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Mullins v. Healthsource Saginaw, Inc.

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

July 18, 2017




         Plaintiff Sherri Mullins, a Registered Nurse, retired after sixteen years of employment with defendant Healthsource Saginaw, Inc. (“Healthsource”), a rehabilitation/recovery hospital, after she was allegedly assaulted by a nurses' aide and was dissatisfied with management's response to the incident. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), and pleads four supplemental state law claims. Having demonstrated that there is no genuine issue of material fact with regard to plaintiff's only federal claim, namely her FMLA retaliation claim, the court shall grant defendants' motion for summary judgment and shall decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims.

         I. Factual Background

         Mullins began work for HealthSource in 1999 as a billing clerk. (Doc. 16, Ex. 2 at 30). Around 2004, after receiving the appropriate licensing, Mullins began working as a Registered Nurse for Healthsource. Id. at Ex. 3. In 2011, during her performance evaluation, Mullins stated her intent to retire in about four years. Ex. 4. On Friday, May 15, 2015, Mullins alleges she was assaulted by defendant Barbara Logan, a nurse's aide, who is about 6'3” tall and 275 pounds, who allegedly cornered her in a patient's bathroom and would not allow her to leave. (Doc. 16, Ex. 2 at 82-83, Ex. 6 at 2; Doc. 18, Ex. A). Mullins alleges Logan grabbed her arms and pushed her. (Doc. 16, Ex. 2 at 82-83, Doc. 18, Ex. A). Because the incident occurred in a patient's bathroom, there were no eyewitnesses to the incident. (Doc. 16, Ex. 8 at ¶ 5). On Saturday, May 16, 2015, Miller reported the incident to her employer by submitting a variance/concern report. Id. at Ex. 7. On Monday, May 18, 2015, Mullins had the day off work and went to the Saginaw County Sheriff's Department and filed a police report against Logan.[1] Id. at Ex. 6. According to the Sheriff's report, there was no visible injury. Id. at Ex. 6 at 3. The next day, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, Logan presented a doctor's note to her employer stating that she was to be placed off work for six weeks because of anxiety and stress. (Doc. 18, Ex. B). Healthsource approved her request for FMLA leave from May 19, 2015 through June 29, 2015. Id. at Ex. C.

         While she was on medical leave, Mullins alleges that Healthsource allegedly did nothing to address the situation regarding the alleged assault by Logan. (Doc. 16, Ex. 2 at 123-125). On June 1, 2015, Healthsource's Human Resources Director, Krystal Tebedo, telephoned Mullins, who was off on medical leave and thus, could not be interviewed in person, at her home to discuss the alleged incident. Id. at Ex. 8 at ¶¶ 3-4. Tebedo told Mullins to fill out another form regarding the incident, this one framed as a discrimination/harassment/ disruptive complaint form. Id. at Ex. 2 at 110. Frustrated and perceiving that no action had been taken regarding the incident, on June 3, 2015, Mullins informed Tebedo in person of her intent to retire effective as of June 30, 2015. Id. at Ex. 2 at 98. When she tendered her notice of intent to retire, just a little over two weeks had passed since the alleged assault. At the same time that she tendered her notice of intent to retire effective June 30, 2015, Mullins submitted the required discrimination/harassment/disruptive complaint form. Id. at Ex. 8 at ¶ 11. According to Tebedo's affidavit, during her discussion with Mullins on June 3, 2015, she explained to Mullins that depending on the results of their investigation, consequences for Logan could run the gamut from simple retraining up to and including termination. Id. at Ex. 8 at ¶ 13. Mullins was paid for the remainder of May and June, 2015. Id. at Ex. 2 at 98.

         As part of Healthsource's investigation of the May 15, 2015 incident, Tebedo met with Logan who denied grabbing Mullins but admitted she may have touched her on the arm. Id. at Ex. 8 at ¶ 8. Tebedo also discussed the incident with Detective Benicki with the Saginaw Sheriff's Department on June 10, 2015, who informed her that the prosecuting attorney denied authorization of any criminal charges based on the claims made by Mullins against Logan. Id. at Ex. 8 at ¶ 16.

         On April 7, 2016, Mullins filed her five-count Complaint in this case. The first three counts are against Healthcare as the employer and the last two counts are against Logan individually. Count I alleges Healthsource retaliated against her for taking FMLA leave by asserting that she was allegedly constructively discharged. Count II alleges age discrimination in violation of the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. Count III alleges wrongful discharge in violation of Michigan Public Policy. Count IV alleges assault and battery. Count V alleges false imprisonment. Defendants seek summary judgment on all claims.

         II. Standard of Law

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) empowers the court to render summary judgment "forthwith if 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 judgment as a matter of law." See Redding v. St. Eward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001). The Supreme Court has affirmed the court's use of summary judgment as an integral part of the fair and efficient administration of justice. The procedure is not a disfavored procedural shortcut. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); see also Cox v. Kentucky Dep't of Transp., 53 F.3d 146, 149 (6th Cir. 1995).

         The standard for determining whether summary judgment is appropriate 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.'" Amway Distributors Benefits Ass'n v. Northfield Ins. Co., 323 F.3d 386, 390 (6th Cir. 2003) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). The evidence and all reasonable inferences must be construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Redding, 241 F.3d at 532 (6th Cir. 2001). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original); see also National Satellite Sports, Inc. v. Eliadis, Inc., 253 F.3d 900, 907 (6th Cir. 2001).

         If the movant establishes by use of the material specified in Rule 56(c) that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the opposing party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 270 (1968); see also McLean v. 988011 Ontario, Ltd., 224 F.3d 797, 800 (6th Cir. 2000). Mere allegations or denials in the non-movant's pleadings will not meet this burden, nor will a mere scintilla of evidence supporting the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 252. Rather, there must be evidence on which a jury could reasonably find for the non-movant. McLean, 224 F.3d at 800 (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).

         III. Analysis

         A. FMLA Retaliation Standard of Law

         The court first analyzes Mullins' FMLA retaliation claim against Healthsource, the only federal claim pending before the court. The FMLA prohibits retaliation and provides that it shall be unlawful for an employer to “discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice made unlawful by [the FMLA].” 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2). The regulations further provide that an employer is prohibited from discriminating against employees who have used FMLA leave, and “employers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c). The FMLA requires an employer to reinstate an employee who has taken FMLA leave to her prior position or to an equivalent position upon her return. 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(1). A claim of FMLA retaliation may be proven by direct or indirect ...

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