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Smith v. Senderra Rx Partners LLC

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

March 6, 2017

Veleta Smith, Plaintiff,
v.
Senderra RX Partners, LLC, Defendant.

          Elizabeth A. Stafford U.S. Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [29]

          Arthur J. Tarnow Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Veleta Smith filed her Complaint [1] against Defendant Senderra RX Partners on January 14, 2016. Senderra filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [29] on October 21, 2016. The parties timely briefed the motion [31, 34] and the Court held a hearing on March 2, 2017. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [29]. This Opinion and Order supplements the Court's ruling.

         For the following reasons, and for the reasons stated on the record, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [29] is GRANTED.

         Factual Background

         Veleta Smith initially did very well at Senderra RX Partners: she was hired as a Customer Service Representative in May 2013 and less than a year later, she was promoted to Customer Service Team Lead. In 2015, however, the quality of Smith's performance deteriorated, and she violated Senderra's attendance policy on multiple occasions. In August 2015, Smith's supervisors attempted to help her get back on track by placing her on a Performance Improvement Plan. They also offered Smith information about the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) after learning that her 10-year-old daughter Ashley suffered from bladder issues. Senderra's efforts notwithstanding, Smith's transgressions continued; notably, between September 3, 2015 and September 9, 2015, Smith failed to show up for work without notifying anyone of her absence. On September 9, 2015, Senderra sent Smith a letter acknowledging receipt of, and accepting, her resignation. Smith sued Senderra, alleging that Senderra interfered with her FMLA rights and retaliated against her.

         Legal Standard

         When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must determine whether “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Defendant, as the moving party, has the burden of establishing that there are no genuine issues of material fact, which may be accomplished by demonstrating that the nonmoving party lacks evidence to support an essential element of its case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue for trial exists if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         Analysis

         Assessing the evidence and drawing all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the Court finds that there is nothing from which a jury could infer that Senderra interfered with or retaliated against Plaintiff. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         I. FMLA Interference

         Plaintiff's FMLA interference claim fails because she cannot show that she was entitled to leave under the FMLA; that she gave Senderra notice of her intention to take leave; and that Senderra denied her FMLA benefits to which she was entitled. Donald v. Sybra, Inc., 667 F.3d 757, 761 (6th Cir. 2012).

         A. Plaintiff was not entitled to FMLA-leave, and therefore, Senderra did not wrongfully deny her anything to which she was entitled.

         Defendant correctly points out that Plaintiff was not entitled to leave under the FMLA because, as the evidence reveals, it was not medically necessary for Plaintiff to stay home with her daughter. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(b)(1); see also Lane v. PontiacOsteopathic Hospital, No. 09-12634, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 610003, at *10 (E.D. Mich. June 1, 2010) (the statute allows for an employee to take FMLA leave “only . . . when [she] is ‘needed to care' for a family member.”). The FMLA Medical Certification from Ashley's doctor specified that it was appropriate for Plaintiff to take leave from work when accompanying her daughter to a medical appointment. However, Ashley did not have any doctor's appointments after August 13 - the date on which Defendant approved Plaintiff's FMLA leave. Therefore, her unexcused absences from work on August 26 and from September 3-9 were not medically necessary. There was simply no FMLA-qualifying reason for Plaintiff to be absent from work on those dates. Additionally, although there are certain circumstances in which an employee can take FMLA leave to provide psychological comfort and reassurance to a sick child, see 29 C.F.R. § 825.124(a), [1] Plaintiff only ever told Defendant that she needed to stay home because she was uncomfortable ...


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