Warren v. Snap-On Tools Company, LLC, No. 3:2008cv00667 - Document 32 (D. Nev. 2010)

Court Description: ORDER DENYING Snap-On's 16 Motion for Summary Judgment. FURTHER ORDERED that Warren's # 21 Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED. Signed by Judge Edward C. Reed, Jr on 7/21/2010. (Copies have been distributed pursuant to the NEF - DRM)
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Warren v. Snap-On Tools Company, LLC Doc. 32 1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT DISTRICT OF NEVADA RENO, NEVADA 5 6 7 DEBORAH WARREN ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) 8 Plaintiff, 9 vs. 10 SNAP-ON TOOLS COMPANY, LLC 11 Defendant. 12 3:08-CV-667-ECR-VPC Order 13 14 This diversity case arises out of the termination of Plaintiff 15 Deborah Warren (“Warren”) by her employer, Defendant Snap-On Tools 16 Company, LLC (“Snap-On”). 17 constitutes a violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 18 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654. 19 judgment (## 16, 21) on the issue of Snap-On’s liability under the 20 FMLA. 21 Warren contends that her termination Both parties have filed motions for summary The motions are ripe, and we now rule on them. 22 23 24 I. Factual and Procedural Background Warren was employed by Snap-On at its distribution center in 25 Carson City, Nevada. 26 that she needed time off work for an upcoming wrist surgery, and 27 applied for leave under the FMLA. 28 leave from November 7, 2008, to December 19, 2008, on the On October 13, 2008, Warren notified Snap-On She was approved to take FMLA Dockets.Justia.com 1 understanding that the surgery was to take place on November 7, 2 2008. 3 On the evening of November 6, 2008, Warren’s doctor informed 4 her that her surgery was postponed until the following Monday, 5 November 10, 2008. 6 doctor again postponed the surgery, rescheduling it to November 11, 7 2008. 8 performed. 9 During the day on November 7, 2008, Warren’s On November 11, 2008, Warren’s surgery was finally Warren did not attempt to go to work on November 7 or November 10 10, 2008. 11 scheduled to work on either of those dates. 12 undisputed that she would have been scheduled to work, absent the 13 FMLA leave. 14 surgery had been rescheduled by her doctor, making her unexpectedly 15 available to work on those dates. 16 learned from its short-term disability carrier that Warren’s 17 surgery took place on November 11, 2008, not November 7, 2008. 18 that same date, Snap-On terminated Warren for failing to work or to 19 call in on November 7 and November 10, 2008. Because of her requested FMLA leave, she was not Nevertheless, it is Warren also did not call Snap-On to report that her On November 13, 2008, Snap-On 20 On December 22, 2008, Warren filed her Complaint (#1), 21 alleging that Snap-On had violated her rights under the FMLA by 22 terminating her. 23 Warren’s FMLA rights. 24 termination was consistent with the FMLA and Snap-On company 25 policies that are enforceable under the FMLA. 26 27 28 Snap-On answered (#4), denying it violated Snap-On’s position is that Warren’s On October 13, 2009, Snap-On filed its motion for summary judgment (#16) (“D.’s MSJ”). Warren opposed (#22) the motion 2 On 1 (#16), and Snap-On replied (#24). 2 filed her motion for summary judgment (#21) (“P.’s MSJ”). 3 opposed (#23) the motion (#21), and Warren replied (#31). On October 28, 2008, Warren Snap-On 4 5 II. Summary Judgment Standard 6 Summary judgment allows courts to avoid unnecessary trials 7 where no material factual dispute exists. 8 U.S. Dep’t of Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1471 (9th Cir. 1994). 9 court must view the evidence and the inferences arising therefrom N.W. Motorcycle Ass’n v. The 10 in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Bagdadi v. 11 Nazar, 84 F.3d 1194, 1197 (9th Cir. 1996), and should award summary 12 judgment where no genuine issues of material fact remain in dispute 13 and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 14 FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). 15 where there is no legally sufficient evidentiary basis for a 16 reasonable jury to find for the nonmoving party. 17 50(a). 18 at issue, however, summary judgment should not be granted. 19 v. City of Carlsbad, 58 F.3d 439, 441 (9th Cir. 1995), cert. 20 denied, 116 S.Ct. 1261 (1996). 