United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division
J. ABRAMS, JUDGE
the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (the
“Motion”), Doc. 11. Defendant also moved for a
hearing on its Motion. Doc. 18. For the reasons stated below,
the Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in
part. Defendant's motion for a hearing is
Cierra N. Grant, initiated this action against her employer,
Defendant Hospital Authority of Miller County, on December
28, 2015, asserting five causes of action: (1) disability
discrimination in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et
seq.; (2) race discrimination in violation of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1981 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title
VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq.; (3)
discrimination in violation of Title VII; (4) pregnancy
discrimination in violation of Title VII as amended by the
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), 42 U.S.C. §
2000e(k); and (5) retaliation and interference in violation
of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. §
2601, et seq. Doc. 1. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant discriminated against Plaintiff by terminating her
employment after she was unable to return to work due to
complications from a pregnancy and failed to accommodate
Plaintiff with unpaid leave. Id. at 2.
January 16, 2017, Defendant filed the Motion, moving for
summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. Doc. 11.
Plaintiff filed her opposition to the Motion on February 6,
2017. Doc. 20. Defendant filed its reply on February 16,
2017. Doc. 21.
Rule of Civil Procedure 56 allows a party to move for summary
judgment when the party contends that no genuine issue of
material fact remains and the party is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. “Summary judgment
is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the
affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any
material fact and that the moving party is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Maddox v.
Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013). “A
genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is
sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a
reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.”
Grimes v. Miami Dade Cty., 552 F. App'x 902, 904
(11th Cir. 2014).
issue of fact is ‘material' if it is a legal
element of the claim under the applicable substantive law
which might affect the outcome of the case.” Allen
v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir.
1997). “It is ‘genuine' if the record taken
as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for
the nonmoving party.” Tipton v. Bergrohr
GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992). On a
motion for summary judgment, the Court must view all evidence
and factual inferences drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether that
evidence could reasonably sustain a jury verdict in its
favor. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322-23 (1986); Allen, 121 F.3d at 646.
movant bears the initial burden of showing, by reference to
the record, that there is no genuine issue of material fact.
See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; Barreto v. Davie
Marketplace, LLC, 331 F. App'x 672, 673 (11th Cir.
2009). The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence
showing that there is no genuine dispute of material fact or
by demonstrating that the nonmoving party has failed to
present evidence in support of some element of its case on
which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. See
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24; Barreto, 331 F.
App'x at 673. Local Rule 56 further requires that
“documents and other record materials relied upon by
[the moving party] be clearly identified for the
court.” M.D. Ga. L.R. 56. “Material facts not
supported by specific citation to particular parts of
materials in the record and statements in the form of issues
or legal conclusions (rather than material facts) will not be
considered by the court.” Id.
that burden has been met, the burden shifts to the nonmovant
. . . to go beyond the pleadings and to present competent
evidence in the form of affidavits, answers to
interrogatories, depositions, admissions and the like,
designating specific facts showing a genuine issue for
trial.” Lamar v. Wells Fargo Bank, 597 F.
App'x 555, 556-57 (11th Cir. 2014) (internal citations
omitted). “All material facts contained in the
movant's statement which are not specifically
controverted by specific citation to particular parts of
materials in the record shall be deemed to have been
admitted, unless otherwise inappropriate.” M.D. Ga.
L.R. 56; see also Mason v. George, 24 F.Supp.3d
1254, 1260 (M.D. Ga. 2014).
nonmovant facing a motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff was
required to identify those material facts as to which she
“contends there exists a genuine dispute to be
tried.” The Local Rules require those responses to
controvert statements of material facts in motions for
summary judgment with “specific citation to particular
parts of materials in the record.” See M.D.
Ga. L.R. 56. Here, Plaintiff's Response to
Defendant's Statement of Material Facts fails to comply
with the Local Rules. Plaintiff repeatedly responds to
Defendant's statements with: “Without knowledge,
and therefore, denied.” E.g., Doc. 20-1
¶¶ 7, 8, 51. Defendant also fails to deny
allegations by Plaintiff or cites to parts of the record that
do not support a denial. E.g., Doc. 22 ¶¶
61, 63. Accordingly, as to all statements asserted by
Defendant in its Motion or Plaintiff in its opposition that
are supported by specific record citation, the Court deems
them to be admitted where the responding party has failed to
properly respond in accordance with the Local Rules.
operates a critical access, not-for-profit medical facility
located in Colquitt, Georgia with approximately four hundred
and sixty employees. Doc. 11-3 ¶ 1. Plaintiff, a black
female, was hired by Defendant as a Ward Clerk on December 7,
2011. Doc. 22 ¶ 52. On April 1, 2013, Plaintiff was
promoted to the position of Pharmacy Technician. Doc. 22
¶ 53. During her employment with Defendant, Plaintiff
received no negative performance reviews and no disciplinary
actions against her. Doc. 22 ¶ 54. As a Pharmacy
Technician, Plaintiff's primary duties were to
“fill prescriptions, employee prescriptions, the
nursing home prescriptions, IV's, antibiotics, fill the
Pyxis, and fill insurance.” Doc. 11-3 ¶ 11.
