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Gray v. Clarksville Health System, G.P.

United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division

January 9, 2015

CYNTHIA GRAY, Plaintiff,


KEVIN H. SHARP, District Judge.

Defendant Clarksville Health System, G.P., which does business under the name Gateway Medical Center, has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 17) on Plaintiff Cynthia Gray's claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. ยง 2611 et seq., and the Tennessee Human Rights Act ("THRA"), 4-21-101 et seq. Plaintiff opposes the Motion, at least with respect to her FMLA claims. (Docket No. 23). For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.[1]


Gateway Medical Center is a hospital located in Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1978, the hospital hired Plaintiff as a technician. After Plaintiff became a licensed practical nurse the following year, she was employed at the hospital as an LPN. She worked in that capacity from 1979 to 2012.

For approximately the last 10 years of her employment with the hospital, Plaintiff was a staff nurse on a medical/surgery floor. In March 2012, Plaintiff's immediate supervisor was Pat Williams, the director of medical/surgery and rehabilitation. During all relevant times, Plaintiff worked the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift three times a week. The specific work days varied from week to week.

Plaintiff took FMLA leave several times during her employment at the hospital, including every year from 2007 to 2011. By March 2012, Plaintiff had received a number of Employee Disciplinary Action Notices alleging excessive absences, including a March 9, 2008 written warning for accruing more than five absences in a 12-month period; an October 1, 2009 documented verbal warning for accruing at least six unexcused absences in a 12-month period; a February 17, 2010 written warning for allegedly accruing at least seven unexcused absences in a 12-month period; and a May 3, 2011 documented verbal warning for accruing five unexcused absences in a 12-month period.

On April 5, 2012, Jennifer Waldorf, Plaintiff's floor supervisor, gave Plaintiff a final written warning for allegedly accumulating seven unexcused absences in a 12-month period.[2] Ms. Waldorf met with Plaintiff, gave her a copy of the final written warning, discussed with Plaintiff the number of unexcused absences, and told Plaintiff it was her final written warning.

On May 1, 2012, Plaintiff was discharged for allegedly accumulating 10 absences in a 12-month period. Those absences were listed as (1) May 31, 2011, (2) July 26, 2011, (3) August 19-20, 2011, (4) October 19, 2011, (5) February 21, 2012, (6) March 4, 2012, (7) March 16-18, 2012, (8) March 30, 2012-April 1, 2012, (9) April 25, 2012, and (10) April 29, 2012.

Turning to specifics, Plaintiff was assessed an unexcused absence for Sunday, March 4, 2012. Defendant claims that Plaintiff, who was scheduled to work the 7 p.m. shift that day, discussed being absent with Angel Shapman, a supervisor, telling Ms. Shapman that she would not be at work that night because her daughter, Ashleigh[3] was in labor at the hospital. Plaintiff claims that she told Ms. Shapman she would not be in because she had been at the hospital since 11p.m. the night before, and her daughter was going to have a premature baby. Regardless, Plaintiff asked Ms. Shapman what she could do to have her absence excused. Plaintiff was told that she needed to find someone to cover the shift for her, otherwise, in accordance with hospital policy, the absence would be unexcused. Plaintiff did not find anyone to cover her shift.[4]

Ashleigh gave birth to a baby boy, Weston, on March 4, 2012. Apart from Weston being eight weeks premature, the birth was a normal delivery and Ashleigh was not placed on any medical restrictions when she was discharged from the hospital three days later.

Plaintiff's next absence from work occurred on March 16-18, 2012, when Weston was in the neonatal intensive care unit at Gateway Medical Center. While Ashleigh stayed at the hospital with Weston, Plaintiff watched her other three grandchildren at home. Plaintiff asked Dianne McGregor, Defendant's Human Resource Manager, for FMLA or emergency leave on March 16, 2012, but was told that the absence was not FMLA qualifying.

Plaintiff was next absent from March 30, 2012 to April 1, 2012 because her house flooded, a condition which was discovered when Plaintiff and her family returned from an out-of-state dance team trip. Plaintiff again contacted Ms. McGregor to ask if there was a hospital policy for "emergency disasters, " but was informed there was not. Plaintiff did not find another employee to cover her shift on March 30, and so her absence for that day was listed as unexcused.

Plaintiff was again absent from work on April 25, 2012 when her granddaughter Camdynn was hospitalized. Camdynn was hospitalized from April 23, 2012 through April 25, 2012, during which time Ashleigh stayed at the Hospital while Plaintiff took care of her other grandchildren at home.

Plaintiff was again absent from work on Sunday, April 29, 2012. The day before, she and Jay Johnson took Ashleigh to Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, returning to their home in Clarksville at 1 a.m. on the 29th. Plaintiff informed a supervisor that she would not be working her shift that night. She did not visit Ashleigh that day.

Under the hospital's written leave policy, employees "who have been employed by the facility for at least twelve months, and who have performed at least 1, 250 hours of service during the 12 months immediately preceding the start date of the requested leave are eligible for FMLA leave." (Docket No. 17-3 at 16). Excluding the time Plaintiff was out on FMLA leave, Plaintiff worked 1, 249 hours and 50 minutes from April 25, 2011 to April 25, 2012. From April 29, 2011 to April 29, 2012, Plaintiff worked 1, 225 hours and 40 minutes at the hospital. During both periods, ...

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