21 Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate FED . R. CIV . P. Where reasonable minds could differ on the material facts Warren The moving party bears the burden of informing the court of 22 the basis for its motion, together with evidence demonstrating the 23 absence of any genuine issue of material fact. 24 Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). 25 its burden, the party opposing the motion may not rest upon mere 26 allegations or denials in the pleadings, but must set forth 27 specific facts showing that there exists a genuine issue for trial. 28 3 Celotex Corp. v. Once the moving party has met 1 Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). 2 Although the parties may submit evidence in an inadmissible form — 3 namely, depositions, admissions, interrogatory answers, and 4 affidavits — only evidence which might be admissible at trial may 5 be considered by a trial court in ruling on a motion for summary 6 judgment. 7 Inc., 854 F.2d 1179, 1181 (9th Cir. 1988). 8 9 FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Beyene v. Coleman Sec. Servs., In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, a court must take three necessary steps: (1) it must determine whether a fact is 10 material; (2) it must determine whether there exists a genuine 11 issue for the trier of fact, as determined by the documents 12 submitted to the court; and (3) it must consider that evidence in 13 light of the appropriate standard of proof. 14 248. 15 exist for trial. 16 1264 (9th Cir. 1999). 17 that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law 18 will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” 19 477 U.S. at 248. 20 should not be considered. 21 of proof on an essential element of the nonmoving party’s case, all 22 other facts become immaterial, and the moving party is entitled to 23 judgment as a matter of law. 24 judgment is not a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather an 25 integral part of the federal rules as a whole. Summary judgment is not proper if material factual issues B.C. v. Plumas Unified Sch. Dist., 192 F.3d 1260, “As to materiality, only disputes over facts Anderson, Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts Id. Where there is a complete failure Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. 26 27 28 Anderson, 477 U.S. at 4 Id. Summary 1 III. Discussion 2 Both parties seek summary judgment on the issue of whether 3 Warren’s termination was in violation of the FMLA. 4 undisputed that Warren generally qualified for and was entitled to 5 the protections and rights provided by the FMLA. 6 Warren’s “taking of FMLA-protected leave constituted a negative 7 factor in the decision to terminate her.” 8 Airlines, 259 F.3d 1112, 1125 (9th Cir. 2001). 9 cited no reason for Warren’s termination other than Warren’s taking It is Moreover, Bacheldor v. Am. W. Indeed, Snap-On has 10 of leave pursuant to the FMLA on November 7 and November 10, 2008, 11 and her failure to call in to report the rescheduling of her 12 surgery that made her unexpectedly available for work on those 13 dates. 14 that Warren “was terminated on November 13 for failing to either 15 show up for work or call in on November 7 and 10”).) 16 Warren to prevail on her claim, she need only demonstrate that “she 17 is entitled to the benefit she claims,” that is, that she was 18 entitled to take FMLA leave on November 7 and November 10, 2008. 19 Bacheldor, 259 F.3d at 1126. 20 (See D.’s Br. in Support of D.’s MSJ at 2 (#17) (stating Thus, for Snap-On analogizes the circumstances of this case to cases 21 where an employee fraudulently misuses FMLA leave. 22 that the analogy is apt. 23 Pennsylvania, Inc., 309 F. App’x 551 (3d Cir. 2009), an employee 24 misrepresented his health condition to his employer by taking a 25 “sick day” to work on building his new house. 26 Similarly, in Tellis v. Alaska Airlines, Inc., 414 F.3d 1045 (9th 27 Cir. 2005), an employee claimed to be taking leave for the purpose 28 We do not agree For example, in Parker v. Verizon 5 Id. at 563. 1 of caring for a family member, but instead used the time to travel 2 across the country to retrieve a family vehicle. 3 Here, by contrast, there is no evidence of any fraudulent intent on 4 the part of Warren. 