Buel v. Toledo Hosp., Case No. 3:13-cv-00012

CourtUnited States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Ohio
Writing for the CourtJeffrey J. Helmick
PartiesDan Buel, Plaintiff v. The Toledo Hospital, Defendant
Docket NumberCase No. 3:13-cv-00012
Decision Date02 December 2013

Dan Buel, Plaintiff
The Toledo Hospital, Defendant

Case No. 3:13-cv-00012


Dated: December 2, 2013


This matter is before me on Defendant Toledo Hospital's motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 19). Also before me is Plaintiff's opposition (Doc. No. 22) and Defendant's reply (Doc. No. 23) thereto. This Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is granted.


The following facts are undisputed. Dan Buel was employed as a Flight Follower in ProMedica's Transportation Network, a division of The Toledo Hospital ("TTH"). Buel's employment began in December 2007. In his capacity as a Flight Fowler, Buel dispatched helicopters and ambulances, took incoming calls, scheduled transports, and would perform quality assurance of calls. He worked seven days every two weeks and his shift was from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.

Buel applied for and was granted his first intermittent leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act from April 23, 2010 through October 1, 2010. A second FLMA leave, which provided

Page 2

for a maximum of two days off per month, was granted from October 24, 2010 through April 24, 2011.

Contemporaneous with his employment, Buel was also a volunteer firefighter for the Swanton Fire Department. From time to time his volunteer position required him to respond to emergencies and those calls interfered with his job at TTH.

Buel's supervisor, Steven Steinmetz, met with him on September 19, 2011, to advise him that his FMLA time had expired. The next day, Buel visited his physician, Dr. Conlan, and obtained another FMLA certification form. Buel faxed the form to Linda Bennett, an administrative secretary, on October 5, 2011. Ms. Bennett then faxed the form to Cynthia Craven, the HR Service Coordinator on the same date. Ms. Craven's duties include processing FMLA leaves. She thought the form looked out of the ordinary "because it provided for up to 12 days off per month, which is a very high number, and because the "1" was at an odd angle." (Craven Aff. at ¶ 3).

Craven then conferred with Bernice Chisholm, RN, the HR Leave of Absence Specialist, who confirmed with Dr. Conlan's office that the frequency or number on the form approved by the physician was two times per month. (Chisholm Affid. at ¶ 4). Buel was approved for FMLA leave for two days per month and Craven "did not notify Mr. Buel's department at this time of any discrepancy in his paperwork." (Craven Aff. at ¶4).

In November 2011, Buel came to understand that his FMLA paperwork needed to be resubmitted as the first submission did not get to the right person. (Buel Dep. at 27-28). Buel again faxed the paperwork to Linda Bennett. (Id.)

On December 7, 2011, Craven learned that Buel may have exceeded his allotment of FMLA leave. (Craven Aff. at ¶ 5). The HR office then reconfirmed with Dr. Conlan that Buel was authorized for two days of FMLA leave but he had not been back to the doctor's office since

Page 3

September 20, 2011. (Chisolm Aff. at ¶ 6). In her affidavit, Linda Bennett averred that she believed Cynthia Craven advised her that Buel's paperwork "appeared to have been altered." (Bennett Aff. at ¶ 4). Bennett advised Steinmetz of this development. Steinmetz then requested copies of Buel's paperwork from Craven.

Steinmetz met with Buel on December 15, 2011, indicating there were issues with his FMLA paperwork. Additionally, Steinmetz requested copies of the original documentation provided by Dr. Conlan. (Steinmetz Aff. at ¶ 6). On January 6, 2011, Steinmetz inquired again about requested documentation. An email on this same issue was sent by Steinmetz to Buel on January 11, 2011. (Id at ¶ 10).

