Hayes v. Voestalpine Nortrak Inc
MEMORANDUM OPINION that 19 Motion for Summary Judgment be granted on counts I and III, and that Hayes continue his suit on Count II. Signed by Judge Abdul K Kallon on 5/4/2016. (YMB)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
VOESTALPINE NORTRAK, INC.,
2016 May-05 AM 09:07
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
Civil Action Number
Martin Hayes pursues this case against voestalpine Nortrak, Inc. (“Nortrak”)
under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.,
and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2611 et
seq. Doc. 1. Hayes alleges that Nortrak failed to accommodate his disability as
required by the ADA when it discharged him after he missed work to treat his
disability. Id. He also alleges that Nortrak interfered with his rights under the
FMLA and then retaliated against him for attempting to exercise those rights. Id.
Nortrak has moved for summary judgment, doc. 19, and the motion is fully briefed
and ripe for review, docs. 20; 21; 26; 27; 28. Based on a review of the evidence
and the law, the court finds that Hayes has failed to present sufficient evidence to
support his ADA failure to accommodate claim and his FMLA retaliation claim.
However, Hayes has presented sufficient evidence to present a question for the jury
with respect to his FMLA interference claim.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD OF REVIEW
Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary
judgment is proper “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.” To support
a summary judgment motion, the parties must cite to “particular parts of materials
in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
materials.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Moreover, “Rule 56(c) 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 essential 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 moving
party bears the initial burden of proving the absence of a genuine issue of material
fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the nonmoving party, who is required to
“go beyond the pleadings” to establish that there is a “genuine issue for trial.” Id. at
324 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). A dispute about a material fact
is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The court must construe the evidence and all reasonable inferences arising
from it in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S. H. Kress
& Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); see also Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255 (all
justifiable inferences must be drawn in the non-moving party’s favor). Any factual
disputes will be resolved in the non-moving party’s favor when sufficient
competent evidence supports the non-moving party’s version of the disputed facts.
See Pace v. Capobianco, 283 F.3d 1275, 1276 (11th Cir. 2002) (a court is not
required to resolve disputes in the non-moving party’s favor when that party’s
version of events is supported by insufficient evidence). However, “mere
conclusions and unsupported factual allegations are legally insufficient to defeat a
summary judgment motion.” Ellis v. England, 432 F.3d 1321, 1326 (11th Cir.
2005) (per curiam) (citing Bald Mountain Park, Ltd. v. Oliver, 863 F.2d 1560,
1563 (11th Cir. 1989)). Furthermore, “[a] mere ‘scintilla’ of evidence supporting
the opposing party’s position will not suffice; there must be enough of a showing
that the jury could reasonably find for that party.” Walker v. Darby, 911 F.2d 1573,
1577 (11th Cir. 1990) (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252).
Sometime after hiring Hayes in 1993, Nortrak promoted Hayes to track
technician. Hayes held this position until his discharge in 2013. Track technicians
fabricate and fit parts to construct a frog, which is an assemblage of metal alloy
castings and bent pieces of railroad rail that can be sold separately or included as
part of a railroad or transit project. Doc. 20 at 3, n.2. The essential functions of a
track technician include grinding, 1 standing, walking, lifting more than fifty
pounds, and regular attendance. Doc. 21-2 at 82.
In 2013, Nortrak instituted a no-fault attendance policy. Doc. 26-1 at 7. The
policy assigned different point values to attendance infractions, and an employee is
discharged after accumulating thirteen points.2 Doc. 21-2 at 135. The policy
impacted Hayes significantly due to orthopedic injuries that he began developing
in 2009. Doc. 26 at 2. These injuries led to carpal-tunnel release surgery on his left
wrist in 2010 and on his right wrist in 2012. Id. To avoid accumulating points
under the no-fault attendance policy, Hayes initially used the majority of his
vacation time as emergency vacation days when he needed to seek treatment for
his injuries. Id. However, after exhausting his vacation time, Hayes began
accumulating points under the policy. Id
Hayes accumulated one point in March and three points in May, all for leaving
work early. Doc. 21-4 at 57. Beginning on June 2, 2013, Hayes missed five
consecutive days. Hayes used four emergency vacation days for the first four days
and did not accumulate any points as a result. However, he accumulated two points
Grinding is the process by which frog castings are modified for difference uses. It involves the use of heavy
grinders and impact wrenches “which require heavy lifting and repetitive swaying motions to grind the rail into
specifications.” Doc. 20 at 3, n.2.
