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Glapion v. CSX Transportation Inc.

February 9, 2010

PHILLIP GLAPION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CSX TRANSPORTATION INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM, OPINION AND ORDER

This matter is before the court on defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Phillip Glapion alleges in his complaint that CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSXT") violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000, et seq. ("Title VII"), and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981") when (1) plaintiff was prohibited by a third-party railroad from operating locomotive engines over its tracks after causing a train delay and (2) CSXT terminated plaintiff's employment after he engaged in dishonest conduct by submitting a forged medical certification form to support his request for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C §§ 2601, et seq. ("FMLA"). For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment [38] is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Phillip Glapion, an African-American, began his employment with CSXT as a conductor in January 1997 and was promoted to locomotive engineer in March 1998. On October 21, 2004, while traveling on track operated by Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad ("IHB"), the locomotive engine plaintiff was operating was involved in a train delay as the result of an improperly aligned track switch that needed to be aligned manually. As a result of the delay, on October 26, 2004, CSXT received notification from IHB that plaintiff as well as the conductor with whom plaintiff was working on October 21, 2004 was barred from operating on IHB track. Plaintiff complained to CSXT's ethics and compliance hotline that he believed IHB's decision to bar him was discriminatory.

On October 26, 2004, plaintiff was notified that, pursuant to the requirements of a collective bargaining agreement between CSXT and his union, he was required to attend a CSXT investigation hearing to determine his responsibility with respect to the train delay incident. On December 14, 2004, CSXT held an investigation into the train delay. Then on August 25, 2005, Dan Micklos, a CSXT Assistant Division Manager in Chicago, issued a written reprimand to plaintiff in connection with the train delay incident. However, that reprimand was expunged from plaintiff's record because CSXT did not issue it within the time period required under the collective bargaining agreement.

Prior to the train delay incident, plaintiff requested leave under FMLA to care for his father. Plaintiff submitted a FMLA certification form for his father that CSXT received on or about October 19, 2004 after which CSXT approved plaintiff for FMLA leave to care for his father. Plaintiff's father died on February 5, 2005.

Both before and after his father's death, plaintiff took bereavement leave to be absent from work on January 8, 2005, February 11, 2005 and February 18, 2005. Plaintiff was charged with using bereavement leave under false pretenses and was required to attend an investigation to determine whether he had, in fact, misused bereavement leave. Plaintiff demonstrated during the investigation that he took bereavement leave on January 8, 2005 due to the death of a friend and bereavement leave on February 11, 2005 for the death of his father. CSXT charged plaintiff with using FMLA leave under false pretenses on February 18, 2005 because CSXT only had approved FMLA leave for his father's death on February 5, 2005.

On March 4, 2005, eight days after he was charged with using FMLA leave under false pretenses, plaintiff requested additional FMLA leave to care for his mother. However, plaintiff did not submit the proper FMLA medical certification to support his leave request, and on April 20, 2005, CSXT denied his leave request.

Sometime after April 20, 2005, in an attempt to show CSXT that he had FMLA approval to care for his mother as of February 18, 2005 (the date for which he was charged with misusing FMLA leave), plaintiff submitted another FMLA certification form in support of his request to take leave to care for his mother. However, the FMLA certification plaintiff submitted was dated September 16, 2004 but was not received by CSXT until May 19, 2005. Because of the date discrepancy, Jeff Deakins, a CSXT FMLA Administrator, became suspicious and reviewed other documents in plaintiff's FMLA file. During the review, Deakins observed that CSXT had no record of receiving any FMLA certification for plaintiff's mother and that CSXT never had approved plaintiff to take FMLA leave to care for his mother.

Based on the review of his file, Deakins concluded that the FMLA certification form plaintiff had submitted to support his request for leave to care for his mother which was received on May 19, 2005 was a photocopy of the FMLA certification form that plaintiff had submitted for his father on October 19, 2004 with certain information altered to support plaintiff's request to FMLA leave to care for his mother.

On May 27, 2005 plaintiff was charged with dishonesty and violating CSXT Operating Rule GR-2 as a major violation under CSXT's Individual Development and Personal Accountability Policy ("IDPAP") and was removed from service and directed to attend an investigation to determine whether he had engaged in the conduct with which he was charged. Rule GR-2 states in relevant part:

All employees must behave in a civil and courteous manner when dealing with customers, fellow employees and the public. Employees must not: 1. Use boisterous, profane, or vulgar language, 2. Enter into altercations while on duty or on company property, 3. Play practical jokes or engage in horseplay while on duty or while on company property, 4. Be disloyal, dishonest, insubordinate, immoral, quarrelsome, vicious, careless, or incompetent, 5. Willfully neglect their duty, 6. Endanger life or property, 7. Make false statements, or 8. Conceal facts concerning matter under investigation.

In response to the charge and investigation, plaintiff asserted that he had requested FMLA leave in August 2004 to care for both his father and his mother. Thereafter, plaintiff admitted that he had created an altered FMLA certification form for his mother and that he had submitted that altered form to CSXT to support his request for FMLA leave. Plaintiff stated that he made copies of the original FMLA certification form and altered the contents of the copies of the form by using white out correction fluid to construct separate certification form for his mother.

After the investigation, CSXT Division Manager Burrus concluded that plaintiff's use of bereavement leave on February 18, 2005 was inappropriate and that he had not been approved for FMLA leave to care for his mother. As a result, on April 12, 2006, plaintiff received a 30-day overhead suspension for using FMLA leave under false pretenses. Thereafter, a public law board convened by CSXT and plaintiff's union pursuant to the Railway Labor Act reviewed Burrus' decision on the false pretenses charge and issued a decision denying plaintiff's and his union's challenge to the 30-day suspension he had received.

Based on the facts developed throughout the investigation, CSXT ultimately terminated plaintiff's employment on May 16, 2006 for violating CSXT Operating Rule GR-2 because plaintiff had been dishonest and had presented an altered medical certification to support his request for FMLA leave. Another public law board convened pursuant to the Railway Labor Act to review CSXT's decision to discharge plaintiff and issued a decision denying plaintiff's and his union's challenge to the termination of his employment.

Plaintiff filed two separate charges of employment discrimination against CSXT with the Illinois Department of Human Rights ("IDHR") and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The first charge alleged: (1) race discrimination and retaliation with respect to the train delay incident; (2) retaliation with respect to his removal from service on May 27, 2005 for falsifying FMLA documentation; and (3) race discrimination and retaliation with respect to CSXT"s issuance of a written reprimand in August 2005 with respect to the IHB train delay. Plaintiff's second charge alleged race ...


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