5 leave to seek care for an actual medical condition; her surgery was 6 twice rescheduled on the doctor’s initiative, not her own. 7 question here is not one of fraud, but whether Warren was required 8 under the FMLA to inform Snap-On that she was unexpectedly 9 available to work on November 7 and November 10, 2008, and to offer Id. at 1046. She properly sought and was approved for FMLA 10 to work on those days, though she was not scheduled to do so 11 because of her requested and approved FMLA leave. The 12 Snap-On also argues that the regulations implementing the FMLA 13 place on the employee the duty of notifying her employer “as soon 14 as practicable if dates of scheduled leave change or are extended, 15 or were initially unknown.” 16 fails because the quoted regulatory language is taken out of 17 context. 18 the employee to give the employer advance notice, when practicable, 19 of a foreseeable need for the employee to take an FMLA leave. 20 Here, Warren gave Snap-On advance notice of her foreseeable need 21 for FMLA leave, and was approved on the basis of her scheduled 22 surgery date. 23 after her last scheduled shift prior to her approved FMLA leave, 24 that Warren’s doctor called to reschedule the surgery. 25 825.302(a) does not speak to the duties of an employee who 29 C.F.R. § 825.302(a). Under this section of the regulations, it is the duty of Id. It was not until the evening of November 6, 2008, 26 27 28 This argument 6 Section 1 discovers on the eve of an approved and scheduled FMLA leave that 2 her circumstances have changed.1 3 The regulations implementing the FMLA in effect at the time of 4 Warren’s termination contemplate that “an employee may discover 5 after beginning leave that the circumstances have changed and the 6 amount of leave originally anticipated is no longer necessary.” 7 C.F.R. § 825.309(c). 8 provide notice of such changed circumstances, either through 9 required periodic status reports or otherwise. 29 An employer may require that the employee Id. § 825.309(a) 10 and (c). 11 provide the employee with specific written notice. 12 § 825.301(b)(1) (“The employer shall . . . provide the employee 13 with written notice detailing the specific expectations and 14 obligations of the employee and explaining any consequences of a 15 failure to meet these obligations”). To enforce such a requirement, however, the employer must Id. 16 Here, Snap-On provided Warren with a number of documents 17 detailing the specific expectations and obligations of Warren with 18 respect to her FMLA leave. 19 any specific requirement that Warren inform Snap-On of unexpected 20 changes in circumstances such as the last minute rescheduling of 21 her surgery. 22 to make periodic reports regarding her status and intent to return 23 to work, and Snap-On explicitly disclaimed any requirement that Nowhere in those documents, however, is On the contrary, Warren was explicitly not required 24 25 26 27 28 1 The parties spill much ink on the issue of whether Warren was already on FMLA leave or not on the evening of November 6, 2008, when she was informed that her surgery was rescheduled. This issue, however, is really beside the point. The problem of whether Warren was provided with adequate notice of the specific expectations and obligations of her, discussed below, applies equally in either case. 7 1 Warren notify it if the circumstances of her leave changed. 2 (Employer Response to Employee Request for Family or Medical Leave, 3 P.’s MSJ, Ex. C, ¶ 8 (#21-1).) 4 It must be noted that the language of this section of the 5 documentation provided to Warren is aimed more at changes in 6 circumstances that would hasten the end of an approved leave, 7 rather than changes that would delay the start of such a leave: “If 8 the circumstances of your leave change and you are able to return 9 to work earlier than the date indicated on the reverse of this 10 form, you . . . will not be required to notify us at least two work 11 days prior to the date you intend to report to work.” 12 Nevertheless, this is the only section of the FMLA notices provided 13 to Warren that she could have plausibly looked to for instruction 14 regarding her circumstance. 15 discerned from the documentation any guidance with regard to her 16 obligations under the circumstances, that guidance was that she 17 need not call in or report to work. 18 failed to provide Warren with “written notice detailing the 19 specific expectations and obligations” of her; at worst, the 20 written notice Warren received actively misled her. 21 (Id.) To the extent that Warren could have At best, therefore, Snap-On The applicable regulations also provide that Snap-On could 22 require Warren “to comply with the employer’s usual and customary 23 notice and procedural requirements for requesting leave.” 