United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
ROBERT BLAKEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Tom Hendrix sued his employer, Secretary of State Jesse
White, alleging that White violated the Family and Medical
Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et
seq. See . In his complaint, Plaintiff
sought backpay, lost benefits, liquidated damages, costs,
attorney's fees, and a permanent injunction that
Defendant abide by the FMLA. Id. Defendant moved for
summary judgment . For the reasons explained below, this
Court grants the motion.
started working for the Secretary of State's office in
December 2009 as a Senior Facility Manager (Senior Manager)
in the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Ex. 1 ¶
Plaintiff was assigned to Defendant's Schaumburg
facility. Id. ¶ 7. All Senior Managers at all
DMV locations have the same duties and responsibilities and
all report to Tom Benigno, the Deputy Secretary of State. Ex.
1 ¶ 5; Ex. 2 ¶¶2-4.
the summer of 2015, Benigno had, on occasion, received
complaints about Plaintiff's behavior. Ex. 2 ¶ 6.
That summer, Benigno also received a letter signed by
multiple employees working under Plaintiff at the Schaumburg
facility. Ex. 2 ¶ 7. The letter raised various concerns,
including complaints that Plaintiff's conduct created a
hostile work environment. Id. The Schaumburg
employees asked Benigno to address the situation with Hendrix
or, alternatively, to transfer Plaintiff out of the
Schaumburg facility. Id.
August 4, 2015, Benigno met with several members of the
management team to discuss the Schaumburg employees'
letter and complaints. Ex. 1 ¶ 3. Plaintiff, who
(unbeknownst to Benigno or anyone at the Secretary of
State's office) had just begun a period of FMLA leave,
was out of the office that day, but participated by
telephone. Ex. 2 ¶ 9; Ex. 4 ¶ 4. At the meeting,
Benigno told Plaintiff about the specific complaints in the
letter and advised the group that he was troubled by both the
content of the letter and the fact that so many Schaumburg
employees appeared to have issues with Plaintiff. Ex. 2
¶ 10; Ex. 4 ¶ 6. After a discussion about the
complaints, Benigno informed Plaintiff that things at the
Schaumburg facility needed to change. Id. Benigno
determined after the meeting that the best course of action
was to transfer Plaintiff to a new location, though he did
not tell Plaintiff about the transfer at that time. Ex. 2
weeks after Benigno's meeting, Stephen Roth, Director of
the Department of Personnel for the Secretary of State,
learned that Plaintiff was requesting FMLA leave for the
period beginning August 3, 2015 through September 9, 2015.
Ex. 1 ¶ 8. Roth approved Plaintiff's FMLA request on
September 9, 2015, and notified Plaintiff of that approval.
Ex. 1 ¶ 9. Plaintiff returned to work that same day,
providing a Return to Work Certification (RTW) from his
physician stating that he was cleared to return to work with
“no restrictions.” Ex. 1 ¶ 10.
Benigno's decision to transfer Plaintiff, when Plaintiff
returned to work on September 9, he resumed his job as Senior
Manager at the Schaumburg DMV facility; he kept the same
responsibilities and received the same pay and benefits as
before his leave. Ex. 1 ¶ 11; Ex. 2 ¶ 14.
September 15, Benigno informed Plaintiff of the decision to
transfer him from the Schaumburg facility to the Naperville
facility, and that the transfer would be effective September
22, 2015. Ex. 1 ¶ 12; Ex. 2 ¶ 15; Ex. 3 at SoS1313.
Although Plaintiff would have received the same pay and
benefits at the Naperville facility, Ex. 1 ¶ 13; Ex.2
¶ 14; Grp. Ex. 3 at SoS920-21, the transfer would have
inconvenienced Plaintiff, as the Naperville facility was
almost 20 miles farther from his home than the Schaumburg
facility. Ex. 5.
never actually transferred to the Naperville facility,
however. Ex. 1 ¶ 14; Ex. 2 ¶ 18. Instead, Hendrix
stopped coming to work after September 17, 2015, and, on
September 24, 2015 (two days after the scheduled transfer),
he requested a second FMLA leave, retroactive to September
18, 2015. Ex. 1 ¶ 14; Ex. 2 ¶ 18; Grp. Ex. 3 at
SoS446-50. His request was again approved. Ex. 1 ¶ 14;
Ex. 2 ¶ 18; Group Ex. 3 at SoS446. Plaintiff remained
out on leave from September 18, 2015 until September 6, 2017,
when his physician cleared him to return to work with certain
permanent restrictions. Ex. 1 ¶ 15. When Plaintiff
returned to work, he resumed his job as Senior Manager and
was transferred to the DMV facility in Elk Grove Village, a
facility closer to his home than either the Naperville or the
Schaumburg facilities. Ex. 1 ¶ 16; Ex. 2 ¶ 19; Grp.
Ex. 3 at SoS482.
after returning to work, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit,
alleging that Defendant violated his rights under the FMLA.
See . In an initial status report, Plaintiff
clarified that his FMLA claim is based upon allegations that
Defendant failed to return him to the same position or a
substantially equivalent position when he came back from FMLA
leave. See  ¶ 1(d). Defendant moved for
summary judgment , arguing that Plaintiff's claims
are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and fail as a matter of
law because, after his periods of leave, Plaintiff returned
to the same or an equivalent position. Plaintiff did not
respond to the motion.
should grant summary judgment when the moving party shows
that no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact and
the evidence weighs so heavily in the moving party's
favor that the moving party “must prevail as a matter
of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 252 (1986); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. A
genuine dispute as to a material fact exists when, based upon
the evidence, a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving
party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. To show a genuine
dispute as to a material fact, the non-moving party must
point to “particular materials in the record, ”
and cannot rely upon the pleadings or speculation.
Olendzki v. Rossi, 765 F.3d 742, 746 (7th Cir.
2014). At summary judgment, courts evaluate evidence in the
light most favorable to the non-moving party, and must
refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing