United States District Court, D. Arizona
G. CAMPBELL SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Lockheed Martin Corporation (“LMC”) moves for
summary judgment on Plaintiff Stacy Wallace's claim that
LMC unlawfully interfered with her rights under the Family
and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. Ch. 28.
Doc. 19. Wallace filed a response (Doc. 25), and LMC replied
(Doc. 28). The Court concludes that oral argument will not
aid the Court's decision. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
78(b); Partridge v. Reich, 141 F.3d 920, 926 (9th
Cir. 1998). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
grant in part and deny in part LMC's motion.
following facts are undisputed unless noted otherwise.
worked for Defendant at Luke Air Force Base as a Computer
Systems Security Analysis Manager from 2014 until April 2017.
Doc. 20 at ¶ 1. Her direct supervisor was Darin Crowley.
Doc. 20 at ¶ 4. His supervisor was Mark Cheeks.
Id. David Sellers is a “higher-up” in
LMC's security division, but the parties dispute whether
Sellers was in Wallace's chain of command. Doc. 20 at
¶ 5; Doc. 23 at 5.
2015, after receiving a cancer diagnosis, Wallace told
Crowley and Carolyn Jones, a human resources supervisor, that
she needed to take medical leave. Doc. 23 at ¶¶
50-51. Jones suggested intermittent-FMLA leave as “the
best of both worlds.” Id. Crowley asked
Wallace to delay her leave as long as she could. Doc. 23 at
the same time, Wallace informed Sellers that she planned to
take leave. Doc. 23 at ¶ 53. According to Wallace,
Sellers started mocking her health problems and openly
stating he wanted to replace her with Adam Young, another LMC
employee. Id. On January 26, 2016, Wallace
threatened to report Sellers to the LMC Ethics Department if
he did not stop this behavior. Doc. 23-1 at ¶ 16. The
next day, Sellers reported Wallace to the Ethics Department
for violating company policies, and the Ethics Department
initiated an investigation. Doc. 20 at ¶ 7; Doc 23 at
ethics report alleged Wallace had engaged in romantic
relationships with Crowley and an LMC client, and had falsely
accused the client of rape. Doc. 20 at ¶ 7. Wallace
denies that she made the rape accusation, stating that she
referred to rape in only one conversation with a human
resources investigator, but quickly confessed that she lied
because Sellers had pressured her to make the allegation.
Doc. 23 at ¶ 24.
January 27, 2016, Wallace officially requested leave under
the FMLA for anxiety and depression (Doc. 20 at ¶ 36),
which she alleges was caused by her cancer diagnosis (Doc.
23-1 at ¶ 22). She received FMLA paperwork on February
1, 2016. Doc. 23 at ¶ 54.
February 8, 2016, Wallace made a verbal request for FMLA
leave to Jones and Danielle Minus, another human resources
employee. Doc. 23 at ¶ 54. Minus told Wallace she could
not take FMLA leave, but that she was placing Wallace on
administrative leave for her safety. Doc. 23 at ¶ 55.
Later that month, Minus told Wallace that her prior
determination was mistaken and that Wallace was, in-fact,
eligible for FMLA leave. Doc. 23-1 at ¶ 33. On February
9, 2016, Cheeks, Crowley's supervisor, announced that
Adam Young would replace Wallace while she was on a
“non-adverse” leave of absence. Doc. 23 at ¶
early March, the Ethics Department found that the allegations
regarding Wallace's romantic relationships with Crowley
and the LMC client were true and violated LMC policy. Doc. 23
¶ 29. The Ethics Department presented its conclusions to
LMC's Administrative Review Committee (“ARC”)
to determine whether the misconduct warranted disciplinary
action. Doc. 20 at ¶ 29.
alleges that ARC decided to terminate Wallace from her
original position. Doc. 20 at ¶¶ 31-32. Wallace
disputes that this was the ARC's decision because a
letter from LMC's general counsel to Congressman Trent
Franks explained that Wallace would be allowed to seek a new
position within the company or be terminated. Doc. 23 at
March 3, 2016, Wallace's previous counsel sent an
evidence preservation letter to LMC specifically referencing
potential FMLA claims. Doc. 23 at ¶ 53. Six days later,
LMC issued a report against Wallace's security clearance.
