Moss v. City of Abbeville, Civil Action No. 8:09-cv-01859-PBH

CourtUnited States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtR. BRYAN HARWELL
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 8:09-cv-01859-PBH
PartiesJimmy R. MOSS, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF ABBEVILLE, Defendant.
Decision Date15 July 2010
740 F.Supp.2d 738

Jimmy R. MOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ABBEVILLE, Defendant.


Civil Action No. 8:09-cv-01859-PBH.

United States District Court,
D. South Carolina,
Greenwood Division.


July 15, 2010.

740 F.Supp.2d 741

Nancy Bloodgood, Foster Law Firm, Charleston, SC, for Plaintiff.

740 F.Supp.2d 742

Charles F. Thompson, Jr., Michael D. Malone, Malone Thompson and Summers, Columbia, SC, for Defendant.

ORDER

R. BRYAN HARWELL, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is Defendant City of Abbeville's ("City") Objections to the Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of United States Magistrate Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks. This matter is before the Court upon the Plaintiff's Complaint, which alleges that the City terminated his employment for the exercise of his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") of 1993. He also alleges claims for breach of contract and promissory estoppel. In the R & R, the Magistrate Judge recommends granting the City summary judgment as to the breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims, but denying summary judgment as to the FMLA retaliation claim.

Procedural History and Factual Background

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 (D.S.C.), this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bruce Howe Hendricks for pretrial handling. On February 26, 2010, the City filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket # 26]. On March 15, 2010, the Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition. Subsequently, the City filed a Reply on March 22, 2010. The Magistrate Judge issued an R & R on June 10, 2010, in which she recommends that the Court grant the City's Motion for Summary Judgment as to the breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims, but deny summary judgment as to the FMLA retaliation claim. The City filed timely objections to the R & R challenging the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the Court deny it summary judgment on the Plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim. The Plaintiff has filed a Response to the City's objections.

The facts in this matter are undisputed. The Plaintiff was hired by the City in August 1979. He eventually became a lineman for the City, working on a utility crew and performing such tasks as repairing downed power lines. In 2007, the Plaintiff requested leave from his job with the City under the FMLA due to a planned hip replacement surgery. His leave began on September 25, 2007. His twelve weeks of FMLA leave, therefore, expired on December 18, 2007. On December 7, 2007, the Plaintiff requested that his leave be extended "another 14 weeks for recovery time." This request was granted by the City and was provided for in the City's "Extension of Leave Without Benefits" policy described in its employee handbook:

An employee who has been completely unable to perform the duties of his position due to his own disability and who has exhausted his entitlement to leave under the FMLA by taking 12 consecutive weeks of leave will, upon written application, be granted an additional 14 weeks of leave. This additional leave of absence does not entitle the employee to reinstatement or to payment of any portion of his health benefits plan premiums by the City.
Id. at 24. The Plaintiff's physician released him to return to work effective March 4, 2008. During the Plaintiff's absence, the City contends that it became apparent that the Plaintiff's contributions to the utility crew had been unhelpful and unsatisfactory. The City terminated the Plaintiff's employment on the day he returned to work, March 4, 2008.

Standard of Review

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the Court. The recommendation

740 F.Supp.2d 743
has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the Court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). The Court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the R & R to which specific objection is made, and the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

The Court is obligated to conduct a de novo review of every portion of the Magistrate Judge's report to which objections have been filed. Id. However, the Court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only general and conclusory objections that do not direct the Court to a specific error in the Magistrate Judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47-48 (4th Cir.1982). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge's conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir.2005).

Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment "should be rendered 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2)(2009). The movant has the burden of proving that summary judgment is appropriate. Once the movant makes the showing, however, the opposing party must respond to the motion with "specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

When no genuine issue of any material fact exists, summary judgment is appropriate. See Shealy v. Winston, 929 F.2d 1009, 1011 (4th Cir.1991). The facts and inferences to be drawn from the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. However, "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).

"[O]nce the moving party has met [its] burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with some evidence beyond the mere allegations contained in the pleadings to show that there is a genuine issue for trial." Baber v. Hospital Corp. of Am., 977 F.2d 872, 874-75 (4th Cir.1992). The nonmoving party may not rely on beliefs, conjecture, speculation, or conclusory allegations to defeat a motion for summary judgment. See id. Rather, the nonmoving party is required to submit evidence of specific facts by way of affidavits, depositions, interrogatories, or admissions to demonstrate the existence of a genuine and material factual issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

Discussion

The City objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that this Court deny the City summary judgment as to the Plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim. Under the FMLA, an employee is entitled to a total of twelve weeks of leave during any twelve-month period because of a "serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of such employee." 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D)(2006). Further, such employee has a right "to be restored by the employer to the position of employment held by the employee when the leave commenced" or "to an equivalent position."