For example, a tardy up to thirty minutes is assessed half a point if the employee contacted her supervisor prior to
the start of the shift, and a full point otherwise. Doc. 21-2 at 132. By the same token, an absence is assessed two
points if the employee contacts Nortrak prior to the shift start and six points if she does not do so. Id. However,
where an absence is due to illness or injury that exceeds one day and if the employee is also under the care of a
physician, the first day and subsequent consecutive days are treated as a single occurrence provided that the
employee provides notice to Human Resources “upon his or her return to work or, in the case of an extended illness,
as soon as is practicable.” Id. at 134.
for the last day. Doc. 26 at 3; Doc. 26-1 at 11–13. Hayes takes issue with the two
points assessed because of his contention that he informed his supervisor, John
Patton, and the Production Manager, Johnny Myrick, daily that he was using his
vacation days due to leg and knee pain. Doc. 26 at 3. Hayes also accumulated
another point for leaving early on June 12, 2013 and another two points for missing
work on June 13, 2013, all three of which he also challenges. Docs. 26 at 3–4; 21-4
at 57. Relevant here, although he challenges these five points, Hayes concedes that
he did not provide a medical excuse when he returned to work after these absences.
Doc. 21-2 at 57–58. Hayes also accumulated two more points for an absence on
June 11, 2013, for a total of eleven points, doc. 21-4 at 57, and accumulated his
twelfth point on June 25 when he left work early. Doc. 26-1 at 8.
Presumably because he was only one point shy of a discharge, in July 2013, the
Director of Human Resources, Clay Johnston, met with Hayes to discuss his points
accumulation. Doc. 21-2 at 54. Apparently, Hayes mentioned his medical issues
during this meeting and Johnston discussed the possibility of retroactively
designating some of the vacation days Hayes had used for medical visits as FMLA
leave, if Hayes provided the appropriate documentation. Docs. 21-2 at 56; 21-4 at
43–44. Johnston and Hayes also discussed the possibility of Hayes using FMLA
leave for subsequent absences, and Johnston provided Hayes the relevant form for
Hayes’ physician to complete. Doc. 26 at 3. A few days later, Dr. Ronald Moon,
M.D., completed the certification form and submitted it to Nortrak. Doc. 21-4.
After reviewing the document, Johnston determined that Hayes did not qualify for
FMLA because of Dr. Moon’s failure to indicate whether Hayes would be
incapacitated for any period of time or if Hayes needed a reduced work schedule.
Doc. 21-4 at 21–22. Hayes did not pursue the matter further with Dr. Moon, nor
did Hayes provide the information to retroactively designate vacation days as
FMLA leave. Doc. 21-2 at 55–56.
Sometime after arriving at work on September 16, 2013, Hayes experienced an
episode of debilitating pain and informed his supervisor that he needed to leave
early to visit the emergency room. Doc. 26 at 5. Hayes subsequently visited the ER
and received a note excusing him from work until September 19, 2013. Id. Hayes
intended to bring the note with him when he returned to work on September 19. Id.
at 7 (“Company policy requires that I deliver the medical excuse when I return to
work.”). As a result, when Hayes called the next day to report his absence, Hayes
stated only “that [his] doctor had taken [him] off work on September 17, 2013.”
Docs. 21-2 at 62–63; 26 at 7. In light of Hayes’ early departure the day before,
Human Resources assessed Hayes a point under the no-fault policy, raising Hayes’
accumulated total to thirteen. Doc. 26-1 at 30. Consequently, Johnston called
Hayes at home on September 17, and discharged him for excessive absences in
violation of the attendance policy. Docs. 26 at 7; 21-2 at 62 and 66. During the
phone call, Hayes never conveyed to Johnston that he left work early for medical
reasons or that he had, in fact, visited a doctor and obtained a medical excuse from
the doctor. Doc. 21-2 at 66.
Hayes alleges violations of the ADA (Count I), and FMLA interference
(Count II), and retaliation (Count III) claims. The court addresses these claims
A. ADA Violations (Count I)
Nortrak challenges Hayes’ disability claim on two grounds: (1) that Hayes is
not an otherwise “qualified person” with a disability due to his failure to propose a
reasonable accommodation that would enable him to perform his job; and (2) that
Hayes is estopped from arguing that he is an otherwise qualified individual with a
disability in light of Hayes’ claim of total disability on his application for Social
Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”). Doc. 20 at 6, 29. The court agrees.
The ADA prohibits discrimination against a qualified individual with a
disability. A qualified individual is someone who can perform the essential
functions of her position, with or without a reasonable accommodation. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 12111(a) and 12112. SSDI provides benefits to persons who are unable to
perform their previous work and “cannot . . . engage in any other kind of
substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(2)(A). While the two statutes may seem to conflict, the Supreme Court has
found that because the Social Security Administration does not consider the effect
of a reasonable accommodation on a claimant’s ability to work, “an ADA suit
claiming that the plaintiff can perform her job with reasonable accommodation
may well prove consistent with an SSDI claim that the plaintiff could not perform
her own job (or other jobs) without it.” Cleveland v. Policy Management Systems,
Corp., 526 U.S. 795, 803 (1999) (emphasis original). However, the receipt of SSDI
creates a rebuttable presumption that the plaintiff is judicially estopped from
asserting that she is a qualified individual with a disability. Id.; see also Siudock v.
Volusia Cty. Sch. Bd., 568 F. App’x 659, 662 (11th Cir. 2014). As a result, to
survive summary judgment, a plaintiff “cannot simply ignore [her] SSDI
contention that [she] was too disabled to work,” but “must explain why that SSDI
contention is consistent with [her] ADA claim that [she] could ‘perform the
accommodation.’” Cleveland, 526 U.S. at 798.
Relevant here, Hayes has offered no evidence to rebut his SSDI application
in which he claimed total disability as of August 30, 2013. Doc. 24-1 *SEALED*.
Indeed, on his disability application, the consulting physician noted that Hayes
could not return to work at Nortrak due to Hayes’ ten-pound lifting restriction and
limited ability to stand or walk. Id. at 17. Based on these restrictions, Hayes simply
cannot perform the essential functions of a track technician. Moreover, Hayes has
not offered any evidence or argument to reconcile his SSDI claim of total disability
with his ADA failure to accommodate claim. See Talavera v. Sch. Bd. Of Palm
Beach Cty., 129 F.3d 1214, 1220 (11th Cir. 1997) (“[A]n ADA plaintiff is
estopped from denying the truth of any statements made in [his] disability
application.”). Therefore, Hayes’ ADA claim fails on this basis alone.
The ADA claim fails also because Hayes cannot perform the essential
functions of his position. Doc. 20 at 7. To support its contention that Hayes is not a
qualified individual with a disability, Nortrak points to Hayes’ testimony that by
the end of 2013 “[he] couldn’t even walk across the floor.” Doc. 21-2 at 81. Hayes
does not dispute this contention, nor does he offer evidence that he asked for an
accommodation. See McCarroll v. Somerby of Mobile, LLC, 595 F. App’x 897,
899 (11th Cir. 2014) (“[T]he duty to provide a reasonable accommodation is not
triggered unless a specific demand for an accommodation has been made.”)
(internal citation omitted). Instead, he argues that Dr. Moon’s certification form
indicated that Hayes could have performed the essential functions under a reduced
work schedule. Doc. 27 at 13. This contention is unavailing because the form is
contradictory at best—i.e., Dr. Moon checked the box indicating that Hayes would
need to attend follow-up treatment and/or work part-time on a reduced schedule,
but then indicated that the section relating to estimating a reduced work schedule
was inapplicable—and Dr. Moon does not state that Hayes has a disability. Doc.
26-1 at 4. Moreover, even if Hayes is disabled, Nortrak has no obligation to
transform a full-time position to part-time. See Lucas v. W.W. Grainger, Inc., 257
F.3d 1249, 1260 (11th Cir. 2001) (“[E]mployers are not required to transform the
position into another one by eliminating functions that are essential to the nature of
the job as it exists.”).
Put simply, because the form provided by Dr. Moon does not indicate a need
for a reduced work schedule or that Hayes in any way suffered from a disability,
and in light of Hayes’ failure to reconcile his SSDI claim and his ADA claim,
summary judgment is due to be granted on Count I.
B. FMLA Interference (Count II)
Hayes alleges next that Nortrak impermissibly interfered with his FMLA
rights by denying him leave. Doc. 1 at 3. The FMLA guarantees eligible
employees the right to “12 work weeks of leave during any 12-month period . . .
[b]ecause of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform
the functions of the position of such employee.” 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). A
“serious health condition” is an injury, illness, impairment, or physical or mental
condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care
provider. Id. at § 2611(11). A serious health condition with continuing treatment
includes, but is not limited to “a period of incapacity of more than three
consecutive full calendar days,” “any period of incapacity or treatment for such
incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition,” or “any period of absence to
receive multiple treatments.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.115(a)–(f). To prove interference,
Hayes must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that he “was denied a
benefit to which he was entitled under the FMLA.” Martin v. Brevard County
Public Schools, 543 F.3d 1261, 1266 (11th Cir. 2008). FMLA interference does not
require the employee to allege that the employer intended to deny the benefit; it is
enough that the employer denied the benefit. Strickland v. Water Works and Sewer
Bd. of City of Birmingham, 239 F.3d 1199, 1207 (11th Cir. 2001).
Nortrak asserts that Hayes’ FMLA claim fails because Hayes cannot satisfy
the three-day incapacitation requirement of 29 C.F.R. § 825.115(a). Nortrak
overlooks, however, that an employee may also qualify for FMLA leave if she
suffers “any period of incapacity” due to either a chronic condition or a condition
requiring multiple treatments. 29 C.F.R. § 825.115(c) and (e). Based on the record
before the court, the form that Dr. Moon completed indicating that he had seen
Hayes “too many [times] to list—monthly since 2009,” that he expected Hayes’
impairments to continue throughout his life, and that Hayes would need follow up
treatment appointments, doc. 21-4 at 53–54, a reasonable jury may find that Hayes
suffered from a chronic condition, 3 and that Nortrak interfered with his right to
take FMLA. The court recognizes that Nortrak challenges the sufficiency of Dr.
Moon’s information, and that Johnston concluded that “based on what [Dr. Moon’s
form] says and absent any other documentation provided, it wasn’t appropriate to
A chronic serious health problem is further defined by the regulations as one which:
(1) Requires periodic visits (defined as at least twice a year) for treatment by a health care provider, or by a
nurse under direction of a health care provider;
(2) Continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition);
(3) May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity (e.g., asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, etc.).
29 C.F.R. § 825.115(c).
initiate family medical leave at this point.” Doc. 21-4 at 19. Regardless of the
purported insufficiency of the form, a dispute exists with respect to what occurred
next, with Hayes contending that Johnston never told him he did not qualify for
FMLA or that the form was deficient,4 doc. 26 at 4, and Johnston maintaining that
he informed Hayes he was not eligible for FMLA, doc. 21-4 at 19. More
importantly, Johnston admits that he never informed Hayes in writing that the form
was deficient. Doc. 21-4 at 19–20. Johnston’s admission is contrary to the
regulations, which require an “employer [to] advise an employee whenever the
employer finds a certification incomplete or insufficient and shall state in writing
what additional information is necessary to make the certification complete and
sufficient.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.305(c). This fact, coupled with Nortrak’s purported
knowledge of Hayes’ health problems, see docs. 26-1 at 11–19; 21-5 at 3; 21-2 at
45, is sufficient to create a factual dispute about whether the failure to engage in
the certification dialogue constituted interference with Hayes’ FMLA leave. See,
e.g., Cruz v. Publix Super Mkts., Inc., 428 F3d 1379, 1384 (11th Cir. 2005) (an
employee can adequately convey to the employer sufficient information to put the
employer on notice that an absence is potentially FMLA qualifying). Accordingly,
Hayes may proceed with his interference claim.
C. FMLA Retaliation (Count III)
Hayes also testified that although he found out he was rejected for FMLA leave, he still believed that “the FMLA
would cover [him] for [his] doctor, if [he] went to the doctor.” Doc. 21-2 at 56.
Retaliation is distinct from FMLA interference. 5 To prevail on a retaliation
claim, Hayes must demonstrate that Nortrak intentionally discriminated against
him in the form of an adverse employment action for having exercised an FMLA
right. Bradley v. Army Fleet Support, LLC, 54 F. Supp. 3d 1272, 1282 (M.D. Ala.
2014). Specifically, Hayes must show Nortrak’s actions “were motivated by an
impermissible discriminatory animus.” Strickland, 239 F.3d 1199 (11th Cir. 2001).
Where, as here, Hayes lacks direct evidence intent, Hayes may prove his claim
through circumstantial evidence by showing that the adverse action he challenges
was causally related to his protected activity. Smith v. BellSouth Telecomm., Inc.,
273 F.3d 1303, 1314 (11th Cir. 2001). For the reasons stated below, the court finds
that Hayes has failed to establish the required causal link.
At the outset, it is undisputed that Nortrak discharged Hayes the day after
Hayes left work early to seek medical treatment. However, “temporal proximity
alone is insufficient to create a genuine issue of fact as to causal connection where
there is unrebutted evidence that the decision maker did not have knowledge that
Telecommunications, Inc., 231 F.3d 791, 799 (11th Cir. 2000). Relevant here, as it
The statute prohibits an employer from interfering with, restraining, or denying “the exercise of or attempt to
exercise, any right provided under this subchapter.” 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a). In a separate section, the statute also
makes it “unlawful for any employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any individual for
opposing any practice made unlawful by this subchapter.” 29 U.S.C. § 2615(b). Moreover, the regulations to the
FMLA specifically state “The Act’s prohibition against interference prohibits an employer from discriminating or
retaliating against an employee or prospective employee for having exercised or attempted to exercise FMLA
rights… [E]mployers cannot use the taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment actions such as
hiring, promotions or disciplinary actions.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.220.
relates to the accumulated points, although Hayes frequently used vacation days to
visit the doctor, he never conveyed this fact to his supervisors. Doc. 21-2 at 58.
Moreover, even after Johnston (the decision maker here) informed Hayes in July
2013 that some of Hayes’ medical visits for which he used his vacation might
qualify as FMLA absences and therefore not count against him in terms of his
attendance record, Hayes failed to provide Johnston with the necessary
documentation that would have allowed Johnston to determine whether the
absences qualified for FMLA. Doc. 21-2 at 56. By failing to do so, Hayes has no
legitimate basis to assert that Nortrak improperly assessed him the points for those
absences because while, the FMLA prohibits an employer from counting FMLA
leave against an employee under a ‘no fault’ attendance policy when those
absences are for a qualifying reason, see 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c), there is no FMLA
violation where an employee is discharged after repeated infractions of a detailed
attendance policy, see Earl v. Mervyns, Inc., 207 F.3d 1361 (11th Cir. 2000).
