Bouchard v. Warren, City of
ORDER Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss/Compel IME 28 and Denying In Part and Granting In Part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment 33 . Signed by District Judge Denise Page Hood. (LSau)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
KENNETH J. BOUCHARD,
Case No. 14-14009
Honorable Denise Page Hood
CITY OF WARREN,
ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT’S MOTION TO
DISMISS/COMPEL IME [#28] and DENYING IN PART
AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT’S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [#33]
Plaintiff filed this cause of action on October 17, 2014, alleging that he was
constructively discharged in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act (“WPA”), and Michigan
public policy. On June 1, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss Claim for Noneconomic Damages and/or to Compel Plaintiff’s Attendance at IME (“Motion to
Dimiss/Compel IME”). [Dkt. No. 28] On June 20, 2016, Defendant filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment. [Dkt. No. 33] The Court held a hearing on both motions on
August 24, 2016. The parties have fully briefed both motions. For the reasons that
follow, the Court: (1) denies Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss/Compel IME; and (2)
denies in part and grants in part Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.
Plaintiff was hired by Defendant as an Assistant Planner in 2011. In July 2013,
he was promoted to City Planner 1. His immediate supervisor was Planning Director
Ronald Wuerth (“Wuerth”). On September 24, 2013, Plaintiff, without authorization
or approval from Wuerth appeared at City Council meetings and assisted City
Councilwoman Kelly Colegio (“Colegio”) in a Powerpoint presentation (“PPP”) that
raised questions and concerns about the appropriateness or legality of Defendant’s (or
some of Defendant’s departments’) policies, rules, and procedures in dealing with
certain properties. According to Wuerth, the meeting was “infamous.” Dkt. No. 38,
Ex. 1 at 55. The concerns expressed at this presentation were similar to those
expressed by Plaintiff in an email sent a day earlier (September 23, 2013) to Richard
Sabaugh, Defendant’s Director of Public Service; Mayor James Fouts; and Greg
Paliczuk, Building Department Director. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 7. According to Wuerth,
a parade of people, including Mayor Fouts and Sabaugh, came to Wuerth’s office to
complain to him about Plaintiff’s participation in the presentation, and they were
“pretty f*@king upset.” Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 13, 20, 46.
On September 27, 2013, Wuerth met with Plaintiff, and Wuerth told Plaintiff
that what he did was inappropriate and that Plaintiff should have brought the issues
raised in the PPP to him and the Mayor instead of Warren City Council. Dkt. No. 33,
Ex. D at 33, 35. Wuerth told Plaintiff to stay out of the business of other departments,
stay focused on planning work, and stay above the issues. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. C at 58-59,
62, 73-78, 94, 108. For more than 50 minutes, Wuerth met with Plaintiff, during
which time Wuerth cursed, berated, and yelled at Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 9 and 10.
In the meeting or since, there is evidence that Wuerth communicated:
Plaintiff’s job was in danger because of his participation in the
presentation. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 24.
Funding for the Planning Department, including Plaintiff’s position, was
in jeopardy. Id. at 24-25.
Plaintiff would face repercussions with regard to his job. Id. at 26.
Everybody is coming at you (Plaintiff). Dkt. No. 38, Ex 10 at 14.
Plaintiff would be on probation and it would be extended. Id. at 18,
Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 24, 42.
For the first time in Plaintiff's tenure, he would be given a performance
evaluation. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 41.
Plaintiff would experience “blowback” as a result of his actions. Id. at
Wuerth was not surprised that Plaintiff was already experiencing
“blowback.” Id. at 44.
Wuerth was not surprised that Plaintiff was getting the silent
treatment. Id. at 44-45.
Plaintiff would never again present to City Council. Id. at 33.
“I had the Mayor stop me in the f#*king hallway and for the third time
he said, ‘This is’---he is very upset. I wouldn’t say what he said. This is
what I've been getting.” Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 45; Ex. 10 at 25.
If the Mayor would have seen the presentation in advance he would have
said “No, this isn’t going to city council. We don’t put this up before the
public like this.” Dkt. No. 38, Ex 10 at 7.
Plaintiff was banned from Sabaugh’s Public Service Division (a division
consisting of 9 departments and crucial to Plaintiff’s ability to do his
job). Id. at 39.
It was not relevant that Plaintiff had presented truthful information at the
City Council Meeting. Id. at 25.
