Figgins v. Advance America Cash Advance Centers, No. 05-10235.

CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan
Writing for the CourtLawson
Citation476 F.Supp.2d 675
PartiesSusan T. FIGGINS, Plaintiff, v. ADVANCE AMERICA CASH ADVANCE CENTERS OF MICHIGAN, INC. and Advance America Cash Advance Centers, Inc., Defendants.
Decision Date01 March 2007
Docket NumberNo. 05-10235.
476 F.Supp.2d 675
Susan T. FIGGINS, Plaintiff,
v.
ADVANCE AMERICA CASH ADVANCE CENTERS OF MICHIGAN, INC. and Advance America Cash Advance Centers, Inc., Defendants.
No. 05-10235.
United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division.
March 1, 2007.

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Glen N. Lenhoff, Robert D. Kent-Bryant, Law Office of Glen N. Lenhoff, Flint, MI, for Plaintiff.

James R. Mulroy, II, Lewis Fisher, Memphis, TN, Andrew J. Paluda, Bigler, Berry, Troy, MI, for Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

LAWSON, District Judge.


The plaintiff, Susan T. Figgins, worked as store manager for Advance America, a paycheck lending business, until she was fired following a medical leave taken because of her second pregnancy. The plaintiff has filed a five-count complaint alleging that the defendants were motivated to terminate her because she took FMLA leave, was pregnant, is overweight, and due to her age. The defendants moved for summary judgment, and the motion was argued before this Court on May 24, 2006. The Court now finds that the plaintiff has failed to offer evidence that creates a triable issue on her claim of age discrimination. There is evidence establishing a genuine factual dispute as to her other claims that preclude summary judgment. Therefore, the Court will grant in part and deny in part the defendants' motion for summary judgment.

I.

The defendants are in the business of making short-term loans to consumers that are intended to be repaid from the proceeds of the borrower's anticipated next paycheck. They have over 2,600 offices nationwide and several in Michigan.

Plaintiff Figgins was hired as the manager of the defendants' Lapeer, Michigan office on October 22, 2001. At that time, the plaintiff was 36 years old. She was 39 years old when her employment ended. She is five feet, four inches tall and weighed 218 pounds at the time the motion papers were submitted. She weighed 210 pounds during most of her employment, except when she was pregnant, when she weighed more. The defendants acknowledge that the plaintiff is overweight according to government guidelines.

As a result of her second pregnancy, Ms. Figgins reduced her work hours on her doctor's advice in April 2004, took a full-time leave of absence on August 9, 2004, gave birth on September 10, 2004, and was cleared by her doctor to return to work in November 2004. She says that during her pregnancy and before, a supervisor berated her because of her weight and criticized her for getting pregnant "at her age"; management erroneously told her she was not entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act; and the defendants wrongfully terminated her employment on November 8, 2004. The defendants maintain that no one discriminated against the plaintiff due to her weight, and they contend that they employ lots of overweight people. In fact, the defendants furnished a photo gallery of many of its employees, depicting people of all shapes and sizes. They also contend that the plaintiff cannot show that she was replaced by someone younger than she or that her second pregnancy played any role in her termination. Finally, they state that the plaintiff cannot show that she was fit to return to work before her FMLA leave expired, so she cannot maintain an interference or retaliation claim under that statute.

The defendants' chain of command is not altogether clear, but based on the motion papers it appears that each loan store is run by a manager, who is assisted by an assistant manager. A group of stores is supervised by an area manager, who is supervised by a district director of operations; above that position is the regional director of operations.

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Pamela Hazen was the plaintiff's area manager. The plaintiff testified that she and Ms. Hazen are "maybe the same" size. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Figgins Dep. at 104. Dennis Fischer is the regional director of operations. As a male, he is larger than the plaintiff and appears to be overweight. Donna Brewer was the plaintiffs assistant manager. Ms. Brewer weighs 180 pounds and is five feet, three inches tall.

