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Robinson v. MGM Grand Detroit, LLC

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

June 12, 2019




         Plaintiff Prince Robinson worked as a valet attendant for Defendant MGM Grand Detroit, LLC (“MGM”) for fourteen years prior to his termination on November 15, 2016. In his fourteen-count Complaint, Robinson alleges he was terminated in retaliation for taking medical leave for treatment of his plantar fasciitis, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). He also alleges retaliation, hostile work environment, race discrimination, and sexual harassment in violation of Title VII and Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”), disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the American's with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and Michigan's Persons with Disability Act (“PWDCRA”), and negligent retention, training, and supervision, and negligent infliction of emotion distress under state common law. Now before the court is Defendant's motion for summary judgment as to all claims. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be granted.

         I. Factual Background

         A. Plaintiff's Employment

         The court construes the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, here Robinson. Robinson began working for MGM as a valet attendant on June 27, 2002. (Doc. 46, Ex. A). His job responsibilities included retrieving cars from an underground parking structure, which frequently involved running on hard pavement. (Doc. 46, Ex. B, C at 42). According to Robinson's supervisor, Lisa Conner, he was frequently arriving late for work or barely on time, and had been disciplined for an instance where he was rushing to clock in on time and knocked over and injured a co-worker. (Doc. 43, Ex. D at ¶¶ 11-12, Ex. A at 289-90).

         B. Plaintiff's Plantar Fasciitis

         Robinson sought medical treatment for foot pain around 2003, and was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 142-43). He was first treated with cortisone shots, and later was fitted with orthotics for his shoes. Id. at 143. At his deposition, Robinson testified that he was able to work with his orthotics. (Doc. 43, Ex. A at 209-10). Despite the orthotics, he continued to suffer foot pain which worsened over time. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 159). In March, 2016, Robinson applied to take intermittent leave under the FMLA, but his request was denied when he failed to submit certification from his physician. (Doc. 43, Ex. G at PgID 934). In September, 2016, the pain became so debilitating that he was unable to work until new orthotics could be made. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 163). He submitted another request for FMLA leave until new orthotics could be fashioned. (Doc. 43, Ex. A at 184, 225). Robinson was treated by a podiatrist, Charles Young, who wrote a disability certificate that Robinson was under his care from October 10, 2016 to October 25, 2016, during which time, Robinson was reported to be totally incapacitated due to his plantar fasciitis. (Doc. 46, Ex. J).

         Robinson was approved for FMLA leave as of September 14, 2016. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 161-62). Robinson claims his supervisor, whom he identities only by his first name, Enrique, told him “congratulations on your FMLA approval.” (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 221). During his sick time and vacation time in September, 2016, Robinson tried to secure a business loan in Atlanta. (Doc. 43, Ex. J). MGM argues that Robinson used false identification and falsified corporate documents in his attempt to secure the loan, which it maintains would have been grounds to terminate him, had it known of this activity. (Doc. 43, Ex. J, K at ¶¶ 4-5).

         C. Robinson Fails to Use Time Clock and Improperly Uses Exception Log to Record Hours Worked

         On September 28, 2016, Robinson arrived late for his shift and received .5 disciplinary attendance points. (Doc. 43, Ex. L). On September 30, 2016, Robinson arrived late for work again. Rather than clock in late, he signed the “exception log” noting that he worked from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Doc. 43, Ex. M, Ex. A at 117, 121). In fact, Robinson arrived at the casino employee entrance at 6:02 p.m., changed into his uniform until 6:06 p.m., used a hotel elevator to the hotel lobby, and arrived at the casino valet office at 6:10 p.m. (Doc. 43, Ex. M at PgID 1016-17). According to MGM, the exception log is only to be used when there is a technical problem with the time clock that prevents an employee from clocking in. No. supervisor signed the exception log for Robinson as required under MGM policy. (Doc. 43, Ex. D at ¶18). Thus, on October 1, 2016, MGM relied on surveillance video to verify Robinson's time recording in the exception log, and determined that Robinson arrived late and did not report to the casino valet office until 6:10 p.m. (Doc. 43, Ex. M at PgID 1016-17).

