United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#34]
DENISE PAGE HOOD JUDEG
February 14, 2017, Plaintiff La'Tasha Askew
(“Askew”) filed a Complaint against Defendant
Enterprise Leasing Company of Detroit, LLC
(“Enterprise”) alleging that Enterprise violated
her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 (Counts I-II);
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Counts III-V); and
the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”),
MCL § 37.2202 (Counts VI-VIII). (Doc # 1) On December
21, 2018, Enterprise filed a Motion for Summary Judgment.
(Doc # 34) Askew filed her Response on January 30, 2019. (Doc
# 37) Enterprise filed its Reply on February 20, 2019. (Doc #
39) The Court notes that on January 10, 2019, the Court
extended the briefing schedule, and the Response and Reply
are deemed timely. (Doc # 35)
facts alleged by Askew are as follows. Askew is an
African-American woman who was previously employed by
Enterprise. (Doc # 1, Pg ID 3) She worked at various
Enterprise locations in Michigan from July 2010 through
January 2016. (Id.) She was promoted twice during
her tenure with Enterprise. (Id.) While she was at
Enterprise's Royal Oak location as a branch manager, she
was supervised by Noah Fox (“Fox”), who allegedly
discriminated against her because of her sex, pregnancy, and
race. (Doc # 34-4, Pg ID 840-841) Although Askew claims that
she repeatedly complained to Fox's supervisor, Vincent
LaBella (“LaBella”), about how she was being
treated by Fox, no actions were taken to remedy the
situation. Askew additionally complained to her HR
representative, Caitlin Rourke (“Rourke”), about
the discrimination Plaintiff faced. (Doc # 37-18; Doc # 34-3)
about April 5, 2015, Askew became pregnant, and soon
thereafter, informed Enterprise of her pregnancy.
(Id. at 4.) Askew asserts that after Enterprise was
notified about her pregnancy, she received a series of
unwarranted and pretextual write-ups. (Id.) Askew
also claims that she was required to wash cars during her
pregnancy because Enterprise remained short-staffed even
though Askew had requested for months (even prior to her
pregnancy) that Enterprise hire additional staff members to
assist her with the branch's responsibilities.
October 1, 2015, Askew took FMLA-qualified leave for the
remainder of her pregnancy. (Id.) Askew's leave
was approved with Enterprise in accordance with
Enterprise's FMLA leave policies. (Id.)
According to Askew, she was replaced by Chris Picklo
(“Picklo”), a less-qualified white male, on
October 19, 2015. (Doc # 37, Pg ID 1230) Following the birth
of Askew's child, on December 2, 2015, she called
Enterprise to inquire about when she could return to work.
(Id.) Enterprise responded by requiring Askew to
obtain clearance from her doctor before she could resume any
of her former work activities. (Id.) Askew
subsequently provided Enterprise with the necessary clearance
from her doctor, and returned to work on December 28, 2015.
(Id. at 4-5.) On January 26, 2016, Askew was
terminated from Enterprise due to her alleged unsatisfactory
performance. (Id. at 5.) Askew argues that her
termination was a discriminatory action taken against her on
the basis of her sex, pregnancy, and race.
seeks monetary and nonmonetary compensatory damages,
exemplary and punitive damages, and lost wages and benefits,
past and future, in whatever amount she is found to be
entitled. (Id. at 14.) Askew requests that she be
awarded double damages under the FMLA. (Id.) Askew
asks that the Court enter an order reinstating her to the
positions she would have had if not for her termination.
(Id.) Askew additionally requests that the Court
issue an injunction prohibiting any further acts of
discrimination by Enterprise. (Id.)
Standard of Review
56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures provides that
the court “shall grant summary judgment if the movant
shows that 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). The presence of factual
disputes will preclude granting of summary judgment only if
the disputes are genuine and concern material facts.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986). A dispute about a material fact is
“genuine” only if “the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.” Id. Although the court must
view admissible evidence in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party, where “the moving party has carried
its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than
simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986);
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24
(1986). Summary judgment must be entered against a party who
fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence
of an element essential to that party's case, and on
which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. In
such a situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to
any material fact, ” since a complete failure of proof
concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's
case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.
Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. A court must look
to the substantive law to identify which facts are material.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
Askew's claims are brought forward under the FMLA, which
states “[i]t shall be unlawful for any employer to
interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the
attempt to exercise, any right provided under [the
FMLA].” 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). The Sixth Circuit
recognizes two distinct theories under the FMLA: (1) the
“interference” theory, and (2) the
“retaliation” theory. Seeger v. Cincinnati
Bell Telephone Co., 681 F.3d 274, 282 (6th Cir. 2012).
Under the “interference” theory, “[i]f an
employer interferes with the FMLA-created right to medical
leave or to reinstatement following the leave, a violation
has occurred, regardless of the intent of the
employer.” Id. (internal quotations and
citations omitted). But, under the “retaliation”
theory, the intent of the employer is relevant, and the
inquiry is “whether the employer took the adverse
action because of a prohibited reason or for a legitimate
nondiscriminatory reason.” Id.
unlawful for employers to “interfere with, restrain or
deny the exercise of or attempt to exercise, any [FMLA] right
provided.” 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1); Grace v.
USCAR, 521 F.3d 655, 669 (6th Cir. 2008). To establish a
prima facie case of FMLA interference, also known as
failure to restore, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she was
an eligible employee; (2) the defendant was an employer as
defined under the FMLA; (3) the employee was entitled to
leave under the FMLA; (4) the employee gave the employer
notice of her intention to take leave; and (5) the employer
denied the employee FMLA benefits to which she was entitled.
Id.; Killian v. Yorozu Auto. Tenn., Inc.,
454 F.3d 549, 556 (6th Cir. 2006). Employees returning from
FMLA leave are not entitled to restoration unless their
employment would have continued had they not taken FMLA
leave. Grace, 521 F.3d at 669.
plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of FMLA
interference, the burden shifts to the employer to provide a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason to justify its actions.
Id. If the employer provides a legitimate reason,