, which helped his feet, especially during colder
September 16, 2014, a co-worker took Lindstrom to the
hospital because he was ill. Subsequent visits with doctors
revealed multiple health issues including blurry vision and
low blood sugar. Because of these health issues, one doctor
excused Lindstrom from operating heavy equipment for a time
and another suggested taking time off work to address his
September 30, 2014, Lindstrom signed a Request for Family
Medical Leave. The form noted that Lindstrom's FMLA leave
started September 24, 2014, and would last for 12 weeks,
ending on December 16, 2014. During his leave, Lindstrom took
medications and was able to improve his vision and level out
his blood sugar. The conditions with his feet, caused by
diabetes, did not get better or worse.
November and December of 2014, Lindstrom stayed in contact
with the County's Human Resources director, Nathan
Satterthwaite, and discussed various work options for him
upon his return. Lindstrom indicated that he wanted to try to
do some work at Rattlesnake to see how it went; however, this
never took place. Lindstrom's intent was to work mainly
in the scale house-as he had done previously when his feet
were causing him pain.
did not have a doctor's note immediately available upon
completion of his FMLA leave and did not show up for work on
December 17, 2014. Thereafter, the County continued his time
off as a paid leave of absence.
December 31, 2014, Lindstrom received a note from his doctor
and provided it to the County on January 2, 2015. The County
asked Lindstrom to work with his medical providers to
determine the details of any work limitations and to fill out
a Fitness for Duty form. Lindstrom complied and provided two
Fitness for Duty forms-one on January 8, and one on January
13-from his two doctors. With some variations, both doctors
recommended that Lindstrom not stand or walk for long periods
because of the conditions with his feet along with other
minor restrictions and suggestions.
result of these Fitness for Duty forms, the County determined
that Rattlesnake was not a good fit for Lindstrom and instead
offered him a position at the Central Transfer Station
(“CTS”) located in Blackfoot, Idaho. The County
gave Lindstrom few details about the job at CTS, but said
that he would have a stool to sit on.
initially agreed to attempt this position at CTS, however,
when the day for him to start at CTS arrived, he left a
message with his supervisor indicating that he would not be
able to make it for medical reasons. Lindstrom later
indicated that he was not comfortable driving the
significantly greater distance to CTS, as opposed to his
usual 3-4 mile commute to Rattlesnake. After meeting with his
doctors, they advised against driving longer distances and
confirmed that a slower paced job close to home- essentially
a position at Rattlesnake-would be best for Lindstrom at that
March 5, 2015, the Board of Bingham County Commissioners
passed a resolution reducing the hours of operation at
Rattlesnake for financial reasons. In light of these reduced
hours of operation, on March 10, 2015, the Board implemented
a reduction in force and terminated Lindstrom and another
part-time employee. The same day, the County notified
Lindstrom of his termination.
exhausted his administrative remedies and filed the instant
case on January 13, 2017. The County filed a motion seeking
to dismiss Lindstrom's FMLA claim early on in the
litigation (Dkt. 3, 9), which the Court denied (Dkt. 22). The
County now moves for summary judgment on all claims.
judgment is proper “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.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). This Court's role at summary judgment is not
“to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the
matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Zetwick v. Cty. of Yolo, 850 F.3d 436,
441 (9th Cir. 2017) (citation omitted). In considering a
motion for summary judgment, this Court must “view
the facts in the non-moving party's favor.”
Id. To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the
respondent need only present evidence upon which “a
reasonable juror drawing all inferences in favor of the
respondent could return a verdict in [his or her]
favor.” Id. (citation omitted). Accordingly,
this Court must enter summary judgment if a party
“fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party's case,
and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986). The respondent cannot simply rely on an
unsworn affidavit or the pleadings to defeat a motion for
summary judgment; rather the respondent must set forth the
“specific facts, ” supported by evidence, with
“reasonable particularity” that precludes summary
judgment. Far Out Productions, Inc. v. Oskar, 247
F.3d 986, 997 (9th Cir. 2001).
the FMLA, “an eligible employee shall be entitled to a
total of 12 workweeks of leave . . . Because of a serious
health condition that makes the employee unable to perform
the functions of the position of such employee.” 29
U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D). On return from such leave, an
employer must restore the employee to their prior job or an
equivalent position. 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(1)(A)-(B).
County alleges that summary judgment is proper on
Lindstrom's FLMA claim because (1) he was unable to
perform the essential duties of his job as required-
therefore the County was not required to restore him to his
prior job, and (2) he failed to timely provide a Fitness for
Duty form-therefore he waived his rights to reinstatement.
FMLA, if an employee is “unable to perform an essential
function of the position because of a physical or mental
condition” he is not entitled to restoration of his job
upon return, although he may have rights under the ADA.
See 29 C.F.R. § 825.216 (c).
put, this is the single biggest disagreement between the
parties in this case. This topic of “essential
duties” bears upon all three claims for various
County contends that operating heavy machinery and working
outdoors (i.e. “fieldwork”) were essential duties
of the Landfill Manager at Rattlesnake. In fact, all
employees who worked at Rattlesnake had to perform, at
various times, all of these duties. The County postures that
because (1) Lindstrom's doctors advised against him
operating heavy machinery and (2) Lindstrom's preferred
accommodation entailed mostly sitting in the scale house, he
could not perform the essential duties of his former job. As
a result, Lindstrom was not entitled to reinstatement, and
since he rejected the “equivalent position” at
CTS, his FMLA claim holds no water.
sides spend a great deal of time discussing what is or is not
an essential duty, where and how these duties are defined,
and how fieldwork was allocated at Rattlesnake. These
discrepancies alone give rise to disputed facts, but on top
of that, the County has not pointed to anything in the ...