Wuerth questioned why Plaintiff worked at the City of Warren if he was
concerned about illegal conduct. Id. at 41.
Wuerth did not “give a shit” about rumors of illegal conduct at the City
of Warren and “doesn’t care if he sees people passing money to each
other in the hallway.” Id. at 40.
Regarding some of the materials that Plaintiff prepared for the City
Council meeting “the only problem with the map is that it went out to the
public.” Id. at 43.
Wuerth would have ordered Plaintiff not to participate in the
presentation. Id. at 26.
Any material that goes to City Council must be pre-approved by Fouts.
Id. at 27.
The mayor can prohibit a member of City Council from bringing
information to the public. Id. at 28.
Plaintiff should be doing only work assigned to him by Wuerth, “not
indulging in the concerns of the City.” Id. at 35.
As a result of his presentation, the building department had f*#king zero
feelings toward Plaintiff. Id. at 37.
Wuerth had never “seen anything like this before” except for an incident
where a prior City Planner, Dan Smith, was removed from his position
and assigned to drive a truck as a result of upsetting management. Id. at
Plaintiff had lost Wuerth’s and Fouts’ support. Id. at 23.
On October 14, 2013, Plaintiff attended a City Council Meeting of the Whole,
at which Sabaugh stated, in part:
[W]hen one is attacked[,] the team attacks back as a group. . . [A]
member of the planning staff who coincidentally received a $16,000 pay
raise in the last budget year, decided to criticize the building department
and the property maintenance saying that the departments discriminated
in terms of who was [cited] for blight. . . . Any attack on the
administration is an attack on the Mayor . . .
Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 11 at 556-57. It is undisputed that Plaintiff had received a $16,000
pay raise in the prior budget year. Plaintiff maintains that he received the “silent
treatment” on a continuing basis for the duration of his employment by the Defendant.
On or about May 12, 2014, Wuerth asked Plaintiff to make copies of
copyrighted architectural plans. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 57-59. Plaintiff contacted
Roxanne Canestrelli, an attorney for Defendant (“Canestrelli”), to determine whether
the copyright holder’s permission was required to copy the architectural plans, and
Canestrelli advised Plaintiff that such permission in writing was required. Dkt. No. 38,
Ex. 12. Plaintiff advised Wuerth of the need to obtain permission from the copyright
holder before copying the architectural plans and why. In response, Wuerth: (1) told
Plaintiff that Plaintiff wasn’t allowed to ask questions of the legal department;” (2)
told Plaintiff it was “F*@king wrong” for Plaintiff to have gone to Castrenelli; and
(3) suspended Plaintiff for one day without pay for refusing to copy the architectural
plans. Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 1 at 58-63; Ex. 13.
On May 14, 2014, Wuerth formally reprimanded Plaintiff regarding an incident
involving Plaintiff speaking with Karen Hummel, an employee in Defendant’s Public
Service Department (“Hummel”). Hummel reportedly felt harassed by Plaintiff’s
conduct at some point in May 2014. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A at 536; Ex. D at 52; Dkt. No.
38, Ex. 14. Although Defendant details in its brief the conduct of Plaintiff that
reported by Hummel, Dkt. No. 33, PgID 398, Wuerth did not investigate the alleged
complaint or write Plaintiff up for harassment; instead, Wuerth wrote Plaintiff up for
engaging an employee of the Public Service Department in non-work-related
conversations. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A at 536; Ex. D at 52. On May 16, 2014, Plaintiff
prepared a letter contesting Wuerth’s discipline and sent it to Mayor Fouts, Sabaugh,
Wuerth, Phillip Easter, Defendant’s Human Resources Director (“Easter”), Greg
Paliczuk, Director of Property Maintenance & Building Inspection (“Paliczuk”), Dave
Klein of AFSME Local 1917, and David Griem, the City Attorney (“Griem”).
Plaintiff did not receive a response to the letter.
On May 28, 2014, Wuerth asked Plaintiff to make a copy of a public
subdivision plat, and Plaintiff refused because it was “wrong” and he felt he was being
set up. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. C at 87-88. Wuerth sought Easter’s assistance as to “what to
do with” Plaintiff. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. D at 79. On May 29, 2014, a meeting occurred
at which Plaintiff, Easter, Wuerth, and representatives of Local 1917 were present.
