Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Powers v. Covestro LLC

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston Division

May 10, 2017

MARTIN POWERS, Plaintiff,
v.
COVESTRO LLC, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

          JOSEPH R. GOODWIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pending before the court is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 30] and the plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on Liability for his Claim of FMLA Interference [ECF No. 32]. Both parties filed Responses [ECF Nos. 35, 36] and Replies [ECF Nos. 37, 38]. The Motions are now ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, the defendants' Motion [ECF No. 30] is GRANTED and the plaintiff's Motion [ECF No. 32] is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Covestro LLC employed the plaintiff from June 2013 until it discharged him in July 2014. See Notice Removal Ex. A, at ¶¶ 5, 12 [ECF No. 1-1]. On June 19, 2013, the plaintiff underwent a pre-employment physical wherein the physician determined that he was capable of working with “[n]o restrictions.” See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. C [ECF No. 30-4]. Nine months later, on March 13, 2014, the plaintiff went to his family doctor because his urine contained blood. See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D [ECF No. 30-5]. The doctor diagnosed the plaintiff with kidney stones and suggested that the plaintiff treat the condition by drinking fluids. Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2, at 53:15-54:6 [ECF No. 32-2] (“Pl.'s Dep.”). The plaintiff stated that he told co-workers and Mr. Hively, his supervisor, about the discomfort in his kidneys and urinating blood, but that it was “nothing he was seriously concerned about.” Id. at 62:23-63:16. The plaintiff, however, never requested time off for his kidney issues and continued to work regularly. Id. at 63:19-64:3.

         Two months after visiting his family doctor, the plaintiff was scheduled to work the 5:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. shift on July 19. Id. at 70:14-19. The plaintiff wanted that night off so he could go to a stock car race at the Ona Speedway; however, the plaintiff had no leave time available and could not trade shifts with another employee. Id. at 69:3-5, 73:23-74:5. Prior to his July 19 shift, the plaintiff asked Mr. Hively for time off, and Mr. Hively denied the request. Id. at 73:16-20. On July 19, the plaintiff called work, said that he was not feeling well without referencing his urinary issues, and failed to show up for his assigned shift. Id. at 71:3-14; Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 5, at 26:4-7 [ECF No. 32-5]. Despite the plaintiff's assertion that he was not feeling well, he went to Ona Speedway that evening in lieu of going to work. Pl.'s Dep. at 71:15- 19. Indeed, the record indicates that a stock car registered to the plaintiff placed fourth during a race at the Ona Speedway on July 19. Defs.' Mot Summ. J. Ex. E [ECF No. 30-6].

         Three days after failing to show up for the July 19 shift, the plaintiff underwent a physical exam as part of his employment. Pl.'s Dep. at 54:11-16; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. F [ECF No. 30-7]. During the physical examination, the plaintiff's urine again contained blood. Pl.'s Dep. at 54:18-20. Although the nurse conducting the physical recommended that the plaintiff consult his family physician and noted that his bloodwork was abnormal, she determined that the plaintiff was not an increased risk due to exposure to hazardous substances; that the plaintiff was not limited in his exposure to hazardous substances or the use of protective devices; and that the plaintiff had no medical conditions requiring further examination or treatment. Id. at 54:11-23; Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. G [ECF No. 30-8]; Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 3 [ECF No. 32-3].

         Unhappy that the plaintiff failed to show up for work on July 19 and concerned that the plaintiff feigned illness, the defendants drafted a disciplinary memorandum on July 25. See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. H [ECF No. 30-9]. The memorandum indicated that defendants intended to suspend the plaintiff for three days. Id. Mr. Hively planned to give the plaintiff the disciplinary memorandum at the end of the plaintiff's shift on July 27. See Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. I [ECF No. 30-10]. However, on July 27 before the end of the plaintiff's shift, Mr. Hively found the plaintiff off Covestro LLC's premises sleeping in a nearby building owned by another company. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. J [ECF No. 30-11]. Mr. Hively shook the plaintiff awake and took the plaintiff to the control room. Id. Once there, Mr. Hively called his supervisor. Id. The supervisor told Mr. Hively to immediately give the plaintiff the disciplinary memorandum and send him home. Id. Mr. Hively did so and told the plaintiff that the sleeping incident would be handled separately. Id.

