United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
Patricia T. Morris, United States Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT 
GERSHWIN A. DRAIN United States District Judge
September 7, 2016, Terry Teenier (“Plaintiff”)
filed a complaint against Charter Communications, LLC
(“Defendant”). Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff's
complaint alleges that Defendant violated the Family and
Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by retaliating against Plaintiff for
exercising FMLA rights. 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c).
before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, filed on June 15, 2017. Dkt. No. 14. Plaintiff
filed a response on July 6, 2017, Dkt. No. 16, and Defendant
replied on July 20, 2017, Dkt. No. 17. Upon review of the
briefing, the Court concludes that oral argument will not aid
in the resolution of the instant motion. Accordingly, the
Court will resolve Defendant's present motion on the
briefs. See E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f)(2).
reasons discussed herein, the Court GRANTS Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment .
began working for a subcontractor of Defendant in the late
1990s, Dkt. No. 16-2, p. 3 (Pg. ID 505), but quit voluntarily
in October 2000, Dkt. No. 14-12, p. 18 (Pg. ID 453).
Plaintiff returned to Defendant's employment in 2005 and
was eventually promoted to a position as the Manager of Field
Audit and Technical Quality Assuarance, supervising
approximately 56 people. Dkt. No. 16-3; Dkt. No. 16-2, p. 10
(Pg. ID 512).
May or June 2014, there was an effort by some of
Defendant's employees to unionize with The International
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. See Dkt. No.
14-8, p. 4 (Pg. ID 388). Defendant's management sought to
prevent unionization, see Dkt. No. 16-10, and
managers took part in a series of phone conferences on union
avoidance. See Dkt. No. 16-11 (providing calendar
invitations for phone conferences from July 14, 2014 to
August 11, 2014).
alleges that he was told by a superior to isolate four
employees under his supervision because of their suspected
union involvement. Dkt. No. 16-2, p. 22 (Pg. ID 524). These
four employees-James DeBeau, Jonathan French, Kent Payne, and
Raymond Schoof-were all audit technicians who reported to
Shawn Felker, a supervisor under Plaintiff. Id. at
22-25 (Pg. ID 524-27). Plaintiff complied with the request to
isolate these employees by reassigning them to more remote
locations for two to three weeks. Id. Plaintiff also
reassigned DeBeau, French, and Schoof from Felker's
supervision to another supervisor, Rob Lothian, in the
beginning of September. Id. at 26; Dkt. No. 14-9, p.
13 (Pg. ID 403).
Friday, September 19, 2014, Lothian approached
Defendant's Human Resources Generalist Stephanie Peters
with concerns about Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 14-9, pp. 12-15 (Pg.
ID 402-05). Lothian expressed concern about the employees who
had been transferred from Felker's team to his team
because he had heard that these audit technicians performed
below their productivity targets, which would reflect poorly
on him. Id. at 13-14. Lothian was particularly
concerned that these employees were less productive because
of their friendship with Plaintiff, who Lothian believed
pulled employees away to perform “special
projects” of non-work-related activities on company
time. Id. at 14. Lothian provided an example of the
men laying sod at Schoof's home during work hours,
photographs of which he said he saw on Felker's cell
phone. Id. Peters told Lothian to “continue to
be observant and report directly to” her, as she would
“involve the appropriate individuals.” Dkt. No.
14-9, p. 15 (Pg. ID 405).
Sunday, September 21, 2014, Plaintiff's father became ill
and was admitted to the hospital. Dkt. No. 14-12, p. 10 (Pg.
ID 445). Plaintiff took the following week off work and his
father passed away on Friday, September 26, 2014.
Id. Plaintiff's supervisor, Greg Culver,
approved his leave, telling him to “do what you need to
do, you have plenty of vacation and sick time.” Dkt.
No. 14-12, p. 10 (Pg. ID 445).
Plaintiff was on leave, Lothian updated Peters on September
24, 2016 and September 26, 2014 regarding the special
projects issue he first mentioned on September 19, 2014. Dkt.
No. 14-9, p. 15 (Pg. ID 405). Lothian reported that DeBeau
stated he was approved to work on a special project: work on
a haunted house owned by one of Defendant's preferred
vendors, Pat Jozeska of Complete Auto. Id. Lothian
told Peters that DeBeau allegedly said Plaintiff was taking
care of his numbers so the time spent on this non-work
activity would not hurt his performance. Id. Lothian
said he contacted Plaintiff and Plaintiff told him that
“this is the last one [of the special projects]-I
promise.” Id. at 16. Lothian also said that
Felker was also frustrated with the special projects, but did
not want TJ to lose his job. Id. Lothian was not
sure that Felker would be honest in the investigation, and
that Schoof and DeBeau were close friends with TJ outside
after Peters's conversation with Lothian on Friday,
September 26, 2014, Culver called Peters to relay a call he
had just received from Plaintiff. Id. Culver told
Peters that Plaintiff had talked about Lothian being paranoid
and that he planned to speak with him when he returned.
Id. Peters told Culver about what Lothian had
reported to her, and the two agreed to meet the following
Monday to discuss their concerns. Id.
