278 F.3d 847 (8th Cir. 2001), 01-2476, Spangler v Fed'l Home Loan Bank of Des Moines

Docket Nº:01-2476
Citation:278 F.3d 847
Case Date:November 01, 2001
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 847

278 F.3d 847 (8th Cir. 2001)




No. 01-2476

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 1, 2001

January 30, 2002

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

Page 848

Before Bye, Beam, and Riley, Circuit Judges.

Riley, Circuit Judge

Theresa Spangler, who suffers from depression, brought this action against the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines ("the Bank") alleging the Bank's termination of her employment violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA") and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Spangler now appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Bank on both of her claims. We affirm the district court's judgment on Spangler's ADA claim, but reverse as to her FMLA claim.


Theresa Spangler began working for the Bank in the Demand Services Department in 1982. Spangler suffers from dysthymia, a form of depression, along with phobia and bouts of more intense depression. Her former therapist first diagnosed Spangler with this mental illness in 1993. At that time, Spangler took a six week leave of absence from the Bank and went through treatment. Spangler's current psychiatrist also diagnosed Spangler with dysthymia in 1997. At that time, she took another leave of absence to undergo treatment. After her 1997 diagnosis, Spangler informed her supervisor that she took this leave to obtain treatment for her depression. Spangler also recalls later telling a variety of other supervisors and Bank personnel about her depression.

Page 849

The Bank's attendance policy allowed supervisors to excuse occasional absences due to illness or injury depending on the circumstances and on the employee's past attendance. The Bank dealt with excessive absenteeism through counseling, warning, and, on occasion, termination if necessary. Employees were to arrange time off for personal business and medical appointments in advance. The Bank's FMLA policy required employees to request leave 30 days in advance or, if the leave was not predictable, the employee needed to provide as much notice as was practicable. The Bank posted this information about the FMLA in the employee break room and printed it on the back of employee time cards.

Bank records show a persistent pattern of absenteeism and tardiness throughout Spangler's employment with the Bank. Spangler was absent for family or medical reasons for 32 days in 1993, 17.6 days in 1994, 12.4 days in 1995, and 29.3 days in 1996.

In 1997, as part of restructuring after the sale of the Demand Services Department, the Bank transferred Spangler and other employees to the main Bank. The Bank assigned Spangler a new position within the Member Financial Services Department. During the transition, Bank management discussed Spangler's absence from the Bank at that time and depression as the cause of her absence. In July of 1997, a member bank1 Spangler was responsible for providing with cash services complained that Spangler's absenteeism was interfering with its business. Some of Spangler's duties were then reassigned to another employee. One morning in September of 1997, Spangler left a voice mail message on a supervisor's machine in the morning stating she would not be at work that day, thus forcing the supervisor to do Spangler's work instead of attending a scheduled training session.

Throughout 1997 and 1998, Spangler's many unscheduled absences and her persistent tardiness were routinely noted by the Bank. Spangler used five days of unscheduled vacation for personal reasons from September 15 through 19, 1997. Each morning when she was absent, Spangler notified her supervisor by leaving a voice mail message. In September, Spangler was warned that she needed to be on time to work and to talk to someone instead of leaving voice mail messages when she was unable to make it to work. Her 1997 performance appraisal noted that her 21 absences that year were excessive and that absenteeism was a problem for Spangler.

In early January, Spangler again missed a string of days from work, each morning leaving messages she would not be in that day or she would be late, but then not arriving at work at all. Spangler was warned and put on a six-month probation during which she was not to be absent more than twice at the risk of termination. Spangler was absent twice during the probationary period. Immediately after the probation ended, Spangler had four unexcused absences in July and August of 1998.

Due to more absences, Spangler was again put on...

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