United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
Christopher Steger, Magistrate Judge
L. COLLIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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.
Chattanooga (“Gestamp”) manufactures and
assembles automotive parts and is a wholly owned subsidiary
of Gestamp North America, Inc. (“Gestamp North
America”).Plaintiff Ricky Edmonds
(“Edmonds”) began work at Gestamp in January 2012
as a parts maker.
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.
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
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.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.
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'
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.
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.
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.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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