Dakers v. Metra
Opinion and Order: For the reasons stated in this opinion and order, defendant Metra's motion for summary judgment (Dtk. 54) is denied. Plaintiff Brandee Dakers' cross-motion for summary judgment (Dkt. 64) is denied. This case is set for hearing on status on October 19, 2017 at 2:00 p.m Signed by the Honorable William T. Hart on 10/5/2017:Mailed notice(clw, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
BRANDEE N. DAKERS,
No. 16 C 2665
OPINION AND ORDER
This case is before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment.
Plaintiff Brandee N. Dakers was terminated as an employee of defendant Metra.
Metra is a public corporation, organized under the Regional Transportation
Authority Act, 70 ILCS 3615/1.02 et seq., with its principal place of business in
Cook County, Illinois and operates commuter rail lines. Plaintiff brings this action
for violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., as
amended, (“FMLA”). The court has jurisdiction of the subject matter and the
parties. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1391.
Plaintiff was hired by Metra on February 4, 2013 and is a member of the
Transportation Communications International Union (“TCIU”). As an extra list
clerk, plaintiff worked as a janitor cleaning public areas at the Millennium Station.
On November 17, 2014 plaintiff’s supervisor gave her notice of a
disciplinary investigation to be held on November 20, 2014 relating to an incident
in which she was charged with watching TV while on duty. The investigation was
later continued to November 25, 2014.
On November 25, 2014 plaintiff was working as a janitor at Millenium
Station. She was involved in altercation with another employee that ended at the
Metra police department office at the Randolph Street station. Plaintiff was
removed from service and given notice of an investigation of the incident relating
to “whether or not [she] made threatening statements and/or threatening gestures
directed at [a] Metra employee.” What occurred is in dispute. After she was
removed from service an acquaintance took plaintiff to Mercy Hospital where she
was treated for a mental health condition.
Pursuant to the TCIU collective bargaining agreement and the Metra
Rules of Conduct, an investigation of a Rule infraction is to be held within seven
days of the date a supervisor learns of an offense. The Conduct Rules require that
employees “act courteously and not quarrelsome.” Under ordinary circumstances
48 hours is considered a reasonable time to hold a hearing. The employee is
entitled to union representation. The investigation is before a hearing officer
appointed by Metra. If the hearing officer sustains the charges, the employee is
subject to dismissal consistent with the Employee Conduct Rules and the
Bargaining Agreement. Metra may hold an employee out of service pending an
investigation. The employee may appeal a dismissal to the National Railway
Metra appointed Darrin Austin, superintendent of Metra Electric District,
as hearing officer. The initial hearing date was December 1, 2014, but it was
On December 5, 2015 plaintiff applied for and received leave under the
FMLA for a mental health condition, retroactive to November 25, 2014. On
December 16, 2014 and January 22, 2015, Metra approved extensions of FLMA
leave to and including February 10, 2015.
At the request of her union representative, the hearing officer postponed
the hearing to December 11, 2014. On December 11 the hearing was postponed to
January 23, 2015 due to plaintiff’s being off from work for medical reasons. The
hearing officer requested, however, that the union representative provide medical
documentation to substantiate why plaintiff could not attend a hearing. The
hearing was postponed to January 29, 2015. Plaintiff did not appear. Her Union
representative objected to holding the hearing and left the room. No medical
evidence was presented. Metra notified plaintiff that the hearing was postponed to
February 4, 2015.
The hearing was convened on February 4, 2015. Plaintiff did not attend.
The Union representative left the hearing room shortly before it began. The
hearing officer heard evidence. On February 11, 2015, plaintiff was notified of
termination. Plaintiff appealed to the National Mediation Board. The Arbitrator
denied plaintiff’s appeal and affirmed the dismissal on May 2, 2016.
The FMLA prohibits employers from interfering with the exercise of
rights granted under the Act. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Plaintiff contends that
holding a disciplinary hearing while she was on leave constituted an “interference”
and retaliation for taking leave, citing Vess v. Scott Med. Corp., 2013 WL
1100068 (N.D. Ohio) and Stickland v. Water Works Sewer Bd. Of Birmingham,
239 F. 3d 1199, 1206 (11th Cir. 2001). Plaintiff also disputes the right of the
hearing officer to request medical support to continue the hearing. Plaintiff argues
that the regulations governing the certification necessary to support leave for a
serious medical condition also applies to the information requested by the hearing
officer to support a request for a continuance of the disciplinary hearing and that
the hearing officer was not authorized to order medical support to continue the
Metra contends that the leave certificate regulations do not control the
disciplinary proceedings which are governed by Metra’s rules of conduct and the
Bargaining agreement, and that, under the circumstances, it was reasonable for the
hearing officer to require medical proof to justify continuing the hearing beyond
February 10, 2015.
Whether Metra’s conduct was an unlawful interference with plaintiff’s
leave is a factual question that requires a consideration of all the facts relating to
the conduct of the plaintiff as well as the actions and conduct of Metra. Neither
party is entitled to summary judgment on any of the fact issues.
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED AS FOLLOWS:
(1) Defendant Metra’s motion for summary judgment (Dtk. 54) is denied
(2) Plaintiff Brandee Dakers’ cross-motion for summary judgment
(Dkt. 64) is denied.
(3) This case is set for hearing on status on October 19, 2017 at
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: OCTOBER 5, 2017
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