United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Todd Groom, who has a right leg prosthesis following an
amputation in 1989, alleges he was wrongfully terminated by
his former employer, Defendant Army Fleet Support, LLC, in
violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended
("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.,
and the Family Medical Leave Act, ("FMLA"), 29
U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. (Doc. 1). Before the
court is Army Fleet Support, LLC's Motion for Summary
Judgment. (Doc. 31). The matter has been fully briefed.
See (Docs. 32-34, 37-40). For the reasons stated
herein, it is the RECOMMENDATION of the
undersigned that the motion for summary judgment be
court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331, 1343(4). The parties do not contest
personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court finds
sufficient information of record to support both.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1391. On January 5, 2017, the
above-styled matter was referred to the undersigned for
recommendation on all pretrial matters by United States
District Judge Myron H. Thompson. (Doc. 12); see
also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b); Rule 72, Fed. R. Civ. P.;
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980);
Jeffrey S. v. State Bd. of Educ. of State of Ga.,
896 F.2d 507 (11th Cir. 1990).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment 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 ruling on a motion for summary
judgment, the Court construes the facts and all reasonable
inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods.,
Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). However, when faced with
a "properly supported motion for summary judgment, [the
nonmoving party] must come forward with specific factual
evidence, presenting more than mere allegations."
Gargiulo v. G.M. Sales, Inc., 131 F.3d 995, 999
(11th Cir. 1997).
judgment is mandated "against a party who fails to make
a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's ease, and on which that party
will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
"Summary judgment may be granted if the non-moving
party's evidence is merely colorable or is not
significantly probative." Sawyer v. Southwest
Airlines Co., 243 F.Supp.2d 1257, 1262 (D. Kan. 2003)
(citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 250-51 (1986)).
the summary judgment stage 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.
"Essentially, the inquiry is 'whether the evidence
presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to
the jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law."' Sawyer, 243
F.Supp.2d at 1263 (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at
Groom ("Groom") has been a right leg amputee since
1989. (Doc. 37-2 at 13:30-14:17). He began working for Army
Fleet Support, LLC ('AFS") as a mechanic in 2008.
Id. at 6:16-7:13. While working for AFS, Groom used
a prosthetic device on his right leg. Id. at
16:14-20. In late 2014, Groom's prosthesis wore out, and
it was recommended he replace it. Id. at 24:1-13.
The new prosthesis caused him to develop blisters where the
stump of his leg met the device. Id. at 24:22-25:10.
It took one to three weeks for the blisters to heal depending
on if they became infected. Id. at 42:3-12.
Additionally, Groom experienced more phantom right leg pain
since getting the new prosthesis. Id. at 25:11-26:1.
In November 2014 Groom applied for and went on short-term
disability while waiting on his wound to heal. Id.
at 27:7-29:20; 41:3-6. AFS records show Groom was on
short-term disability from November 24, 2014, until January
19, 2015. (Doe. 33-1 at 36-37). Within a week or so of
returning to work from short-term disability, Groom began
having the same problems with his leg. Id. at
applied for FMLA leave on February 4, 2015, which was
approved February 10, 2015. (Doc. 33-1 at 28-29). In
conjunction with his request for leave, Groom provided
medical certification from his prosthetist, Willis
Smitherman, see Id. at 23-26, but he did not review
the certification. (Doc. 37-1, ¶2). Groom knew he could
take up to 12 weeks per year, but was unaware of any
restriction as to how much time he could take off at any
given time. Id. The certification by Smitherman
stated that Groom "may experience occasional temporary
conditions that may require removing the prosthesis for
several days for skin conditions." (Doc. 33-1 at 25).
According to Smitherman, the frequency of the flare-ups and
related incapacity was expected to be one to five days every
three months. Id.
to AFS records, Groom used 288 hours of FMLA leave from May
2014 until May 2015. Id. at31. Groom was absent from
work five times in February 2015, but only one of the days
provided a reason of "Family Medical Leave."
Id. at 38. Groom was absent fifteen days in March
2015 for "Family Medical Leave." Id. at
38. In April 2015, Groom was out fourteen days due to
"Family Medical Leave, " four times for
"Employee sick, " and two days for
"Personal." Id. Groom had six absences in
May identified as "Family Medical Leave, " and
thereafter time taken off was noted as "Unauthorized
absence." Id. at 38-39. All of Groom's
absences in 2015 where he called in requesting FMLA leave was
due to blisters on his leg, including the dates of May 11,
12, and 13, see (Doc. 37-1, ¶2), which were
listed by AFS as "unauthorized absences" (Doc. 33-1
Thursday in early May 2015, Liz Neering in AFS human
resources told Groom that he was running out of leave time
under FMLA. (Docs. 37-l, ¶3; 37-2 at 53:12-18). Neering
never said he exceeded his allotted absences, but rather only
told him that he was running out of FMLA. (Doc. 37-1, 13).
Groom told Neering he thought he had four weeks of FMLA time
left. Id.; see also (Doc. 37-2 at 53:12-18). Neering
suggested he go back on disability, but he felt he would be
healed up by Monday, May 11, so he told her he did not need
to go on short-term disability. (Docs. 37-1, ¶3; 37-2 at
51:1-19, 59:18-61:18, 62:5-63:9). According to Groom,
Neering, nor anyone else, ever told him he needed another
medical certification or any updated medical information
prior to termination. (Doc. 37-1, ¶¶3, 6). Penny
Poole, manager of labor relations and benefits for AFS,
testified that Neering did not direct Groom to submit new
FMLA medical certification. (Doc. 37-3 at 53:13-19).
Monday May 11 Groom did not return to work because he
developed another blister on his leg over the weekend. (Docs.
37-1, ¶4; 37-2 at 126:6-18). On each day May 11 through
May 13, Groom advised his supervisor, via text message, that
he would be missing work due to an FMLA issue. (Doc. 37-1,
¶4). On May 14, one of his supervisors sent Groom a text
that he needed to contact the union shop steward because
Groom could not be put in for FMLA leave effective May 13.
Id.; see also (Doc. 37-2 at 58:19-59:5). Groom
called and spoke with a union representative who told Groom
he needed to attend a meeting. (Docs. ...