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Freeman v. Learning Care Group

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

May 23, 2019

SAUNDRA FREEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
LEARNING CARE GROUP, Defendant.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF NO. 10]

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Saundra Freeman filed this action under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”), and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Her complaint asserts unlawful termination, hostile work environment, disparate treatment and denial of a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and PWDCRA, as well as various violations of the FMLA. The matter is before the court on defendant Learning Care Group's motion for partial summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff's claims under the ADA and the PWDCRA are untimely under the terms of her employment contract. Plaintiff's FMLA claim is not challenged in defendant's motion for partial summary judgment.

         The parties appeared before the court for oral argument on May 16, 2019. At oral argument plaintiff's counsel conceded plaintiff is not pursuing her state law PWDCRA claim. For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion for partial summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff began her job as an Accounts Receivable Specialist with defendant on September 4, 2007. At that time, plaintiff signed a Non-Solicitation and Confidentiality Agreement (“Agreement”) whereby she agreed to file any lawsuit or claim she had against defendant within 180 days of the occurrence giving rise to such claim. The Agreement provides in relevant part:

I agree that I may not assert any lawsuit or other claim against the Company, or one of its employees or former employees, beyond the sooner of the applicable statute of limitations or 180 days after the occurrence of any act allegedly giving rise to such lawsuit or claim to the extent permitted by law.

         On December 1, 2015, defendant began a renovation of its offices. Plaintiff alleges that the renovation aggravated her pre-existing respiratory medical condition, causing her to experience shortness of breath. While the renovation was taking place, plaintiff was granted various accommodations, including a medical leave of absence under the FMLA and the ability to work remotely from home. The office renovation was completed on August 25, 2017 and plaintiff was instructed to return to work at the office on August 28, 2017. Plaintiff did return to the office but continued to experience breathing problems. Plaintiff submitted medical documentation seeking an accommodation to allow her to continue to work remotely. On November 3, 2017, plaintiff was informed that her accommodation was denied. From November 3, 2017 until March 2018, plaintiff periodically attempted to work in the office, but alleges she became ill on each attempt. Plaintiff used FMLA leave to cover her time off work, but her FMLA leave ran out on March 2, 2018. Plaintiff's request to extend her FMLA leave was denied and on May 25, 2018 defendant terminated plaintiff's employment.

         Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC on January 29, 2018. The charge identified November 3, 2017, the date plaintiff was denied an accommodation, as the date discrimination took place. On May 17, 2018, plaintiff sent the EEOC an email stating that she anticipated she would be terminated, and she wanted to amend her charge to add counts of wrongful termination and retaliation in violation of the ADA. On May 29, 2018, the EEOC sent plaintiff an email explaining that if she is actually discharged and wants to file a charge alleging that her discharge was due to filing a prior EEOC charge or due to her disability, “then please return the attached Pre-Charge Inquiry.” (ECF No. 12, Ex. 4). Plaintiff did not file any further documentation relative to her termination.

         The EEOC issued a Dismissal and Right to Sue Notice (“Notice”) to plaintiff on August 30, 2018. Plaintiff received the Notice on or about September 1, 2018. Plaintiff filed her complaint in this case on November 29, 2018.

         STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         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 Dept. 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. Tolan v. Cotton, 572 U.S. 650, 660 (2014); 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'lBank 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, ...


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