24 C.F.R. § 825.302(d); see also id. § 825.301(a). 25 Snap-On asserts a right to enforce its usual and customary policy 26 regarding “no call/no show absences.” 27 are required to “call in their absence prior to the start of the 28 8 29 On this basis, Under this policy, employees 1 shift.” 2 employee fails to do so once, the employee receives a written 3 warning; a second offense results in termination. 4 (Attendance Policy, P.’s MSJ, Ex. J at 2 (#21-1). If the (Id.) There is nothing in the attendance policy, however, nor in any 5 of the other guidance regarding company policies in evidence, that 6 explicitly applies Snap-On’s policy relating to “no call/no show 7 absences” to situations such as Warren’s. 8 policy states that it is intended to encourage “[r]egular 9 attendance during scheduled work hours” as a “basic expectation of Indeed, the attendance 10 employment.” 11 requested and approved FMLA leave, Warren was not scheduled to work 12 on either November 7 or November 10. 13 indication in the documents describing Snap-On’s policy relating to 14 “no call/no show absences” that the policy might be applied to 15 circumstances where an employee is physically capable of working, 16 but was not scheduled to work. 17 (Id. at 1 (emphasis added).) Because of her Nor is there any specific Snap-On company policy also provides for the termination of 18 any employee who “engages in any type of gainful employment while 19 on family and medical leave, or who fraudulently obtains family and 20 medical leave.” 21 (#21-1).) 22 “gainful employment” while on leave; it is undisputed that she 23 spent November 7 and November 10, 2008 at home, cleaning her house 24 or just “doing nothing.” 25 in fraud in obtaining her leave. 26 of Warren, that her requested leave was scheduled less than 27 ideally. 28 (Leave of Absence Policy, P.’s MSJ, Ex. K at 39 There is no allegation that Warren engaged in any As discussed above, Warren did not engage It turned out, through no fault This does not, however, amount to fraud on the part of 9 1 Warren, but only an unexpected circumstance. 2 turns out, handle that unexpected circumstance as Snap-On would 3 have wished her to do. 4 showing that Warren was provided with specific written notice of 5 Snap-On’s expectations of her in such circumstances. 6 Holsum of Fort Wayne, Inc., 278 F.3d 706, 710 (7th Cir. 2002) 7 (employer entitled to enforce requirement, described in detail in 8 attendance policy, that employee call in each day under certain 9 circumstances). 10 Warren did not, it There is nothing in the record, however, C.f. Lewis v. In sum, nothing in the notices given to Warren when she was 11 approved for leave, nor in policies generally applicable to Snap-On 12 employees, put Warren on notice that she was required to inform 13 Snap-On of the last-minute rescheduling of her operation, or to 14 come in to work, though she was not scheduled to do so because of 15 her approved leave. 16 to her approved FMLA leave on November 7 and November 10, 2008, 17 qualified for protection under the FMLA, even though her surgery 18 did not take place until November 11, 2008. 19 termination of Warren violated the FMLA. As such, Warren’s absences from work pursuant Thus, Snap-On’s 20 21 IV. Conclusion 22 Warren properly sought and was approved for FMLA leave to 23 seek medical treatment, namely, surgery on her wrist. 24 fault of her own, she did not receive the surgery on the expected 25 date. 26 business days prior to her surgery, the first two days of her 27 scheduled FMLA leave. Through no As such, she was physically capable of working on the two Warren did not report this unexpected 28 10 1 circumstance to her employer, nor did she report to work on those 2 dates. 3 notice that it expected her to call in or report to work in such a 4 circumstance. 5 rights under the FMLA by terminating her employment on that basis. 6 Neither party has addressed the issue of damages in their Snap-On, however, failed to provide Warren specific written As such, Snap-On is liable for violating Warren’s 7 respective motions for summary judgment. 8 proceed with respect to the issue of damages only. The case, therefore, will 9 10 11 IT IS, THEREFORE, HEREBY ORDERED that Snap-On’s motion for summary judgment (#16) is DENIED. 12 13 14 IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Warren’s motion for summary judgment (#21) is GRANTED. 15 16 DATED: July 21, 2010. 17 ____________________________ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 11