United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
MICHAEL J. REAGAN, Chief Judge
Mollet was employed as a certified respiratory therapist at
St. Joseph's Hospital in Breese, Illinois from March 2011
through December 7, 2015, when she was fired. She filed suit
in this Court in March 2016 alleging that Defendants St.
Joseph's Hospital Breese of the Hospital Sisters of the
Third Order of St. Francis (“St. Joseph's”)
and Hospital Sisters Health System (“HSHS”)
discharged her in retaliation for taking Family and Medical
Leave Act (FMLA) leave in 2015 and for filing claims for
unemployment benefits in 2014 and 2015.
before the Court are Defendants' March 31, 2017, motion
for summary judgment and supporting memorandum (Docs. 34,
35), to which Plaintiff responded on May 4, 2017 (Doc. 38),
and Defendants replied on May 18, 2017 (Doc. 39). For the
reasons delineated below, the Court grants the
Defendants' motion for summary judgment.
2002, Holly Mollet began working at St. Elizabeth's
Hospital in Belleville, Illinois. St. Elizabeth's is a
member of the HSHS hospital system. While employed by St.
Elizabeth's, Mollet began also working part-time at St.
Joseph's Hospital in Breese, Illinois, another member of
the HSHS hospital system. In March 2011, she transferred to a
position based solely at St. Joseph's Hospital and began
working as a certified respiratory therapist assigned to the
night shift in the cardiopulmonary department. (Doc. 35-2, p.
12-15). During her scheduled shifts, she was the only
certified respiratory therapist on duty. Id.
Mollet transferred to St. Joseph's, she was given an HSHS
Colleague Handbook that contained the hospital's policies
for employees, including policies addressing attendance and
leave procedures. (Doc. 38-1, p. 205). The handbook included
a policy for disciplining employees who have routine and
chronic occurrences of unscheduled absences. (Doc. 38-1, p.
238-40). Unscheduled absences are defined as the
“[f]ailure to report for a scheduled shift or
consecutive shifts, whatever the reason, including a
medically verified illness.” Id. at 238. FMLA
leave-related absences are exempted from the policy.
absences remain on an employee's record for twelve
months. If an employee has three unscheduled absence
occurrences within twelve months, the employee receives
coaching, or a verbal warning, from a supervisor. After five
occurrences, the policy calls for written counseling of the
employee. After seven occurrences, corrective action is
taken, and the employee is given a final written warning. If
an employee has eight occurrences in twelve months, the
policy calls for termination. An absence for one full day or
for multiple days for the same reason is treated as a single
occurrence. The attendance policy also provides for
termination of an employee who “fails to report to work
for three consecutive days without talking to the leader [of
their department].” Id. at 239.
cardiopulmonary department also has its own policy for
employees who are unable to work when scheduled. Employees
are required to contact Amy Culpepper, the Director of
Cardiopulmonary, or the Department Facilitator to provide
notice for unplanned absences. (Doc. 35-2, p. 18-19, 104,
252). During her deposition, Culpepper testified that her
department is very small, only 6 or 7 certified respiratory
therapists are on staff to provide respiratory and cardiac
support to patients in the emergency room and nursery, and
ample notification of unplanned absences is necessary for
patient safety. Night shift employees like Mollet are
required to provide at least three hours' notice for
unplanned absences so that the department can ensure adequate
staffing. (Doc. 35-2, p. 252).
kept track of her employees' unscheduled absences on an
attendance log and on the schedules that she prepared for the
cardiopulmonary department. (Doc. 35-2, p. 136). Mollet's
first unscheduled absences on Culpepper's attendance log
were on October 4, 2012, and November 14 through November 15,
2012. (Doc. 35-2, p. 268). Mollet had unscheduled absence
occurrences again on July 2-4, 2013, and January 1, 2014. On
January 26, 2014, Mollet filed an unemployment claim with the
Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), requesting
benefits because of reduced work hours. St. Joseph's
opposed the claim, writing to IDES on February 3, 2014, that
Mollet had opportunities to work additional hours during the
period in question but declined to do so. Robert Otrembiak,
the Director of People Services, expressed to IDES that St.
Joseph's did not understand why the claim was filed.
(Doc. 38-1, p. 203). Mollet received unemployment benefits
despite the protest by the hospital.
had additional unscheduled absences on February 13, 2014, and
February 24 through 25, 2014. Having accrued four occurrences
in a twelve month period, Mollet received coaching in the
form of a verbal warning from Culpepper on March 8, 2014.
After the coaching, Mollet had another unscheduled absence on
March 18, 2014. She received written counseling and was given
a written performance improvement plan warning her that she
needed to improve her attendance on March 25, 2014. (Doc.
35-2, p. 279). Mollet was scheduled to attend a training
seminar on April 29, 2014. She sent a text message to
Culpepper on April 28 that said she would miss the training
due to a toothache. Mollet asked if she would be fired.
Culpepper told Mollet that the absence would count as an
unscheduled absence and that she would check whether she was
subject to termination. (Doc. 35-2, p. 271). In a text
message sent on April 29, Culpepper told Mollet, “Today
is 6th UA. 7 is corrective action, 8 is termination.”
(Doc. 35-2, p. 271).
2, 2014, Otrembiak again protested the award of unemployment
compensation to Mollet, writing that he believed she was
ineligible for benefits because she was actively employed by
St. Joseph's with no break in her employment during the
period for which the hospital received a bill. (Doc. 38-1, p.
204). Following an unscheduled absence occurrence from May 20
through 21, 2014, Mollet received a corrective action, a
performance improvement plan that contained a final written
warning from Culpepper, on May 23, 2014. Mollet had an
unscheduled absence on October 1, 2014, but the July 2013
unscheduled absences were no longer on her record. The
October 2014 absence was treated as a seventh occurrence.
Mollet had an eighth unscheduled absence on December 4, 2014,
and, according to the attendance policy, was subject to
termination. (Doc. 35-2, p. 267).
the December 2014 absence, Culpepper testified that she
decided to terminate Mollet's employment due to the
excessive absences. (Doc. 35-2, p. 136). Culpepper told
Mollet she was fired by telephone on December 5, 2014. (Doc.
35-2, p. 32, 121). Mollet requested a meeting with Culpepper
and Culpepper's supervisor, Jene Bieri, Director of Human
Services. (Doc. 35-2, p. 32, 121, 166). Following a
conversation Bieri had with Mollet's mother, also a St.
Joseph's employee, Bieri and Culpepper, along with
Otrembiak and the administrative team, decided to make an
exception and convert Mollet's termination to a
suspension. (Doc 35-2, p. 166-68).
Bieri, and Culpepper met on December 18, 2014, to discuss
Mollet's employment status. Bieri and Culpepper testified
that they told Mollet their decision to convert her
termination to a suspension was premised on a new requirement
that she have no unscheduled absences for one year. (Doc.
35-2, p. 123-24, 169-70). Mollet testified that she was never
told that any further absences would result in her
termination. (Doc. 35-2, p. 40-41). Mollet was given a final
written warning in a written performance improvement plan
that documented the suspension. The document noted
Mollet's “continued failure to abide by HSHS
attendance policy” and that it was expected that Mollet
would have “attendance within HSHS guidelines.”
(Doc. 35-2, p. 284). It did not state specifically that
Mollet would be fired if she accrued any unscheduled absences
in the next twelve months. After serving the suspension,
Mollet returned to work. Culpepper testified that Mollet