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Giddens v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 30, 2014

MYRON GIDDENS, Plaintiff,
v.
UPS SUPPLY CHAIN SOLUTIONS, Defendant

Page 706

For Myron Giddens, Plaintiff: Stephen Price Norman, Esq., Daniel Charles Herr, Esq., The Norman Law Firm, Dagsboro, DE.

For UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., Defendant: Jennifer C. Bebko Jauffret, Esq., Lori A. Brewington, Esq., Richards, Layton & Finger, PA, Wilmington, Delaware.

OPINION

Page 707

NOEL L. HILLMAN, United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court by way of motion of Defendant, UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., seeking summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions and decides this matter pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 78.

For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. JURISDICTION

Plaintiff, Myron Giddens, brings this action against Defendant asserting claims

Page 708

under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (" FMLA" ), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (" Title VII" ). Accordingly, the Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

II. BACKGROUND

In February 2008, Plaintiff began working at Defendant's facility in Newark, Delaware as a collection associate. (Second Am. Compl. (hereafter, " SAC" ) ¶ 4; Answer ¶ 4.) In July 2008, Plaintiff's employment was terminated. (SAC ¶ 12; Answer ¶ 12.) Plaintiff challenged the discharge through Defendant's internal Employee Dispute Resolution (" EDR" ) program. (SAC ¶ 17; Answer ¶ 17.) As a result of the EDR process, Plaintiff's employment was reinstated on or about October 2, 2008. (SAC ¶ 19; Answer ¶ 19.)

Plaintiff contends that upon his return to work, his performance came under " intense scrutiny." (SAC ¶ 20.) Plaintiff submits, for example, that his supervisor challenged the legitimacy of the doctor's notes Plaintiff provided regarding his absences from work, even going so far as calling a dentist to confirm that Plaintiff had his wisdom teeth extracted. (Decl. of Lori A. Brewington (hereafter, " Brewington Decl." ), Ex. 1 at 140:10-22.) Plaintiff also states that when he was on sick leave in August 2009, he received a letter from his superiors requiring him to return to work when the doctor had not yet authorized his return. (Id. at 145:8-18.) Plaintiff represents that other employees on medical leave did not receive the same level of scrutiny. (Id. at 150:20-151:8.) Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff filed charges of discrimination against Defendant with the Delaware Department of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereafter, " EEOC" ) on or about December 7, 2009. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 38.)

On Saturday, December 19, 2009, Plaintiff began to experience flu-like symptoms. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 1 at 182:4-12.) Plaintiff called out sick from work on Monday, December 21, 2009 through Thursday, December 24, 2009. (Id. at 187:24-15, 200:24-201:10, 204:2-15, 217:10-23.) He went to his doctor, Scott Harrison, D.O., on Monday, December 28, 2009. (Id. at 230:22-231:7.) Dr. Harrison diagnosed Plaintiff as having an upper respiratory infection and pharyngitis. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 6 at 21:17-20.) Dr. Harrison cleared Plaintiff to return to work as of December 28, 2009, instructed Plaintiff to continue taking over-the-counter fluids and medicines, and noted that Plaintiff could come back if his symptoms did not improve. (Id. at 22:2-3, 23:3-15.) Plaintiff returned to work on December 28 or December 29, 2009. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 1 at 239:6-9.)

Defendant asserts that Plaintiff called out on December 21, 2009 and December 22, 2009 due to weather and/or car trouble, and did not at that time advise that he was sick. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 2 ¶ ¶ 29-30.) On December 24, 2009, Plaintiff purportedly advised his supervisor, Nadene Reuling, that he had already gone to the doctor and obtained a doctor's note. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 33.) In the same conversation, however, Plaintiff subsequently stated that he did not have a doctor's appointment until December 28, 2009 and would not have a note until after the appointment. (Id.) The doctor's note excused Plaintiff for December 22, 2009 through December 25, 2009. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 2 ¶ 39.) The inconsistencies in the information provided by Plaintiff caused Ms. Reuling to question Plaintiff's integrity, and she believed that Plaintiff had lied to her and did not have a legitimate reason for missing

Page 709

work the week of December 21, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 41.) Ms. Reuling thus recommended that Plaintiff's employment be terminated. (Id. at ¶ 40.)

Plaintiff's employment was subsequently terminated. Defendant represents that the decision to fire Plaintiff was made on December 29, 2009. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 4 ¶ 33.) Defendant's representatives planned to notify Plaintiff of the discharge in person on January 5, 2010. (Id. at ¶ 34.) However, Plaintiff did return to work for more than one week, so Defendant decided to notify Plaintiff of the termination by mail. (Id. at ¶ 37.) By letter dated January 14, 2010, Plaintiff was notified that his employment had been terminated. (Brewington Decl., Ex. 39.)

III. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that " 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56).

An issue is " genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A fact is " material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. " In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the nonmoving party's evidence 'is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.'" Marino v. Indus. Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505).

Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (" [A] party seeking summary judgment always 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." )(citation omitted); see also Singletary v. Pa. Dept. of Corr., 266 F.3d 186, 192 n.2 (3d Cir. 2001) (" Although the initial burden is on the summary judgment movant to show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, 'the burden on the moving party may be discharged by " showing -- that is, pointing out to the district court -- that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case' when the nonmoving party bears the ultimate burden of proof." )(citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548).

Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. A " party opposing summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the . . . pleading[s.]" Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232, 43 V.I. 361 (3d Cir. 2001) (internal quotations omitted). For " the non-moving party[ ] to prevail, [that party] must 'make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of

Page 710

proof at trial.'" Cooper v. Sniezek, 418 F.App'x 56, 58 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548). Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those ...


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