United States District Court, W.D. Oklahoma
TIMOTHY D. DEGIUSTI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff
Loraine Howard [Doc. No. 17] and Defendant Balon Corporation
[Doc. No. 16] pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Plaintiff moves
for partial summary judgment on the issue of Defendant's
liability for allegedly terminating her employment in
violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29
U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Defendant moves for a
judgment in its favor on all claims. Each party has filed a
timely response to the other's motion, and both motions
are fully briefed.
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A material fact is one that “might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is genuine if the evidence is
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for either
party. Id. at 255. All facts and reasonable
inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Id. If a party who would bear the
burden of proof at trial lacks sufficient evidence on an
essential element of a claim, all other factual issues
concerning the claim become immaterial. Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
movant bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence
of a dispute of material fact warranting summary judgment.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant carries
this burden, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and
“set forth specific facts” that would be
admissible in evidence and that show a genuine issue for
trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248;
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Adler v. Wal-Mart
Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 671 (10th Cir. 1998).
“To accomplish this, the facts must be identified by
reference to affidavits, deposition transcripts, or specific
exhibits incorporated therein.” Adler, 144
F.3d at 671; see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A).
“The court need consider only the cited materials, but
it may consider other materials in the record.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). The Court's inquiry is whether the
facts and evidence identified by the parties present “a
sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or
whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law.” See Anderson, 477 U.S. at
of Undisputed Facts 
is a family-owned corporation that operates a manufacturing
business in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and employs more than
900 employees. Defendant hired Plaintiff as a machine
operator in May 2008, and she worked in that position until
March 2015. Defendant had a written attendance policy that
was provided to employees (including Plaintiff) upon
employment; it required employees to call a dedicated
telephone line to report work absences or lateness for work.
Employees were responsible to clock in and clock out each
work day for the core hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to
report back on time after a work break or lunch period, and
to use accrued vacation time for absences. Plaintiff accrued
120 hours of paid vacation annually on her anniversary date.
Accrued vacation time could be used for any reason designated
by the employee, including sickness, if requested in a timely
maintained a written FMLA policy that summarized
employees' rights. Statutorily required notices were
posted near two human resources (HR) offices in
Defendant's facility, and a summary of FMLA policies and
procedures was on display in an employee break area.
Defendant's HR representative, Holly Siderits, testified
regarding the procedures used to implement FMLA leave
requirements. These included initiating a discussion of leave
rights with an employee who was absent from work for more
than three days for medical care, even without an FMLA leave
request by the employee.
the course of Plaintiff's employment by Defendant, she
received verbal and written warnings about attendance and
productivity issues. Defendant's concerns were documented
in an employee activity report regarding Plaintiff that, as
to productivity, noted instances when Plaintiff was away from
her machine during work hours. On February 6, 2015, Ms.
Siderits met with Plaintiff to discuss Plaintiff's
concern that she had not received a pay raise during employee
reviews conducted in December 2014. Although Plaintiff
disagrees with Ms. Siderits' account of the details of
their discussion, Plaintiff admits they discussed
Plaintiff's absences from her machine during production
hours, that Ms. Siderits encouraged Plaintiff to improve her
work habits, and that Ms. Siderits stated Plaintiff would be
reevaluated. Ms. Siderits also counseled Plaintiff about her
July 15, 2014, Plaintiff had exhausted all 120 hours of paid
vacation time accrued on her anniversary date in May
2014. Thus, Plaintiff had no vacation time
available for subsequent absences (including late arrivals or
early departures from work) until her next anniversary date
in May 2015. Following Plaintiff's meeting with Ms.
Siderits in February 2015, Plaintiff incurred numerous
additional absences from work.
Monday, March 23, 2015, six weeks after Plaintiff's
meeting with Ms. Siderits, a weekly HR/management meeting was
held with Defendant's owners, its vice president and
general counsel (Donald J. Kyte), Ms. Siderits, and others in
attendance. Ms. Siderits brought Plaintiff's personnel
file to the meeting for an employee review and discussion of
Plaintiff's request for a wage increase. After discussion
at the meeting, upon Ms. Siderits' recommendation, the
owners decided to terminate Plaintiff's employment due to
lack of improvement, subject to Mr. Kyte's review of
Plaintiff's file and approval of the decision. Following
the meeting, Mr. Kyte conducted his review, formed an opinion
that there was a sufficient basis for termination, and
communicated to HR the same day that he had no objection to
following day, Ms. Siderits prepared a form to be used to
terminate Plaintiff's employment on March 24, 2015, but
Plaintiff called in sick that day and was absent from work.
On each subsequent day until March 30, 2015, Ms. Siderits
revised the form by inserting the current day's date, but
Plaintiff remained absent from work until the following
Monday, March 30. On that date, after Plaintiff had worked
part of her shift, Ms. Siderits met with Plaintiff and
informed her of the termination decision. The effective
date of Plaintiff's termination for purposes of employee
benefits was March 30, 2015.
day that Plaintiff was absent from work March 24-27, 2015,
she called in pursuant to Defendant's attendance policy,
and reported an absence due to sickness and on one day a
doctor's appointment. On March 24, Plaintiff received
medical treatment for back pain, and a doctor determined that
she was unable to return to work until March 26, 2016.
Plaintiff returned to the doctor on March 26, and was
directed to remain off work until March 30, 2015. The
doctor's notes regarding Plaintiff's work
restrictions were delivered to Defendant on March 27, 2015,
but were not seen by Ms. Siderits or Mr. Kyte until sometime
after Plaintiff's termination.
Complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendant interfered with
her exercise or attempted exercise of an FMLA right to
medical leave for a serious health condition, in violation of
29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Although not entirely clear from
her pleading, Plaintiff also asserts a claim that Defendant
retaliated against her for exercising a right to FMLA leave
by terminating her employment, in violation of 29 U.S.C.
§ 2615(a)(2). By her Motion, Plaintiff seeks a
determination as a matter of law that ...