The plaintiff had two pregnancies during her employment with the defendants, the first occurring in 2003. Beginning March 24, 2003, the plaintiff took 10 weeks of FMLA leave due to pregnancy. Both pregnancies were complicated by gestational diabetes. Prior to taking leave for the first pregnancy, the plaintiff took insulin shots and dieted to control the diabetes. She tested her blood at her desk and talked about her pregnancy and medical issues with her coworkers. During the plaintiffs absence at the time of the first pregnancy, Donna Brewer, the assistant manager, ran the Lapeer store. The plaintiff returned from FMLA leave on June 2, 2003, and she was returned to work as the store manager.

Prior to the plaintiffs first pregnancy, the plaintiffs divisional director of operations (DDO) was David Crispin. When she returned from maternity leave, Deborah LaBeff had become the DDO. Ms. LaBeff, who, the plaintiff claims, was the main source of all her employment troubles, was 42 years old at the time of the plaintiffs termination. However, the plaintiffs last performance evaluation was written by Ms. LaBeff right when the plaintiff returned from her first pregnancy leave, and it appears to be quite positive. Parts of the evaluation are difficult or impossible to read, but the plaintiff claims it contains the following statements:

• Produces thorough, accurate and consistent work product.

• Conscientious. Consistently on the job working effectively.

• Consistently works to foster positive relationships with customers and co-workers.

• A positive factor in team morale. Accepted, respected, cooperative and relates well to others.

• Very dependable employee.

Pl.'s Resp. Br. at 2; see also Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 4, Performance Evaluation.

After that evaluation, the plaintiff states that an incident occurred which soured the relationship between LaBeff and her. When Ms. LaBeff first became the DDO, she told the plaintiff to write the client's pay frequency (i.e., weekly, biweekly) on the client's file next to the client's name. Prior to this instruction, it had been the plaintiffs understanding that nothing was to be written on the file other than the client's name. The plaintiff asked Ms. LaBeff when the policy was changed, and LaBeff replied that a memo had been sent out. The plaintiff never received such a memo. Later, at a regional meeting, the plaintiff asked Nicole Tucker, whose job title is not stated, if she was supposed to be writing the pay frequency on the files. Ms. Tucker, "in front of all the managers," told the plaintiff not to write on the folders. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Figgins Dep. at 74. The plaintiff stated Ms. LaBeff s face turned "beet red" and "that [Ms. LaBeff] didn't really care too much for [the plaintiff] after that." Ibid.

The plaintiff stated LaBeff attempted to undermine her authority by making her look bad in front of her assistant manager and by ridiculing and teasing her. The plaintiff stated Ms. LaBeff called her "bonehead" and made a big deal out of errors she made. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Figgins Dep. at 77. The plaintiff stated Ms. LaBeff picked on her and made her "feel small." Ibid. The plaintiff feared

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Ms. LaBeff would terminate her "because of the threatening and intimidating" that she experienced. Id. at 147. The plaintiff failed to describe any specific instances of ridiculing, but when asked to characterize comments LaBeff made about her weight and health habits during her second pregnancy, recounted below, the plaintiff stated they were "criticizing," "ridiculing," and "aggressive." Id. at 83-84.

The plaintiff testified that Ms. LaBeff made comments about her weight from the beginning of her employment, even prior to her second pregnancy. Erica Starkey, a former area manager, stated in an affidavit that LaBeff made comments to her about the plaintiffs eating habits. In July 2003, LaBeff allegedly told Starkey that the plaintiff and her assistant manager, Ms. Brewer, "looked like [] they just walked out of a trailer." Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 5, Starkey Aff. at ¶ 15. In July or August 2003, Ms. Starkey reports that the plaintiff was getting a soda to drink, and Ms. LaBeff stated, "Did you make sure that you got diet pop?" Id. at ¶ 11. Ms. Starkey reports that Ms. LaBeff, at a Chinese restaurant in November 2003, stated, "Didn't she have enough to eat?" about the plaintiff. Id. at ¶ 10.

