Andrews v. CSX Transp., Inc.

Decision Date02 August 2010
Docket NumberCase No. 3:06-cv-704-J-32TEM
Citation737 F.Supp.2d 1342
PartiesMichael ANDREWS, etc., et al., Plaintiffs, v. CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC., et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida

Bridget Ferris, Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA, Erik William Berger, Law Office of Erik W. Berger, Jacksonville, FL, Gregory G. Paul, Morgan & Paul, PLLC, Sewickley, PA, for Plaintiffs.

Ami N. Wynne, James S. Whitehead, Sidley Austin, LLP, Chicago, IL, Charles M. Trippe, Jr., Stanley Maurice Weston, Moseley, Prichard, Parrish, Knight & Jones, Jacksonville, FL, for Defendants.

ORDER

TIMOTHY J. CORRIGAN, District Judge.

Plaintiffs in this consolidated action bring claims under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (Doc. 50.) 1 The Court considers the following motions for summary judgment filed by defendants (Docs. 129, 135, 139, 143, 145, 151), plaintiffs' responses (Docs. 173, 174, 175, 176, 178, 179) and the exhibits filed by the parties; Defendants' Motion For Sanctions (Doc. 186) and plaintiff's response (Doc. 187); and filings related to settlements of pending claims.(Docs. 126, 165, 166, 180, 181, 182, 183, 184, 185, S-18, S-19.)

This Order is a continuation of an earlier Order disposing of motions for summary judgment as to other plaintiffs' claims in this case. (Doc. 188.) The legal precepts set forth in that previous summary judgment Order are incorporated into this Order and are not repeated here.

I. Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Plaintiffs' complaint fails to differentiate among defendants CSXT, CSXI and CSXC. However, CSXT, CSXI, and CSXC are separate corporate entities within the CSX family of companies. (Doc. 84-1 at 5 (Mateer Decl. ¶ 13).) At times material, "final decisions regarding FMLA eligibility and other FMLA matters with respect to a particular employee are made by the CSX entity that employs the employee." ( Id.; see also Doc. 83-2 at 17 (Dove Decl. ¶ 48).) The corporate entities that are not the direct employer of each individual plaintiff are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Wascura v. Carver, 169 F.3d 683, 685 (11th Cir.1999) ("where a defendant in an FMLA suit does not meet the statutory definition of 'employer,' there is no federal subject matter jurisdiction over the claim against that defendant"); 29 U.S.C. § 2611(4); see also (Doc. 188 at 6-7). Plaintiffs' claims against the corporate entities that are not their employer are due to be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

II. Resolved Claims
A. Settled Claims

The Court has been informed that the claims brought by plaintiffs Juliet Christie, Harold Fisher, Rodney Puckett, and Lettie McClain have been settled. (Docs. S-18, S-19.) The Court will direct the parties to file papers to close out these claims.

B. Stipulations For Dismissal

Before the Court are three Stipulations For Dismissal Pursuant To F.R.C.P. 41(a) with prejudice as to the claims brought in Complaint "A" by plaintiffs James Adams, Anita Humphrey (in Count I) and Charisse Bell. (Docs. 126, 165, 166.) Defendants consent to these dismissals. (Doc. S-18.) Accordingly, these claims are due to be dismissed with prejudice.

C. Motions For Dismissal

Plaintiffs have filed three Motions For Dismissal Pursuant To F.R.C.P. 41(a)(2) seeking to dismiss with prejudice the claims brought in Complaint "A" by plaintiffs Tammy Howard, Jennifer Saul and Tracey Thompson. (Docs. 180, 181, 182.) Defendants have filed responses to the motions, saying that they do not object to the dismissal of plaintiffs' claims with prejudice, but contending that the Court's dismissal order should require each plaintiff to pay defendants' costs pursuant to Rule 54(d)(1), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Docs. 183, 184, 185.)

A voluntary dismissal of a claim with prejudice operates as an adjudication on the merits in favor of defendant, and the defendant is considered the prevailing party. Mathews v. Crosby, 480 F.3d 1265, 1276 (11th Cir.2007); Hunt v. Hawthorne Assocs., Inc., 119 F.3d 888, 911 n. 63 (11th Cir.1997); see also Gibson v. Walgreen Co., No. 6:07-cv-1053-Orl-28KRS, 2008 WL 4610239, at *2 (M.D.Fla. Oct. 16, 2008). Rule 54(d)(1) provides that "[u]nless a federal statute, these rules, or a court order provides otherwise, costs—other than attorney's fees—should be allowed to the prevailing party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(d)(1). "Under Rule 54(d), there is a strong presumption that the prevailing party will be awarded costs." Mathews, 480 F.3d at 1276. These claims are due to be dismissed with prejudice, and defendants are awarded costs for these threeclaims, as contemplated by 28 U.S.C. § 1920. See id.

D. Defendants' Motion For Sanctions

The Court defers ruling on Defendants' Motion For Sanctions (Doc. 186) and will hear argument of counsel at a hearing to be scheduled.

