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Gardea v. JBS USA, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 8, 2019

Raul Gardea Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
JBS USA, LLC; Swift Pork Company Defendants-Appellees ConAgra Foods, Inc. Defendant

          Submitted: December 13, 2018

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines

          Before LOKEN and ERICKSON, Circuit Judges, and MAGNUSON, [1] District Judge.

          MAGNUSON, DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Appellant Raul Gardea appeals the District Court's[2] grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellees JBS USA, LLC and Swift Pork Company (collectively, "JBS"). For the following reasons, we affirm.

         I. Background

         Appellant Raul Gardea worked at Appellee Swift Pork Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Appellee JBS USA, as a maintenance mechanic at JBS's pork processing facility in Marshalltown, Iowa. In early 2014, Gardea was treated for carpal tunnel syndrome in his right wrist. In February 2014, Gardea's main treating physician, Dr. Paulson, imposed a temporary work restriction limiting Gardea to lifting no more than 40 pounds with his right arm.

         Gardea's temporary work restrictions changed multiple times throughout 2014, as his physicians continued to increase and lower the amount of work he could do with his right arm based upon his capacity and level of pain. JBS accommodated Gardea's work restrictions during this time by giving him light duty work.

         Finally, in October 2014, Gardea underwent a functional capacity evaluation ("FCE"). Based on the FCE, the testing physician imposed new work restrictions: waist to floor lifting of 35 pounds; waist to crown lifting of 25 pounds; bilateral carrying of 30 pounds; and right unilateral carrying of 15 pounds. Gardea's physician also noted that he had significant difficulty holding, grabbing, and releasing tools, and doubted his ability to return to work as a mechanic. In November 2014, Dr. Paulson concluded that Gardea had reached maximum medical improvement and made the work restrictions from the FCE permanent.

         JBS determined that Gardea could no longer perform the duties of a maintenance mechanic because of his permanent work restrictions. Specifically, JBS concluded that it could not accommodate Gardea's lifting restrictions because his job duties required him to regularly lift objects weighing more than 40 pounds. On December 1, 2014, JBS told Gardea that he was medically disqualified from the maintenance mechanic position due to his permanent restrictions. JBS offered Gardea six replacement jobs that would not interfere with his work restrictions. Gardea had no interest in the jobs for various reasons, including pay, hours, and job responsibilities, and he turned down every offer. JBS placed him on medical leave without pay, stating that he was free to apply for other jobs as they came open. Instead, Gardea found other employment and his employment with JBS ended automatically after 12 months on leave.

         Gardea filed suit against JBS pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Iowa Civil Rights Act ("ICRA"), and the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Law ("IWPCL"). Gardea's complaint contained two counts: first, a failure-to-accommodate claim and a termination claim under the ADA and ICRA, and second, an IWPCL claim, alleging that JBS intentionally failed to pay Gardea a portion of his earned wages. In March 2017, JBS sought summary judgment on all issues. In May 2017, the district court granted JBS's motion for summary judgment. Gardea appealed.

         II. Discussion

         A. Standard of Review

         We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and ...


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