United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND, CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF
Ford brought this action against his former employer, Synovus
Bank (“Synovus”). He claims Synovus interfered with
his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et
seq., and retaliated against him for exercising those
rights. He also claims Synovus discriminated against him in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.
Synovus moved for summary judgment (ECF No. 7). For the
following reasons, Synovus's motion is granted.
judgment may be granted only “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). In determining whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment,
drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it
is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if
the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
in the light most favorable to Ford, the record reveals the
Ford's Medical Condition
has an autoimmune disorder known as aphthous stomatitis. When
his condition “flares up, ” Ford suffers from
painful oral ulcers. During a flare-up, Ford may have as many
as twenty ulcers in his mouth. His flare-ups may last from a
few weeks to six months. His flare-ups also cause other
symptoms, including a low-grade fever, muscle pains and
aches, joint pains, and a generalized feeling of being
unwell. Sometimes, Ford's flare-ups are so severe that he
is bedridden. Ford's physician prescribed Vicodin for his
flare-ups and advised him not to drive when taking the
Ford's Position at Synovus
December 2013, Ford applied for the position of
“customer care coordinator” at Synovus. When Ford
applied, he did not tell Synovus about his ulcer condition.
Synovus hired Ford, and Ford started work in March 2014. His
responsibilities included handling customer issues via email,
online submission, or phone calls. Ford later moved into the
new role of “card services support specialist.”
In this position, he handled Synovus's credit card
portfolio, including collections, fraud, analytics, and
card services support specialist, Ford worked at a cubicle in
an open area. He shared a community printer with other
Synovus employees in different departments. He had access to
confidential financial information, including names, social
security numbers, transaction histories, and credit card
numbers of Synovus's customers. Employees needed a
security badge to enter the building where Ford worked. Ford
had one co-worker, Terrie James. He and James reported to
Chris Eskue. He, James, and Eskue exclusively performed
Synovus's fraud and collections work.
Ford's FMLA Leave Requests
the latter part of 2015 and early 2016, Ford's flare-ups
worsened. He consulted with Eskue, who advised him to speak
with someone in Synovus's human resources department.
Ford then spoke with a Synovus human resources employee named
Daniel Steele. Steele Aff. ¶ 7, ECF No. 7-2. Steele
advised Ford to submit paperwork for
“intermittent” FMLA leave. Id. Ford
submitted his paperwork and then exercised intermittent FMLA
leave in 2015 and 2016.
point in 2016, Ford made a request to work from home during
his more severe medical flare-ups. In July 2016, Steele wrote
Ford's physician, Dr. Linda Chin, to acquire more
information about Ford's condition. See Letter
from D. Steele to L. Chin (July 26, 2016), ECF No. 12-1 at 2.
Dr. Chin told Steele that Ford was “quite
capable” of performing the essential functions of his
position. See Letter from L. Chin to D. Steele (Aug.
9, 2016), ECF No. 12-1 at 4. Dr. Chin noted that Ford
sometimes required pain medications for his condition and
that Ford had been advised against driving while taking his
medication. Id. She likewise suggested that Ford be
allowed to work from home during flare-ups that required pain
medication therapy. Id.; see also Steele