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Lay v. Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

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

May 25, 2018



          Joseph H. McKinley, Jr., United States District Court Chief Judge

         This matter is before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff, Justin Lay, and Defendant, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government [DN 25, DN 26]. Fully briefed, these matters are ripe for decision.


         Before the Court may grant a motion for summary judgment, it 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 specifying the basis for its motion and identifying that portion of the record that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies this burden, the non-moving party thereafter must produce specific facts demonstrating a genuine issue of fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         Although the Court must review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the non-moving party must do more than merely show that there is some “metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Instead, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require the non- moving party to present specific facts showing that a genuine factual issue 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). “The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-moving party].” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. It is against this standard the Court reviews the following facts.


         In September of 2015, Defendant, Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (hereinafter “Defendant” or “Louisville Metro”) hired Plaintiff, Justin Lay (hereinafter “Plaintiff” or “Lay”), as a packer/handler in its Solid Waste Management Division. As a member of the Teamsters Union, Lay bid on a promotion to Equipment Operator in August of 2016. The position required the employee to hold a Commercial Driver's License. Louisville Metro awarded Lay the job effective August 15, 2016.

         Under the terms of the contract, Louisville Metro provided Lay with three months to obtain his CDL. The published job description for the position included the special requirement that the awardee “[m]ust possess and maintain a valid Class A Commercial Driver's License (CDL) with tanker endorsement or obtain within three months of employment.” (DN 25-2.) Accordingly, Lay's deadline to earn the CDL was November 15, 2016. Lay testified that obtaining a CDL required passing a written exam, passing a physical, obtaining a copy of the applicant's driving record, obtaining a learner's permit, and passing a driving test. On September 15, 2016, Richmond Booker, Solid Waste Manager, sent Lay a Memorandum indicating that it had come to the attention of Management that he had not yet obtained a valid CDL as outlined in his new job description. The Memorandum notified Lay that “[i]f you fail to obtain your Class ‘A' Commercial Driver's License (CDL) by November 15, 2016 your employment with Solid Waste will be terminated immediately.” (Booker Memorandum at ¶ 25-6.) Lay signed the Memorandum acknowledging receipt of it.

         On November 2, 2016, Lay obtained his CDL learner's permit. He was required to hold the learner's permit for at least 14 days before completing the driving test. Joe Nichols with Louisville Metro's Safety Department scheduled Lay's CDL driving test for November 16, 2016, and Director of Public Works Vanessa Burns and Assistant Director of Training and Administration for Public Works Julie Toler approved an extension of one day for Lay to take his CDL driver's exam. (Julie Toler at 29.) Toler testified that once she received a CDL permit, her office sends supplemental paperwork to the supervisor of the employee to fill out. (Id. at 66.) The supplemental paperwork is approximately 12 pages in length. (Id. at 69.) Lay filled out the supplemental paper work on November 2, 2016.

         On November 7, 2016, Jessica Brunk forwarded an email from the Louisville Metro's Compliance Coordinator to Richmond Booker indicating that “just a few items need attention before [the] CDL orientation” for Lay could be conducted: (1) “Supplemental Application Page 3: Please have the employee review the FMCSR and 49 CFR Part 40 questions as they pertain to the position of Packer Laborer;” (2) “Supplemental Application Page 3: Please have the employee add his current position;” (3) “Release and Request for Previous Employer Information: Please ensure that the candidate signs and dates in the space provided;” (4) “A new driver history report needs to be submitted.” (DN 30-3, DN 25-7, Forwarded Email Brunk to Booker.)

         On November 7, 2016, Lay suffered a broken right ankle in an off-duty accident. Lay's physician restricted his work duties to non-weight bearing work. Lay informed his supervisor of his injury and need for leave on November 9, 2016. On or before November 14, 2016, Lay submitted his request for medical leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act. Lay received preliminary approval of his leave on November 15, 2016. After Lay provided his physician's medical certification, Louisville Metro granted final approval of the leave on November 28, 2016. Louisville Metro determined that Lay's FMLA-protected leave began on November 11, 2016, and would conclude on December 20, 2016.[1]

         On November 23, 2016, Supervisor Richmond Booker called Lay and terminated his employment for failing to obtain his CDL. Specifically, the Corrective Action Form stated:

As of 11/15/2016, you have failed to even submit a complete CDL packet which is required to be submitted [to the] Public Works Personnel Supervisor and then would be forward to Human Resources before CDL Orientation can be administered which is required before an individual can start training with Public Works Safety and Training Division. The Public Works Safety and Training Division scheduled your CDL driving test for 11/16/2016 which at that time you had not trained nor were you able to take the test. Unfortunately, you were unable to meet the requirements of the Equipment Operation-SWMS position within the allotted timeframe.

(Metro Public Works & Assets Corrective Action Form, 11/22/16, DN 25-11.) The Union filed a grievance with respect to the termination. Director of Public Works Vanessa Burns upheld Lay's termination.

         As a result of his termination, Lay filed suit against Louisville Metro on January 26, 2017, in the Jefferson Circuit Court alleging that his termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2615. This action was removed to this Court. Both parties have now filed cross motions for summary judgment.

         III. ...

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