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Montross v. Harriman Care and Rehabilitation Center

September 5, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas W. Phillips United States District Judge



The plaintiff initiated the instant lawsuit against her former employer alleging that she was discharged from employment in violation of her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), codified at 29 U.S.C. §2601, et al. The defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 15] claiming that the plaintiff has failed to sustain an allegation in her complaint regarding an essential element of the claims against the defendant. For the reasons that follow, defendant's motion [Doc. 15] is DENIED.

I. Summary of the Facts

As the law requires, all disputed facts and inferences are resolved most favorably for the plaintiff. The Court merely provides an abridged summary of facts for the purposes of this opinion.

The plaintiff, Regina Montross ("Montross"), was employed with HQM of Harriman, LLC, d/b/a Harriman Care & Rehabilitation Center ("HQM")*fn1 as a Licensed Practical Nurse ("LPN") from October 25, 2001 until March 11, 2005. During the first week of March 2005, plaintiff claims that she was suffering from bronchitis. Plaintiff took an absence due to the illness on March 8, 2005. The next day, on the 9th, before the plaintiff began her shift, plaintiff called and informed Rachel Walker ("Walker"), the scheduling coordinator, that she needed to take her mother to the doctor and would not be able to work. Walker then informed plaintiff that she needed to meet with Cassie Matheson ("Matheson"), the director of nursing, and Sam Justus ("Justus), the HQM administrator, before taking another shift. Instead of going to the doctor, the plaintiff took her mother to the emergency room, where the plaintiff's mother was admitted with respiratory failure and sepsis, and placed on a ventilator. Plaintiff's mother stayed at the hospital for over fourteen days.

The plaintiff called Walker again on the 9th, after plaintiff's mother was admitted to the hospital, to inform Walker of her mother's serious health condition. During this second conversation with Walker, plaintiff informed Walker that she did not know when she would be returning to work. Plaintiff made a third call to HQM on the 9th and spoke with Matheson. During the conversation, plaintiff relayed that her mother was seriously ill. Later that evening on the 9th, Becky Sweeten ("Sweeten"), a fellow LNP at HQM, told Walker that plaintiff's mother was seriously ill and that plaintiff had taken her mother to the hospital. In addition to these conversations, plaintiff had spoken with Wendy Wilson ("Wilson"), the human resource director for HQM, regarding her sick mother, FMLA leave, and a meeting with HQM personnel scheduled for Monday, March 14th. During the phone conversations with employees at HQM, no one offered FMLA leave to the plaintiff. Additionally, plaintiff argues that, from her conversations with Walker and Wilson, she believed she was off work until she met with Justus and Matheson on Monday, March 14th, to discuss her absenteeism.*fn2

Defendant disputes these facts stating that plaintiff only spoke with Walker once on March 9th at approximately 1:00 p.m. Defendant states that plaintiff told Walker that she was taking her mother to the doctor. Defendant asserts that plaintiff did not inform Walker that her mother was suffering from a "serious health condition," and, in fact, did not inform Walker that she was taking her mother to the hospital. Defendant argues that Walker told plaintiff that she was being taken off the schedule for Thursday, March 10th, because Justus and Matheson wanted to meet with plaintiff on Friday, March 11th at 1:00 p.m. before she worked a shift that day. Defendant asserts that plaintiff agreed to meet with Justus and Matheson and also work the Friday shift. Defendant states that plaintiff was a "no show" for the meeting and the scheduled Friday work shift. Thus, the defendant determined that the plaintiff would be discharged from employment at HQM.*fn3

At the Monday meeting, defendant told plaintiff that she was deemed to have "voluntarily resigned." Therefore, her employment at HQM was terminated, and she was given her separation papers. Although defendant disputes the fact, plaintiff asserts that during the meeting she did present her mother's emergency room bill showing her mother was admitted with a serious health condition.

According to Wilson, it is a responsibility of Matheson, or any other manager in the facility, to discern whether an absence is an FMLA qualifying event. Plaintiff asserts that once the FMLA event is recognized, it would then be reported to Wilson so that she can provide the employee with proper paperwork to be taken to the doctor.

II. Law Applicable to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment will be granted by a court only when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The burden is on the moving party to conclusively show that no genuine issue of material fact exists. A court must view the facts and all inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Morris v. Crete Carrier Corp., 105 F.3d 279, 280-81 (6th Cir.1997); 60 Ivy Street Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir.1987).

Once the moving party presents evidence sufficient to support a motion under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the nonmoving party is not entitled to a trial simply on the basis of allegations. The non-moving party is required to come forward with some significant probative evidence, which makes it necessary to resolve the factual dispute at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the non-moving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential ...

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