United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
RICHARD MILLS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Plaintiff alleges the Defendant interfered with his rights
under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”),
pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Pending
are motions for summary judgment filed by both parties.
Mark Cooper was employed by Defendant Beelman Truck Co. from
March 2014 through October 5, 2016. Beelman is a Delaware
corporation that does business in Illinois providing dry bulk
commodity transportation services (i.e., commercial trucking)
with facilities throughout the Midwest. Cooper worked out of
Beelman's Springfield, Illinois location. In 2015,
approximately 90 employees worked for Beelman out of
Springfield. After January 1, 2016 through Cooper's
termination, Beelman employed approximately 78 drivers in
start of his employment, Cooper was given a copy of
Beelman's Employee Handbook, which included the
company's written policies regarding sick leave, FMLA
leave, call-out procedures and progressive discipline. Cooper
signed to indicate he had read and understood the handbook.
Beelman has a poster describing the FMLA in the break room of
its Springfield facility.
Butler has worked for Beelman from 2011 through the present.
Throughout his employment with Beelman, Butler has held the
position of Terminal Manager at the Springfield location.
Butler hired Cooper and was Cooper's direct supervisor
during his employment. Cooper did not have any other boss or
supervisor in Springfield. Throughout 2015 and 2016, Cooper
worked approximately 50 hours per week.
alleges he suffered a herniated disc approximately 15 years
before joining Beelman and continued to have flare-ups of
acute back pain intermittently over the years. The flare-ups
would occur suddenly and unpredictably. Beelman disputes
Cooper's assertion and claims no objective medical
evidence supports it. The records show mild degenerative disc
disease at the L5-S1 level.
February 17, 2015, Cooper reinjured his back while at work.
Cooper reported that he had increased pain when leaning
forward and his pain increased when he was driving his truck
at work due to bouncing that would occur. At the emergency
room, Cooper was diagnosed as having low back pain and back
muscle spasms. He was prescribed Flexeril, Ibuprofen and home
exercises. On February 19, 2015, the doctor wrote a note
stating: “Please stay home from work tomorrow to rest
back.” Cooper was discharged from the hospital on
February 19, 2015.
was absent from work due to his back injury from February 23
through February 26, 2015 and was treated for his back pain.
Beelman disputes that Butler knew Cooper had injured his back
in February of 2015, except that he was aware Cooper had
those days off and said it was because of his back. Cooper
returned to work without pain or restrictions.
testified he aggravated his back in May of 2016. He did not
report the injury to Beelman and did not seek medical
treatment. Cooper testified that he called Mick Butler and
told him he was going to take a few days off because his back
was hurting from shoveling ash. Cooper did not report any
specific incident to Beelman's safety department. He
testified that he did not feel like it was that bad.
did not work from September 4, 2016 through September 6,
2016, in order to have a colonoscopy. He returned to work on
September 7, 2016. On that same day, Cooper was hauling a
load of pumpkins from Southern Illinois to Morton, Illinois.
Cooper alleges that, during the drive, he drove his truck
over bumpy roads, which resulted in him experiencing back
pain that evening. Beelman disputes the allegation on the
basis that Mick Butler asked if he had injured his back and
Cooper responded, “not that he was aware of.”
morning of September 8, 2016, Cooper called Butler to inform
him that his back was bothering him and he would not be
coming to work. Cooper did not tell Butler how long he would
be out. Butler informed Cooper that he needed to bring a
doctor's excuse stating he could come to work without any
restrictions in order to return to work. Beelman contends the
notice Cooper provided that he was not coming into work did
not comply with Beelman's call-in procedures. Cooper
disputes the allegation, alleging the record fails to
establish what time he called off work on September 8, 2016,
or what time he was scheduled to work that day.
same day, Cooper went to the Memorial Hospital Emergency Room
due to what he says was severe back pain. Beelman claims that
the records do not support his assertion that he went for
“severe back pain.” The hospital records state:
The patient presents with back pain and had severe back pain
20 years ago that resolved after steroid injections. He had
severe back pain 2 years ago that also resolved. The back
pain started yesterday while driving a semi truck over bumpy
country roads. Feels similar, no new injury.
doctor reported the following “Impression: low back
pain.” Cooper was discharged to home with his condition
was given prescriptions for medications which included
hydrocodone-acetaminophen, hydromorphone and Flexeril, which
he was instructed to take from September 8, 2016 through
September 11, 2016. He was also prescribed prednisone which
he was instructed to take from September 8, 2016 through
September 15, 2016. Cooper was also prescribed an injection
of Dilaudid. The prescription orders given to Cooper for the
hydrocodone-acetaminophen stated, “DO NOT OPERATE
MACHINERY OR DRIVE.”
took the medications as prescribed. When discharged, Cooper
was instructed to follow up with a physician if his symptoms
continued or worsened. On September 12, 2016, Cooper saw his
physician, Dr. Akshra Verma, at SIU School of Medicine as a
follow up to his hospital visit and for further treatment of
his back pain. Cooper claims that he had continued to
experience back pain since his visit to the emergency room
despite taking his prescribed medications. Dr. Verma
diagnosed the Plaintiff as having lumbar back pain.
alleges that, from September 8, 2016 through September 14,
2016, his back pain made it nearly impossible for him to
drive. He struggled to get out of bed without help, had
trouble bending over and had difficulty getting dressed.
Beelman disputes these allegations and claims that Cooper
merely told Butler his back was bothering him. Moreover, the
medical records do not reflect or support this statement.
Verma prescribed Flexeril and Norco to take for his back pain
as needed. Cooper took the medications as prescribed. He was
still taking the prednisone that was prescribed at the
emergency room. Dr. Verma also gave Cooper a note stating
only that he could return to full duties at work as of
September 15, 2016. Beelman claims the letter lacks details
and neither supports the contention that Cooper had a serious
medical condition nor does it provide notice to Beelman that
implicated the FMLA. The letter does not state the reason why
Cooper should be off work, the date his problems began and
what treatment, if any, Cooper was provided.
gave Butler his doctor's note. Butler did not ask Cooper
for any additional information. Cooper returned to work on
September 15, 2016. He did not experience any additional back
flare-ups between September 15, 2016 and October 5, 2016.
September 28, 2016 Cooper's dispatcher, Pat Sadler, asked
for volunteers to work over the weekend of October 1-2, 2016.
Cooper said he could not work because he would be out of
was absent from work on October 3 and 4, 2016, because he had
the flu. On October 3, 2016, Cooper emailed Sadler at 9:11
a.m. to inform her he would not make it in because he was
sick. Sadler responded by telling Cooper to come back with a
doctor's note before returning to work. Cooper replied,
“im not spending money to go to the doctors. i just got
some medicine from the store.” Cooper refused to
provide a doctor's note.
October 4, 2016, Cooper did not inform Sadler that he would
not be at work due to illness. If Cooper contacted Butler to
tell him he was not coming in on October 4, 2016, he would
have given this notice around 7:00 a.m. During this ...