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Zane Holder v. Illinois Department of Corrections and State of

July 25, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Phil Gilbert District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment (Docs. 41 and 42). Both parties filed responses (Docs. 43 & 44).

For the following reasons, the Court DENIES both parties' motions for summary judgment.


Summary judgment is appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a). When the parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the courts "review of the record requires that we construe all inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made." Edwards v. Briggs & Stratton Retirement Plan, 639 F.3d 355, 359 (7th Cir. 2011) (citing Hendricks-Robinson v. Excel Corp., 154 F.3d 685, 692 (7th Cir. 1998)).


I. Holder's Absences From the Department

This case arises out of Plaintiff Zane Holder's ("Holder") use of Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave. Holder has been employed by Defendant Illinois Department of Corrections ("the Department") as a correctional officer since October 6, 2003. During his employment, Holder's wife, Sarah Holder ("Sarah"), was diagnosed with "chronic mood disorder and substance abuse disorder" stemming from an opiate dependency. In order to care and provide emotional support for Sarah, Holder found it necessary to take leave from work.

Holder had the option to apply for leave under the FMLA or to request Family Responsibility Leave ("FRL"). Under FRL, the Department covers an employee's insurance premiums for up to six months. Holder elected to apply for FMLA leave. On September 21, 2007, Holder submitted to the Department an excuse form from Herrin Behavioral Health requesting Holder be excused from work on August 28, 2007, and September 2, 3, 4, 10, 13, and 14, 2007, "due to medical LOA to care for spouse who required daily care and supervision." (Doc. 41, Exh. 3). On October 3, 2007, Holder submitted a FMLA medical certification form to the Department. On the form, the healthcare provider indicated that Sarah was "currently incapacitated" due to a serious health condition and it would be necessary for Holder to take off work intermittently. On or about October 31, 2007, the Department provided written notification to Holder that it had approved his request for FMLA leave.

Ultimately, Holder was absent from work over 130 days to care for Sarah. The Department contends that Holder was absent due to Sarah's condition eleven days in September 2007 and eleven days in October 2007. Holder, however, contends he was only absent nine days in September 2007 and seven days in October 2007 to care for Sarah.*fn1 Both parties agree that Holder was absent because of Sarah's condition for nine days in November, thirteen days in December 2007, seventeen days in January 2008, thirteen days in February 2008, nineteen days in March 2008, and eighteen days in April 2008. The parties dispute the number of Holder's absences in May and June 2008. However, neither party disputes that the Department continued to approve Holder's leave as FMLA-qualifying until April 18, 2008. On that day Lisa Cunningham, Shawnee Correctional Center's FMLA coordinator, notified Holder his FMLA leave had expired. Thereafter, Holder requested FRL.

In 2009, CMS informed Holder that the state had mistakenly paid for his health insurance premiums from January 1, 2008, through June 30, 2008, and that Holder was responsible to repay those health insurance premiums. Beginning May 2009, CMS garnished 25% of Holder's wages to collect those premium amounts. Thereafter, Holder filed the present suit.

II. Holder's FMLA Complaint

Holder's complaint alleges the Department interfered with his rights under the FMLA as follows: (1) the Department denied Holder intermittent leave under the FMLA beginning on or about January 1, 2008; (2) the Department failed to provide notice that Holder's FMLA leave was exhausted; and (3) the Department required Holder to repay health insurance premiums beginning in January 2008. In its motion for summary judgment and supporting memorandum (Docs. 41 & 41-1), the Department argues that Holder was not entitled to FMLA leave at all. However, if Holder was entitled to FMLA leave, he never returned from that leave and the Department was not required to pay his health insurance premiums. Further, the Department contends that Holder was given all the notice required under the FMLA.

Holder, however, argues he was entitled to FMLA leave because the Department approved his request for FMLA leave on October 31, 2007. Holder further argues that he was entitled to FMLA leave after his 60th day of leave because the Department approved those additional days of FMLA leave and is now equitably estopped from denying FMLA leave on those days. Finally, Holder argues that the Department ...

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