United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Huntington Division
SHEILA L. McCOY, Plaintiff,
DIAMOND ELECTRIC MFG. CORPORATION, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. CHAMBERS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment submitted
by Defendant Diamond Electric Mfg. Corporation.
Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 25. Plaintiff
alleges, in her complaint, claims against Defendant under
four causes of action: (1) Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) interference; (2) FMLA retaliation; (3)
violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act
(“WVHRA”); and (4) intentional infliction of
emotional distress (“IIED”). See Compl.,
ECF No. 1, at 5-8.
moves for summary judgment on all four counts Plaintiff
asserts against it in the complaint. Mem. in Supp. of
Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 26, at 10, 14, 17.
Defendant claims it is entitled to summary judgment on counts
one, two, and three because Plaintiff has no evidence that
she was either prevented from, or terminated for, exercising
her FMLA rights, and has no evidence that she was terminated
because of her allegedly protected status. See Id.
at 10, 13-14. Additionally, Defendant claims it is entitled
to summary judgment on count four because the way Plaintiff
was terminated cannot be considered “outrageous”
as a matter of law. See Id. at 17.
parties have fully briefed the issues and the motion is now
ripe for adjudication. As explained below, the Court
GRANTS, IN PART,
AND DENIES, IN PART,
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
Defendant's FMLA Process
was a production employee for Defendant from May 7, 1997,
until December 29, 2016, when she was terminated.
Compl., at ¶ 7. Two months before her
termination, on October 31, 2016, Plaintiff requested
intermittent FMLA leave to care for her father, who was
battling lung cancer, and Defendant approved. See
Id. at ¶¶ 17-19.
employee of Defendant is on intermittent FMLA leave, and
requests a day off, the duties of the employee's
supervisor are simple. The employee calls their supervisor on
a day when they are taking an absence, and the supervisor is
not permitted to ask the employee any questions. Dep. of
Crouch, ECF No. 25-4, at 3. The supervisor then writes
the employee's comments on a “leave request”
form, including whether the reason for the leave is the FMLA.
See Id. at 3-4. The supervisor then completes her
job by sending this form to Human Resources. See id.
to Plaintiff, on December 22, 2016, she called her
supervisor, Bonnie Crouch, and told Ms. Crouch that her
finger was bleeding and she needed to see a doctor. Dep.
of McCoy, ECF No. 29-1, at 5. Plaintiff asked Ms. Crouch
whether a potential absence due to this injury- because it
occurred while she was caring for her father-would be covered
under the FMLA. See Id. Ms. Crouch informed
Plaintiff that she did not know the answer, and did not want
to give an answer, because only Human Resources can respond
to FMLA questions. See Id. Plaintiff then called
Veronica Blevins, Defendant's Human Resources manager,
explained that she cut her finger, and asked Ms. Blevins the
same question she asked Ms. Crouch: whether an absence in
this situation would be covered under the FMLA. See
Id. Ms. Crouch answered Plaintiff's question by
stating that “it was a different instance, ” but
if Plaintiff “could go to the doctor and get an excuse,
then they would cover it.” Id. After receiving
this clarification from Ms. Blevins, Plaintiff called Ms.
Crouch for a second time, and told Ms. Crouch that she
“would have to have a doctor's excuse.”
Id. Ms. Crouch said “no, ” and that the
leave absence form would “have to [say] FMLA because
you said it was an FMLA.” Id.
version of the events differs greatly from Plaintiff's.
Ms. Crouch testified that in Plaintiff's first phone call
Plaintiff told her that Plaintiff had cut her hand, and when
Ms. Crouch asked whether Plaintiff was coming into work that
day Plaintiff said, “I don't know, ” and that
she would “get back with” her. See Mem. in
Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., at 4. Later,
according to Ms. Crouch, Plaintiff called a second time and
said, “I'm going to have to take an FMLA
day.” Dep. of Crouch, at 5. Ms. Crouch, as she
is trained to do, did not ask any questions and filled out
the leave request form, designating December 22 as an FMLA
day for Plaintiff. Id.
to Defendant, after this phone call Plaintiff called Ms.