According to a letter later drafted by Easter, “Barely after the meeting began,
[Plaintiff] became obviously distressed, and indicated that you were not going to
participate in the discussion, and you got up, left the meeting, and in fact left your job
and the building for the remainder of that work day, and most of the next work day.”
Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 432; Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 17, PgID 1025. Plaintiff states that
he left because he “didn’t trust anyone in the room” and “pulled himself out of a very
stressful situation.” Dkt. No. 33, Ex. C at 94-96.
On June 18, 2014, Wuerth prepared a letter to Plaintiff advising Plaintiff that
he was being suspended without pay for one day on June 24, 2014, for
insubordination for failing to make the copy of the public subdivision plat on May 28,
2014. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 435. On June 19, 2014, Plaintiff emailed Mayor
Fouts and copied numerous others, including Wuerth, Easter and Griem. In that
email, Plaintiff attached a letter contesting the substance of Wuerth’s letter and
concluded by stating, “Due to the extremely stressful nature of all of this and to
protect my own health, I am going to utilize comp time to go home and try to relax.
I will return to work as soon as I can.” Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 436. On June 20,
2014, Easter prepared a letter that he emailed to Plaintiff and copied the same persons
Plaintiff had in his June 19, 2014, letter. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 431-33; Dkt. No.
38, Ex. 17. Easter wrote, in part, “You[r] ongoing apparent inability to work
productively and effectively with your supervisor, and at least two instances of having
to leave the work place due to “stress” is a matter of great concern to me.” Dkt. No.
33, Ex. A, PgID 433; Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 17, PgID 1026. Easter advised Plaintiff that
before he returned to work, Plaintiff would have to see a physician for a “fitness for
duty evaluation” and be cleared by that doctor before returning to work. Dkt. No. 33,
Ex. A, PgID 431-33; Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 17. Plaintiff has acknowledged that he had
heard that Defendant “send[s] people for fitness for duty evauluations.” Dkt. 33, Ex.
C at 96.
On June 21, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a doctor’s note indicating that he would
be off work from June 23 to July 6, 2014, Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 434, and on July
2, 2014, he requested leave under the FMLA. Dkt. No. 33, PgID 437-43. On July 3,
2014, his FMLA leave request was granted for June 23 through July 7, 2014, with
further notice that it would be extended upon further physician approval and a
reminder that he would need to undergo a “fitness for duty” evaluation before
returning to work. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 444-45. Plaintiff’s FMLA leave was later
extended through August 11, 2014. Dkt. No. 33, Ex. A, PgID 449-50.
On June 25, 2014, Plaintiff’s Union submitted a grievance concerning both the
written reprimand issued by Wuerth on May 14, 2014 and the one-day suspension
issued June 18, 2014. On August 1, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a letter to Easter: (a)
detailing a number of reasons he felt he had been harassed or retaliated against based
on his participation in the PPP on September 24, 2013, and (b) concluding that
because he had “absolutely no reason to believe this harassment will cease [and
having] seen no evidence that [Defendant] will take any action to end the unlawful
behavior of high ranking City employees. . . It is with great regret that I am forced to
resign my position effective August 1, 2014.” Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 20.
On October 17, 2014, Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint in this Court, and
amended it on December 22, 2014. Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated in
violation of: (1) the FMLA (Count I); (2) public policy (Count II); and the WPA
Rule 56(a) of the Rules of Civil Procedures provides that the court “shall grant
summary judgment 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.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 56(a). The presence of factual disputes will preclude granting of summary
judgment only if the disputes are genuine and concern material facts. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is
“genuine” only if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict
for the nonmoving party.” Id. Although the Court must view the motion in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party, where “the moving party has carried its
burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Electric Industrial Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 323-24 (1986). Summary judgment must be entered 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. In such a
situation, there can be “no genuine issue as to any material fact,” since a complete
failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case
necessarily renders all other facts immaterial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. A
court must look to the substantive law to identify which facts are material. Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248.
Defendant argues that there is no evidence that any of its employees retaliated
against Plaintiff following the September 24, 2013 meeting. Defendant maintains
After the City Council meeting on October 14, 2013, the matter died. No
negative actions were taken against [Plaintiff], he continued his job with
his regular assignments, and suffered no loss of pay, position, or
benefits. No one criticized his performance or spoke negatively about
him until seven months later when he (1) scared Hummel and received
a written reprimand; and (2) refused to copy the plat and received notice
of a one-day suspension. Both of these incidents were still subject to the
grievance procedure when [Plaintiff] quit. Both were “mediate actions.”
