United States District Court, M.D. Alabama, Southern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE MAGISTRATE
M. BORDEN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), this case was referred to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for further
proceedings and determination or recommendation as may be
appropriate. Doc. 7. Plaintiff Kimberly Hutchins, proceeding
pro se, filed this action on February 24, 2017,
asserting claims in connection with the denial of Family
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) leave and race
discrimination and retaliation in her employment. Doc.
Now before the court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed
by Defendant SpectraCare Health Systems, Inc.
(“SpectraCare”). Doc. 18. After careful
consideration of the parties' submissions,  the applicable
case law, and the record as a whole, the undersigned
RECOMMENDS that the motion for summary judgment be GRANTED.
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the federal claim
in this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1331. The parties
do not contest personal jurisdiction or venue, and the court
finds adequate allegations to support both.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
judgment is appropriate “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). The moving party “always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine
[dispute] of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (internal quotation
responding to a properly supported motion for summary
judgment, the nonmoving party “must do more than simply
show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material
fact.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith
Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather,
“the nonmoving party must come forward with specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. (internal quotation marks
omitted). If the nonmoving party's evidence is
“merely colorable, or is not significantly probative,
summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)
(citations omitted). “However, disagreement between the
parties is not significant unless the disagreement presents a
genuine [dispute] of material fact.” Gamble v.
Pinnoak Resources, LLC, 511 F.Supp.2d 1111, 1122 (N.D.
Ala. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). A factual
dispute is genuine when “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
district court considers a motion for summary judgment, all
evidence and inferences drawn from the evidence must be
viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.
Graham v. State Farm Mut. Ins. Co., 193 F.3d 1274,
1282 (11th Cir. 1999). “The court must avoid weighing
conflicting evidence or making credibility determinations.
Instead, the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed,
and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [the
non-movant's] favor.” Gamble, 511
F.Supp.2d at 1122 (internal quotation marks omitted).
“Where a reasonable fact finder may draw more than one
inference from the facts, then the court should refuse to
grant summary judgment.” Id. (internal
quotation marks omitted).
STATEMENT OF FACTS
facts viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant are
as follows: Hutchins was employed with SpectraCare, which is
a non-profit corporation that provides mental health,
intellectual disability, and substance abuse services.
Hutchins began working at SpectraCare in June 2013. When her
employment ended in December 2015, she was a Day Treatment
written job description for Hutchins provided by SpectraCare
lists eight primary job functions and performance
expectations. Doc. 17-7. These include managing the day
treatment program, managing the financial aspects of the
program, supervising the day treatment staff, providing
therapeutic services, maintaining client records, serving as
part of the emergency services staff including crises
services, other duties including transportation, and regular
attendance with timely arrival and departure according to
scheduled hours. Doc. 17-7.
brief in response to the motion for summary judgment,
Hutchins states, without citation to any supporting evidence,
that 75% of her job function was to perform the duties of day
treatment groups, complete assessments of new intakes, and
the renewal of current treatment plans. Doc. 20 at 5. She
also states in her brief, however, that it was “known
that some leadership roles were part of my job functions but
not my full job function.” Doc. 20 at 5. In her
deposition, she testified that leadership was an essential
function of her job. Doc. 17-1 at 126.
2015, a complaint was raised about Hutchins' work
performance. In June 2015, Hutchins received a Step II Plan
under SpectraCare's progressive discipline program in
response to the May 2015 complaint. Hutchins testified in her
deposition that she was not at work when the incident
resulting in the Step II Plan occurred and that she was
blamed for the incident because of her race. Hutchins wrote a
rebuttal to the Step II Plan. Susie Kingry, Chief Operations
Officer of SpectraCare, and Laura Deal, Chief Human Resources
Officer, met with Hutchins about her rebuttal on July 8,
2015, and informed her that the disciplinary action would not
filed a grievance with SpectraCare on June 29, 2015 in which
she identified perceived mistreatment based on the Step II
Plan and her meeting with Deal and Kingry. In her grievance,
she stated that she did not receive fair treatment in that
she and other therapists engaged in the same behavior, but
only she was disciplined for it. Doc. 17-5.
was issued a Step II Addendum on August 11, 2015. Hutchins
did not lose pay or benefits as a result of the Step II Plan
or the Step II Addendum.
contends in her brief that the discipline she received caused
her to experience problems with blood pressure, depression,
anxiety, and fibromyalgia. On August 17, 2015, Hutchins
requested FMLA paperwork. Hutchins' doctor completed the
paperwork and indicated on the form that Hutchins was unable
to perform a job function. Doc. 17-2 at 4. Specifically, the
doctor stated that Hutchins was unable to function in a
leadership role due to the symptoms of her diagnosed
conditions. Doc. 17-2 at 4.
subsequently met with Deal and Kingry. Kingry informed
Hutchins that she would be given FMLA leave until she could
perform leadership responsibilities. Doc. 17-7 at 5. Hutchins
went on FMLA leave in September 2015. She never provided
follow-up paperwork to show that she could meet the essential
functions of her job and would be capable of returning to
December 1, 2015, SpectraCare sent a letter to Hutchins
informing her that her FMLA leave was exhausted and that
SpectraCare would not be able to continue to hold her
position because her physician indicated a need for
Hutchins' continued absence with an uncertain return
date. Doc. 17-4.