Taylor v. Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. 19]. Signed by District Judge Avern Cohn. (MVer)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN
Case No. 16-13094
COMCAST CABLE COMMUNICATIONS
HON. AVERN COHN
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT, (Doc. 19)
This is an employment discrimination case. Kierra Taylor (Taylor), a customer
account executive, is suing her former employer, Comcast Cable Communications
Management, LLC (Comcast), for termination because of a mental disability.
Pending is Comcast’s motion for summary judgment, (doc. 19). The parties have
filed a joint statement of material facts not in dispute, (doc. 25), and exhibits in support
of, (docs. 20-2 to 21-18), and opposition to, (doc. 22-3), the motion.
Taylor says that Comcast terminated her employment “because of” a mental
disability, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
Comcast says that Taylor was terminated because (1) its investigation revealed
that she misused her medical leave for a planned vacation, and (2) dishonesty in her
representations to Comcast as to the purpose for the leave violated its code of conduct.
There is no genuine dispute of material fact that Comcast terminated Taylor’s
employment for the stated reasons under its policies. This was not discriminatory.
Comcast’s motion for summary judgment, (doc. 19), is GRANTED.
MATERIAL FACTS NOT IN DISPUTE
There is no genuine dispute of material fact of what follows.
In August 2013, Taylor began working at Comcast’s call center in Sterling
Heights, Michigan, (doc. 25 ¶ 8; doc. 20-4 at 34).
In early May 2016, a coworker invited Taylor on a group trip to Miami, Florida
extending from Friday, June 10, 2016 through Monday, June 13, 2016, (doc. 25 ¶ 38).
On May 5, 2016, Taylor wrote on Facebook: “Its like every time I plan a vacation
which is well needed I can never take it…..,” (id. ¶ 39; doc. 21-10 at 2).
On May 6, 2016, Taylor booked a flight from Detroit, Michigan to Fort
Lauderdale, Florida for Friday, June 10, 2016, with no paid time off accrued, (doc. 25
¶¶ 40, 41; doc. 21-9 at 2).
Sedgwick Claims Management Service, Inc. (Sedgwick) handles Comcast’s
employee requests for medical leave, (doc. 25 ¶ 4).
On May 25, 2016, Taylor called Sedgwick and requested medical leave
extending from Thursday, June 9, 2016 through Tuesday, June 14, 2016, (id. ¶ 42;
doc. 20-6 at 9-10). The same day, Taylor booked a return flight from Fort Lauderdale to
Detroit for Monday, June 13, 2016, (doc. 25 ¶ 44; doc. 21-9 at 3).
Hollis Evans, a clinical social worker, was Taylor’s therapist, (doc. 25 ¶ 13).
Evans had diagnosed Taylor on January 25, 2016 with, (id.; doc. 21-1 at 7),
bipolar I disorder, severe,
On May 26, 2016, Taylor was seen by Evans, (doc. 25 ¶ 45; doc. 21-1 at 17).
On Monday, June 6, 2016, Evans faxed a form to Sedgwick on behalf of Taylor
authorizing medical leave extending from Thursday, June 9, 2016 through Tuesday,
June 14, 2016, (doc. 25 ¶ 47; doc. 21-13 at 2-4).
On Wednesday, June 8, 2016, Sedgwick approved medical leave for Taylor from
Thursday, June 9, 2016 through Tuesday, June 14, 2016, (doc. 25 ¶ 47; doc. 21-14
at 2-4). Taylor did not return for work the next day, Thursday, June 9, 2016, which was
the first day of her approved medical leave, (doc. 25 ¶ 50).
On Friday, June 10, 2016, Taylor flew to Fort Lauderdale, (id. ¶ 50). Taylor
traveled with the group to Miami and stayed at a resort, went to nightclubs, and drank
alcohol, (id. ¶¶ 50, 51; doc. 20-2 at 211-14).
Taylor took photographs and uploaded them to “Facebook,”1 (doc. 25 ¶ 51).
A photograph dated Friday, June 10, 2016 depicted Taylor with the caption “Im
just chillin at the Fountain Bleu,”2 (doc. 20-4 at 19). A photograph dated Saturday,
June 11, 2016 depicted a large decorative glass of a bright green beverage, with smoke
emanating from it, and a waiter pouring more beverage into the glass, (doc. 20-4 at 22).
A photograph dated Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 4:30am depicted Taylor with the caption
“#littttttttt,”3 (doc. 25 ¶ 51; doc. 20-4 at 26).
On Monday, June 13, 2016, Taylor flew back to Detroit, (doc. 25 ¶ 55). On
Wednesday, June 15, 2016, Taylor returned to work, (id.).
Kristy Close was Taylor’s human resources representative at Comcast, (id. ¶ 11).
