United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
JEFFREY J. HELMICK, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
FCA U.S. LLC moved for summary judgment on all claims filed
by Plaintiff Teri Foster. (Doc. No. 32). In response, Foster
has filed in opposition to the motion. (Doc. No. 34).
Defendant filed a reply. (Doc. No. 37). For the reasons
stated below, Defendant's motion is granted in part and
denied in part.
began work for Chrysler in July 2013, as a stock worker.
(Doc. No. 28-1 at 7). She was a member of the United Auto
Workers Local 12 - Jeep Unit (the “UAW”).
Chrysler merged with Fiat in October 2014 and eventually
became known as FCA US, LLC (“FCA”).
the UAW negotiated a collective bargaining agreement (the
“CBA”) as well as memoranda of understanding on a
variety of topics. These included a memorandum of
understanding on absenteeism, which contained a policy for
unexcused absences. (Doc. No. 28-2). An unexcused absence was
any absence which was not “contractually
permitted.” (Doc. No. 28-2. at 2). Under the CBA,
employees were considered excused from work if they were off
work for holidays, vacation, jury duty, bereavement, military
leave, in-plant injuries, Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) leave, “Paid S & A Leaves,
” a leave of absence, “approved PAA time, ”
layoffs, union leave, disciplinary suspensions,
“Company Mandated Time off, ” worker's
compensation leave, or if they were sent home during a shift
due to the exercise of a manager's discretion. (Doc. No.
28-2 at 2). If an employee were to miss a shift for any
reason, then the employee was to call a third party, SYKES,
and report their absence.
an employee's fourth unexcused absence in a twelve-month
period, the employee is given a written warning. (Doc. No.
28-2 at 1-2). A fifth unexcused absence results in a
corrective action conference, and the sixth unexcused absence
results in a one-day paid suspension, after which the
employee is required to re-affirm the employee's
intention to continue working at FCA. (Id. at 2).
Upon the seventh unexcused absence, the employee is
her first year of employment, Foster collected six unexcused
absences. (Doc. No. 28-7). These absences, at least in part,
arose from Foster's need to care for her son, who
frequently needed to miss school due to the occurrence of
symptoms related to several diagnosed medical conditions.
one year of employment and 1, 250 hours worked, Foster became
eligible to use FMLA leave on July 30, 2014, to care for her
son's serious medical condition. (Doc. No. 28-1 at 26).
FCA employed a third-party, Sedgwick, to handle FMLA policy
and leave. (Doc. No. 30-4). Under FCA's FMLA leave
policy, Foster could take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave
during each calendar year. (Doc. No. 28-12 at 2).
the nature of her son's conditions, Foster sought to use
periodic FMLA leave, and her FMLA leave was approved
following the submission of her initial certification. (Doc.
No. 30-4). Upon certification on September 17, 2014, FCA
allowed Foster to take three days of FMLA leave every
calendar month and one day of FMLA leave for doctor's
visits every three calendar months. (Doc No. 30-5). This
certification was based upon the estimate provided by
Foster's son's doctor. (Doc. No. 34-9 at 2-3). At
FCA's request, Foster recertified many times. (Doc. No.
30-5 through Doc. No. 30-17). On October 28, 2014,
Foster's recertification documented her anticipated need
to take ten days of FMLA leave per four weeks and one for a
doctor's visit every three months. (Doc. No. 30-7).
requested that Foster recertify her FMLA leave for the new
calendar year on January 14, 2015. (Doc. No. 30-8). She was
again approved for the same frequency of FMLA leave. (Doc.
No. 30-10). Beginning in February 2015, her son's doctor
anticipated Foster would need to use ten days of FMLA leave
for every calendar month and one day of FMLA leave for
doctors' visits every three months. (Doc. No. 30-10).
March 31, 2015, Foster called to report she would be absent
from work. (Doc. No. 34-17). Before Foster called to report
her absence, Foster was advised by a Sedgwick agent that she
still had one office visit available and this day could be
considered that day of leave. (Doc. No. 34-17 at 4). After
this conversation, Foster called and reported she would be
absent from work. Foster ultimately did not visit the doctor
but was told she could alter the amount of her son's
medication when she contacted the doctor's office to
schedule an appointment. (Doc. No. 34-17 at 3-4).
investigated the absence, after being informed by Sedgwick
that Foster had submitted a recertification form. (Doc. No.
28-16 at 10). Keith Carr, a human resources generalist at
FCA, was responsible for the investigation. Carr met with
Foster and a union representative on May 20, 2015. During the
meeting, Foster claimed to have taken her son to the doctor
on March 31, 2015. (Id. at 22). The meeting was put
on hold so Foster could get a note from the doctor to verify
her visit. (Id.).
produced a note that said to excuse her from work because she
was caring for her son and had been in touch with the
doctor's office on March 31, 2015. (Doc. No. 30-19). Carr
determined this absence was not for a doctor visit, so Foster
had exceeded her anticipated FMLA leave for March, making
March 31 her seventh unexcused absence. (Doc. No. 28-16 at
23). FCA then terminated Foster. (Id.).
same time, FCA issued Foster a “Step 1” written
warning for violating her contract, specifically the
Standards of Conduct, for providing false or misleading
information when she failed to correct her initial statements
about having taken her son to the doctor on March 31. (Doc.
No. 28-25). This was Foster's first instance of workplace
discipline at FCA. (Doc. No. 28-25 at 2). The UAW filed a
grievance on Foster's behalf, but the grievance was
unsuccessful. (Doc. No. 34-26 at 2-3).