United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
JIMMY L. GOODMAN, Plaintiff,
CITY OF KINGSTON, TENNESSEE, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
Goodman filed this action against his former employer, the
City of Kingston, alleging he was not afforded his rights and
protections under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and
was unlawfully terminated in violation of the FMLA.
matter is before the court on the City's motion for
summary judgment [R. 22]. The City submits that Goodman
cannot establish that he was discharged, interfered, or
retaliated against because of his use of FMLA leave. The City
submits Goodman never put it on notice that he suffered from
a serious health condition or requested FMLA leave; and
Goodman was terminated from his employment for a legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason, that he failed to return from leave
and abandoned his job.
responds that the notices given to his employer on multiple
occasions were sufficient to put the City of notice of a
serious back condition and the City failed to inform him of
his rights to take unpaid leave under the FMLA after he had
exhausted his paid sick leave.
worked for the City for fifteen years prior to his
termination on February 27, 2014. Goodman was a supervisor in
the Public Works Department, a position he held for
approximately ten years. Goodman's duties included
supervising the men on his crew and performing general Public
Works Department tasks.
City's Personnel Policies and Procedures manual deals
with benefits including vacation leave, sick leave, and FMLA.
Goodman signed that he had received a copy of the personnel
policies when he was first employed with the City. The City
also posted notices throughout the workplace to provide
employees with notice of their rights under multiple laws and
regulations including the FMLA. The policy manual
specifically provided that vacation time had to be scheduled
in advance so proper adjustments could be made in work
record shows that between December 19, 2013 and February 27,
2014, Goodman worked only one day. During his 39-day absence,
Goodman saw various physicians for earaches, dizziness,
stomachaches, headaches, anxiety, and other ailments for
which he sought medical care and treatment. The City does not
dispute Goodman had earned sick leave to take time off for
medical records show that he saw Dr. Willett for sinus
symptoms, tightness of skin, and fatigue on December 26,
2013. There is no reference to back or neck problems. On
physical exam, examination of Goodman's neck was normal.
On January 3, 2014, Goodman again saw Dr. Willett,
complaining of abdominal pain, sinus symptoms, and vertigo.
There is no reference to neck or back pain.
January 13, 2014, Goodman returned to Dr. Willett with
complaints of dizziness. There is no mention of neck or back
pain; instead, examination of Goodman's neck was normal.
Dr. Willett gave Goodman a return to work form stating
Goodman could return to work on January 22 with “no
restrictions.” The next day, Goodman saw Dr. Willett
complaining of dizziness with references to pain and
headache. Again, examination of Goodman's neck was
normal. Goodman received a work excuse from Dr. Willett
stating Goodman is excused from work 1/22/14 - 1/30/14 for
missed several weeks of work in January 2007, due to issues
with his spine. In November 2013, he began experiencing pain
in his spine. When he continued to have problems with his
spine, he saw neurologist Dr. Lynch on January 10, 2014. Dr.
Lynch, noted that in years past, Goodman had suffered from
neck and back pain, but “most of those symptoms have
actually resolved.” Dr. Lynch further noted Goodman had
a complaint of abdominal pain with poor appetite.
January 30, 2014, Goodman returned to Dr. Lynch and had
discussions about neck and back pain. Dr. Lynch gave Goodman
a note indicating he could return to work “when testing
is concluded” and noted “cervical/lumbar
radiculopathy.” Dr. Lynch referred Goodman to Oak Ridge
February 14, 2014, the testing ordered by Dr. Lynch was
completed. On February 18, 2014, Dr. Lynch noted that the MRI
revealed that Goodman had arthritis in his neck and his back
“looked ok.” Dr. Lynch referred Goodman to Dr.
Maccree at Oak Ridge Neurosurgery.
February 19, 2014, Goodman saw Dr. Willett complaining of
dizziness and hearing problems. Goodman made no complaints of
neck or back pain, and received no treatment for neck or back
pain on that occasion.
sick leave exhausted on February 19, 2014. Goodman did not
return to work, nor did he request any vacation time after
his sick leave expired. The City avers that Goodman was
required to ask for vacation time in advance, failed to do
so, and the City considered him to have abandoned his job. On
February 27, 2014, the City sent a letter to Goodman advising
that his employment was terminated due to ...