On Monday, June 20, 2016, a Comcast employee reported the Facebook images
of Taylor to Comcast human resources, (id. ¶ 56). A human resources agent e-mailed
the images to Close, (id. ¶ 58), who viewed them that day, (id. ¶ 59).
Facebook (http://www.facebook.com) is an online “social networking service.”
The Fontainebleau is a five-star oceanfront resort in Miami, Florida.
According to Urban Dictionary, “lit” can mean “the state of being so intoxicated
(regardless of the intoxicating agent) that all the person can do is smile, so that they
look lit up like a light.” See http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=lit.
On Thursday, June 23, 2016, Close met with Taylor and Taylor’s supervisor,
Michelle Watts, (id. ¶ 60). The meeting was held “to discuss the Facebook posts and
determine how that could be reconciled with being on a medical leave,” (id.).
At the meeting, Close asked Taylor if she had gone on “a vacation” during the
June 9-14, 2016 medical leave and Taylor responded “yes,” (id. ¶ 61; doc. 20-2 at 216).
Comcast’s code of conduct prohibits, (doc. 25 ¶ 6; doc. 20-7 at 3)
Interfering with any investigation conducted by Comcast including
compromising the investigation process; [and]
Falsifying employment applications, records, reports, time sheets,
travel and expense reports, benefit claims or any other business
Each is a terminable offense, (doc. 20-7 at 3).
On Monday, June 27, 2016, Close prepared a request to terminate
Taylor’s employment, (doc. 25 ¶ 64; doc. 20-4 at 34-35). As grounds for
termination, the request stated, (doc. 20-4 at 34),
[Taylor] engaged in inappropriate/fraudulent conduct by having a leave of
absence approved for medical reasons, when in fact, she used the time
for a personal vacation unrelated to any medical necessity
On Tuesday, June 28, 2016, Close’s supervisors approved the request, (doc. 25 ¶ 64;
doc. 20-4 at 31-32).
On Wednesday, June 29, 2016, Close met a second time with Taylor and Watts,
(doc. 25 ¶ 65). At the meeting, Taylor stated Sedgwick had instructed her to use
medical leave instead of another type of leave because “you cannot take two leaves,
you only can take one,” (id.; doc. 20-2 at 219).
Later that day, Close contacted Sedgwick to verify Taylor’s assertion, (doc. 25
¶ 66; doc. 20-4 at 6). The Sedgwick call agent denied making the statement, (doc. 25
¶ 66; doc. 20-6 at 4).
On Thursday, June 30, 2016, Taylor was terminated, (doc. 25 ¶ 68).
Summary judgment will be granted if the moving party demonstrates 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). There is no genuine issue of material fact when
“the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the
non-moving party.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587 (1986). The Court must decide “whether the evidence presents a sufficient
disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party
must prevail as a matter of law.” In re Dollar Corp., 25 F.3d 1320, 1323 (6th Cir. 1994)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)). In doing so, the
Court “must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.”
Emp’rs Ins. of Wausau v. Petrol. Specialties, Inc., 69 F.3d 98, 101 (6th Cir. 1995).
The ADA prohibits employers from terminating an employee because of a mental
disability. 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). As articulated by the Sixth Circuit in Williams v. AT&T
Mobility Servs. LLC, 847 F.3d 384, 395 (6th Cir. 2017),
We analyze disability-discrimination claims under the McDonnell Douglas4
burden-shifting framework. Whitfield v. Tennessee, 639 F.3d 253, 259
(6th Cir. 2011). To make out a prima facie case, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that (1) she has a disability, (2) she is “otherwise qualified for
the position, with or without reasonable accommodation,” (3) she “suffered
an adverse employment decision,” (4) her employer “knew or had reason
to know” of her disability, and (5) she was replaced or her position
remained open. Id. (quoting Macy v. Hopkins Cty. Sch. Bd. of Educ., 484
F.3d 357, 365 (6th Cir. 2007)). If the plaintiff makes out a prima facie case,
the burden then shifts to the employer to demonstrate that there was a
legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action.
Id. The plaintiff must then show that the reason given by the employer was
actually a pretext designed to mask unlawful discrimination. Id.
The record reflects that Comcast believed Taylor misused her medical leave.
When given the chance to explain a discrepancy between the Facebook images
and certification for medical leave, Taylor admitted that she had taken a vacation.
Taylor’s assertion that Sedgwick instructed her to improperly code the leave was
discredited by a Sedgwick call agent upon investigation by Comcast.
Whether or not Comcast was correct in its conclusion that Taylor (1) misused her
medical leave under its policies and (2) misrepresented how the misuse of leave came
about, there is little doubt that this is what motivated its termination of her employment.
There is no fact in the record from which to infer that Comcast’s decision was motivated
by Taylor’s mental disability.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973).
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Dated: August 7, 2017
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