United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville
TERRI Q. COLEMAN, Plaintiff,
ARC AUTOMOTIVE, INC., Defendant.
Terri Coleman brings this action against her former employer,
ARC Automotive, Inc. Coleman claims she was discriminated
against because of her race in violation of Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act and the Tennessee Human Rights Act.
Statement of Facts
was hired as a general machine operator for ARC in May 1999,
a position she held until she went on an extended medical
leave of absence on June 3, 2014. In December 2010, Coleman
underwent surgery for a hysterectomy. Coleman was granted
FMLA leave for her absences and her claim for short-term
disability benefits was also approved through MetLife. On
February 8, 2011, six weeks after her surgery, Coleman had a
follow-up appointment with her surgeon, Dr. Copas. During the
visit, Coleman told Dr. Copas she was required to perform
substantial, frequent overtime and she did not feel that she
could return to work. Dr. Copas responded he could not give
her any more time off work “or it would be
fraud.” He released Coleman to return to work on
February 14, 2011, without restrictions. Dr. Copas noted that
Coleman's abdominal incision was well healed and she did
not appear in acute distress. Coleman returned to work at
saw her primary care physician, Dr. Kirby on September 21,
2011, with complaints of abdominal pain. Dr. Kirby ordered a
CT scan but did not limit Coleman's activities or suggest
she take time off work.
November 30, 2011, Coleman saw Dr. Dean Turner, OB/GYN about
her continued pain. Coleman underwent exploratory surgery and
removal of a cyst in January 2012. Coleman was granted FMLA
leave to cover absences related to her January 2012 surgery.
She also applied for and was granted short-term disability
benefits. On February 6, 2012, Dr. Turner released Coleman to
return to work on February 14, 2012, without restrictions.
went to the emergency room complaining of pain in her abdomen
on February 15, 2012, and the doctor wrote a note for her to
remain out of work, but releasing her to return without
restrictions on February 20, 2012. Coleman returned to work
on February 20, 2012, as scheduled. ARC approved her absences
through February 19, 2012, and her short-term disability
claim was also approved through February 19, 2012.
continued to experience abdominal pain and she returned to
her primary care physician, Dr. Kirby, on February 23, 2012.
Dr. Kirby instructed her to remain out of work until her next
visit on March 13, 2012. Coleman informed Jackie Theg,
ARC's Human Resources Manager, that she would be out of
work until March 13, 2012.
ARC's attendance policy, Coleman was required to provide
medical documentation to ARC to support a claim for FMLA
leave. Coleman's absences beginning on February 23, 2012,
were an extension of her prior FMLA leave, and ARC needed a
doctor's note supporting the additional time off. When
Coleman returned to work on February 20, 2012, her claim for
short-term disability benefits was closed. To reopen the
claim after going back out on leave on February 23, 2012,
Coleman was also required to provide updated medical
information to MetLife.
manager, Theg monitored all short-term disability claims for
ARC. While she could see the status of a claim, she was not
privy to any medical information shared with MetLife and was
not privy to any notes made by the claims adjuster. Theg
noted that Coleman's claim continued to show as
“closed.” Concerned about Coleman not receiving
short-term disability payments, Theg followed up with Coleman
to have her doctor provide information to MetLife so her
short-term disability claim could be reactivated. On March
13, 2012, Coleman faxed a letter from Dr. Kirby that covered
her absences beginning on February 23, 2012. Theg confirmed
receipt of the letter and told Coleman that her absences were
now covered under FMLA.
returned to work on March 19, 2012, with a note from Dr.
Kirby releasing her to return to work without restrictions.
Coleman was not disciplined and received no attendance
“occasions” for her absences.
Coleman's short-term disability had still not been
approved, Theg suggested that she call MetLife. During a call
with MetLife employees, Coleman questioned whether Theg had
access to her medical information, and was assured that Theg
was not provided with any medical information and had no
access to Coleman's medical information. On March 26,
2012, Dr. Kirby faxed his medical certification to MetLife
supporting continuation of Coleman's short-term
disability benefits from February 23, 2012 through March 18,
2012. MetLife then approved Coleman's claim for benefits
covering that time period.
2012, Coleman complained to Gabe Bucca, Vice-President of
Human Resources for ARC, alleging Theg had contacted her
doctors and pressured the doctors to return Coleman to work
too soon. Bucca investigated and spoke with Theg, who denied
contacting Coleman's doctors. Coleman also called the
employee hotline to report her allegations. Bucca met with
Coleman, told her that Theg denied the allegations, and
assured her it was not ARC policy to contact an
employee's doctors. Bucca requested ...