391 F.3d 644 (5th Cir. 2004), 04-30007, Haley v. Alliance Compressor LLC

Docket Nº:04-30007.
Citation:391 F.3d 644
Party Name:Marilyn HALEY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. ALLIANCE COMPRESSOR LLC and Copeland Corp., Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:November 17, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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391 F.3d 644 (5th Cir. 2004)

Marilyn HALEY, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

ALLIANCE COMPRESSOR LLC and Copeland Corp., Defendants-Appellees.

No. 04-30007.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

November 17, 2004

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Pamela R. Jones (argued), Shreveport, LA, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Samuel Newman Poole, Trevor S. Fry (argued), Steven M. Oxenhandler, Gold, Weems, Bruser, Sues & Rundell, Alexandria, LA, for Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.

Before DeMOSS, STEWART and CLEMENT, Circuit Judges.

DeMOSS, Circuit Judge:

Plaintiff-Appellant Marilyn Haley ("Haley") appeals the district court's grant of final judgment in favor of Defendants-Appellees Alliance Compressor LLC and Copeland Corp. (together, "Alliance"), based on its finding that Haley did not present a genuine issue of material fact supporting her constructive discharge, the basis for her Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., claims. For the reasons stated below, we AFFIRM.

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BACKGROUND

Starting May 11, 1999, Haley was employed in the Human Resources ("HR") Department at Alliance Compressors LLC, a joint venture manufacturer of air-conditioning compressors located in Natchitoches, Louisiana. Copeland Corp. is one company involved in the joint venture. The other key personnel involved in this case are: Jeff Risinger ("Risinger"), HR manager and Haley's immediate boss for most of her time there; Mark Schuller ("Schuller"), a fellow HR leader; Steve Hokky ("Hokky"), Plant Manager; and Bob Anderson ("Anderson"), Vice-President of the HR Department at Copeland Corp.

When Alliance hired Haley, she was assigned as leader of the machining business unit while Schuller was responsible for the assembly business unit. Haley's responsibilities for her unit included staffing, employee relations, training, and all daily activities in those areas. On performance evaluations conducted by Risinger in 1999 and 2000, Haley was evaluated as meeting or exceeding job expectations. In October 2000, an employee survey was conducted by Emerson Electric Co., the parent company of Copeland Corp. These results came out in December 2000 and showed employee misgivings about the HR department, including some individual negative comments directed toward both Haley and Schuller. Around January or February 2001, Alliance conducted feedback sessions with employees at the plant. From these, Alliance developed a plan of action to improve the performance of the HR group. Risinger reorganized the department, with Schuller to be in charge of training and Haley to oversee recruitment. At the time, another HR employee, Joanna Deloch, was handling employee relations.

About April 23, 2001, Risinger met with Haley to discuss some deficiencies in her performance. At the time, Risinger documented the meeting with informal, handwritten notes. About June 18, 2001, Haley completed a temporary disability claim form; the next day she saw her physician who diagnosed a stress/anxiety disorder, which Haley claimed arose from her employment. Haley's doctor recommended that Haley take a leave of absence from work from June 25, 2001, until August 20, 2001. Haley then completed and submitted an employee request for medical leave form, requesting leave for the time period stated by her doctor. On June 22, 2001, Alliance approved Haley's request for leave under the FMLA; Haley commenced her leave on June 25, 2001. While Haley was out on leave, Risinger approved a merit increase in her salary, effective August 6, 2001.

Risinger, Hokky, and Anderson felt frustrated that Haley was out on leave. Sometime in July 2001, about three weeks into Haley's leave, Anderson contacted Risinger about the alignment of the HR department. Issues relating to Haley's return were discussed--Anderson claims they talked about preparations for Haley's return and what performance issues she still needed to work on. Risinger presents a different version. He stated that Anderson told him to call Haley while she was on leave and inform her that her job had been eliminated, "that she didn't have a job to come back to, basically." Risinger said he objected because firing Haley might be considered discriminatory and in violation of the FMLA. Anderson agreed. Risinger stated that Anderson called him again after consulting an employment attorney and asked him for written documentation of Haley's work performance.

Risinger prepared the requested memo documenting the April 23, 2001, meeting he had with Haley and submitted it to Anderson on July 29, 2001. This memo

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included nine specific areas of improvement for Haley to work on. Risinger stated none of these areas was an issue anymore and Haley had left for leave in good standing, while Anderson claims not all the performance issues had been resolved. On August 10, 2001, Risinger submitted his letter of resignation, effective August 24, 2001. Haley returned to work on August 20, 2001. Her doctor recommended she resume no more than 40-hour work weeks, and Alliance changed her status from salaried, exempt to salaried, full-time. In the meantime, Schuller had also resigned and Steve Ritcheson had been brought on as HR manager of employee relations. Hokky and Anderson assumed Risinger's supervision of the HR department; Risinger's role in management became insubstantial and disengaged after he submitted his resignation.

Anderson and Hokky confronted Haley with the memo and the alleged job deficiencies on August 20, 2001, and advised her of the importance of making improvements in her performance. Haley did not know where this had come from, so she went to Risinger to ask him about the...

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