Saenz v. BP America, Inc.
OPINION on Summary Judgment. The only issues of fact are Saenz's inconsistent statements about herself. Charlotte Saenz will take nothing from BP America or BP Amoco Chemical Company. (Signed by Judge Lynn N Hughes) Parties notified. (ghassan, 4)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS District Court
Southern District of Texas
November 17, 2017
David J. Bradley, Clerk
Civil Action H-1S-2887
Opinion on Summary Judgment
A welder frequently missed work for her lower-back pain. The company
asked her to give it supporting documents for it to approve her leave. She did not.
The company warned her repeatedly that her absences were a problem.
Ultimately, it asked the welder to resign or be fired. She resigned. She claimed
that the company discriminated against her because of her disability and
retaliated against her for complaining about the discrimination. Because she did
not support her claims that she was disabled or that the company discriminated
or retaliated against her, the company will prevail.
Charlotte Saenz; worked for BP Amoco Chemical
Company as a welder. She incorrectly named BPAmerica, Inc., as her employer.
she was absent for blocks of time without approval from BP.
She had requested short-term disability leave or family and medical leave, but she
had not given BP the correct forms to be approved for family and medical leave.
BP considers someone who has missed three days of work in six months without
approval excessively absent. On April 24, 2014, personnel manager Marc Devine
sent Saenz; a letter warning her that BP had not excused some of her absences and
asking her to give BP the forms. Now, Saenz; says that she thought that she had
given them to BP.
After eleven unapproved days off in February and twelve in March for
lower-back pain, Saenz returned and told the company nurse that she could not
bend or move heavy objects even though her doctor, pain-management physician
Ghyasuddin Syed, released her without restrictions. From April 4 to May 19,
she was again absent without approval. In May, Saenz returned to work
with a note from her doctor, neurologist Mohammed Athari, recommending
light duty. Welders frequently have to lift up to
pounds; Saenz's doctor
recommended that she lift no more than six. She asked her supervisor for light
duty, but he said that it was not available.
Saenz first complained to the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and to the Texas Workforce Commission that BP was
discriminating against her because of her disability.
InJuly, BP had Ronald lindsey, a doctor from the University of Texas
Medical Branch Department of Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, review
Saenz's medical records. He concluded that her supposedly debilitating back pain
was not supported by the results of her magnetic resonance imaging scan. He
suggested that using her back muscles, not resting, would improve her lowerback pain. He recommended physical therapy and a brief period of light duty
followed by full duty.
sent Saenz a letter saying that she was on decision-
making leave and warning her that this was the last step in the disciplinary
process before termination. On August
Marc Devine sent Saenz a letter
saying that she was not eligible for family and medical leave, because she had not
hours in the last
months. Saenz had approximately
hours of vacation time that she could have used to cover her absences, but she
did not ask to use it.
Later in August, BP set up a temporary light duty position for Saenz. After
a couple weeks, she returned to full duty.
On September 2, Saenz amended her EEOC complaint. On September 19,
the EEOC released her to sue BP.
In November, Saenz called in sick with influenza one Monday. She was
out for four days.
On December 22, after her 90 days to sue had expired, BP gave Saenz the
option to resign or be fired. On the advice and with the assistance of the union
agent, Saenz resigned to remain on the payroll until the first week ofJanuary
and receive her bonus for
On December 29, she filed her second EEOC charge.
Saenz; claims that BP discriminated against her because of her disability
in violation of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. I
Saenz; was not disabled. She had lower-back pain. She says that the severe
pain would occur unexpectedly, but BP's doctor saw nothing in her records to
support severe pain. By having been applying for welder positions and saying that
she would like to return to work with BP, she concedes that she was not disabled.
BP did not perceive Saenz as disabled. It had a doctor review her medical
records. He concluded that she was capable of returning to welding.
Saenz has worked as a welder for 24 years and has the appropriate skills
and experience. Conversely, she said that she could not lift more than six
pounds, and welders often have to lift up to
pounds and may have to lift up
She asked to be placed on light duty in March and May, but was told that
it was not available. A welder's job necessarily involves lifting heavy objects.
Light duty is office work, not welding. Saenz remembered that another welder
had ankle surgery, and BP found some office work for him to do while he
recovered. In August, BP found similar work for her: she sat at a desk and took
her welders' tests on the computer.
Saenz was not subjected to an adverse employment decision because of
her disability. She had been warned repeatedly that her absences were not
excused because she had not given BP the correct documents. BP placed her on
decision-making leave, which is formal discipline for attendance problems. In the
letter telling Saenz that she was on decision-making leave, BP warned her that
ISee Tex. Lab. Code. Ann. §2I.051 (West).
this was the last step before termination. After she missed four more days, she
was asked to resign or be terminated. Her union chairman negotiated a
resignation for Saenz, because she could stay on the payroll long enough to
receive her year-end bonus. She chose to resign because it was of greater benefit
to her. She was not fired.
Saenz did not support her retaliation claim. 2 In May of 2014, she filed a
claim of discrimination with the EEOC. She did not suffer an adverse employment
action because she was not fired; she chose to resign. Also, she has not shown
that any causal connection between these two events exists. By the end of April,
she had already been warned that some of her absences would not be excused
without the appropriate forms.
Devine sent Saenz the letters explaining the problem with her absences
and recommended that Saenz be terminated. Devine said that she does not
remember Saenz filing a discrimination claim, only that she had complained
about some of the people with whom she worked in
or 2011. Devine had
not seen the letter from the EEOC allowing Saenz to sue. Not aware of the EEOC
complaint, Devine could not have retaliated.
Even if Saenz had supported a prima facie case, she did not show that BP's
reason for asking her to resign was a pretext. 3
BP asked Saenz to resign because she was absent excessively. It followed
its disciplinary procedures, asking her for forms to support her family and
medical leave absences, placing her on decision-making leave, explaining that she
did not work enough hours to qualify for family and medical leave, and warning
her that she could be terminated for further violations.
Tex. Lab. Code. Ann. §2I.OSS (West).
3S ce McDonnell Douglas Corp.
Green, 4II U.S. 79 2 (1973).
After her decision-making leave in August, complete with a warning that
continued absences could result in termination, Saenz called in sick one Monday
in November and did not return until Friday, without another call.
Saenz argues that, because she had
hours of vacation time, she
should not have been asked to leave for excessive absenteeism. She could have
used her vacation time to cover her absences. She never asked. It was not BP' s job
to convert her disapproved family and medical leave into unused vacation time.
Saenz had to request it.
The only issues of fact are Saenz's inconsistent statements about herself.
Charlotte Saenz will take nothing from BP America, Inc., or BP Amoco Chemical
Signed on November
at Houston, Texas.
Lynn N. Hughes
United States DistrictJudge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?