Blevins and told her that Plaintiff was “taking an FMLA
day” and wanted to know how this would affect her
holiday pay. See Dep. of Blevins, ECF. No. 25-5, at
9. Ms. Blevins explained to Plaintiff that she would not
receive holiday pay unless she had vacation time to run
concurrent with her FMLA day. See Id. at 4; Mem.
in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., at 6. Upon
hearing this explanation, Plaintiff told Ms. Blevins that she
needed to change the reason for her absence from the FMLA to
the fact that she had cut her hand and needed to go to the
emergency room. See Dep. of Blevins, at 4-5.
Plaintiff then told Ms. Blevins that she “didn't
want to get in trouble, ” and asked Ms. Blevins if Ms.
Blevins could “get her paperwork and correct her
paperwork for her so that she wouldn't get in
trouble.” Id. at 5. In response, Ms. Blevins
explained to Plaintiff that she could not do what Plaintiff
requested, as such an action would be “falsifying
records.” Id. Ms. Blevins then immediately
contacted Ms. Crouch and asked her if Plaintiff had called
in, and if so, what Plaintiff said to Ms. Crouch. See
Id. at 6. Ms. Crouch told Ms. Blevins that Plaintiff had
“requested an FMLA day.” Id. at 7.
The Investigation and Termination
the incident, Ms. Blevins conducted an investigation. She
spoke with Ms. Crouch, reviewed the holiday policy in
Defendant's handbook, reviewed Plaintiff's leave
request form, and reviewed Defendant's employee conduct
rules regarding falsifying or misrepresenting records.
See Mem. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.,
at 7. After returning from the holiday break, Ms. Blevins met
with Chad Carte, Defendant's CFO, discussed the
investigation, and made the decision to terminate
Plaintiff's employment. Exhibit F, ECF No. 25-6,
December 29, 2016, Ms. Blevins and Defendant's Human
Resources specialist Chris Snyder met with Plaintiff to
terminate her employment. Dep. of Blevins, at 11.
During the meeting, Ms. Blevins explained to Plaintiff that
she was being terminated because she lied about her reason
for an absence and attempted to falsify documents. See
Id. Ms. Blevins then walked with Plaintiff to her
locker, stayed with her while she removed her items, and
explained to Plaintiff that she could contact her at any time
if she had any questions. See Id. at 12. Plaintiff
thanked Ms. Blevins and left the property. See id.
November 16, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action against
Defendant, and on December 14, 2018, Defendant filed its
motion for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 1, 25. Plaintiff filed
her response and Defendant filed its reply on January 10,
2019, and January 17, 2019, respectively. ECF Nos. 29, 30.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
obtain summary judgment, the moving party must show that no
genuine issue as to any material fact remains 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, a 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,
a 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). Any inference,
however, “must fall within the range of reasonable
probability and not be so tenuous as to amount to speculation
or conjecture.” JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports
Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001)
(citation omitted). Therefore, summary judgment will not be
granted if a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
non-moving party on the evidence presented. See
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.
Count One: FMLA Interference
FMLA interference claim relies upon the conclusion that
Defendant “failed to responsively answer
[Plaintiff's FMLA] questions”-an undisputed
violation of the FMLA according to its regulations.
Response in Opp. to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.,
ECF No. 29, at 11. However, the facts of this case simply
cannot support Plaintiff's conclusion.
FMLA allows “employees to balance their work and family
life by taking reasonable unpaid leave for … the care
of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health
condition, ” and the Act states that “[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” by the Act. 29 U.S.C. §
2615(a)(1) (emphasis added). The FMLA regulations state that
an employer “interferes” with a right provided by
the FMLA when an employer violates an FMLA regulation.
See 29 CFR § 825.101(b). One such regulation
requires employers “to responsively answer questions
from employees concerning their rights and responsibilities
under the FMLA.” 29 CFR § 825.300(c)(5). Thus, an
FMLA interference ...