         During the plaintiff's suspension, on July 29, he went to his family doctor complaining of bladder pain. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. K [ECF No. 30-12]. Based on the plaintiff's symptoms, the doctor ordered a CT scan, which the plaintiff had performed on July 30. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. L [ECF No. 30-13].

         On July 31, Covestro LLC terminated the plaintiff allegedly based on the sleeping incident. Notice Removal Ex. A, at ¶ 12. On August 11, the plaintiff saw a urologist at the behest of his family doctor. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. O [ECF No. 30-16]. Two days later, the urologist diagnosed the plaintiff with bladder cancer. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. P [ECF No. 30-17]. The plaintiff subsequently brought a lawsuit alleging violations of the West Virginia Human Rights Act (“WVHRA”) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         a. Summary Judgment

         To obtain summary judgment, the moving party must show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court will not “weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Instead, the court will draw any permissible inference from the underlying facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986).

         Although the court will view all underlying facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the nonmoving party nonetheless must offer some “concrete evidence from which a reasonable juror could return a verdict” in his or her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Summary judgment is appropriate when the nonmoving party has the burden of proof on an essential element of his or her case and does not make, after adequate time for discovery, a showing sufficient to establish that element. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The nonmoving party must satisfy this burden of proof by offering more than a mere “scintilla of evidence” in support of his or her position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. Likewise, conclusory allegations or unsupported speculation, without more, are insufficient to preclude the granting of a summary judgment motion. See Dash v. Mayweather, 731 F.3d 303, 311 (4th Cir. 2013); Stone v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 105 F.3d 188, 191 (4th Cir. 1997).

         b. Applicable Law

         The Fourth Circuit has stated the principles a district court must apply in predicting uncertain state law:

As a court sitting in diversity, we have an obligation to interpret the law in accordance with the [decisions of the state court of last resort], or where the law is unclear, as it appears that [such court] would rule. See Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Triangle Indus., 957 F.2d 1153, 1156 (4th Cir.1992) (holding that if state law is unclear federal courts must predict the decision of the state's highest court); Brendle v. General Tire & Rubber Co., 505 F.2d 243, 245 (4th Cir.1974). To forecast a decision of the state's highest court we can consider, inter alia: canons of construction, restatements of the law, treatises, recent pronouncements of general rules or policies by the state's highest court, well considered dicta, and the state's trial court decisions. See Liberty Mut., 957 F.2d at 1156.

Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 527-528 (4th Cir. 1999). The WVHRA claim is before me on supplemental jurisdiction; accordingly, I will apply the law of West Virginia to this case or predict, in the event of uncertainty, how the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia would rule.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The parties' Motions present two distinct issues. First, the defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's WVHRA disability discrimination claim. Second, both parties argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's FMLA interference claim. The court will address each of these issues in turn.

         a. WVHRA Claim

         The defendants argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the WVHRA disability discrimination claim because the plaintiff failed to establish that he was a member of a protected class and there is no nexus between his disability and the adverse employment action. Defs.' Mot Summ. J. 7-12. The plaintiff counters that argument by pointing to evidence that he contends “amply support[s] a reasonable inference that the Defendants resented Mr. Powers'[s] having missed work for his medical condition, and that they retaliated by giving a final warning and firing him.” Pl.'s Resp. [ECF No. 36]. For the following reasons, I determine that the plaintiff has presented evidence sufficient to support a prima facie case but has failed to rebut the defendants' legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for termination.

         In disability discrimination cases involving disparate treatment, employees must ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.