The plaintiffs second pregnancy began in January 2004. The plaintiff stated Ms. LaBeff seemed unhappy about the pregnancy and commented, "at your age you're pregnant. Don't you know what causes that ... With your weight and your age being pregnant, you're going to end up being off work all the time." Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Figgins Dep. at 77. The plaintiff stated Ms. LaBeff often commented that the pregnancy would cause excessive absences and told the plaintiff, "you should watch what you're eating" at least twelve times. Pl.'s Resp. Ex. 9, Figgins Dep. at 172. The plaintiff stated that LaBeff gave her unsolicited advice regarding her diet, advising her to drink less soda, eat less candy, eat more salads, eat fewer fattening foods, and drink more water. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1, Figgins Dep. at 84. At a managers meeting, where candy is usually available, Ms. LaBeff told the managers, "we can't have candies on the table because of Sue [the plaintiff]." Ibid.

The plaintiff said that LaBeff continued to make comments to Ms. Starkey about the plaintiffs weight, age, and the problems her pregnancy would cause. In January or February 2004, the plaintiff, LaBeff, and Starkey had dinner at a Red Lobster restaurant. Ms. Starkey reports in her affidavit that Ms. LaBeff made comments about Ms. Figgins' meal....

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  • Ward v. Sevier Cnty. Gov't, No. 3:18-CV-113
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
    • February 24, 2020
    ...of disparaging comments by decision-makers about the plaintiff's pregnancy, Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. Of Mich., Inc. , 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 688 (E.D. Mich. 2007). Here, Defendant was aware of Plaintiff's pregnancy by July 1, 2015, at the latest, but did not fire Plaintiff un......
  • Ashby v. Amscan, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:15-CV-00643-GNS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • March 8, 2017
    ...record indicating that she could not have returned to four days earlier. See Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. of Mich., Inc., 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 694 (E.D. Mich. 2007) ("There is no testimony from herPage 21 physicians, apparently because their depositions were not taken. Had the ......
  • Kubik v. Cent. Mich. Univ. Bd. of Trs., No. 16-2783
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • November 30, 2017
    ...For example, other evidence can come in the form of comments, see, e.g., Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Centers of Mich., Inc., 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 691-92 (E.D. Mich. 2007), or "comparison to 'another employee who is similarly situated,'" Latowski v. Northwoods Nursing Ctr., 549 F. Ap......
  • Canfield v. Robert Meyer, Jr. & Four Seasons Ford Lincoln Mercury of Cadillac, Inc., Case No. 1:12-cv-162
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • September 18, 2014
    ...slurs by a decisionmaker constitute direct evidence of discrimination. Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. of Mich., Inc., 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 686 (E.D. Mich. 2007). Defendants' argument that the alleged sexual comments lack temporal proximity with Plaintiff's termination is without ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Ward v. Sevier Cnty. Gov't, No. 3:18-CV-113
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
    • February 24, 2020
    ...of disparaging comments by decision-makers about the plaintiff's pregnancy, Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. Of Mich., Inc. , 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 688 (E.D. Mich. 2007). Here, Defendant was aware of Plaintiff's pregnancy by July 1, 2015, at the latest, but did not fire Plaintiff un......
  • Ashby v. Amscan, Inc., CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:15-CV-00643-GNS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of Kentucky
    • March 8, 2017
    ...record indicating that she could not have returned to four days earlier. See Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. of Mich., Inc., 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 694 (E.D. Mich. 2007) ("There is no testimony from herPage 21 physicians, apparently because their depositions were not taken. Had the ......
  • Kubik v. Cent. Mich. Univ. Bd. of Trs., No. 16-2783
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (6th Circuit)
    • November 30, 2017
    ...For example, other evidence can come in the form of comments, see, e.g., Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Centers of Mich., Inc., 476 F. Supp. 2d 675, 691-92 (E.D. Mich. 2007), or "comparison to 'another employee who is similarly situated,'" Latowski v. Northwoods Nursing Ctr., 549 F. Ap......
  • Twa v. Mercy Health Partners, 1:19-cv-1049
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • August 20, 2021
    ...“that the plaintiff was pregnant or had the capacity to become pregnant.” Figgins v. Advance Am. Cash Advance Ctrs. of Mich., Inc., 476 F.Supp.2d 675, 690 (E.D. Mich. 2007) (citing Prebilich-Holland, 297 F.3d at 444). Mercy Health points out that there is no evidence that Grego knew of Twa'......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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