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Hughey v. H Corporation of Mid-Michigan

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 27, 2015

PHYLISS HUGHEY, Plaintiff,
v.
H CORPORATION OF MID-MICHIGAN, Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

BERNARD A. FRIEDMAN, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is presently before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment [docket entry 12]. Plaintiff has filed a response in opposition and defendant has filed a reply. Pursuant to E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2), the Court shall decide this motion on the briefs. For the following reasons, the Court shall grant the motion.

II. BACKGROUND

This is a Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") action. On October 19, 2011, plaintiff began working for defendant as a phlebotomist. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 2. During her employment, plaintiff applied for FMLA leave a number of times due to various health conditions. Defendant's FMLA policy required its employees to obtain a "Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee's Serious Health Condition (Family and Medical Leave Act)" ("Certification") so that defendant could properly verify and classify employee absences as FMLA leave. See id., Ex. 7. After plaintiff accrued a number of absences and failed to provide defendant with the proper Certifications, defendant terminated her by letter dated May 23, 2013. Id., Ex. 5. Plaintiff argues that she was terminated in violation of the FMLA because she did provide defendant with the proper Certifications to classify her absences as FMLA leave. Pl.'s Resp., at 1-2.

Plaintiff first requested medical leave on October 12, 2012, to obtain lumbar injections on December 14, 2012, January 11, 2013, and January 25, 2013. Def.'s Mot., Exs. 8-9. Plaintiff obtained and defendant received a Certification dated December 27, 2012, regarding these three absences relating to the lumbar injections. Id., Ex. 9. Defendant classified this leave as FMLA leave. Id., Ex. 16. Plaintiff's medical records corroborate that she did receive lumbar injections on December 14, 2012, January 11, 2013, and January 25, 2013. Id., Ex. 10.

In January 2013, plaintiff began to suffer from colitis. On January 30, 2013, plaintiff made her second request for FMLA leave, seeking to limit her work schedule to four days per week. Id., Exs. 11-12. On February 6, 2013, plaintiff faxed FMLA paperwork to her primary care physician's office-Miguel Perez-Pascual, M.D.-for the purpose of receiving the proper Certification for this FMLA leave. Id., Ex. 12. Dr. Perez-Pascual did not complete the Certification on plaintiff's behalf, and he did not restrict her to a four-day work week. Id. at 3.

During the month of February 2013, plaintiff was present for work each day until February 22, 2013. Id., Exs. 13, 15. On that date, medical records show that plaintiff had a medical appointment with Dr. Perez-Pascual, where she received a CT scan of her abdomen and pelvis. Id., Ex. 10. Plaintiff was also absent on February 25, 2013, when she went to the emergency room and was admitted as a patient at McLaren Regional Medical Center where she remained until discharged on February 28, 2013. Id. Following her release from the hospital, plaintiff missed work on March 1, 4-8, 14-15, 18-22, and 25-29, 2013. Id., Ex. 15. In April 2013, plaintiff was absent on April 1-5, 8-12, 15-19, 22-26, and 29-30, 2013. Id. In May, she was absent on May 1-3, 6-10, 13-17, and 20, 2013. Id. After not returning to work on May 20, 2013, defendant terminated plaintiff by letter dated May 23, 2013. Id., Ex. 5.

Plaintiff claims that Dr. Perez-Pascual prepared a series of Certifications on her behalf to account for some of her absences. Defendant received an April 11, 2013, Certification regarding plaintiff's colitis-related absences. Id., Ex. 16. Dr. Perez-Pascual completed this Certification, which noted that plaintiff was incapacitated as a result of colitis from February 25 through February 28, 2013. Id., Ex. 16. The certification also noted that Dr. Perez-Pascual treated plaintiff on March 22, 2013, and April 5, 2013. Id. Because this Certification did not address plaintiff's numerous other absences[1]-and plaintiff had not returned to work-defendant advised plaintiff that additional information was necessary to classify her unaddressed absences as FMLA leave. Id., Ex. 1, at 39.

During discovery, plaintiff produced a second April 11, 2013, Certification purportedly signed by Dr. Perez-Pascual. See id., Ex. 17. Although it is the general practice of Dr. Perez-Pascual to retain copies of all FMLA paperwork prepared on behalf of his patients, this Certification was not in his files kept on plaintiff. Id., Ex. 18, at 16-18. Nonetheless, this Certification represents that Dr. Perez-Pascual had been treating plaintiff for colitis since January 14, 2013. Id., Ex. 17. This contradicts the first April 11, 2013, Certification, which indicated that Dr. Perez-Pascual treated plaintiff on March 22, 2013, and April 11, 2013.[2] Plaintiff insists she provided a copy of the second April 11, 2013, Certification to defendant; defendant denies receiving this second Certification.

Dr. Perez-Pascual completed another Certification for plaintiff on May 17, 2013. Id., Ex. 20. The portion of the May 17, 2013, Certification requiring medical personnel to "[e]stimate the beginning and ending dates for the period of incapacity" was completed as having a start date of May 17, 2013, to three months. Id. The Certification also asked the physician to "[e]stimate treatment schedule, if any, including the dates of any scheduled appointments and the time required for each appointment, including any recovery period." Id. Dr. Perez-Pascual wrote "3 months." Id. It is unclear whether Dr. Perez-Pascual's response indicates that the incapacity spans the three months preceding May 17, 2013, or the three months following that date. However, in a letter of protest addressed to the Unemployment Insurance Agency, Dr. Perez-Pascual noted: "My patient was put on sick leave by me, at this time Family Medical leave paperwork was filled out on April 11th with a return date the first week of June. " Id., Ex. 21 (emphasis added).[3]

Defendant denies receiving the May 17, 2013, Certification. Plaintiff maintains that she stood next to Linda Mitchell-Dr. Perez-Pascual's employee-while Mitchell faxed the May 17, 2013, Certification to defendant; Mitchell denies that plaintiff stood next to her while she faxed the paperwork. Id., Ex. 1, at 64-65; Ex. 18, 28-29. Plaintiff also claims Danielle Jones-defendant's Human Resources Director-confirmed that she received the faxed May 17, 2013, Certification. Id., Ex.1, at 66. Jones denies that contention. Id., Ex. 4, at 40-41.

On May 20, 2013, Jones advised plaintiff that defendant had not received FMLA documentation for a number of plaintiff's absences and that plaintiff must submit a proper FMLA Certification before the end of the business day. Id., Ex. 1, at 74, 79, & 81. Plaintiff retrieved a copy of the second April 11, 2013, Certification from Dr. Perez-Pascual's office and hand-delivered it to defendant. Id., at 81 & 82.

Plaintiff did not return to work on May 20, 2013, and defendant sent plaintiff a termination letter dated May 23, 2013. Id., Ex. 5. Plaintiff was terminated for failure to submit the requisite FMLA paperwork and failure to return to work following FMLA leave. Id. Plaintiff did not ...


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