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Keys v. Monument Chemical Kentucky, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Louisville Division

May 17, 2017

ROBERT KEYS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
MONUMENT CHEMICAL KENTUCKY, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          David J. Hale, Judge.

         Plaintiff Robert Keys began working for Defendant Monument Chemical Kentucky in December 2012. (Docket No. 20, PageID # 192) Keys claims that his termination in July 2015 was retaliation for taking leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) due to a wrist injury. (D.N. 1) Monument contends that from the time Keys was hired, he struggled with attendance and was fired for “excessive absenteeism.” (D.N. 19-1, PageID # 65) Keys filed suit, claiming (1) FMLA retaliation, (2) FMLA interference, (3) disability discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), (4) failure to accommodate him in violation of the ADA, and (5) violations of state wage laws. (D.N. 1) Monument filed a motion for summary judgment. (D.N. 19) Because there is a genuine dispute of material fact with respect to Keys's FMLA retaliation claim but no other claims, Monument's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Robert Keys worked as a Production Shift Supervisor at a chemical plant owned and operated by Monument Chemical Kentucky in Brandenburg, Kentucky. (D.N. 19, PageID # 60) Monument acquired the facility from Arch Chemical Company in December 2012. (D.N. 20, PageID # 192) Monument hired Keys to his supervisor position when it took over the plant. (Id.) Keys worked a twelve-hour rotating-shift schedule, meaning he worked thirteen or fourteen days each month and many of the shifts were at night. (D.N. 19-1, PageID # 63)

         The following facts regarding Keys's absences are undisupted. On October 26, 2013, Keys sprained his ankle at work and was out on worker's compensation leave until December 23, 2013. (D.N. 19-3, PageID # 84, 87) In January 2014, Keys reinjured his ankle at home and was off work from January 24, 2014 to March 4, 2014. (Id., PageID # 84) During 2014, Keys also took a number of sick days and personal days. (D.N. 19-4, PageID # 182) Keys exhausted the five sick days that he was granted for the year by October, but he called in sick at least two more times. (Id.) On November 24, 2014, Keys's supervisor and two employees from Monument's Human Resources office held a meeting with him to discuss his attendance issues. (D.N. 19-3, PageID # 89) Keys told the group that his attendance issues were caused by frequent illnesses and having to take his wife, who has lupus, and daughter, who has multiple sclerosis, to medical appointments. (D.N. 19-1, PageID # 63; D.N. 19-4, PageID # 162) Keys's supervisor asked Keys to schedule appointments during his non-working hours and warned Keys that he needed to improve his attendance or risk losing his job. (D.N. 19-4, PageID # 162-63)

         Shortly thereafter, in December 2014, Keys was granted short-term medical leave and missed several days of work because of a non-work-related knee injury. (D.N. 19-1, PageID # 63) Monument contends that “Keys did not receive any disciplinary or other adverse action as a result of these various injuries or leaves and resulting restrictions.” (Id., PageID # 62)

         In January 2015, Keys injured his wrist at home and required surgery. (Id.) Keys returned to work for several days with restrictions prior to his surgery on February 5, 2015. (Id.) Keys was granted FMLA leave for the surgery and recovery. (Id.) With the exception of “one day of off-site training for which he was released by his doctor and permitted to attend, this surgery kept Keys off work for 13-weeks until May 11, 2015.” (Id.) Monument claims that it accommodated Keys's physical restrictions when he returned to work on May 11, 2015. (Id.) While Keys agrees that he received this leave, he claims that he wanted to return to work earlier than May 11 but Monument denied his request. (D.N. 20, PageID # 198)

         After Keys returned to work on May 11, 2015, he missed work on June 12, 2015 for “reported wrist pain” and June 18, 2015 for a doctor's appointment. (D.N. 19-1, PageID # 64) Monument points out that Keys was scheduled to have June 16 and June 17 off from work, and June 18 “was the day before a scheduled vacation for Keys.” (Id.) Monument states that Keys could have easily scheduled his appointments when he was not working because he was only scheduled to work three to four shifts per week and many were night shifts. (Id.)

         On July 2, 2015, Monument terminated Keys for “excessive absenteeism.” (Id., PageID # 65) According to Monument, Keys was warned about his poor attendance on an annual basis beginning in 2011. (Id.) Monument states that during his 2013 mid-year review, Keys was informed that he had missed fourteen shifts due to illness, doctor's appointments, and funeral leave, and he was asked to improve his attendance. (Id.) Monument claims that it again warned Keys about his attendance at the end of 2013, on several occasions in 2014, and in February 2015 as part of his 2014 year-end review. (Id., PageID # 63-64)

         Keys asserts that his absences were covered by Monument's leave and absence policies. (D.N. 20, PageID # 193) According to Keys, his absences were due to illness, medical appointments, and funeral leave and were covered by a combination of his personal days, sick days, vacation days, FMLA leave, “comp” days, and shift-trading. (Id., PageID # 193-95) Keys was granted five to six sick days annually, and he contends that the only day he was absent that was “not scheduled off in advance as a vacation or personal/sick day following his return from FMLA leave in May, was June 12, 2015.” (Id., PageID # 195)

         On July 30, 2015, Keys filed suit against Monument, alleging retaliation and interference under the FMLA and discrimination and failure to provide a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, as well as violations of state wage law. (D.N. 1) Monument moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not “interfere with, or retaliate against, Keys for his use of FMLA leave”; that Keys failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, as required by the ADA; and that it did not violate state wage laws because it paid Keys what he was owed upon termination. (D.N. 19-1) Alternatively, Monument asserts that Keys has not established a prima facie case of disability discrimination under the ADA and that it accommodated his alleged disability. (Id.) Keys responds that there are genuine disputes of material fact regarding his FMLA, ADA, and wage-law claims and thus summary judgment is inappropriate. (D.N. 20)

         II. DISCUSSION

         To grant a motion for summary judgment, the Court must find that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying the basis for its motion and those portions of the record that “it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party must point to specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), but “the judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. The non-moving party must present specific facts demonstrating that a genuine issue of fact exists by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record” or by “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

         A. ...


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