ROBINSON (DORA JANE) VS. MCKECHNIE VEHICLE COMPONENTS USA, INC.Annotate this Case
RENDERED: NOVEMBER 26, 2008; 10:00 A.M.
NOT TO BE PUBLISHED
Commonwealth of Kentucky
Court of Appeals
DORA JANE ROBINSON
APPEAL FROM JESSAMINE CIRCUIT COURT
HONORABLE C. HUNTER DAUGHERTY, JUDGE
ACTION NO. 06-CI-00523
COMPONENTS USA, INC.
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BEFORE: CAPERTON AND MOORE, JUDGES; GUIDUGLI,1 SENIOR
GUIDUGLI, SENIOR JUDGE: Dora Jane Robinson appeals from a summary
judgment dismissing her retaliatory discharge claim. We affirm.
Senior Judge Daniel T. Guidugli sitting as Special Judge by assignment of the Chief Justice
pursuant to Section 110(5)(b) of the Kentucky Constitution and KRS 21.580.
In 2000, Robinson was hired by McKechnie Vehicle Components
USA, Inc. to work as a press operator in its manufacturing facility in Nicholasville,
Kentucky. On May 1, 2003, Robinson injured her right shoulder while performing
work-related duties. She was examined by a physician who recommended that
Robinson perform only light duty work. Robinson communicated this
recommendation to McKechnie who then transferred her to a light duty position.
McKechnie’s workers’ compensation carrier paid Robinson temporary total
disability benefits in October 2004.
In January 2005, Dr. Peter Hester performed outpatient surgery on
Robinson’s right shoulder at the Lexington Clinic in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr.
Hester restricted Robinson from working and communicated the restriction to
Leslie Lee, McKechnie’s human resources assistant, in a fax dated January 18,
2005. Eventually, Robinson was permitted to return to work. However, she
reinjured her right shoulder on her first day back. Robinson again sought treatment
from Dr. Hester. On June 28, 2005, Robinson returned to work.
Robinson injured her left shoulder on July 11, 2005. She reported the
injury to Lee on July 12th. Lee arranged to have Robinson treated by Dr. Greg L.
Snyder who practices in the Lexington Clinic. On July 12, 2005, Robinson was
examined by Dr. Snyder and nurse practitioner Judy Cleary. Cleary restricted
Robinson to lifting five pounds with her left arm. Cleary informed Lee of the
restrictions. Lee explained to Cleary that McKechnie did not have any way of
accommodating Robinson’s restrictions at that time.
Robinson’s injury was reported to the Department of Workers’ Claims
on July 18, 2005. McKechnie’s carrier determined that Robinson’s injury was not
work-related. Robinson did not contest this determination. McKechnie’s carrier
informed McKechnie that it had closed the claim file. After her visit to Dr. Snyder
on July 12, 2005, Robinson never returned to work nor did she call in to apprise
McKechnie of her situation. Robinson returned to visit Dr. Hester in early August
2005 who determined that she could not physically work. Robinson did not take
any further steps to inform McKechnie of her disability.
In April 2006, McKechnie hired a new human resources manager,
Linda Haft. In the same month, Robinson elected to have a MRI performed on her
right shoulder. Robinson did not inform anyone at McKechnie of her procedure or
its results. The Lexington Clinic prepared a report of Robinson’s April 2006 visit
to Dr. Hester. The Lexington Clinic provided a copy of the report to ESIS, Inc.,
the third-party administrator for McKechnie’s workers’ compensation carrier. The
report was not provided to McKechnie prior to this litigation.
During the process of familiarizing herself with McKechnie’s
workforce, Haft discovered that Robinson had not worked or called in since July
2005. Since Robinson had not provided any documentation of her July 2005
treatment or any treatments thereafter, Haft was unaware that Robinson continued
to receive treatment for her shoulders. Haft concluded that Robinson had
abandoned her employment because there was no explanation for the long-term
absence nor was there a pending workers’ compensation claim. McKechnie
formally terminated Robinson on May 2, 2006.
Robinson filed a complaint in Jessamine Circuit Court on June 27,
2006 alleging that McKechnie discharged her in retaliation for pursuing workers’
compensation benefits. After several hearings, the trial court granted summary
judgment in favor of McKechnie. This appeal followed.
KRS 342.197(1) states:
No employee shall be harassed, coerced, discharged, or
discriminated against in any manner whatsoever for filing
and pursuing a lawful claim under this chapter.
In order to establish a prima facie case of retaliatory discharge, the plaintiff must
prove that: (1) she engaged in a protected activity; (2) the defendant knew that the
plaintiff had done so; (3) adverse employment action was taken; and (4) that there
was a causal connection between the protected activity and the adverse
employment action. Dollar General Partners v. Upchurch, 214 S.W.3d 910, 915
(Ky. App. 2006).
We have thoroughly reviewed the record before us. The evidence
demonstrated that Robinson pursued a workers’ compensation claim that was
closed in July 2005 approximately ten months prior to her termination. Robinson
did not contest the determination. Robinson never returned to work nor did she
ever inform McKechnie of her circumstances. There is no evidence that
McKechnie otherwise had any knowledge of Robinson’s continuing medical
treatment. Even when viewed in the light most favorable to Robinson, we are
convinced that there is no disputed issue of material fact regarding her inability to
establish a causal connection between her pursuit of workers’ compensation
benefits and her termination from employment. Therefore, summary judgment
Accordingly, the judgment of the Jessamine Circuit Court is affirmed.
BRIEF FOR APPELLANT:
BRIEF FOR APPELLEE:
David Russell Marshall
Leila G. O’Carra
George J. Miller
Brian C. Baugh