With respect to the thirteenth point that led to Hayes’ discharge, viewing the
evidence in the light most favorable to Hayes, Hayes informed his supervisor he
needed to leave to go to the emergency room and, in fact, visited a clinic. Doc. 212 at 61. After the visit, although he had a note excusing him from work for three
days, Hayes decided to hold onto the note until he returned to work, and, as such,
failed to provide the documentation or medical record substantiating this visit
immediately afterwards. Doc. 26 at 7 (“Company policy requires that I deliver the
medical excuse when I return to work.”); Doc. 21-2 at 134 (“. . . it is the
employee’s responsibility to provide [a physician’s work authorization form] upon
his or her return to work or, in the case of an extended illness, as soon as is
practicable.”). Consistent with the doctor’s advice that he remain at home for three
days, Hayes called off work the next day, but informed Nortrak only that his doctor
had taken him off work for that day. Doc. 21-2 at 66–67. Moreover, he never
suggested during the call that he had, in fact, visited the doctor the day before, or
that the doctor had taken him off work for an extended period of time. Doc. 21-2 at
61–62. To make matters worse, even when he received the phone call the next day
informing him about his discharge, Hayes still did not inform Johnston that he had
a medical excuse for his absence. Doc. 21-2 at 66. Instead, if the court accepts his
affidavit testimony instead of his deposition, he waited until the next day after his
discharge to try to submit a medical excuse. 6 Doc. 26 at 7.
Based on this record, Hayes has not pointed to any evidence that at the time
Johnston discharged him, Johnston knew of Hayes’ potentially FMLA qualifying
medical condition as it related to his accrued absences, or that Hayes left early on
September 16, 2013 for a potentially FMLA qualifying reason. Doc. 21-2 at 79.
Moreover, there is no evidence that the supervisor Hayes informed he intended to
visit the ER communicated this fact to Johnston. See Clover v. Total System
Services, Inc., 176 F.3d 1346, 1355 (11th Cir. 1999) (holding that knowledge of a
Hayes alleges in his affidavit that he attempted to submit his excuse the day after his discharge, but was denied
access to the premises. Doc. 26 at 7. However, in his deposition, he testified that he never attempted to submit an
excuse. Doc. 21-2 at 65–66. These discrepancies do not impact the court’s analysis of the retaliation claim.
protected activity is not imputed to a corporation without evidence that the
decision maker was aware of the protected conduct). Because the record does not
establish that Johnston knew that Hayes was engaging in protected activity when
he discharged Hayes, Hayes cannot establish the necessary causal connection
between his discharge and his protected activity to support a retaliation claim. See
Strickland, 239 F.3d at 1207–08 (dismissing an FMLA retaliation claim because
“[a] decisionmaker cannot have been motivated to retaliate by something unknown
to him.”) and Krutzig v Pulte Home Corporation, 602 F.3d 1231, (11th Cir. 2010)
(“Temporal proximity alone, however, is not sufficient to establish a causal
connection when there is unrebutted evidence that the decision maker was not
aware of the protected activity.”).
Alternatively, the claim fails because Hayes offers no evidence to rebut
Nortrak’s legitimate non-retaliatory reason for his discharge, i.e., accumulation of
points, other than a general assertion that Nortrak improperly calculated his points
and that Nortrak has changed its reasoning for the discharge. Docs. 27 at 13; 26 at
6. These contentions are unavailing because the evidence before this court shows
that Nortrak correctly tabulated Hayes’ points and, as to the purported shifting
reason, the only reason Hayes provides to the court is that Nortrak discharged him
for violating its attendance policy. Docs. 26 at 6; 26-1. For all these reasons,
summary judgment is due to be granted on Count III.7
For the reasons above, Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is due to be
granted on counts I and III, and Hayes may continue his suit on Count II.
DONE the 4th day of May, 2016.
ABDUL K. KALLON
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Whether Nortrak was entitled to count Hayes’ potentially FMLA qualifying absences—including the one that
triggered the thirteenth point and for which he submitted an excuse after his discharge—in making its adverse
employment decision is not a factor in the court’s analysis of Hayes’ retaliation claim. If those absences were
protected, and Nortrak penalized Hayes for them, that evidence would relate to Hayes’ interference claim (Count II).
A retaliation claim requires a showing of intentional retaliatory animus on the part of the employer because the
employee attempted to invoke FMLA rights, while interference merely requires that the employee establish the
employer denied her a right to which she was entitled under the FMLA. See Hawkins v. BBVA Compass Bancshares,
Inc., 613 F. App’x 831, 840 (11th Cir. 2015).
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