Further, both the warning and notice of intent to suspend were issued to
[Plaintiff] for legitimate business reasons. The first, because [Defendant]
received a harassment allegation about him. The second, because
[Plaintiff] refused to do his job as instructed by his Director.
Dkt. No. 33, PgID 405. Defendant argues that Plaintiff suffered no negative
consequences for his participation in the PPP. Dkt. No. 43, PgID 1052.
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s claim pursuant to the WPA fails because: (a)
he was not discharged, and (b) he cannot show Defendant’s legitimate business
reasons were pretext for the actions taken.
Constructive discharge requires a determination that “working conditions would
have been so difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee’s shoes
would have felt compelled to resign.” Smith v. Henderson, 376 F.3d 529, 533-34 (6th
Cir. 2004) (quoting Held v. Gulf Oil Co., 684 F.2d 427, 432 (6th Cir. 1982));
Champion v. Nationwide Security, Inc., 450 Mich. 702, 711 (1996) (determination to
be made is whether, based on the defendant’s conduct, “a reasonable person in his
place would feel compelled to resign”); Policastro v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 297
F.3d 535, 539 (6th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted) (conditions supporting a discharge
“must be objectively intolerable to a reasonable person”).
The employee’s perception must be determined objectively, without
consideration of undue sensitivities. Henry v. Lennox Indus. Inc., 768 F.2d 749, 752
n.3 (6th Cir. 1985). And, the employer must have created the intolerable working
conditions with the intention of forcing the employee to quit. Logan v. Denny’s, Inc.,
259 F.3d 558, 569 (6th Cir. 2001) (citation omitted) (“Both the employer’s intent and
the employee’s objective feelings must be examined.”). But, “[w]orkplace conduct
is not measured in isolation; instead, whether an environment is sufficiently hostile
or abusive” must be judged “by looking at all the circumstances.” Faragher v. Boca
Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 787-88 (1998) (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17,
Defendant suggests that Plaintiff’s claim of retaliation for his participation in
the September 24, 2013 meeting is based on only the following incidents: (a) the
September 27, 2013 meeting with Wuerth; (b) the meeting with Sabaugh on October
14, 2013; (c) Sabaugh’s comments during the City Council of the Whole meeting on
October 14, 2013; (d) the May 14, 2014 formal reprimand for harassing Hummel; and
(e) the notification of the one-day suspension given to Plaintiff on June 18, 2014. Dkt.
No. 33, PgID 403-04.
Defendant also contends that anticipation of adverse
consequences does not constitute materially adverse action and that Plaintiff has not
offered any evidence that he was subjected to a materially adverse employment action.
The Court concludes that Defendant’s perspective is incomplete, as the
following evidence is sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether
Plaintiff was constructively discharged–and constructive discharge certainly
constitutes a materially adverse employment action. See, e.g., Vagts v. Perry Drug
Stores, 204 Mich.App. 481, 488 (1994).
The September 24, 2013 meeting with Wuerth, at which Wuerth: (a)
angrily lectured Plaintiff; (b) advised Plaintiff that his job was in
jeopardy; (c) stated that Plaintiff would experience “blowback;” (d) told
Plaintiff that his probation would be extended and his performance
would be evaluated for the first time; and (e) told that Plaintiff that he
would face repercussions.
Plaintiff was ostracized by other employees and given the “silent
The October 14, 2013, City Council of the Whole meeting, at which
Sabuagh made remarks regarding Plaintiff, stating that the Public Service
Department would attack back and noted Plaintiff’s $16,000 pay raise.
Plaintiff was asked to make copies of copyrighted documents for which
permission to make copies had not been obtained and, according to
Plaintiff, he was suspended without pay when he refused to do so.
Plaintiff was formally reprimanded by Wuerth for an alleged incident
involving Plaintiff; Wuerth did not conduct an investigation.
Plaintiff was forbidden from talking to employees who worked under
Plaintiff was required to undergo and pass a “fitness for duty evaluation”
before he could return to work.
Based on the foregoing incidents, the Court finds that Plaintiff has submitted evidence
from which a factfinder could conclude that there was retaliation by Defendant
(through its employees) to such an extent that constructive discharge is a matter of
genuine dispute. See Champion v. Nationwide Security, Inc., 450 Mich. 702 (1996).
Defendant’s argument in its reply brief that Plaintiff testified that Mayor Fouts and
Sabaugh were cordial to him, no one was rude or impolite, and that he was not
demoted or reassigned is just that – evidence of the same does not alter that Plaintiff
has provided evidence that creates a genuine dispute of material fact.
Defendant asserts that it had legitimate business reasons for issuing the written
warning, the notice of suspension, and requiring the “fitness for duty evaluation”
before Plaintiff returned to work. The Court agrees. The written warning resulted
from Plaintiff allegedly communicating, in some non-work-related manner, with
Hummel. The written warning was issued after Plaintiff (admittedly) had been
instructed to not engage in non-work related communications with members of the
Public Service Department by Wuerth and to not communicate with such employees
at all by Sabaugh. Significantly, Plaintiff had been directed not to communicate with
those employees before the September 24, 2013 meeting that Plaintiff contends was
the impetus for retaliation.
The notice of suspension for insubordination is
supportable on its face because Plaintiff refused to obey the directives of his Wuerth,
his supervisor. Although Defendant advised Plaintiff that he would have to submit
to, and pass, a “fitness for duty evaluation” before returning to work, Plaintiff does not
dispute that: (1) he had twice in the preceding weeks expressed the need to be off
work due to stress, and (2) Defendant has required “fitness for duty evaluations” for
A plaintiff can establish that a defendant’s legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reasons are mere pretext for discrimination if Plaintiff can show “that the proffered
reason: (1) has no basis in fact, (2) did not actually motivate the defendant’s
challenged conduct, or (3) was insufficient to warrant the challenged conduct.” Dews
v. A.B. Dick Co., 231 F.3d 1016, 1021 (6th Cir. 2000); Dubey v. Stroh Brewery Co.,
185 Mich.App. 561, 565-66 (1990). “The soundness of an employer’s business
judgment, however, may not be questioned as a means of showing pretext.” Dubey,
185 Mich.App. at 566. Defendant asserts, without support or further explanation, that
“[Plaintiff] cannot establish pretext.” The Court disagrees. The formal reprimand of
Plaintiff by Wuerth was, indisputably, issued without investigation. The one-day
suspension was, according to Plaintiff, issued for following a City attorney’s advice
not to copy the architectural plans without permission.1 Plaintiff contends that
Defendant’s requirement that he submit to a “fitness for duty evaluation” was
pretextual because an employer is prohibited from requiring a medical examination
“unless such examination or inquiry is shown to be job-related and consistent with
business necessity.” 42 U.S.C. 12112(d)(4)(A). Plaintiff contends Defendant has not
satisfied its burden of showing that requiring him to submit to the fitness for duty
evaluation was job-related or consistent with business necessity as there was no
evidence that Defendant had a reasonable belief, based on objective evidence, that
Plaintiff’s behavior threatened a vital function of Defendant’s business.
Defendant also argues that Plaintiff cannot establish a causal connection
between his purported protected activities and the reprimand, his suspension notice,
or the request for evaluation because more than seven months elapsed without incident
after the September 24, 2013 City Council meeting. Defendant also argues that Easter
The parties dispute which of Wuerth’s directives to make copies formed the
basis for Plaintiff’s suspension. Plaintiff argues that he was suspended for refusing
to copy the architectural plans on May 14, 2014, after he sought advice from the
City attorney. Defendant argues, and the letter notifying Plaintiff of the one-day
suspension states, that Plaintiff was suspended for refusing to make copies on May
28, 2014, an incident involving public subdivision plats. See, e.g., Dkt. No. 43,
(the Labor Relations department) requested the fitness for duty evaluation without any
input from Wuerth or Sabaugh and without knowledge of Plaintiff’s conduct at the
September 24, 2013 City Council meeting.
Plaintiff counters that if the totality of the circumstances are considered, as the
Court must, see Holmwood v. Pontiac Osteopathic Hosp., 2001 WL 1654775
(Mich.App. 2001); Nguyen v. City of Cleveland, 229 F.3d 559, 563 (6th Cir. 2000),
the evidence noted above demonstrates “actual antagonistic conduct and animus.”
The Court concludes that there remains a genuine dispute of material fact that
precludes summary judgment on Plaintiff’s WPA claim.
