782 F.3d 955 (8th Cir. 2015), 13-3743, Dalton v. ManorCare of West Des Moines IA, LLC
|Citation:||782 F.3d 955|
|Opinion Judge:||LOKEN, Circuit Judge.|
|Party Name:||Lucinda Dalton, Plaintiff - Appellant v. ManorCare of West Des Moines IA, LLC, et al., Defendants - Appellees|
|Attorney:||For Lucinda Dalton, Plaintiff - Appellant: Melissa Hasso, Mark D. Sherinian, SHERINIAN & WALKER, West Des Moines, IA. For Manor Care, of West Des Moines, IA, LLC, ManorCare Health Services, LLC, HCR ManorCare, Inc., Heartland Employment Services LLC, Holly Benedict, Dean Hagen, Scott Keefer, Defe...|
|Judge Panel:||Before LOKEN, BYE, and SMITH, Circuit Judges.|
|Case Date:||April 07, 2015|
|Court:||United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit|
Nurse Dalton was terminated from her supervisory position at the ManorCare skilled nursing facility. Dalton alleged interference with her statutory rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. 2601, and discrimination based on her Chronic Kidney Disease disability in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Iowa Code Ch. 216, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C.... (see full summary)
Submitted December 9, 2014
Appeal from United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa - Des Moines.
Nurse Lucinda Dalton was terminated from her supervisory position as Director of Care Delivery (DCD) at the ManorCare of West Des Moines skilled nursing facility. Dalton brought this action against ManorCare, various ManorCare affiliates, and three ManorCare managers (collectively, ManorCare), alleging they interfered with her statutory rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § § 2601 et seq., and discriminated against her because of her Chronic Kidney Disease disability in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act, Iowa Code Ch. 216, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § § 12101 et seq. Defendants removed the suit to federal court. After extensive discovery, the district court1 granted defendants summary judgment, dismissing all claims. Dalton appeals the dismissal of her FMLA claims, arguing that Manor Care wrongfully interfered with her FMLA rights by terminating her during an FMLA-protected absence. Reviewing the district court's decision de novo, we affirm. See
Phillips v. Mathews, 547 F.3d 905, 909 (8th Cir. 2008) (standard of review).
Dalton served as a ManorCare nurse from May to July of 2009. Rehired in March 2010, she was promoted to DCD in September. That summer and fall, Dalton began experiencing significant weight gain and edema (excess fluid that makes tissues appear doughy). Her primary health care provider, Karen Heffernan, P.A., discontinued a high blood pressure medication, suspecting Dalton's edema was a side effect. This did not resolve the problems. In late December, Dalton had gained fourteen pounds and had pitting edema; Heffernan prescribed a fluid retention medication, noting Dalton expressed concern about kidney failure but her kidney functions had been normal in October. At a December 29 appointment, Heffernan noted concern that Dalton had not lost weight and sent her to Penn Avenue Internal Medicine in early January 2011 for a chest x-ray and for testing of her kidney functions and thyroid. The examining physician noted " weight gain of 15 pounds and edema, uncertain etiology," shortness of breath, and a history of mild persistent asthma. Dalton's chest x-ray was normal. He referred Dalton to a kidney specialist, Robert Leisy, D.O., for an evaluation of her edema and excess fluids.
Dalton saw Dr. Leisy on January 25, 2011. He diagnosed Stage One Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), " secondary to obesity," not edema,2 and referred Dalton to Iowa Radiology for renal3 testing. On February 4, it reported no abnormal kidney function. To treat Dalton's persistent edema, Dr. Leisy replaced the fluid retention medications prescribed by Heffernan because of a possible allergy. Dalton came to a follow-up appointment with Dr. Leisy on February 15. He noted modest improvement in her edema (a five pound weight loss) and no " renal etiology." In a deposition, Dr. Leisy testified that, on this second visit, he did not identify the cause of Dalton's edema. He described a number of possible causes and noted the possibility that no organ would ever be identified as causing the condition. He associated Dalton's Stage One CKD with obesity.
In early 2011, ManorCare nurses that Dalton supervised complained about her job performance to Dalton's supervisor, Holly Benedict. On February 21, Dalton met with Benedict and the facility's Human Resources Director, Memorea Schrader. They issued Dalton a Third/Final Written Warning for violating Major/Type B Work Rules. The Final Warning cited inappropriate negative comments about her work at the nurses' station, where patients could overhear; failure to notify staff members she had cancelled a meeting; and taking an extended lunch break and failing to attend patient care conferences. A Performance Improvement Plan accompanied the Final Warning, listing actions to correct the deficiencies and stating that Dalton and Benedict " will meet in one week to discuss progress." Dalton understood that any further
performance-related issue could result in termination.
At the February 21 meeting, Dalton also was issued a First Written Warning reciting that she had arrived late, left early, or called in on ten different days between January 18 and February 18, 2011. For this Minor/Type C attendance issue, the employee handbook prescribed progressive disciplines that " normally require four stages" before termination. Dalton testified:
Q. Was there any discussion in that meeting at all...
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