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Massengill v. Anderson County Board of Education

March 7, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas A. Varlan United States District Judge


This civil case involves claims under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. Plaintiff Melanie Massengill ("Plaintiff") claims that defendant Anderson County Board of Education ("Defendant") improperly discharged her rather than allowing her to use FMLA leave to care for her sick child. [Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 13-14] Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment [Doc. 13] which has been briefed by both parties. Defendant argues that, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law because Plaintiff did not qualify under the FMLA; did not provide notice of a FMLA leave request; did not provide a medical certification which supported her request for leave as required by the FMLA; because plaintiff's employment was terminated for reasons unrelated to her FMLA request because of her excessive absences; and because plaintiff did not suffer an adverse employment action attributable to her request for leave, contrary to her retaliatory discharge claim.

The Court has carefully reviewed the pending motion, along with the supporting and opposing briefs and exhibits [Docs. 13, 14, 16, 17, 21], in light of the entire record and controlling law. The motion is ripe for determination and the Court finds that oral argument is not necessary.

For the reasons set forth herein, the motion for summary judgment will be granted and plaintiff's FMLA claims will be dismissed with prejudice.

I. Relevant Facts

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant beginning January, 2003, through the date of her termination on September 19, 2005. [Doc. 1 at ¶ 5]. On or about September 12, 2005, Plaintiff's minor daughter became ill. [Id. at ¶ 8]. Because of this illness, Plaintiff either left work early or missed work completely during the period of September 12, 2005, through September 22, 2005. [Id.]. Plaintiff missed work to care for her sick daughter, but Plaintiff did inform her supervisor why she was unable to work. [Id.]. Plaintiff was terminated effective September 19, 2005, for excessive absenteeism. [Doc. 13, Attachment 5]. Prior to her termination, Plaintiff worked five and one-half hour work days. [Doc. 13, Attachment 2]. Plaintiff only worked when school was in session, meaning she worked a maximum of 188 days during the twelve month period preceding her request for leave. [Doc. 13, Attachments 2, 5].

II. Analysis

A. Standard of Review

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The burden of establishing there is no genuine issue of material fact lies upon the moving party. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 n.2 (1986). The 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); Burchett v. Kiefer, 310 F.3d 937, 942 (6th Cir. 2002). To establish a genuine issue as to the existence of a particular element, the non-moving party must point to evidence in the record upon which a reasonable jury could find in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The genuine issue must also be material; that is, it must involve facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The judge's function at the point of summary judgment is limited to determining whether sufficient evidence has been presented to make the issue of fact a proper jury question, and not to weigh the evidence, judge the credibility of witnesses, and determine the truth of the matter. Id. at 249. Thus, "[t]he inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for trial - whether, in other words, there are any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Id. at 250.

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve month period for certain qualifying reasons, including to care for a child with a serious health condition.*fn1 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). In addition, the FMLA makes it unlawful for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right" under the Act, as well as for an employer to "discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice made unlawful" by the Act.

29 U.S.C. § 2615(a). Upon review of the pleadings, Plaintiff is asserting an interference claim. [Doc. 1 at § 1].

B. Plaintiff's Interference Claim

In order to prevail on an interference claim, the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that: (1) she was an ...

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