740 F.Supp.2d 744
Id. § 2614(a)(1)(A)-(B). In addition to providing theses substantive rights to an employee, the FMLA also provides " proscriptive provisions that protect employees from discrimination or retaliation for exercising their substantive rights under the FMLA." Yashenko v. Harrah's NC Casino Co., 446 F.3d 541, 546 (4th Cir.2006). While the FMLA does not specifically forbid discharging an employee in retaliation for taking FMLA leave, 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c) states that employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees or prospective employees who have exercised FMLA leave and that "employers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions, or disciplinary actions." The Fourth Circuit has held that taking FMLA leave is a protected activity under the FMLA and recognizes a cause of action for retaliation where an employee alleges that he was discharged for taking FMLA leave. Yashenko, 446 F.3d at 546-51 ("Known as 'retaliation' or 'discrimination' claims, causes of action alleging violations of these proscriptive rights arise under 29 U.S.C.A. § 2615(a)(2), which states that '[i]t shall be unlawful for any employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice made unlawful by this subchapter.' "); see Blankenship v. Buchanan Gen. Hosp., 140 F.Supp.2d 668, 672 (W.D.Va.2001) (explaining that courts, including the Fourth Circuit, have interpreted § 825.220(c) as creating a cause of action for retaliation where an employee alleges that he was discharged for taking FMLA leave).

The Fourth Circuit analyzes a claim that an employer discharged an employee for taking leave permitted by the FMLA as a retaliation claim under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. Yashenko, 446 F.3d at 550-51 ("FMLA claims arising under the retaliation theory are analogous to those derived under Title VII and so are analyzed under the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas "). Accordingly, to succeed on his retaliation claim, the Plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of retaliation by showing that: (1) "he engaged in protected activity," (2) "the employer took adverse action against him," and (3) "the adverse action was causally connected to the [P]laintiff's protected activity." Cline v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 294, 301 (4th Cir.1998). The Plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of causality by showing close temporal proximity between the adverse employment decision and the protected activity. Williams v. Cerberonics, Inc., 871 F.2d 452, 457 (4th Cir.1989) (While evidence as to the closeness in time "far from conclusively establishes the requisite causal connection, it certainly...

To continue reading

Request your trial
17 practice notes
  • Hoelzer v. The Bd. of Governors of the Univ. of N.C., 1:20CV1072
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 31, 2022
    ...cause of action for retaliation where an employee alleges 25 that he was discharged for taking FMLA leave.” Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F.Supp.2d 738, 744 (D.S.C. 2010). Again, here, Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiff participated in a protected activity by taking FMLA leave. Nor d......
  • Jones v. Town of Spring Lake, No. 5:18-CV-385-D
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • August 10, 2020
    ...stated reasons for terminating Jones's employment. See Gerald Aff. ¶¶ 8-17. Moreover, Jones's reliance on Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F. Supp. 2d 738, 746 (D.S.C. 2010), is misplaced. The court in Moss discounted an employer's claim concerning an employee's poor performance because the e......
  • Khan v. UNC Health Care Sys., 1:20CV977
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • September 24, 2021
    ...a cause of action for retaliation where an employee alleges that he was discharged for taking FMLA leave.” Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F.Supp.2d 738, 744 (D.S.C. 2010). Here, Khan has alleged in his Complaint that he took FMLA leave with UNC Health's approval and that he was terminated w......
  • Boone v. Bd. of Governors of the Univ. of N.C., 1:17CV113
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 30, 2018
    ...connection sufficiently establishes a prima facie showing of causality" at the motion to dismiss stage); Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F. Supp. 2d 738, 745 (D.S.C. 2010) (stating that there was evidence of close temporal proximity where the plaintiff was terminated "the day he returned fro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • Hoelzer v. The Bd. of Governors of the Univ. of N.C., 1:20CV1072
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 31, 2022
    ...cause of action for retaliation where an employee alleges 25 that he was discharged for taking FMLA leave.” Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F.Supp.2d 738, 744 (D.S.C. 2010). Again, here, Defendants do not dispute that Plaintiff participated in a protected activity by taking FMLA leave. Nor d......
  • Jones v. Town of Spring Lake, No. 5:18-CV-385-D
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Eastern District of North Carolina
    • August 10, 2020
    ...stated reasons for terminating Jones's employment. See Gerald Aff. ¶¶ 8-17. Moreover, Jones's reliance on Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F. Supp. 2d 738, 746 (D.S.C. 2010), is misplaced. The court in Moss discounted an employer's claim concerning an employee's poor performance because the e......
  • Khan v. UNC Health Care Sys., 1:20CV977
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • September 24, 2021
    ...a cause of action for retaliation where an employee alleges that he was discharged for taking FMLA leave.” Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F.Supp.2d 738, 744 (D.S.C. 2010). Here, Khan has alleged in his Complaint that he took FMLA leave with UNC Health's approval and that he was terminated w......
  • Boone v. Bd. of Governors of the Univ. of N.C., 1:17CV113
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Middle District of North Carolina
    • March 30, 2018
    ...connection sufficiently establishes a prima facie showing of causality" at the motion to dismiss stage); Moss v. City of Abbeville, 740 F. Supp. 2d 738, 745 (D.S.C. 2010) (stating that there was evidence of close temporal proximity where the plaintiff was terminated "the day he returned fro......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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