United States District Court, S.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
HERNDON, District Judge:
before the Court is defendant's Illinois Department of
Human Services (hereinafter “DHS” or
“defendant”) motion for summary judgment (Doc.
51), to which plaintiff filed a response (Docs. 59), and
defendant replied (Doc. 62). For the reasons explained below,
the Court grants in part and denies in part defendant's
motion for summary judgment (Doc. 51).
Julie Vaughn was employed by DHS at Murray Developmental
Center as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN II) from September
19, 2011, until her discharge on May 27, 2015 (Doc. 52-1, pg.
9). Murray Developmental Center (hereinafter
“Murray”) is operated by Illinois Department of
Human Services and provides medical and behavioral services
to developmentally disabled individuals.
employees are subject to the DHS Employee Handbook section
regarding time and attendance. DHS had an attendance policy
which defined unauthorized absences as those for which the
time off was not approved (Doc. 52-2, pg. 45). Employee
requests for leaves of absence needed to be supported with a
written request to the employee's supervisor, unless an
emergency condition prevented a timely request (Doc. 59-3).
An employee who missed work due to a medical illness, and
received an unexcused absence, could have the absence later
treated as excused by providing the proper medical
certification to his or her supervisor. In an emergency, DHS
asserts that their affirmative attendance policy allows an
employee to call in that day and later submit a formal
request for time off after returning to work.
employing the “call-in” notification policy, an
employee who planned to miss work was required to call in to
notify their supervisor at least one hour before their shift
started (Doc. 52-2, pg. 46). According to DHS, failure to
comply with these procedures forced employees to accumulate
unexcused absences, ultimately leading to “progressive
disciplinary action”, depending on the number of
unexcused absences (Doc. 52-2, pg. 47).
January 27, 2015, plaintiff was injured by a patient at
Murray. Initially, plaintiff's physician recommended that
she be placed on light-duty work at Murray until February 6,
2015. However, on February 6, 2015, plaintiff's physician
prohibited her from work for two weeks - from February 6,
2015 to February 24, 2015- as a result of the injury.
Plaintiff later submitted a Physician Statement Authorization
for Disability Leave and Return to Work (CMS-95) indicating
her need to be off work. Her medical leave was extended by
DHS until March 9, 2015. Plaintiff later returned to her
physician, and he recommended that plaintiff's medical
leave be extended to March 13, 2015. As a result, DHS
extended plaintiff's medical leave.
March 18, 2015, plaintiff submitted a CMS-95 to Murray, which
indicated she should be off work from March 13, 2015 to an
unknown date. Prior to that date, DHS alleges that her March
16, 2015 and March 17, 2015 absences were unexcused. In late
March 2015, plaintiff received notice by mail that Murray
Developmental Center had instituted disciplinary proceedings
against her as a result of her absences from work on March
16, 2015, and March 17, 2015. Plaintiff's
pre-disciplinary hearing was scheduled for March 31, 2015.
However, plaintiff did not attend the hearing because she was
physically unable to do so.
April 2, 2015, despite plaintiff's failure to submit an
FMLA certification, Murray Developmental Center sent
plaintiff an FMLA designation notice indicating that she had
been approved for FMLA starting on February 5, 2015 through
an unknown time. Thereafter, on April 21, 2015, Plaintiff
obtained a CMS-95 from her physician indicating a need to be
off work from March 13, 2015 to April 21, 2015, due to her
the aforementioned CMS-95 and prior FMLA certification, DHS
placed plaintiff on a suspension pending discharge effective
April 28, 2015. Thereafter, on May 5, 2015, Murray sent
plaintiff another FMLA designation notice indicating she had
been approved for FMLA beginning February 5, 2015 through
April 27, 2015. The notice informed her that she had used 56
days of FMLA leave. Subsequent to receipt of the designation
notice, plaintiff was discharged from Murray Developmental
Center effective May 27, 2015.
was not medically cleared to return to work until September
20, 2016. Following her discharge from Murray Developmental
Center, plaintiff began working at Shepard of the Hills,
located in Branson, Missouri, in October 2016.
to returning to work, plaintiff filed the underlying lawsuit
on June 9, 2016, alleging that Murray interfered with her
rights under the FMLA and also alleging a state law
retaliatory discharge claim (Doc. 1). Defendant moved to
dismiss the case, asserting that Murray Developmental Center
was not an employer and also that plaintiff's state law
claim was barred by sovereign immunity (Doc. 11). Thereafter,
on August 23, 2016, plaintiff filed an amended complaint
asserting one count of FMLA interference against DHS (Doc.
27). Defendant now moves for summary judgment on
plaintiff's FMLA interference claim (Doc. 51).
Motion for ...