By mid-January 2012, Buel provided a copy of his FMLA paperwork to Steinmetz. (Buel Dep. at 35-37). Steinmetz then attempted to set up a meeting with Buel and Chad Premo, Steinmetz's superior. When questioned by Buel as to the purpose of the meeting, Buel was advised of concerns that the "documentation was altered." (Buel Deposition, Def s Exh. M). A meeting took place with Buel, Steinmetz, and Premo on February 16, 2012. At the meeting, Buel denied altering the documentation and was unable to offer an explanation as to how the alteration occurred. (Buel Dep. at 42-43). Buel acknowledges that he obtained the form from his physician and had sole control of the document until the time he faxed it to Bennett. (Id. at 43).

TTH terminated Buel's employment on February 24, 2012, for falsification of facility records.

In December, 2012, Buel initiated this lawsuit against TTH alleging disability discrimination under Ohio law, FMLA interference and retaliation, defamation, and a violation of the Ohio volunteer firefighter statute, Ohio Rev. Code § 4113.41(D). Following the completion of discovery, Defendant filed this motion for summary judgment on all claims.

Page 4


Summary judgment is appropriate where "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial responsibility of "informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The movant may meet this burden by demonstrating the absence of evidence supporting one or more essential elements of the non-movant's claim. Id. at 323-25. Once the movant meets this burden, the opposing party "must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986) (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)).

Once the burden of production has so shifted, the party opposing summary judgment cannot rest on its pleadings or merely reassert its previous allegations. It is not sufficient "simply [to] show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings" and present some type of evidentiary material in support of its position. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; see also Harris v. General Motors Corp., 201 F.3d 800, 802 (6th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment must be entered "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

"In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the facts and draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Williams v. Belknap, 154 F. Supp. 2d 1069, 1071 (E.D. Mich. 2001) (citing 60 Ivy Street Corp. v. Alexander, 822

Page 5

F.2d 1432, 1435 (6th Cir. 1987)). However, "'at the summary judgment stage the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter,'" Wiley v. U.S., 20 F.3d 222, 227 (6th Cir. 1994) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249); therefore, "[t]he Court is not required or permitted . . . to judge the evidence or make findings of fact." Williams, 154 F. Supp. 2d at 1071. The purpose of summary judgment "is not to resolve factual issues, but to determine if there are genuine issues of fact to be tried." Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. v. Am. Eagle Outfitters, Inc., 130 F. Supp. 2d 928, 930 (S.D. Ohio 1999). Ultimately, this Court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52; see also Atchley v. RK Co., 224 F.3d 537, 539 (6th Cir. 2000).


Interference Claim

In order to establish a prima facie case of interference under the FMLA, a plaintiff must establish the following:

(1)That []he was an eligible employee; (2) the defendant was an employer as defined under the FLMA; (3) the employee was entitled to leave under the FMLA; (4) the employee gave the employer notice of h[is] intention to take leave; and (5) the defendant denied the employee FMLA benefits to which []he was entitled.

Donald v. Sybra, Inc., 667 F.3d 757, 761 (6th Cir. 2012). A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing these elements by a preponderance of the evidence. Wysong v. Dow Chemical Co., 503 F.3d 441, 447 (6th Cir. 2007).

In this instance, there is no dispute the first four elements are present. The dispute centers over the fifth element and whether denial of FMLA benefits has been established. The Defendant

Page 6

argues the fifth element is not met because Buel cannot show he was entitled to leave under the FMLA. Plaintiff, in contrast, contends he was denied the leave to which he was entitled. I find the fifth element is not satisfied but for reasons different from those articulated by the Defendant.

Buel's request for intermittent FMLA leave was received by the Defendant on September 22, 2013. (Buel Dep., Def's Exh. F). On October 5, 2011, Defendant's HR department confirmed with the physician the certification for leave was for two times per month. (Id. at 3). On October 18, 2011, the Defendant's Leave of Absence—Employer Response Sheet stated, "Your Request for Leave of Absence (LOA) is Approved for the following time frame: 10/05/11 to 9/20/12." (Id. at Def's Exh. G). Defendant's reliance on Smith v. The Hope School, 2008 WL 1722194 (C.D. Ill. 2008), is distinguishable from the case at bar because the plaintiff in Smith was never approved for FMLA leave and denial of her leave request was based in part on her altered...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT