503 F.3d 572 (6th Cir. 2007), 06-3036, Novak v. MetroHealth Medical Center

Docket Nº:06-3036.
Citation:503 F.3d 572
Party Name:Donna NOVAK, Plaintif-Appellant, v. METROHEALTH MEDICAL CENTER, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:September 28, 2007
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

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503 F.3d 572 (6th Cir. 2007)

Donna NOVAK, Plaintif-Appellant,



No. 06-3036.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

September 28, 2007

Argued: Nov. 1, 2006.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio at Cleveland. No. 04-02253-Ann Aldrich, District Judge.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Richard N. Selby, II, Dworken & Bernstein Co., Painesville, Ohio, for Appellant.

Jon M. Dileno, Zashin & Rich, Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.


Richard N. Selby, II, Dworken & Bernstein Co., Painesville, Ohio, for Appellant.

Jon M. Dileno, Zashin & Rich, Cleveland, Ohio, Mark V. Webber, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Cleveland, Ohio, for Appellee.

Before: MERRITT and BATCHELDER, Circuit Judges; HEYBURN, Chief District Judge.[*]



Plaintiff Donna Novak ("Novak") appeals the district court's grant of summary

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judgment in favor of Defendant MetroHealth Medical Center ("MetroHealth") on her employment claims brought under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.Novak argues that MetroHealth illegally denied her request for FMLA leave, claiming that she was entitled to FMLA leave because her back injury amounted to a serious health condition under the Act, and alternatively, that she was entitled to FMLA leave to care for her adult child who was suffering from postpartum depression. Because we conclude that these claims are not meritorious, we AFFIRM the district court's grant of summary judgment on Novak's claim of FMLA interference. But because we conclude that the district court should have remanded, rather than dismissed, Novak's state law claims, we VACATE and REMAND those claims to the district court with instructions to remand them to the state court from which they were removed.

I. Background

Novak worked as a financial counselor for MetroHealth. For all relevant periods of her employment, MetroHealth maintained a no-fault attendance policy that assigned points to employees based on the employee's number of hours of unexcused absence. Approved absences such as FMLA leave were not included in the point total. MetroHealth calculated points on a rolling 12-month time period, and the attendance policy mandated progressive discipline, culminating in discharge when an employee accrued 112 points during a 12-month period.

Novak was terminated after she accrued 124 points between April 16, 2003 and April 16, 2004. The final absences resulting in her discharged occurred in late March 2004. During that period, Novak—pursuant to company policy—called Metro Health each day she was absent to provide an explanation. On March 22, she reported that her daughter was having a baby. On March 23, Novak arrived late to work without providing an explanation. On March 24, she stated that she could not work because of "back pain." Similarly, on March 25, she reported that her "back was out." On Saturday March 27, Novak emailed her supervisor, explaining:

I will need to be off on a[n] emergency [l]eave from Monday 3/29/04 till Thursday 4/1/04. My daughter is suffering from Post Partum [sic] Depression, and her son my grandchild who is only 5 days old has been readmitted to Metro[H]ealth and both are in need of my help and expertise NOW. I myself am not doing well[;] I have been having back problems again. I apologize for any inconviences [sic] this may cause.

Novak called on May 29, alleging that she was "sick," and on March 30 and 31, claiming that her daughter and grandson were ill.

Realizing that she had exceeded 112 points under MetroHealth's attendance policy, Novak sought FMLA leave for her March 2004 absences and on March 30, 2004, she visited Dr. Ashok Patil ("Dr. Patil") regarding her lower back injury.1 Prior to this time, she had been treated by Dr. Monica Wloszek ("Dr. Wloszek"), who was her physician of record with MetroHealth. Novak claims that MetroHealth's Manager Janet Whitney ("Whitney") told her that the FMLA certification form must be completed by the physician of record, Dr. Wloszek, rather than by Dr. Patil; however, Novak's deposition testimony and

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affidavit are entirely unclear regarding if or when Whitney told her that Dr. Wloszek must complete the form.

