Grovenburg v. Lincare, Inc. et al
ORDER denying 24 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Honorable Paul K. Holmes, III on April 15, 2011. (lw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
FORT SMITH DIVISION
Currently before the Court is Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (Doc. 24) and supporting documents, as well as Plaintiff’s
Response (Doc. 30) and Defendant’s Reply (Doc.35). Plaintiff Julia
Grovenburg filed suit against Defendant Lincare, Inc. (“Lincare”)
alleging that Lincare discriminated against her on the basis of her
gender and pregnancy in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (“Title VII”),
the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981a, and the Arkansas
Civil Rights Act. Grovenburg also claims that Lincare interfered
with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29
U.S.C. § 2617, or in the alternative, terminated her employment in
retaliation for seeking FMLA benefits. Lincare filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment against Grovenburg claiming that there is no
genuine dispute that Grovenburg was not discriminated against or
retaliated against in violation of Title VII, the FMLA, or the
Arkansas Civil Rights Act. For the reasons set forth herein,
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.
In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the
burden is placed on the moving party to establish both the absence
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of a genuine dispute of material fact and that it is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87, 106
S. Ct. 1348, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538 (1986); Nat’l. Bank of Commerce of El
Dorado, Ark. v. Dow Chem. Co., 165 F.3d 602 (8th Cir. 1999). The
Court must review the facts in a light most favorable to the party
opposing a motion for summary judgment and give that party the
benefit of any inferences that logically can be drawn from those
facts. Canada v. Union Elec. Co., 135 F.3d 1211,
1212-13 (8th Cir.
1998) (citing Buller v. Buechler, 706 F.2d 844, 846 (8th Cir.
1983). In order for there to be a genuine issue of material fact,
the non-moving party must produce evidence “such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Allison v.
Flexway Trucking, Inc., 28 F.3d 64, 66 (8th Cir. 1994) (quoting
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct.
2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986)).
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has often cautioned that
discrimination cases. See e.g., Hindman v. Transkrit Corp., 145
F.3d 986, 990 (8th Cir. 1998), Crawford v. Runyon, 37 F.3d 1338,
1341 (8th Cir. 1994), Johnson v. Minnesota Historical Soc’y, 931
F.2d 1239, 1244 (8th Cir. 1991). “Because discrimination cases
often depend on inferences rather than on direct evidence, summary
judgment should not be granted unless the evidence could not
support any reasonable inference for the non-movant.” Peyton v.
Fred’s Stores of Ark., Inc., 561 F.3d 900, 901 (8th Cir. 2009)
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Christopher v. Adam’s Mark Hotels, 137 F.3d 1069, 1071 (8th Cir.
1998), and the fact remains that the ultimate burden of persuasion
plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff.” Reeves v.
Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143 (2000); Harrison
v. United Auto Grp., 492 F.3d 972, 975 (8th Cir. 2007) (citing
Bogren v. Minnesota, 236 F.3d 399, 404 (8th Cir. 2000)).
The Court finds that Lincare has not established an absence of
a genuine dispute when viewing the evidence in a light most
claims, Grovenburg has produced enough evidence to raise genuine
disputes which remain for trial, including but not limited to
whether Lincare sales representatives working under Todd Kline were
actually required, in practice, to meet certain sales goals whether stated in company policy or unstated; whether Grovenburg
was performing her job in a satisfactory manner, as compared to
similarly situated Lincare sales representatives at the time she
was fired; and whether Lincare’s reasons for firing Grovenburg were
pretext for discrimination. As to her FMLA interference claim,
Grovenburg has produced enough evidence to raise a genuine dispute
of material fact as to whether Lincare and/or its employees acted
in a manner so as to attempt to interfere with Grovenburg’s right
to take FMLA leave. Finally, as to her alternatively pled FMLA
retaliation claim, Grovenburg has produced enough evidence to raise
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a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Lincare’s reasons
for firing Grovenburg were pretext for retaliation for Grovenburg’s
seeking FMLA benefits. These determinations should be made by a
jury after benefitting from the ability to weigh the evidence
presented by both sides at a trial. Furthermore, this case is
heavily dependent on testimony from the parties involved, and
credibility determinations should also be left to a jury to make
after hearing testimony presented at trial.
Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 24) is hereby
IT IS SO ORDERED this 15th day of April, 2011.
/s/ Paul K. Holmes, III
Paul K. Holmes, III
United States District
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