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Edmonds v. Gestamp Chattanooga, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee

April 17, 2017

RICKY EDMONDS, Plaintiff,
v.
GESTAMP CHATTANOOGA, LLC & GESTAMP NORTH AMERICA, INC., Defendants.

          Christopher Steger, Magistrate Judge

          MEMORANDUM

          CURTIS L. COLLIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendants Gestamp Chattanooga, LLC and Gestamp North America, Inc. move for summary judgment in their favor on all of Plaintiff Ricky Edmonds's claims. (Doc. 16.) Plaintiff asserts the following claims against Defendants: (1) interference under the Family and Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq.; (2) retaliation under the FMLA; and (3) workers' compensation retaliation under Tennessee Code Annotated § 50-6-114. Defendants additionally seek dismissal of all claims against Gestamp North America, Inc.

         For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 16). The Court will DISMISS all claims against Gestamp North America, Inc., and DENY summary judgment as to Plaintiff's FMLA interference claim, Plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim, and Plaintiff's workers' compensation retaliation claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Gestamp Chattanooga (“Gestamp”) manufactures and assembles automotive parts and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Gestamp North America, Inc. (“Gestamp North America”).[1]Plaintiff Ricky Edmonds (“Edmonds”) began work at Gestamp in January 2012 as a parts maker.

         On June 14, 2013, a supervisor asked Edmonds to assist in dismantling industrial shelving. Edmonds suffered a serious injury to his right shoulder while performing this work, and he filed a workers' compensation claim as a result of the injury. Edmonds's pain persisted, and he saw a physician, Dr. McKinley Lundy, who prescribed medication and instructed him to return if the pain did not subside. Edmonds continued to experience pain, so Dr. Lundy referred him to Dr. Mark Sumida, a specialist.

         Dr. Sumida performed an MRI, which revealed Edmonds had torn his right rotator cuff. Dr. Sumida placed Edmonds on work restrictions limiting his ability to lift heavy objects and performed surgery to repair the torn rotator cuff on October 4, 2013. On October 23, 2013, Dr. Sumida released Edmonds to return to work with restrictions stating Edmonds could only perform light-duty work and could not use his right arm. Gestamp assigned Edmonds to light-duty work as a label maker, a job consisting of printing labels and sticking them on containers.

         Edmonds returned to Dr. Sumida on November 11, 2013. Dr. Sumida issued new work restrictions for Edmonds, which prohibited him from using his right arm or working on an assembly line. Gestamp initially assigned Edmonds to various light-duty tasks, including label making, clerical work, and inspecting parts; however, Edmonds was later assigned to the press area of the plant. In the press area, Edmonds's duties involved organizing bins and moving scrap metal, requiring him to lift heavy objects and use both arms. Edmonds complained that these duties caused him pain in his shoulders on a number of occasions. Despite Edmonds's complaints, Gestamp never modified Edmonds's work responsibilities. Edmonds worked in the press area of the plant on work restrictions from Dr. Sumida until his termination in April 2014. In March 2014, Edmonds missed work three times due to shoulder pain. Gestamp's attendance policy involves the assessment of attendance points against employees for unexcused absences. Various forms of discipline are imposed as attendance points accumulate, including termination when an employee has received six attendance points. Edmonds was assessed one attendance point each for his absences in March 2014-one point for leaving work early due to shoulder pain on March 17, 2014, one point for leaving work early due to shoulder pain on March 19, 2014, and one point for missing work on March 29, 2014 to have an MRI on his shoulder.[2]Edmonds was assessed an attendance point for his absence on March 29, 2014, a Saturday, despite Edmonds's assertion that he was not scheduled to work on March 29, 2014. Furthermore, Edmonds asserts that even had he been scheduled to work on March 29, 2014, he was not allowed to work on March 29, 2014 because Gestamp did not allow employees on work restrictions to work overtime, and working on a Saturday constituted working overtime.

         On April 3, 2014, Edmonds was informed by his supervisors that he was being moved from first shift to second shift. Edmonds told his supervisors he was disappointed by this assignment. On April 4, 2014, a previously scheduled vacation day for Edmonds, Edmonds called Gestamp's human resources department and asked for FMLA leave because he needed time to rest his shoulders. Edmonds also mentioned he was feeling sick. Gestamp's human resources generalist, Vickie Gilbert, informed Edmonds he did not qualify for FMLA leave because FMLA leave runs concurrently with workers' compensation.

         Edmonds missed work on April 7 and 8, 2014, due to a serious illness. Edmonds was diagnosed with acute sinusitis and pharyngitis by Dr. Teresa Baysden on April 7, 2014. Dr. Baysden prescribed five-day courses of two different medications and provided Edmonds with a return-to-work form allowing Edmonds to return to work on April 10, 2014. Dr. Baysden later extended Edmonds's return-to-work form to April 11, 2014.

         On both April 7 and 8, Edmonds left voicemails with two separate supervisors, Vickie Gilbert and Tony Cates, notifying them that he would be absent from work due to his illness. Gestamp claims not to have received a voicemail from Edmonds on either day. In addition to remembering the specific dates and general content of the voicemails, Edmonds asserts he is certain he left the voicemails because on both days he reached the personalized voice mailbox of each supervisor and recognized their name and voice in their greeting.

         In addition to their attendance points system, Gestamp implements a “two-day no-call, no-show” policy, which involves treating an employee's absence without notice on two consecutive days as a voluntary resignation. Gestamp does not dispute that leaving a voicemail for a supervisor would constitute sufficient notice under this policy. On April 9, 2014, Gestamp sent Edmonds a letter notifying him it had terminated his employment pursuant to this policy due to his absences on April 7 and 8.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper when “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Leary v. Daeschner, 349 F.3d 888, 897 (6th Cir. 2003). The Court should view the evidence, including all reasonable inferences, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Nat'l Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001).

         III. ...


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