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Russell v. CSK Auto, Inc.

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

October 11, 2016

THOMAS RUSSELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CSK AUTO, INC., n/k/a O'REILLY AUTO ENTERPRISES, LLC., Defendant.

          AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER (1) DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 34], (2) DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 35], AND (3) DISMISSING WITH PREJUDICE PLAINTIFF'S CLAIM FOR INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS

          LINDA V. PARKER, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         On November 3, 2014, Plaintiff Thomas Russell (“Plaintiff”) filed this lawsuit against Defendant CSK Auto, Inc., n/k/a O'Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC (“Defendant”), alleging that Defendant retaliated and constructively discharged him in violation of the Federal Medical Leave Act. (ECF No. 1.) Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 34) and Defendant's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 35) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Finding the facts and legal arguments sufficiently presented in the parties' briefs, the Court dispensed with oral argument pursuant to Eastern District of Michigan Local Rule 7.1(f) on July 1, 2016. (ECF No. 43.) For the reasons that follow, the Court is denying Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment, denying Defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismissing Plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard

         Summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 is appropriate “if 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 central inquiry is “whether the evidence presents 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.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). After adequate time for discovery and upon motion, Rule 56 mandates summary judgment against a party who fails to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party bears the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         The movant has the initial burden of showing “the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Id. at 323. Once the movant meets this burden, the “nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). To demonstrate a genuine issue, the nonmoving party must present sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably find for that party; a “scintilla of evidence” is insufficient. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252.

         Courts evaluate cross-motions for summary judgment under the same standard. La Quinta Corp. v. Heartland Props., LLC, 603 F.3d 327, 335 (6th Cir. 2010) (citing Beck v. City of Cleveland, 390 F.3d 912, 917 (6th Cir. 2004)). When faced with cross- motions for summary judgment, each motion is examined on its own merits. Id.

         III. Factual Background

         This dispute arises from Plaintiff's FMLA leave in 2010 and 2012 and compensation.

         Plaintiff was employed by Defendant from June 14, 1988 to September 9, 2013. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 3.) Plaintiff injured his ankle in 2010 and subsequently took FMLA leave from September 28, 2010 until December 21, 2010. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff suffered another injury in December 2012 and again went on FMLA leave, starting December 12, 2012. (ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 9, 10.)

         Plaintiff's compensation while employed with Defendant was based on “assurance pay.” Assurance pay “guaranteed a certain level of income by providing a minimum level of income if store-based commissions were not higher than the assured amount.” (ECF No. 34 at Pg ID 152.) The goal of assurance pay was for the store manager to increase sales in their particular store so that the profits of the store could pay the store manager's salary. (ECF No. 35 at Pg ID 336.) Store managers were evaluated after the first year the assurance pay structure was introduced to determine whether the managers should remain on the assurance pay plan. (Id.)

         Plaintiff was twice taken off the assurance plan. The facts surrounding his removal from assurance pay are in dispute. Plaintiff alleges that he was first removed from assurance pay in 2010 while he was on FMLA leave. (ECF No. 34 at Pg ID 153.) During this time, Plaintiff states he was harassed by his district manager to return to work. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 7.) Defendant, however, argues that Plaintiff was advised he would be removed from the assurance plan on September 17, 2010, before Plaintiff took FMLA leave starting September 28, 2010. (ECF No. 35 at Pg ID 337-38.) Further, Defendant denies any harassment. (ECF No. 5 ¶ 7.)

         Plaintiff was placed back on the assurance plan after sending a letter to the regional manager complaining of the reduction in pay. (ECF No. 34 at Pg ID 453.) When Plaintiff returned to work, he was transferred to a new location and was told “as long as [your] sales continue[] to grow, [you will] not be removed from [your] assurance pay.” (ECF No. 34 at Pg ID 153; ECF No. 1 ¶ 8.)

         Plaintiff states he was next removed from the assurance plan during his FMLA leave in December 2012. (ECF No. 34 at Pg ID 153.) Plaintiff alleges he was not notified of his removal from the assurance plan until February 14, 2013- nearly six weeks after the change in pay occurred. (Id.)[1] Plaintiff was told he was removed due to ...


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