United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
A. TRAUGER United States District Judge.
before the court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No.
19) filed by the defendant, Avalon Health Care, LLC d/b/a
Trevecca Health Care (“Trevecca”), to which the
plaintiff, Alem Meles, has not responded. For the reasons
discussed herein, the motion will be granted.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
March 7, 2016, Ms. Meles filed this employment action against
her former employer, Trevecca. (Docket No. 1.) The Complaint
brings a claim for violation of the Family and Medical Leave
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2611, et seq.
(“FMLA”) based on allegations that, upon
requesting leave under the FMLA, Ms. Meles was told by
someone in Human Resources at Trevecca that she was being
terminated from her employment.
the only evidence in the record that supports Ms. Meles's
claim is her testimony that, On September 5, 2012, Ms. Meles
received a voicemail from her supervisor, Virginia Diaz,
stating that she was terminated from her employment due to
her unexplained absence and that she should not return to
work on September 6, 2012 as scheduled. (Docket No. 19-2
(November 23, 2016 Meles Deposition (“Meles
Dep.”)) at 40:13-41:22.) There is no evidence in the
record, however, that, prior to receiving this alleged
voicemail, Ms. Meles had requested FMLA leave or otherwise
informed Trevecca that she was suffering from a serious
medical condition or would need to be absent for an extended
period of time.
prior action by Ms. Meles before this court, the testimony by
Ms. Meles in the record stated that she faxed her request for
FMLA leave to Trevecca prior to Ms. Diaz terminating
her. (See Memorandum, Meles v. Avalon Health
Care, Case No. 3:14-cv-1487, 2015 WL 5568060 (M.D. Tenn.
Sept. 22, 2015), Docket No. 30, p. 8.) The testimony before
the court in the instant action, however, clarifies that it
was on September 6, 2012, the day after Ms. Meles
received the initial voicemail terminating her employment,
that Ms. Meles faxed to Trevecca documentation of her medical
need for leave. (Docket No. 19-2 (Meles Dep), 49:20-51:24.)
She then called to follow up, at which time she was initially
reminded by Ms. Diaz of her termination the previous day.
(Id.) Indeed, the fax from Ms. Meles's physician
indicating that she needed an extended leave from work is
dated September 6, 2012. (Id. at pp. 78-79 (Exhibit
10 to Meles Dep.).) Ms. Meles admits that she later received
a document from Trevecca dated September 19, 2012, stating
that she was approved for her request for FMLA Leave.
(Id. at 68:23-69:4.)
October 14, 2016, the Case Management Order in this action
was amended for a final time, requiring dispositive motions
to be filed on or before December 23, 2016, with responses
due within 28 days of the motion's filing. (Docket No.
December 23, 2016, Trevecca filed the currently pending
Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 19), along with a
Memorandum in Support (Docket No. 20), the Declaration of
Stephanie K. Harris, Trevecca's Human Resources Director
(Docket No. 21), the Declaration of Chen Ni, counsel for
Trevecca (Docket No. 22), and a Statement of Undisputed
Material Facts (Docket No. 23).
January 11, 2017, upon reassignment of this case to Judge
Trauger, the court issued an Order directing the parties to
adhere to the briefing schedule set out in the October 14,
2016 Order with respect to the pending Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Docket No. 25.) By the same Order, Trevecca's
Motion to Stay the action pending resolution of its Motion to
Recover Costs was denied. (Id.) Ms. Meles's
response to the Motion for Summary Judgment, therefore,
should have been filed no later than January 20, 2017.
reminders from the court, Ms. Meles has failed to respond to
either the Motion for Summary Judgment or Trevecca's
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, and it has now been
more than two weeks since the deadline passed.
Sixth Circuit, a plaintiff who fails to address a claim in
response to a motion for summary judgment is deemed to have
abandoned the claim. Briggs v. Univ. of
Detroit-Mercy, 611 Fed.Appx. 865, 870 (6th Cir. 2015).
Nonetheless, a district court may not use a party's
failure to respond as a reason for granting summary judgment
“without first examining all the materials properly
before it under Rule 56(c).” Briggs, 611
Fed.Appx. at 870 (quoting FTC v. E.M.A. Nationwide,
Inc., 767 F.3d 611, 630 (6th Cir. 2014)). This is so
because “[a] party is never required to respond to a
motion for summary judgment in order to prevail since the
burden of establishing the nonexistence of a material factual
dispute always rests with the movant.” Id.
Thus, “even where a motion for summary judgment is
unopposed (in whole or in part), a district court must review
carefully the portions of the record submitted by the moving
party to determine whether a genuine dispute of material fact
are two theories of recovery under the FMLA, interference and
retaliation. Wallner v. Hilliard, 590 F. App'x
546, 550 (6th Cir. 2014) (citing Hunter Valley View Local
Sch., 579 F.3d 688, 691 (6th Cir. 2009)). The elements
of an FMLA interference claim are simple: 1) the employee was
entitled to benefits, 2) the employee notified the employer
of the intent to exercise the rights, and 3) the employee was
denied the benefits to which she was entitled. Id.
(citing Edgar v. JAC Products, Inc., 443 F.3d 501,
507-08 (6th Cir. 2006)). There is no need to show evidence of
any particular employer motive or intent. Id. A
retaliation claim requires showing a causal connection
between an exercise of FMLA rights and an adverse employment
action. Id. (citing Edgar, 443 F.3d at 408
and Hunter, 579 F.3d at 692). “[F]iring
someone who has just requested FMLA leave before he can take
it could be construed both as retaliation for having asked
for leave and as interference with the employee's ability
to take it.” Id. at 551 (citing Skrjanc v.
Great Lakes Power Serv. Co., 283 F.3d 818, ...