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Harold Hayes v. Illinois Department of Corrections

October 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

Tuesday, 18 October, 2011 12:31:54 PM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD


This Court now considers Defendant Illinois Department of Corrections' (IDOC) Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 38) and Plaintiff Harold Hayes' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (d/e 37). While Hayes asserts an Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2612, et seq . (FMLA) interference claim and retaliation claim, IDOC is entitled to summary judgment on both claims. Hayes cannot succeed on his FMLA interference claim because he did not comply with FMLA leave requirements and IDOC had an honest suspicion that Hayes used FMLA leave for an unintended purpose. As for Hayes' FMLA retaliation claim, IDOC is entitled to summary judgment because Hayes has insufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case. Accordingly, IDOC's Motion will be GRANTED and Hayes' Motion will be DENIED AS MOOT.


Hayes is employed by IDOC as a correctional officer at the Jacksonville Correctional Center in Jacksonville, Illinois. Due to depression, panic attacks, and anxiety, Hayes has been under the care of psychiatrist Narasimhulu R. Sarma, M.D. since February 1, 2001. Dr. Sarma completed a Family and Medical Leave Act Medical Certification Form for Hayes on January 9, 2008. Dr. Sarma updated the form on March 11, 2008 and stated that Hayes may experience depression, anxiety, etc. lasting as long as a month. The certification was valid for 12 months.

On September 28, 2008, Hayes was arrested for battery and theft. He was ordered to appear at the Morgan County Courthouse on October 28, 2008. Hayes submitted an incident report to IDOC on September 29, 2008 informing IDOC about the arrest and the scheduled court appearance. Several weeks later, Hayes' daughter-a paralegal who was frequently at the courthouse-told Hayes that he did not need to appear in court on October 28, 2008.

On October 22, 2008, Bruce Schrieber, one of Hayes' co-workers, entered a hallway at the Jacksonville Corrections Center and found Hayes slumped over in a chair. Minutes later, Hayes allegedly yelled at other co-workers "You guys need to close the fucking door." Hayes then slammed a door. Mr. Schrieber approached Hayes and found Hayes reading a newspaper. Seeing Mr. Schrieber, Hayes purportedly stated, "Schrieber you are fucking annoying, you are a creep." Mr. Schrieber felt physically threatened by Hayes and reported the incident.

During the evening of October 27, 2008, and into the morning on October 28, 2008, Hayes suffered a panic attack. At 12:05 a.m. on October 28 Hayes called IDOC and advised that he would be unable to work his scheduled shift of 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. that day. While IDOC policy allowed employees to give as little as 1-hour notice before the start of a shift that they would absent from work, IDOC policy also stated that "[e]xcept for emergencies, request for time off must be requested at least 24 hours in advance." See IDOC's Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (IDOC's "Memorandum") (d/e 38-1) at Ex. 5 at "O. Attendance", ¶ 3 (d/e 38-3) (1-hour notice provision); Ex. 5 at "O. Attendance" (d/e 38-3), ¶ 6 (24-hour notice provision).

When Hayes called in sick on October 28, 2008, Lt. Steve Doolin noticed that Hayes, who had not previously requested the day off, was scheduled to be in court on October 28. Lt. Doolin had no idea that Hayes had ever been certified for FMLA leave. Accordingly, at 9:22 a.m. that day, Lt. Doolin sent an email to Warden Jennifer Ward informing her that Hayes' sickness coincided with Hayes' scheduled court appearance.

At about 8:00 or 8:30 a.m on October 28, 2008, Hayes left his home and walked to the Morgan County Courthouse to speak with an Assistant State's Attorney about his suspended driving license. Hayes' license had been suspended as a result of a 2005 DUI. After appearing at the courthouse on October 28, 2008, Hayes' sister-in-law drove him to Springfield, IL where Hayes obtained medical treatment from Dr. Sarma. The treatment consisted of an evaluation, psychotherapy, and medication. Hayes' afternoon appointment had been scheduled since June 3, 2008-almost 4 months prior to the onset of Hayes' October 28, 2008 symptoms. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-1 at 4, ¶ 12). While Dr. Sara verified that Hayes indeed obtained treatment on the afternoon of October 28, 2008, Dr. Sarma also stated that Hayes "did not come for an unscheduled emergency appointment." See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-5 at 23 (Sarma Dep. at 87, lines 18-20)).

