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Lyons v. Stephenson County

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Western Division

May 10, 2018

Jenny Lyons, Plaintiff,
v.
Stephenson County, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Philip G. Reinhard United States District Court Judge.

         For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [40] is denied and defendant's motion for summary judgment [37] is granted. The case is terminated.

         STATEMENT-OPINION

         This case arises out of plaintiff Jenny Lyons' (hereinafter “plaintiff”) two-count amended complaint against defendants Stephenson County, Stephenson County Sheriff's Office, David Snyders, and Dean Schroeder. See [31]. Count I alleges that defendants interfered with plaintiff's rights under 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C) (Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)) by incorrectly informing her that she and her husband, Carl Lyons (hereinafter “Lyons”), were only entitled to a combined 12 weeks of FMLA leave from their employment with the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office. Count II alleges plaintiff was unlawfully terminated from her employment due to the exercise of her rights under the FMLA to take 12 weeks of leave in order to care for her son who was suffering from a serious health condition, pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2).

         On October 16, 2017, defendants filed a motion for summary judgment [37], as well as a memorandum in support [39], and Local Rule 56.1 statement of facts [38]. Also on October 16, 2017, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment [40], memorandum in support [41], statement of facts [42], and appendix of evidence in support of her motion for summary judgment [42-1].

         On November 22, 2017, plaintiff filed her response to defendant's motion [45], (amended) response to defendants' statement of facts, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(C) statement of additional facts [49], and a supplemental appendix of evidence [46]. Defendants also filed their response to plaintiff's motion [51], response to plaintiff's' statement of facts [48], and statement of additional facts [50]. On November 28, 2017, plaintiff filed a redacted supplemental appendix of documents [53].

         On December 8, 2017, defendants filed their response to plaintiff's statement of additional facts [54]. On December 18, 2017, plaintiff filed her response to defendants' statement of additional facts [55]. The parties' cross motions for summary judgment are now ripe for the court's review.

         On summary judgment, the court construes all facts and draws all inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Schepers v. Commissioner, Indiana Dept. of Corrections, 691 F.3d 909, 913 (7th Cir. 2012). The court does not weigh evidence or determine the credibility of witness testimony. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). Instead, the court only grants summary judgment “if the movant shows that 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). That said, Rule 56 “mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “The ordinary standards for summary judgment remain unchanged on cross-motions for summary judgment.” Blow v. Bijora, Inc., 855 F.3d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 2017).

         Prior to addressing the merits of the parties's motions, it is necessary to set forth the undisputed facts located in the parties' Local Rule 56.1 statements of fact with respect to each motion. In addition, the court is cognizant of its obligation to construe all disputed and undisputed facts in the light most favorable to each non-moving party with respect to the motion directed against it. See Schepers, 691 F.3d at 913.

         A. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         1. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         As an initial matter, Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) provides that the opposing party is required to file “a response to each numbered paragraph in the moving party's statement, including, in the case of any disagreement, specific references to the affidavits, parts of the record, and other supporting materials relied upon.” In plaintiff's response to defendants' statement of undisputed material facts [49], several of plaintiff's “disputes” contain citations to the record that are inaccurate or fail to actually dispute defendants' facts. “When a responding party's statement fails to dispute the facts set forth in the moving party's statement in the manner dictated by the rule, those facts are deemed admitted for purposes of the motion.” Cracco v. Vitran Exp., Inc., 559 F.3d 625, 632 (7th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). Because plaintiff has failed to properly dispute defendants' statements of fact in paragraphs 6, 8, 18, 26, 28, 29, 41, 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, 57, 58, 60, and 61, the court deems these facts admitted for the purpose of defendants' motion.

         Plaintiff Jenny Lyons was employed as a correctional officer with the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office in Stephenson County, Illinois, from 2003 until her resignation on October 2, 2014. [38] at ¶ 1. At all relevant times, defendant David Snyders served as the Sheriff of Stephenson County and defendant Dean Schroeder served as the Jail Administrator for the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office. [38] at ¶ 2. Plaintiff's husband, Carl Lyons, has been employed as a correctional officer with the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office since 2000. [38] at ¶ 3. Plaintiff worked under the direction of defendant Schroeder during her employment. [38] at ¶ 4. In 2012, plaintiff was on FMLA leave following the birth of her first child for approximately 12 weeks. [38] at ¶ 5. At the time of the birth of plaintiff's first child, the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office did not have a formal FMLA policy. [38] at ¶ 6. Also at the time of the birth of the Lyons' first child, Lyons was permitted to take two weeks of FMLA leave in addition to plaintiff's 12 weeks of FMLA leave because defendant Schroeder did not know about the provision in the FMLA that spouses working for the same employer can be limited to a combined 12 weeks of leave for the birth of their child. Id.

         On July 27, 2012, the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office implemented General Order APM 412.00 - Family Medical Leave Act and Military Leave, FMLA. Plaintiff received a copy of this order on August 9, 2012. [38] at ¶ 8. Plaintiff kept a copy of the policy in a binder that she kept in her locker at the jail and was responsible for familiarizing herself with the policy. Id. Defendant Snyders delegated the handling of FMLA leave for the jail to defendant Schroeder. [38] at ¶ 9. Defendant Snyders had no involvement with employees' FMLA leave. Id. According to the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office FMLA policy, “[S]pouses employed by the same employer may be limited to a combined total of 12 workweeks of family leave for the following reasons: (a) birth and care of a child; (b) the placement of a child for adoption or foster care, and to care for the newly placed child; and © care for an employee's parent who has a serious health condition.” [38] at ¶ 10. The Sheriff's Office FMLA policy also contains a section entitled “Procedure for Requesting FMLA leave” which states in relevant part:

“An employee must provide the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office with at least 30 days advance notice before FMLA leave is to begin if the need for the leave is foreseeable. If 30 days notice is not possible such as because of lack of knowledge of approximately when leave will be required to start, a change in circumstances or a medical emergency then notice must be given as soon as practicable. Employees must provide sufficient information for the Stephenson County Sheriff's Office to determine if the leave qualifies for FMLA protection and the anticipated timing and duration of the leave. Sufficient information may include that the employee is unable to perform job functions, the family member is unable to perform daily activities, the need for hospitalization or continuing treatment by a health care provider...
Employees will also be required to provide certification as specified below and may be required to provide periodic recertification supporting the need for leave. Any employee taking leave to care for the employee's covered family member with a serious health condition or due to the employee's own serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform one or more of the essential functions of the employee's position much be supported by a certification issued by the health care provider of the employee or the employee's family member on the form attached to this policy...Additional copies of the certification forms can be obtained from your supervisor...In the case of unforeseen leave, certification must be provide within 5 business days after the leave commences. FMLA leave may be denied in accordance with FMLA rules and regulations if appropriate certification is not provided.” [38] at ¶ 11.

         On February 28, 2014, plaintiff gave defendant Schroeder a note from her physician stating that she needed to be placed on light duty under the end of her (second) pregnancy. [38] at ¶ 12. On plaintiff's request, defendant Schroeder provided her with FMLA paperwork [38] at ¶ 13, and on May 30, 2014, plaintiff returned to defendant Schroeder the Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee's Serious Health Condition form that had been completed by her physician. [38] at ¶ 14. After turning in this form, plaintiff's FMLA leave was approved by ...


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