         D. Robinson's Termination for Falsification of Time Records

         On October 29, 2016, when Robinson attempted to return to work, MGM served him a notice of Suspension Pending Investigation (”SPI”) for his falsification of time records on September 30, 2016. (Doc. 43, Ex. 0). Robinson's due process meeting was held on November 8, 2016 with his union representative present. (Doc. 43, Ex. M at PgID 1016). Robinson admitted he was late, and that he used the exception log to avoid being docked in pay or receiving disciplinary points for tardiness. (Doc. 43, Ex. A at 276-78). The due process hearing was conducted by Labor Relations Partner Wanda Parker, who recommended that Robinson be terminated. (Doc. 46, Ex. M at PgID 1016-17). Parker reported the results of the time clock fraud investigation to her supervisor, Tara McIntosh, Senior Employee and Labor Relations Partner, and Marc Guastella, then Vice President in charge of the valet department. McIntosh and Guastella decided to fire Robinson. (Doc. 43, Ex. D at ¶ 26; Ex. P). MGM notified Robinson that he was terminated effective November 15, 2016. (Doc. 43, Ex. P, Doc. 46, Ex. C at 123). MGM has terminated other employees for similar misconduct. (Doc. 43, Ex. D at ¶ 21, Ex. N at 4).

         E. Robinson's Letter to Human Resources

         After his use of the exception log on September 30, 2016, Robinson was out of work, either on vacation time or FMLA leave, until he returned to work in the evening of Friday, October 28, 2016. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 184, Doc. 43, Ex. L, Ex. O). He was terminated at the end of his shift in the early morning hours of Saturday, October 29, 2016. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 186). While off work, Robinson heard a rumor he was going to be terminated. (Doc. 46, Ex. C. at 183). He then drafted a five-page letter complaining about his supervisor, Lisa Conner, for gripes dating back to 2007, which he dropped off in a mailbox outside the Human Resources office on his first day back to work. (Doc. 46, Ex. C at 185, 189, Doc. 43, Ex. Q). Robinson claims he was terminated in retaliation for the submission of that letter. In that letter, Robinson accused Conner of having “the biggest, nastiest, uncontrollable mouth this side of the Player's Club, ” and complained that she is “bald-headed, divorced and can't have any kids.” Id. at PgID 1038-39. Robinson claimed that Conner created a hostile environment. Specifically, he claimed that Conner told a pregnant female valet, “I bet you're going to be glad when you drop that bitch.” Id. at PgID 1038. He also complained that he heard a rumor that Conner removed her panties in her car with the door opened and said, “I got to let this m- f -- breathe.” Id. at PgID 1039.

         Robinson also alleged that in 2015, Conner told him to go “get some sun, ” allegedly a reference to his light complexion. Id. At his deposition, Robinson testified that he and Conner are both African-American and share the same light complexion. (Doc. 43, Ex. A at 195). He also alleged that Conner's agenda is to fire anyone with FMLA approval. (Doc. 43, Ex. Q at PgID 1040). He claimed that Conner must have breached the privacy of his medical information, because his supervisor Enrique congratulated him on receiving FMLA leave. Id. He also alleged that Conner made a reference to his penis, by commenting, “it smells like you washed it.” Id. at PgID 1041. He further claimed that Conner's negative remarks against him date back to 2007 when she allegedly called him “pathetic” and told him that, “I feel sorry for your wife.” Id. Robinson also claims that Conner referred to another man as a “real man, ” which he claims implied he was not. Id. at PgID 1039. Finally, he complains that he is being targeted “because of many reasons, ” including his status “as a veteran at the highest of a two tier pay plan.” Id. at PgID 1041. These allegations set forth in Robinson's October 28, 2016 letter to Human Resources form the factual predicate for his discrimination and retaliation claims in this lawsuit.

         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 ...

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