III. Defendants' Motions For Summary Judgment On Plaintiffs' Claims 2
A. Michael Andrews (Count I: "Discipline/Termination Under Absenteeism Policy")
1. Facts

Plaintiff Michael Andrews alleges that "CSX" violated his rights under the FMLA when it terminated him for excessive absenteeism because, he alleges, "six of the nine attendance failures that plaintiff Andrews was charged with were due to a serious medical condition" and "defendants, CSX, never informed plaintiff Andrews that these absences could be certified under the FMLA, until after he was charged with excessive attendance failures." (Doc. 50 (2d Am. Compl. ("Compl.") ¶¶ 28, 29).) Andrews alleges that he had informed his employer of his serious medical condition and that the "defendants, CSX, failed in its duty under FMLA to inform plaintiff of his eligibility for FMLA" in violation of 29 C.F.R. § 825.208(a) and (b)(1), which then "allow[ed] him to be subject to the absenteeism policy, and leading to his termination." ( Id. ¶¶ 31, 35, 36.)

Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment because 1) attendance failures charged to Andrews were not covered by the FMLA; 2) Andrews did not put CSXI on notice of his alleged FMLA-qualifying reasons for his absences nor request FMLA leave for his absences; and 3) CSXI fulfilled its employer-notice obligations under the FMLA. (Doc. 129 at 2.)

Andrews worked for CSXI from April 1, 1999 through February 23, 2006 when he was terminated for excessive absenteeism. (Doc. 130-1 at 4, 5 (Andrews Dep. at 10, 20).) 3 Early in his employment with CSXI, Andrews was disciplined for excessive absenteeism. The discipline is documented in letters to Andrews from the CSXI director of administration dated December 8 and 9, 1999, which state that Andrews was absent a total of 13 days between June 8, 1999 and December 7, 1999. Andrews accepted responsibility, waived a hearing under his collective bargaining agreement, and was placed on probation for a six month period. Andrews was again disciplined for excessive absenteeism ("attendance failures") on May 3, 2004 (20-day suspension) and January 27, 2005 (5-day suspension). (Doc. 130-1 at 54 (Andrews Dep. Ex. 1).) 4 The final 2005 discipline resulting in termination of employment marked the fourth time that Andrews was disciplined for excessive absenteeism. Throughout his employment,Andrews had "marked-off" "sick" due to arthritis in his wrist, "back pain, flu, heart trouble, toothache, bronchitis, anxiety, mental problems, and a spider bite." (Doc. 129 at 5 (citing (Doc. 130-1 at 16, 22, 29-32, 42 (Andrews Dep. at 34, 49, 66, 75-77, 107)); Doc. S-5.))

Andrews testified at the investigative hearing that when he notified his employer CSXI of his absences in 2005, "I would just call them up and tell them I'm ... having to mark off and I hate to but I'm sick." (Doc. 130-2 at 66 (Andrews Ex. 15).) Andrews said that he informed his supervisors of his illnesses upon his return to work and provided the required doctors' notes. All but one of the doctors' notes provided by Andrews failed to specify Andrews' medical condition, and all of the notes stated that Andrews was fit to perform his job duties. (Doc. 130-1 at 23, 30-33 (Andrews Dep. at 52, 75-78); S-5 (Andrews Dep. Ex. 14).) 5 Andrews' supervisor, CSXI operations manager John Featherston, testified that he was not aware of a medical condition that would have qualified Andrews for FMLA benefits; "that is not information that is something he has provided unless he voluntarily comes forth, and without that information I have no way of recommending FMLA." (Doc. 130-2 at 39 (Andrews Dep. Ex. 15).)

It is undisputed that Andrews was absent or late the following dates and stated reasons:

7/28/05-8/1/05 marked off 3 days: sick
8/22/05 marked off 1 day: other-family emergency
9/13/05 marked off one day: sick
9/14/05 45 minutes late to work; doctor appointment
9/27/05 marked of 1 day: other-car trouble
11/30/05-12/2/05 marked off 3 days; sick
12/6/05 1 hour 20 minutes late to work
12/7/05-12/9/05 marked off sick during shift (paid time worked 12/7)
12/29/05-12/30/05 marked off sick

totaling fifteen days of missed work and constituting nine "attendance failures." (Doc. 130-3 at 13, 73 (Andrews Dep. Exs. 15, 19); Doc. 129 at 6.) 6

On January 3, 2006, Featherston, in a letter to Andrews, charged Andrews with "excessive attendance failures," citing the absences between July 28 and December 30, 2005, which was "more than six attendance failures in the last six months." A hearing on the charges was scheduled for January 26, 2006. Andrews' employee union representative was also notified of the hearing. (Doc. 130-3 at 13-15 (Andrews Dep. Ex. 15).)

On January 4, 2006, the date Andrews signed acknowledgment of the discipline letter, Featherston told Andrews that if Andrews was suffering from an ongoing medical condition, "it might have been something that you could have explored in the past and gotten some of these to have been part of your FMLA, in which case it would not become a part of this attendance occurrence, and it's something that in the future you might want to consider if your condition falls...

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