December 6, 2011, Plaintiff received a copy of
Defendant's employee handbook which includes a statement
regarding the leave available to Plaintiff under FMLA, noting
that FMLA leave will be exhausted concurrent with paid
leave. Docs. 11-3 ¶¶ 6, 7; 20-1 ¶
7. The handbook also requires employees to submit a
“work/fitness for duty certificate” when
returning from FMLA leave. Doc. 11-2 at 53. Further,
Defendant prominently posts posters in common areas in each
of Defendant's facilities regarding its employee's
entitlement to take FMLA leave. Docs. 11-3 ¶ 8; 20-1
September 15, 2014, Plaintiff experienced pregnancy
complications in that her blood pressure was high and her
doctor could not control it. Doc. 22 ¶ 55.
Plaintiff's doctor ordered her on bedrest for one week.
Doc. 22 ¶ 55. On September 16, 2014, Plaintiff
hand-delivered the doctor's written order to
Defendant's Human Resources Director Karie Spence. Doc.
22 ¶ 55. During the meeting with Spence, Plaintiff
inquired about her leave options and sought information about
FMLA leave. Docs. 20-1 ¶¶ 12, 56. The same day,
Plaintiff filed and was approved for FMLA leave due to
complications with her pregnancy. Doc. 11-3 ¶ 12.
December 5, 2014, Plaintiff gave birth, via emergency
caesarean section, to her daughter who was only at 28 weeks
gestation. Doc. 22 ¶ 60. Plaintiff and Spence spoke via
telephone on December 8, 2014. Docs. 11-3 ¶ 15; 22
¶ 61. Plaintiff told Spence of her baby's premature
birth. Docs. 11-3 ¶ 15; 22 ¶ 61; 22 ¶¶
60, 61, 62. Plaintiff was informed by Spence that her FMLA
leave was set to expire on December 9, 2014, and that she was
expected to return to work on that date. Docs. 11-3 ¶
15; 22 ¶ 61. During this conversation, however, Spence
told Plaintiff she understood that Plaintiff would need time
to recover from her caesarean section. Doc. 20-1
¶¶ 14, 61. Plaintiff attempted to call Spence
several times prior to the termination of Plaintiff's
employment, but Spence, despite telling Plaintiff that she
would call her back, never did. Doc. 20-1 ¶¶ 14, 61,
63. Plaintiff admits she was told by her supervisory, Becky
Jones, that she would need a release from her doctor before
returning for work. See Docs. 20-1 ¶ 17; 11-3
¶¶ 16, 17, 18; 17 at 57-58.
did not return to work on December 9, 2014, the day her leave
expired. Docs. 20-1 ¶ 17; 11-3 ¶¶ 16, 17, 18;
17 at 57-58. Nor did she ever explicitly request that she be
granted additional leave. Doc. 17 at 83-84. Defendant did not
offer Plaintiff an extension of unpaid leave prior to
terminating her employment. Doc. 20-1 ¶ 66. On December
12, 2014, Plaintiff followed up with her doctor and was
released to return to work. Doc. 20-1 ¶ 62. However,
Plaintiff did not inform Defendant that she was released to
return to work or provide the required work/fitness for duty
certificate. Docs. 20-1 ¶ 17; 11-3 ¶¶ 16, 17,
18; 17 at 57-58.
December 18, 2014, Plaintiff's employment was terminated
for failure to report to work following the expiration of
Plaintiff's FMLA leave, Doc. 11-3 ¶¶ 19, 36,
and for failure to obtain a release from her doctor. Doc.
11-2 ¶ 30. Plaintiff asserts that she was informed on
December 17, 2014, that her notice of termination was in the
mail. Doc. 20-1 ¶¶ 14, 19. Plaintiff was told by
Spence that she was welcome to apply to positions with
Defendant once she was released to return to work. Docs. 17
at 74; 15 at 16; 11-3 ¶ 20. Defendant admits that this
conversation took place but asserts that it took place during
the December 8, 2014 conversation and that the December 8,
2014 conversation was the last conversation between Spence
and Plaintiff prior to the termination of Plaintiff's
employment. Doc. 2 ¶ 64. ...