Morr v. Kamco Industries, Inc., Case No. 3:07CV2046.

Decision Date15 April 2008
Docket NumberCase No. 3:07CV2046.
Citation548 F.Supp.2d 472
PartiesSarah MORR, Plaintiff, v. KAMCO INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio

Timothy C. Holtsberry, Defiance, OH, for Plaintiff.

Chris J. North, Alicia M. Chiu, Vorys, Sater, Seymour & Pease, Columbus, OH, for Defendant.


JAMES G. CARR, Chief Judge.

This case primarily involves application of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a) et seq. (FMLA). The defendant, Kamco Industries, Inc. (Kamco), terminated the plaintiff, Sarah Morr, when she returned to work after taking maternity leave. Following her termination, Morr brought suit against Kamco, alleging violations of the FMLA; O.R.C. § 4112.02 (unlawful discriminatory practices) and O.A.C. § 4112-5-05 (sex discrimination); breach of contract; breach of implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing; wrongful discharge; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Pending are plaintiff's motions for summary judgment on the FMLA and discrimination claims [Docs. 12, 19] and defendant's cross motion for summary judgment on the FMLA claim and all state claims except intentional infliction of emotional distress [Doc. 22].

I deny plaintiffs motions and grant defendant's motion in its entirety. I also sua sponte dismiss plaintiffs intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.


Plaintiff Morr began working for Kamco, an injection molding supplier in West Unity, Ohio, at the end of January, 2002. At the time of her employment, Morr received a copy of Kamco's Associate Handbook, which contains Kamco's attendance policy. The policy explicitly provides that "if [an associate] is absent for two consecutive working days without notifying Kamco, [the associate] will be terminated as a voluntary quit." (Doc. 21-2 at 39.)

For an associate absent on an approved medical leave of absence, the attendance policy further provides that "[i]f the period of disability is extended past the date on the disability slip, [the associate] must notify the company daily within thirty (30) minutes of the start of [the associate's] shift or attendance points will accumulate ..." (Id.) Furthermore, "a new disability slip must be submitted within five (5) working days from the expiration of the previous disability slip." (Id.)

During her tenure at Kamco, Morr received promotions, moving up from a press operator, to a line leader, to a 3P Facilitator. She remained in the latter position until Kamco fired her on May 15, 2007.

Morr's termination related to her leave pursuant to the FMLA. After becoming pregnant, Morr took occasional FMLA leave time to attend medical appointments. During the week of February 12, 2007, Morr contacted Karen Beck, Human Resource Director for Kamco concerning her impending maternity leave. As a result of that meeting, on February 19, 2007, Kamco granted Morr a week of vacation. On February 23. 2007, while on vacation, Morr had an appointment with her physician and received a doctor's slip diagnosing her with pregnancy and gestational edema and identifying her as totally disabled from that date until "6 wks post partum." (Id. at 40.) Morr then gave the doctor's slip, and a disability form indicating her "Estimated" return to work date as "6 wk post partum" and her "Expected" delivery date as "3/30/07," to Karen Beck. (Id. at 41-42.) Kamco granted Family and Medical Leave beginning on February 26, 2007.

Morr delivered her baby on March 26, 2007. After giving birth she continued her leave under the FMLA. Morr returned to her treating physician for her after-delivery follow-up appointment on Thursday, May 10, 2007, at which time the doctor cleared Morr to return to work on Monday, May 14, 2007, seven weeks after the birth of her child.

When Morr returned to work on May 14 she had taken FMLA leave for 57 workdays—three fewer than the twelve total workweeks allowed by the Act. On May 15, 2007—Morr's second day back—she met with Beck and Plant Manager Allan Benien. Beck and Benien informed Morr that Kamco had expected her to return to work on May 7, six weeks after giving birth. As such, Kamco applied attendance points for each day Morr failed to report to work or notify management of her absence from May 7 through May 11, 2007. These absences led Kamco, in accordance with its attendance policy, to terminate Morr as a voluntary quit.

In June, 2007 Morr filed suit in Williams County, Ohio, Court of Common Pleas. Kamco removed the case to this court. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367.

1. Motion for Summary Judgment

Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The moving party must inform 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, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d-265 (1986) (quoting Fed. R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the district court "must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving" party. Hugh v. Butler County Family YMCA, 418 F.3d 265, 267 (3d Cir.2005); Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Servs., Inc., 504 U.S. 451, 456, 112 S.Ct. 2072, 119 L.Ed.2d 265 (1992). The party moving for summary judgement bears the initial burden of pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, but need not support its motion with "affidavits or other similar material negating the opponent's claim." Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (emphasis in original). Once the moving party has made this showing "the nonmoving party must `designate' specific facts showing there is a genuine issue for trial." Vitt v. City of Cincinnati 250 F.Supp.2d 885, 889 (S.D.Ohio 2002) (citing Celotex, supra, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548).

Furthermore, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in original). A "material" fact is one that "would have [the] effect of establishing or refuting one of [the] essential elements of a cause of action or defense asserted by the parties, and would necessarily affect [the] application of [an] appropriate principle of law to the rights and obligations of the parties." Kendall v. Hoover Co., 751 F.2d 171, 174 (6th Cir. 1984); see also Anderson, supra, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

The standard of review for cross-motions for summary judgment does not differ from the standard when one party files such a motion. Taft Broad, Co. v. U.S., 929 F.2d 240, 248 (6th Cir.1991). "[T]hat both parties have moved for summary judgment does not mean that the court must grant summary judgment as a matter of law for one side or the other." Kennedy v. City of Zanesville, 505 F.Supp.2d 456, 477 (S.D.Ohio 2007). The court must evaluate each motion on its merits. Id.

2. The Family Medical Leave Act
A. Interference Claim

The FMLA entitles qualified employees working for covered employers to take temporary leave for medical reasons. 29 U.S.C. § 2612. The statute specifically includes an allowance of twelve weeks leave during any twelve month period "because of the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter" or "because of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position." 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). Congress enacted the law, in part, "to entitle employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, and for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition." 29 U.S.C. § 2601(b)(2).

According to the FMLA, an employee seeking foreseeable leave "based on an expected birth ... shall provide the employer with not less than 30 days' notice, before the date the leave is to begin, of the employee's intention to take leave." 29 U.S.C. § 2612(e)(1).1 The statute also makes clear that once the employee is on leave, the law does not prohibit the employer from "requiring an employee ... to report periodically to the employer on the status and intention of the employee to return to work." 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(5).

When the employee returns to work after taking FMLA authorized leave, he or she shall "be restored by the employer to the position" the employee held before taking leave, or an "equivalent position." 29 U.S.C, § 2614(a)(1). It is unlawful for an employer "to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise" these rights on behalf of a qualified employee, 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1), and any employer who does so is liable to such employee. 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(1).

To establish an FMLA interference claim, a plaintiff must show that: 1) he or she was eligible for the FMLA's protections; 2) the employer was covered by the FMLA; 3) he or she was entitled to leave under the FMLA; 1) he or she provided sufficient notice of her intent to take leave; and 5) the employer denied the plaintiff an FMLA benefit to which the plaintiff was entitled. See, e.g., Cavin v. Honda of Am. Mfg., Inc., 346 F.3d 713. 719 (6th Cir.2003).

The parties do not dispute that Kamco is a covered employer and that Morr was eligible for the FMLA's protections. The parties even agree that the FMLA...

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