Public Policy Claim
A discharge may be against public policy if: (1) the employee is discharged in
violation of an explicit legislative statement prohibiting discharge of employees who
act in accordance with a statutory right or duty, (2) the employee is discharged for
failure or refusal to violate the law in the course of employment, and (3) the employee
is discharged for exercising a right conferred by a well-established legislative
enactment. Edelberg v. Leco Corp., 236 Mich.App. 177, 180 (1999) (citation omitted);
Garavaglia v. Centra Inc., 211 Mich.App. 625, 629-30 (1995). Plaintiff contends that
he was discharged for failure or refusal to violate the law when he would not copy the
copyrighted architectural plans, for which he was disciplined and ultimately was
Defendant first asserts that Plaintiff’s public policy claim fails because he was
not discharged. This argument fails as it turns on a genuine dispute of material fact
– whether Plaintiff was constructively discharged. Defendant also argues that
Plaintiff’s public policy claim is pre-empted by his WPA claim. Citing Hilden v.
Hurley Med. Ctr., 831 F.Supp.2d 1024, 1045 (E.D. Mich. 2011) (“Public policy
claims are not sustainable where there is an applicable statutory provision against
discharge in retaliation for the conduct at issue.”). Defendant asserts that the WPA
is the exclusive remedy for a retaliatory discharge when an employee suffers
retaliation for reporting a suspected violation of a law, regulation, or rule to a public
body, as Plaintiff claims occurred as the result of his participation in the PPP at the
September 24, 2013 City Council meeting. Id. at 1046. Plaintiff offers no argument
to counter Defendant’s argument or any case law in conflict with Hilden.
The Court concludes that Plaintiff’s public policy is dismissed pursuant to the
rule of Hilden.
In order to prevail on his interference with a right to take FMLA leave claim
under 29 U.S.C. 2615(a)(1), Plaintiff must establish that Defendant interfered with his
FMLA right to medical leave or to reinstatement following FMLA leave. Cavin v.
Honda of Am. Mfg., Inc., 346 F.3d 713, 719 (6th Cir. 2003); Arban v. West Publishing
Corp., 345 F.3d 390 (6th Cir. 2003). To establish a prima facie FMLA interference
claim, Plaintiff must produce evidence of the following elements:
He was an eligible employee;
Defendant is a covered employer;
He was entitled to leave under the FMLA;
He gave notice of his intent to take FMLA leave; and
Defendant denied Plaintiff’s FMLA benefits or interfered with FMLA
rights to which he was entitled.
Cavin, 346 F.3d at 719.
Defendant first contends that Plaintiff’s claim that the “fitness for duty
evaluation” was requested “to deprive [P]laintiff of his right to reinstatement under
the FMLA” must fail because Defendant notified Plaintiff of the evaluation
requirement on June 20, 2014, but Plaintiff’s request for FMLA leave was not made
until July 2, 2016. Plaintiff counters that he gave qualifying notice of his intent to
take leave on June 18, 2014, when he sent the email to Mayor Fouts (and others) that
he was taking time off “[d]ue to the extremely stressful nature of all of this and to
protect my own health, I am going to utilize comp time to go home and try to relax.
I will return to work as soon as I can.” Dkt. No. 38, Ex. 16. Defendant argues that,
because Plaintiff said he was going to utilize comp time, Plaintiff’s email was
insufficient to give Defendant notice of an FMLA-qualifying serious health condition,
particularly because Plaintiff had taken time off on May 29-30, 2014 for stress and
because Plaintiff stated he needed “to relax.” Defendant further argues that Plaintiff
did not have a “serious health condition” pursuant to 29 U.S.C. 2611(11). See also
Patten-Gentry v. Oakwood Healthcare Inc., 2015 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 40958, *56 (E.D.
Mich. Mar. 31, 2015).
The Court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact whether Plaintiff
gave Defendant notice of his intent to take leave. See, e.g., Moorer v. Baptist Mem’l
Health Care Sys., 398 F.3d 469, 487-88 (6th Cir. 2005); 29 C.F.R. 825.301(b) (an
employee only must provide the employer with enough information about the leave
to enable the employer to designate the leave as FMLA leave). The Court finds that
Plaintiff statement that he would “return to work as soon as I can,” Dkt. No. 38, Ex.
16, constitutes a question of fact for the factfinder to determine as it relates to notice.