In early April 2004, Novak sent an FMLA certification form to Dr. Wloszek's office. Dr. Wloszek filled out the form and faxed it to MetroHealth, but because Dr. Wloszek had not examined Novak since October 2003, she omitted required information, such as a description of the medical facts and the likely duration of Novak's condition. After learning that the certification was incomplete, Novak contacted Dr. Wloszek's assistant, Erika Boda, and insisted that she complete the remainder of the form and fax it to MetroHealth. Novak told Boda what to write in the empty spaces, and Boda complied with Novak's requests without obtaining Dr. Wloszek's permission. This was the second FMLA certification form submitted by Dr. Wloszek.

On April 9, 2004, MetroHealth held a "pre-discharge" meeting with Novak and her union representative to discuss whether her March 2004 absences qualified under the FMLA. Because MetroHealth questioned the authenticity of Dr. Wloszek's certification forms, it asked Novak to execute a release authorizing MetroHealth to contact Dr. Wloszek, and Novak complied with the request. After a brief discussion between the parties, MetroHealth decided to suspend the meeting until April 16, allowing Novak another week to submit additional certification forms. Whitney then contacted Dr. Wloszek to authenticate the previously submitted certification forms. Dr. Wloszek informed Whitney that she had not treated Novak since October 2003, lacked personal knowledge of Novak's March 2004 back problems, and did not complete the entire certification form.

A few days later, on April 12, Novak asked Dr. Wloszek to submit another certification form. Novak updated Dr. Wloszek on her condition, specifically recounting what Dr. Patil had told her during her March 30 examination, and Dr. Wloszek completed the form based on this secondhand information. This was the third certification form submitted by Dr. Wloszek. The next day Dr. Wloszek contacted Whitney to inform her that Novak had provided the secondhand information used to complete the third certification form.

During the suspension of the "pre-discharge" meeting, Novak submitted additional certification forms. One of these forms, completed by Dr. Dianne Schubeck, stated that Novak's eighteen-year-old daughter, Victoria Novak ("Victoria"), had given birth on March 22, 2004, suffered from postpartum depression, and was unable to care for her newborn child, Rafael. Dr. Schubeck also noted that Victoria's condition would last for a one-week period, and Novak needed to assist Victoria in caring for Rafael during this time. Novak also submitted a certification form completed by Dr. Mary Massie-Story, stating that Rafael was sick and Novak needed to assist with his care.

When MetroHealth reconvened its "pre-discharge" meeting on April 16, 2004, it determined that Novak's March 2004 absences did not qualify for FMLA leave and noted that she had provided "contradictory information" that did not qualify for leave under any policy. Because Novak's absences were not authorized under the FMLA, she was assessed points for all the missed work hours, and because the points now totaled 124, MetroHealth terminated her under the attendance policy.

On August 6, 2004, Novak filed suit against MetroHealth in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas alleging three counts of employment discrimination under Ohio law. Shortly thereafter, Novak amended her complaint, adding federal FMLA claims, and MetroHealth removed

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the case to federal court. The amended complaint alleged race discrimination under Ohio law, workers' compensation retaliation under Ohio law, FMLA interference, and FMLA retaliation. MetroHealth moved for summary judgment on all Novak's claims, and the district court granted the motion. Finding no basis for Novak's FMLA claims, the court dismissed them with prejudice, and the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims, dismissing them without prejudice. Novak filed a timely notice of appeal.

II. Analysis

On appeal Novak raises two arguments. First, she contends that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to MetroHealth on her claim of FMLA interference. Second, she challenges the district court's dismissal of her state law claims, arguing that the court should have remanded those claims to state court.2

A. FMLA Interference Claim

Novak argues that the district court erred by granting summary judgment on her FMLA interference claim. We review de novo a district court's grant of summary judgment, using the same standard applied by the district court. Williams v. Mehra, 186 F.3d 685, 689 (6th Cir. 1999) (en banc). Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, we view the evidence, all facts, and any inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). "To withstand summary judgment, the non-movant must show sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact." Prebilich-Holland v. Gaylord Entm't Co., 297 F.3d 438, 442 (6th Cir. 2002) (citing Klepper v. First Am. Bank, 916 F.2d 337, 342 (6th Cir. 1990)). A mere scintilla of evidence is insufficient; "there must be evidence...

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