Plaintiff returned to work that morning, he could not get
ahold of Lothian. Dkt. No. 16-2, p. 30 (Pg. ID 532). When
Plaintiff found Lothian later, he thought Lothian was acting
abnormally and avoiding eye contact. Id. Someone in
the dispatch office alerted Plaintiff that Culver was in the
office that day, and Plaintiff went to look for him.
Id. at 31-32. Plaintiff questioned Culver about why
he was present in the office without notifying Plaintiff and
asked him who was being investigated. Id. at 33-34.
Since Culver would not disclose who was being investigated,
Plaintiff concluded that he was the target of the
investigation. Id. at 34.
emailed Culver an apology later in the day and notified him
that he would be taking additional time off for bereavement
leave. Id. at 35. Plaintiff took from September 29,
2014 to October 3, 2014 off as bereavement leave. Dkt. No.
14-12, p. 16 (Pg. ID 451). When approving Plaintiff's
bereavement leave, Culver told Plaintiff to take care of his
father and wished him well. Dkt. No. 14-12, p. 11 (Pg. ID
446). By Plaintiff's admission, Culver did not say
anything that suggested Plaintiff would not be allowed to
take leave. Id. at 10-11.
Monday, September 29, 2014 and Wednesday, October 8, 2014,
Peters met with ten employees, including Plaintiff, to
investigate the allegations made by Lothian. Dkt. No. 14-9,
pp. 16-29 (Pg. ID 406-19). Felker denied knowing of any
non-work-related projects being completed on company time,
but acknowledged that DeBeau had gone to the haunted house
while his company vehicle was being repaired at Complete
Auto. Dkt. No. 14-9, pp. 16-17 (Pg. ID 406-07). Schoof also
denied that any employees were performing non-work tasks
while on the clock, and stated that the sod had been
installed at his house in the evening after work.
Id. at 18-19. DeBeau stated that he had performed a
sweep of an apartment complex and spent a day verifying
addresses, which he considered to be “special
projects.” Id. at 19-20. He also had visited
the haunted house to look at plumbing while his company truck
was being repaired. Id. French stated that he had
previously picked up boxes near a college campus, which he
considered a “special project, ” and that Lothian
had told French about rumors of employees laying sod on
company time. Id. at 20-21. Kent Payne and Aaron
Rhodes were also unaware of any non-work-related activities
being performed on company time. Id. at 22-24.
interviewed Plaintiff on Monday, October 6, 2014. Dky. No.
14-9, pp. 24-26 (Pg. ID 414-16). He stated the only special
projects he has assigned his employees were having employees
pick up boxes, or having some employees help others who were
not trained in specific areas. Id. He also told
Peters that he had been alerted by other employees that he
was currently under investigation. Id.
only employee whose account cooroborated Lothian's
allegations was Lucas Watkins, who admitted most of his
information was second-hand. Id. at 27. Watkins
stated that Plaintiff covered up numbers to account for
employees doing non-work activities on company time and that
“you don't mess with [Plaintiff], especially if you
aren't part of the inner circle” of friends
Plaintiff had hired. Id.
concluded the investigation on October 8, 2014. Id.
at 29-30. She concluded that where discrepancies existed
between Plaintiff's and Lothian's description of
events, Lothian's account was more credible. See
Dkt. No. 14-9, p. 8 (Pg. ID 398). Peters thought that Lothian
“was always very honest, even if he thought he was
going to be in trouble” and that Lothian “had no
reason not to be honest.” Id. Peters further
concluded that Plaintiff had violated Defendant's Code of
Conduct, Timekeeping Policy, and the Performance Standards in
the Charter Employee Handbook. Dkt. No. 14-9, pp. 29-30 (Pg.
recommended to her supervisors, Sherry Farquhar and Harth
Goulette, and Plaintiff's supervisor, Culver, that
Plaintiff, Debeau, Felker, French, and Schoof should all be
terminated. Dkt. No. 14-9, pp. 9-10 (Pg. ID 399-400).
Termination was agreed upon. See Dkt. No. 14-4, p. 6
(Pg. ID 360); Dkt. No. 14-9, pp. 9-10 (Pg. ID 399-400).
Culver terminated Plaintiff and the four other employees on
Wednesday, October 14, 2014. Dkt. No. 14-2, pp. 99-107 (Pg.
Debeau, Felker, French, and Schoof filed Unfair Labor
Practices charges against Defendant with the National Labor
Relations Board after their terminations. Dkt. No. 14-5, p. 6
(Pg. ID 366) (DeBeau); Dkt. No. 14-7, p. 7 (Pg. ID 380)
(Felker); Dkt. No. 14-8, p. 6 (Pg. ID 390) (French); Dkt. No.
14-10, p. 8 (Pg. ID 428) (Schoof); Dkt. No. 14-12, p. 30 (Pg.
ID 465) (Plaintiff). Plaintiff filed his ULP charge on
January 14, 2015, alleging that Defendant fired him because
he “recently refused to unfairly treat several
employees who were involved with attempts to unionize Charter
technicians.” Dkt. No. 14-12, p. 30 (Pg. ID 465)
Plaintiff withdrew his charge after he learned it could be
dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because he was a mangerial
employee. Dkt. No. 14-12, p. 17 (Pg. ID 452). He filed this
case on September 7, 2016. Dkt. No. 1.