That Defendant was requiring Plaintiff to submit to, and pass, a “fitness for duty”
evaluation before returning to work constitutes evidence that Defendant, at a
minimum, was concerned that Plaintiff suffered from a serious health condition. The
Court also concludes that Plaintiff’s statement regarding stress and protecting his
health is not as generic as the cases Defendant relies on, namely Banaszak v. Ten
Sixteen Recovery Network, 2013 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 81671 (E.D. Mich. 2013) (citing
Walton v. Ford Motor Co., 424 F.3d 481, 385 (6th Cir. 2005) (“Merely calling in
‘sick’ without providing more information will not be sufficient notice to trigger an
employer’s obligations under the FMLA”).
Defendant also contends that it had a legitimate concern about Plaintiff’s
emotional health and whether he posed a “direct threat to the health or safety of other
individuals in the workplace.” Bloomfield v. Whirlpool Corp., 984 F.Supp.2d 771, 779
(N.D. Ohio 2013). Defendant relies on the holding in Bloomfield that an employer
may “requir[e] mental and physical exams as a precondition to returning to work.” Id.
at 785. Defendant further argues that an employee seeking to return to work from
FMLA is not entitled to “erase all of the events which occurred before the employee
went on FMLA leave,” White v. County of Los Angeles, 225 Cal.App.4th 690, 708
n.18 (2014), such that erratic behavior prior to leave entitled the employer to dismissal
of plaintiff’s FMLA claim as a matter of law because the plaintiff was only “entitled
to be restored to employment, nothing more.” Id. at 707. Defendant argues that
Plaintiff’s employment was not terminated because he was asked to have the “fitness
for duty” evaluation. Defendant also asserts that Plaintiff never attempted to return
to work, but simply quit instead, so Defendant could not have denied him
reinstatement. Plaintiff does not respond to any of these arguments.
Finally, in its reply brief, Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s FMLA interference
claim is unripe because he never attempted to go back to work. This argument should
fails for two reasons. First, Defendant did not raise this argument in its motion for
summary judgment. Second, Defendant again ignores that a constructive discharge
is a material adverse employment action and that event would preclude the ability to
return to work.
Defendant’s motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff’s FMLA claim is
Motion to Dismiss/Compel
Defendant moves the Court to dismiss Plaintiff’s claim for mental/emotional
damages because Plaintiff has not submitted to a mental examination with an
“independent medical examiner” (“IME”) chosen by Defendant, which Defendant first
requested on April 11, 2016 (prior to the May 6, 2016 discovery cut-off). In the
alternative, Defendant moves the Court to compel Plaintiff to submit to a mental
health examination with that doctor, Dr. Calmeze Dudley, M.D., whom Defendant
would utilize at trial as an expert. Plaintiff has refused to submit to such an
examination with Dr. Dudley because: (1) Defendant did not list Dr. Dudley on its
witness list (or amended witness list); (2) Plaintiff has permitted discovery of his
claims for emotional distress; and (3) Defendant has not demonstrated good cause
sufficient to compel an IME.
It is undisputed that Defendant did not list Dr. Dudley on its witness list (filed
December 1, 2015) or amended witness list (filed December 15, 2015) – or at any
point thereafter. Defendant contends that it was not required to list Dr. Dudley on its
witness list because: (1) “[t]here was no deadline to disclose expert witnesses by the
Court, and initial disclosures were not exchanged in this case,” and (2) pursuant to
Rule 26(a)(2)(D), “expert testimony must be disclosed at least 90 days before trial,
which [was] not scheduled until September 27, 2016.” Dkt. No. 35, PgID 756.
Although the Court’s scheduling does not specify a date by which “experts” must be
listed, the scheduling order expressly states: “All witnesses to be called at trial shall
be exchanged by December 1, 2015.” (emphasis added). Based on plain English, the
Court finds that “All” witnesses encompasses “expert” witnesses and should rejects
Defendant’s argument that it was not required to list Dr. Dudley on its witness list.
The Court denies Defendant’s motion as untimely because Defendant did not identify
Dr. Dudley until approximately four months after Defendant was required to do so.
IT IS ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss/Compel IME [Dkt. No.
28] is DENIED.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment
[Dkt. No. 33] is DENIED IN PART and GRANTED IN PART.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
S/Denise Page Hood
Denise Page Hood
Chief Judge, United States District Court
Dated: March 31, 2017
I hereby certify that a copy of the foregoing document was served upon counsel of
record on March 31, 2017, by electronic and/or ordinary mail.
S/LaShawn R. Saulsberry
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