Unbeknownst to Hayes, once Warden Ward was told about Hayes' October 28, 2008 sick call, she ordered Lt. Doolin to immediately investigate Hayes' absence. On the afternoon of October 28, 2008, Lt. Doolin went to the Morgan County Courthouse and spoke to the Assistant State's Attorney who had met Hayes earlier that day. The Assistant State's Attorney confirmed that Hayes had come to the courthouse that day. This fact was further corroborated by Lt. Doolin's interview that day with a court security officer and Lt. Doolin's review of the courthouse's video surveillance tapes. Lt. Doolin submitted his findings to Warden Ward.

On October 31, 2008, Hayes completed a Notification of Absence with respect to his October 28, 2008 absence. Hayes' Notification of Absence referenced the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., in the completed form. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 14)); Hayes' Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Hayes' "Response") (d/e 41) at 2 ("Undisputed Facts").

As a result of the October 22, 2008 incident, an Employee Review Referral was conducted on November 10, 2008, and a disciplinary hearing was scheduled for November 25, 2008. Hayes was also referred for disciplinary action on November 12, 2008 because he called in sick on October 28, 2008.

A disciplinary hearing was held on November 12, 2008 to determine Hayes' punishment for the October 28, 2008 incident. The hearing officer determined that Hayes had called in sick on October 28, 2008 to address personal matters. No evidence was presented to the contrary. The hearing officer recommended a 1-day suspension. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 16)). Because of Hayes' record of 20 past disciplinary actions, the Warden disagreed with the hearing officer's level of recommended discipline. On November 18, 2008, Warden Ward requested a 15-day suspension in addition to having Hayes docked a day's pay for the October 28, 2009 absence. Id. Hayes was docked a day's pay. However, Hayes never served any suspension related to his October 28, 2008 absence. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 10)). Warden Ward did not attempt to corroborate Hayes' October 28, 2008 absence by obtaining medical documentation.

On November 25, 2008, an Employee Review Board Hearing was held with respect to the October 22, 2008 threatening incident. Due to Hayes' "extensive disciplinary history", the hearing officer recommended that Hayes be discharged for his October 22, 2008 misconduct. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 18)). On December 18, 2008, Warden Ward concurred with the recommended discharge. On January 7, 2009, Hayes was placed on suspension pending discharge. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 19)). IDOC discharged Hayes on January 16, 2009. See IDOC's Memorandum at 8; Hayes' Response (d/e 41) at 2 ("Undisputed Facts").

Hayes appealed and his cause was heard during a May 14, 2009 hearing before the Illinois Civil Service Commission. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 20)). Without objection from Hayes' counsel, the charge related to the October 28, 2008 incident was withdrawn and the disciplinary hearing proceeded only as to the October 22, 2008 incident. See IDOC's Memorandum at 8, ¶ 44; Ex. 20; Hayes' Response (d/e 41) at 2 ("Undisputed Facts"). On October 16, 2009, the Illinois Civil Service Commission found that charges related to the October 22, 2008 incident were proven in part. The Illinois Civil Service Commission imposed a 90-day suspension in lieu of discharge. See IDOC's Memorandum (d/e 38-6 (Ex. 22)); Hayes' Response (d/e 41) at 2 ("Undisputed Facts").

In January 2009, Warden Ward was terminated from her position at Jacksonville Correctional Center. On April 23, 2010, her successor, Warden Joseph Yurkovich, issued a memorandum stating that all correctional officers interested in a 60-day temporary assignment as a Maintenance Craftsman should contact the Warden's office. The memorandum explained that the position would be awarded based on applicants' seniority. Warden Yurkovich reserved the right to review a successful applicant's performance once the applicant was hired. ...

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