Washington v. Comcast Corp., 030708 FED6, 07-1178

Docket Nº:07-1178
Party Name:SUMMERDAWN D. WASHINGTON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. COMCAST CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:March 07, 2008
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

SUMMERDAWN D. WASHINGTON, Plaintiff-Appellant,


COMCAST CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 07-1178

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit

March 7, 2008



BEFORE: BOGGS, Chief Judge; BATCHELDER and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.

GRIFFIN, Circuit Judge.

Plaintiff Summerdawn Washington worked as a retention representative for Comcast Cablevision, a subsidiary of defendant Comcast Corporation ("Comcast"), until her termination on November 4, 2004. Following the loss of her job, Washington filed suit against Comcast, alleging breach of contract, promissory estoppel, violation of an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, negligent evaluation, violation of Michigan's Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act ("Persons With Disabilities Act"), Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 37.1101 et seq., violation of Michigan's Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act ("Employee Right to Know Act"), Mich. Comp. Laws §§ 423.501 et seq., and violation of section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1140. After Washington voluntarily dismissed her common law claims, the district court granted Comcast's motion for summary judgment on her remaining statutory claims raised under the Persons With Disabilities Act, the Employee Right to Know Act, and ERISA.

Washington now appeals the district court's order, solely as it concerns her ERISA claim.1Finding her claim devoid of merit, we affirm the district court.


Washington began working at Comcast's Macomb Call Center in Sterling Heights, Michigan, on June 10, 2002. When starting her employment with Comcast, Washington signed an "acknowledgment and receipt" form of Comcast's employee handbook, which provided that Washington, as all other Comcast employees, was hired on an "at will" basis. The handbook stated that an "absence of three (3) consecutive workdays without notice is considered job abandonment, and will be treated as a resignation from employment." It also contained a summary plan description ("SPD") of Comcast's Short Term Disability ("STD") plan. The STD provided that after 90 days of employment, employees are eligible for up to 26 weeks of STD benefits under Comcast's Employee Health and Welfare Benefits Plan. The STD also explained that an employee's "position cannot be guaranteed beyond twelve (12) weeks" from the start of the employee's disability and that STD coverage ends on the earliest of "the date the STD benefit is canceled, the date [the employee] is no longer eligible, the date [the employee 's] employment terminates, or the date [the employee] take[s] an unpaid personal leave of absence." (emphasis added). Both parties agree that the STD is governed by ERISA.

In June of 2004, Washington informed Comcast Human Resources Administrator Ron Andrews that she needed a leave of absence beginning June 19 to undergo gastric bypass surgery. At Andrews's direction, she contacted Broadspire, the third-party administrator Comcast uses to process and review employee applications for STD leave, and applied for STD leave and income benefits. Washington took off work beginning on June 19,2004, and underwent surgery on June 24, 2004. On August 9, Comcast's Human Resources Manager Rochelle Prestage sent Washington a letter advising her that Comcast had received a completed Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") application form from Washington's physician, that she had been approved for FMLA leave beginning on June 24, 2004, and that Washington was expected to return to work no later than August 12, 2004. The letter also explained that Washington was entitled to a maximum of twelve weeks of unpaid leave during one calender year.

Washington did not return to work as expected on August 12, and six days later, Prestage sent Washington a letter stating that because she had not returned to work on her anticipated return date, she had until August 20, 2004, to report to work and to provide documentation justifying her unexplained absence, or Comcast would consider Washington to have resigned voluntarily. Washington failed to respond, and Comcast sent Washington a letter on August 24, advising her that because she had not returned to work or otherwise contacted Comcast, it assumed that she had voluntarily resigned and that her employment with Comcast was terminated.

On August 25, after receiving the August 24 letter, Washington informed Andrews that she had been hospitalized from August 19 to August...

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