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Ginwright v. Department of Revenue for State of Alabama

United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Northern Division

June 5, 2014

JACQUELINE GINWRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE FOR THE STATE OF ALABAMA, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

WALLACE CAPEL, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

On May 30, 2012, Plaintiff Jacqueline Ginwright ("Plaintiff") filed a three-count Complaint against the following defendants: the Department of Revenue for the State of Alabama ("the Department"); Julie P. Magee, as an individual and in her Official Capacity as Commissioner of the Department ("Ms. Magee"); Charlie Lassiter, as an individual and in her official capacity as Director of Human Resources ("Ms. Lassiter"); and Annette Russell, as an individual and in her official capacity as Human Resources Coordinator ("Ms. Russell").[1] This complaint alleged discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et. seq., and/or the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq. ; retaliation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et. seq. and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et. seq. ; and violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq. Jurisdiction is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (federal question). All parties have consented to the conduct of all proceedings and entry of a final judgment by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge. (Docs. 13 & 14).

Defendants previously filed a Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 6). During the briefing process, Plaintiff sought and was granted leave to amend the complaint. (Doc. 10); Order (Doc. 17). The Amended Complaint included the following counts:

1) Disability discrimination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et. seq. ("Rehabilitation Act");
2) Retaliation in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et. seq. ;
3) Violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq. ("FMLA");
4) Disability discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 on behalf of the Department and Ms. Magee, Ms. Lassiter, and Ms. Russell in their official capacities;
5) Disability discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 on behalf of Ms. Magee, Ms. Lassiter, and Ms. Russell in their individual capacities;
6) Retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 on behalf of the Department and Ms. Magee, Ms. Lassiter, and Ms. Russell in their official capacities; and
7) Retaliation in violation of 42 U.S.C. §1983 on behalf of Ms. Magee,

Ms. Lassiter, and Ms. Russell in their individual capacities. Am. Compl. (Doc. 18) at 7-22. After the completion of supplemental briefing on the motion to dismiss, the court ordered that the Motion to Dismiss be granted as to (a) all claims against the Individual Defendants in their official capacities; (b) Plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims brought pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act against the Individual Defendants in their individual capacities; (c) Plaintiff's FMLA claims against the Individual Defendants in their individual capacities; (d) Plaintiff's FMLA self-care claims against the Department and the Individual Defendants in their official capacities; and (e) Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the Department and the Individual Defendants in their official capacities. Order (Doc. 23) at 22. Thus, Plaintiff's only surviving claims became Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act claims against the Department; Plaintiff's FMLA claims under the family-care provision against the Department; and Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims against the Individual Defendants in their individual capacities. Id. Defendants previously moved for summary judgment (Doc. 29) on all counts and the court denied the motion with leave to refile pending the conclusion of discovery (Doc. 34).

Before the court is Defendants' renewed Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35) and Memorandum of Law in Support (Doc. 35-1). Plaintiff filed an Objection to Defendants' Brief and Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 40) as well as a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment (Doc. 41). Defendant filed a reply (Doc. 42).

Upon consideration of the Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 35), the pleadings of the parties, and the evidentiary materials filed in support thereof, and for the reasons that follow, the court finds that the Motion is due to be granted.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a reviewing court shall grant a motion for "summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).[2] Only disputes about material facts will preclude the granting of summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "An issue of fact is genuine' if the record as a whole could lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party. An issue is material' if it might affect the outcome of the case under the governing law." Redwing Carriers, Inc. v. Saraland Apartments, 94 F.3d 1489, 1496 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248).

The party asking for summary judgment "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion[, ]" and alerting the court to portions of the record which support the motion. Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). However, once the movant has satisfied this burden, the nonmovant is then similarly required to cite to portions of the record which show the existence of a material factual dispute. Id. at 324. In doing so, and to avoid summary judgment, the non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The parties must support their assertions "that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed" by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations[], admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" or by "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A) & (B).

If the nonmovant "fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact" as required by Rule 56(c), then the court may "consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion" and "grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials - including the facts considered undisputed - show that the movant is entitled to it." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2) & (3).

In determining whether a genuine issue for trial exists, the court must view all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. McCormick v. City of Fort Lauderdale, 333 F.3d 1234, 1243 (11th Cir. 2003). Likewise, the reviewing court must draw all justifiable inferences from the evidence in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. After the nonmoving party has responded to the motion for summary judgment, the court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

III. STATEMENT OF FACTS

The court has carefully considered the pleadings in this case and all documents submitted in support of, and in opposition to, the Motion for Summary Judgment. The version of Rule 56, the undersigned will, where appropriate, continue to cite to decisional law construing and applying prior versions of the Rule. submissions of the parties, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, establish the following relevant facts:

At all times relevant to this action, Plaintiff was an employee of the Department, working as an Account Clerk assigned to the Collection Services Division, which is located in the Gordon Persons Building.

Ms. Lassiter was the Department's Director of Human Resources from 1986 until she retired in December of 2011. Her duties included oversight of all personnel and pay matters and handling the Department's employees' requests for accommodations. Ms. Russell was a Training Specialist II in the Human Resources department; she worked directly for Ms. Lassiter. Ms. Russell's duties included administration of the FMLA program for the Department. Ms. Magee was the Commissioner of the Department, and in that capacity, she was responsible for managing the Department's employees.

Plaintiff has been disabled as a result of a fall in the Montgomery Mall in 1999 and an automobile accident in 2006, which resulted in permanent disabling conditions in her back and legs. These conditions make it very difficult for Plaintiff to walk long distances and cause her pain. Plaintiff made the Department, Ms. Magee, Ms. Lassiter and Ms. Russell aware of her back and leg conditions by providing documentation of her conditions after her 1999 fall and her 2006 automobile accident.

Plaintiff's adult daughter has Downs Syndrome, which is a permanent medical/health condition. Her daughter also has a seizure disorder (epilepsy) which is considered a chronic condition.

Since the mid 1990's, Plaintiff had requested and been approved for leave under both the self-care and family-care provisions of FMLA. As an eligible employee, Plaintiff had a total entitlement of twelve workweeks (480 hours) of FMLA leave during any twelve-month period. As the Employer, the Department uses a "rolling" method to determine the twelve-month period in which the twelve weeks of leave entitlement occurs. An employee could use the entitlement for either self-care or family-care purposes. Plaintiff asserts that "[t]he Department's Human Resources officers, Ms. Lassiter and Ms. Russell, repeatedly and intentionally denied [Plaintiff]'s requests ...


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