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Uraz v. Michigan State University Board of Trustees

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

June 12, 2019

TUNC URAZ, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY BOARD OF TRUSTEES et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Paul L. Maloney United States District Judge.

         This is an action brought by a state prisoner under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a). Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996), the Court is required to dismiss any prisoner action brought under federal law if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2), 1915A. The Court must read Plaintiff's pro se complaint indulgently, see Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972), and accept Plaintiff's allegations as true, unless they are clearly irrational or wholly incredible. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). Applying these standards, the Court will dismiss the complaint. Plaintiff fails to state a federal claim upon which relief can be granted against a defendant who is not immune from suit.

         Discussion

         I. Factual allegations

         Plaintiff Tunc Uraz is presently incarcerated with the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) at the Saginaw County Correctional Facility (SRF) in Freeland, Michigan. According to his MDOC records, a jury found him guilty of one count of aggravated stalking and three counts of solicitation of murder.[1] The events about which he complains occurred a few months before he committed these crimes.

         Plaintiff sues the Michigan State University Board of Trustees as well as the following employees of Michigan State University (MSU): Vennie Gore, the Director of Housing and Food Service; Guy Procopio, the Director of the Culinary Department; Jennifer Roberts and Dan Singer, who work in the human resources (HR) section of the Culinary Department; and Jim Nash, the Employee Relations Director for MSU's human resources division.

         Plaintiff alleges that he was employed by MSU in its Culinary Department for 25 years. On January 28, 2016, he notified his managers and Defendants Roberts and Singer that he was experiencing a “serious health condition” that would require intermittent leave under the FMLA. (Compl., ECF No. 1, PageID.3.) He also told his managers that he was experiencing “legal troubles” due to a “breakdown in his personal life.” (Id.) His former girlfriend had sought and received a personal protection order (PPO) against him.

         Plaintiff received “provisional” approval for intermittent leave from January 28, 2016, forward for absences related to his serious health condition, and he was told to submit the proper forms to certify his eligibility for leave under the FMLA. (See 1/28/2016 Letter from Sheila Chorey to Pl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.11.) Plaintiff submitted the necessary forms and received approval for intermittent leave for a six month period, from January 28, 2016, to July 27, 2016. (2/17/2016 Letter from Sheila Chorey to Pl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.18.)

         On April 7, 2016, the MSU police began an investigation into an allegation that Plaintiff had asked a co-worker to assist him in illegally obtaining a firearm. Plaintiff was suspended from work pending completion of the investigation. According to a police report attached to Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff told a co-worker he was interested in obtaining a gun and ammunition without going about it “the legal way.” (MSU Police Dep't Case Report, ECF No. 1-1, PageID.23.) Plaintiff apparently believed that the PPO prohibited him from purchasing a firearm or obtaining a license to carry one, so he asked his co-worker for assistance. Plaintiff's conduct potentially violated MSU's employment policy, which forbids soliciting the assistance of a university employee to commit a crime. However, it was not clear to the investigating officer that the PPO actually prohibited Plaintiff from purchasing or possessing a firearm. The MSU police closed the investigation and Plaintiff was not prosecuted.

         On April 14, Plaintiff notified the HR department that his health condition had worsened, and he was given “provisional” approval for absences on or after that date that were related to his condition. (4/14/2016 Letter from Sheila Chorey to Pl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.26.) That same day, he submitted the necessary paperwork to confirm his eligibility for immediate leave.

         The following day, Defendants Gore, Procopio, Roberts, and Nash fired Plaintiff. In this action, Plaintiff contends that this termination violated his rights under the FMLA because he was approved for leave. He also contends that Defendants violated his rights under a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with MSU because he did not receive written notice of his termination, a pre-termination meeting, or an opportunity to explain his “situation and [e]rratic behavior.” (Compl., PageID.6.)

         A representative for the Administrative Professional Supervisors Association (APSA) filed a grievance on Plaintiff's behalf and an arbitration was scheduled for October 2016. MSU initially offered a $30, 000 settlement, but reduced its offer to $12, 000 in September 2016. The APSA accepted the second offer, with Plaintiff's approval. (See 9/14/2016 Letter from Jayne Flanigan to Pl., ECF No. 1-1, PageID.34 (signed by Plaintiff).) By that time, Plaintiff had been arrested and charged with a crime and was in detention at the Ingham County Jail. He contends that the settlement was “compensation for his accumulated sick time, ” and that he accepted it under “great duress” because he was being held in solitary confinement. (Compl., PageID.6.)

         As relief, Plaintiff seeks a finding that Defendants “willfully” violated his rights under the FMLA and the CBA. (Id., PageID.7.) He also seeks damages of $500, 000.

         II. Failure ...


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