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Millen v. Oxford Bank

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

October 25, 2017

DEBRA MILLEN, Plaintiff,
OXFORD BANK, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Debra Millen brings suit against her former employer, Oxford Bank ("Bank"), for her alleged wrongful termination. She alleges violation of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), age discrimination and age harassment in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") and the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act ("ELCRA"), and sex discrimination and sex harassment in violation of the Civil Rights Act, Title VII, and the ELCRA. The Bank filed a motion for summary judgment. The Court reviewed the briefs and determined that a hearing was unnecessary. ECF 25. For the reasons stated below, the Court will now grant in part and deny in part the Bank's motion.


         The Bank employed Millen in a number of positions from 1990 until 2015. During her tenure with the Bank, Millen was transferred between several different branches and received several promotions. In 2013, Millen became the Branch Manager of the Bank's Goodrich branch. In early 2015, the Bank's CEO David Lamb issued a strategic plan that included the goal of becoming more productive by "[c]los[ing] uneconomical offices-with Goodrich the only clear choice at this early stage[.]" ECF 20-1, PgID 191. In July 2015, Millen went on leave under the FMLA.

         While Millen was still on leave, Lamb sent an email to Nancy Rosentrater, the Bank's Director of Retail Banking, directing her "[a]s a part of the Strategic Plan . . . to eliminate the position of branch manager for the Goodrich branch as soon as practicable." Id. at 193. On October 8, 2015, Millen received a "separation agreement" from Rosentrater dated September 30, 2015. The agreement notified Millen of the termination of the Goodrich Branch Manager position. Heidi Huack, Goodrich's head teller, and Rosentrater managed the Goodrich branch in the absence of a branch manager. When the Goodrich Branch Manager position was eliminated, the Addison Branch Manager position was available. Several months later in March 2016, the Bank hired Jason Howell to operate its Lake Orion branch. The Goodrich branch's closure was effective on February 1, 2017. ECF 20-1, PgID 124. The two remaining Goodrich branch employees were transferred to the Bank's other branches.

         On June 16, 2016, Millen filed the present action. On March 29, 2017 after the close of discovery, the Bank filed a motion for summary judgment.


         Summary judgment is warranted "if the movant shows 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). A fact is "material" for purposes of summary judgment if proof of that fact would establish or refute an essential element of the cause of action or defense. Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984). A dispute over material facts is “genuine” "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). In order to show that a fact is, or is not, genuinely disputed, both parties are required to either "cite[] to particular parts of materials in the record" or "show[] that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. 60 Ivy St. Corp. v. Alexander, 822 F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987).


         Millen's amended complaint alleges the following: violation of the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2601; age discrimination and harassment in violation of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 621, and ELCRA, Mich. Comp. Laws § 37.2101; and sex discrimination and harassment in violation of the 1991 Civil Rights Act, Pub. L. No. 102-166, 105 Stat 1071, Title VII, and the ELCRA.

         The federal claims are analyzed primarily under a burden-shifting framework. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973); see, e.g., Donald v. Sybra, Inc., 667 F.3d 757, 761-62 (6th Cir. 2012) (recognizing application of McDonnell Douglas to FMLA retaliation and interference claims). First, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing. Once it is established, the defendant must offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the adverse employment action. If a reason is shown, the plaintiff then carries the burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant's proffered reason is merely a pretext. At each stage, the Court must consider whether there is sufficient evidence to create a genuine dispute of material fact. See Jackson v. VHS Detroit Receiving Hosp., Inc., 814 F.3d 769, 776 (6th Cir. 2016).

         I. Family Medical Leave Act Claims

         The Sixth Circuit recognizes two theories for recovery under the FMLA. Hoge v. Honda of Amer. Mfg., Inc., 384 F.3d 238, 244 (6th Cir. 2004). The first theory, the "entitlement" or "interference" theory, involves an employer's unlawful interference with any right provided by the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). The second theory, the "retaliation" or "discrimination" theory, involves an employer's discrimination against an individual for opposing an employer's violation of the FMLA. Id. at § 2615(a)(2). Plaintiff's claims fail under both theories.

         A. Millen fails to make a prima facie showing of FMLA interference because the Bank did not deny her FMLA ...

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