393 F.3d 572 (5th Cir. 2004), 03-11276, Urban v. Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc.

Docket Nº:03-11276.
Citation:393 F.3d 572
Party Name:Debbie URBAN, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. DOLGENCORP OF TEXAS, INC., Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:December 08, 2004
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 572

393 F.3d 572 (5th Cir. 2004)

Debbie URBAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

DOLGENCORP OF TEXAS, INC., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 03-11276.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 8, 2004

Rowland B. Foster (argued), Foster & Foster, Anson, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Joel S. Allen (argued), Baker & McKenzie, William Charles Murley, Littler Mendelson, Dallas, TX, for Defendant-Appellant.

Ann Elizabeth Reesman, McGuiness, Norris & Williams, Washington, DC, for Equal Employment Advisory Council, Amicus Curiae.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before DeMOSS, STEWART and CLEMENT, Circuit Judges.

DeMOSS, Circuit Judge:

Appellee Debbie Urban ("Urban") filed suit in the Northern District of Texas, alleging that Appellant Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc. ("Dollar General") terminated her

Page 573

employment in contravention of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). The district court granted Urban's motion for summary judgment, finding that Dollar General had not complied with the relevant FMLA regulations regarding Urban's right to cure deficiencies in the medical documentation she submitted supporting her request for leave. Dollar General timely filed the instant appeal. For the reasons discussed below, we REVERSE the district court's granting of summary judgment and RENDER judgment in favor of Dollar General.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Urban began working for Dollar General in May 2001 in Abilene, Texas. In May 2002, Urban, then an assistant store manager in Dollar General's Anson, Texas, store, found it necessary to have bilateral carpal tunnel surgery. The surgery was scheduled to take place on May 28 and May 30, 2002. Sometime before May 28, 2002, Urban informed Dollar General that, because of her upcoming surgery, she was requesting a medical leave of absence pursuant to the FMLA. Urban requested leave that would begin on June 1, 2002, and last through August 24, 2002.

Dollar General informed Urban on or about June 4, 2002, that it was tentatively designating her requested leave of absence as FMLA-qualifying. Urban was notified by Dollar General that it would be necessary for her to produce medical certification from her physician to approve the leave under the FMLA. Dollar General informed Urban that the deadline to return the medical certification form was June 24, 2002. Urban requested from Dollar General, and was granted, a 15-day extension of time within which to return the completed medical certification form, pushing back the deadline to July 9, 2002. Dollar General did not receive Urban's medical certification by July 9, 2002. By letters of July 19 and July 22, 2002, Dollar General advised Urban that her employment was terminated because her 30 days of non-FMLA medical leave provided by company policy had already expired, and the company considered her absences unauthorized.

Urban filed suit in state court in September 2002, alleging that Dollar General terminated her employment in violation of the FMLA. Dollar General removed the action to federal court in October 2002, based upon the existence of a federal question. In June 2003, Urban filed a motion for summary judgment as to liability only, and Dollar General submitted a cross motion for summary judgment. The district court, in August 2003, granted Urban's partial motion for summary judgment, while denying Dollar General's motion.

Dollar General sought an order from the district court certifying for immediate appeal the issue of whether the relevant federal regulations require an employer to provide an employee the opportunity to cure a deficiency in an incomplete medical certification where the deficiency or incompleteness is, in fact, the failure to submit a medical certification in the first place. The district court granted Dollar General's motion, and this Court subsequently granted leave to appeal from the interlocutory order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court reviews grants of summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the district court. Tango Transp. v. Healthcare Fin. Servs. LLC, 322 F.3d 888, 890 (5th Cir. 2003). Summary judgment is appropriate if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter...

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