Doc. 23 at ¶ 60.
March 28, 2016, LMC approved Wallace's request for
intermittent FMLA leave, through July 28, 2016. Doc. 23 at
¶ 39. LMC retroactively designated the leave to January
29, 2016, the date Wallace made her first formal request for
leave. Id. On April 27, 2016, Minus told Wallace
that she would no longer receive payments for non-FMLA leave
time, effective May 2, 2016. Doc. 23 at ¶ 62.
21, 2016, Wallace asked human resources about not receiving a
reinstatement date. Doc. 20 at ¶ 43. On July 8, 2016,
Wallace's counsel sent another letter to Minus notifying
her of FMLA violations and requesting that Wallace be
reinstated to prevent further violations. Doc. 23 at ¶
66. On July 12, 2016, Minus told Wallace not to report to
work because no work was available for her. Doc. 23 at ¶
67. She claimed Wallace's functions had been reassigned
to others in the department. Id. Wallace disputes
that work was not available. Doc. 23 at ¶ 64. She
alleges that at least one customer had requested her return
to work as soon as possible in a June 22 email to Mark
Cheeks. Doc. 23 at ¶ 64. The email stated: “the IA
team is pretty busy and [Wallace's] presence would
alleviate the managerial workload that's currently being
shared by others.” Doc. 23-2 at 36.
26, 2016, Minus informed LMC's disability center that
Wallace had been “returned back to work.” Doc. 20
at ¶ 41. Wallace asked Minus to clarify this change
given Minus's prior instruction that Wallace not report
for work. Id. Minus explained that Wallace's
short-term disability leave had expired and she therefore was
back to her original work arrangement of reporting to work
only upon expiration of all FMLA leave. Doc. 28 at 7 (citing
Doc. 23-2 at 47, Ex. 13). Wallace subsequently requested an
extension of her FMLA leave, which was granted through
January 28, 2017. Doc. 20 at ¶ 41.
August 15, 2016, Wallace complained again about not being
reinstated. Doc. 20 at ¶ 44. On November 21, 2016, she
raised FMLA complaints to corporate investigators, and did
the same a week later in a letter to LMC's CEO. Doc. 23
at ¶¶ 70, 73. On December 28, 2016, Sellers
informed customers that Wallace's job had been changed
and she was “no longer supporting a classified
contract” while on intermittent-FMLA leave. Doc. 23 at
January 20, 2017, Wallace sought another extension of her
FMLA leave, but was denied because she did not meet the
FMLA's 1, 250 hours requirement, having worked only 899
hours during the preceding 12-month period. Doc. 20 at ¶
42. Wallace alleges she did not qualify because LMC had
refused her requests for reinstatement. Doc. 25 at 8.
March 15, 2017, Wallace had exhausted her FMLA leave
benefits. Doc. 20 at ¶ 47. LMC invited Wallace to apply
to any open, non-leadership positions at locations other than
Luke Air Force Base by April 15, 2017, or face
“administrative separation.” Id. Wallace
did not apply and was terminated. Id
seeking summary judgment “bears the initial
responsibility of informing the district court of the basis
for its motion, and identifying those portions of [the
record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a
genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Summary judgment is
appropriate if the evidence, viewed in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party, 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). Summary judgment is also appropriate against a party
who “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's
case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof
at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
will preclude the entry of summary judgment, and the disputed
evidence must be “such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
FMLA establishes the “minimum labor standard for
leave” in the United States. Bachelder v. Am. West
Airlines, Inc., 259 F.3d 1112, 1122 (9th Cir. 2001).
Employees covered by the FMLA are entitled to take up to 12
weeks of leave each year for family or medical reasons and
must be reinstated to their original or an equivalent
position on return. 29 U.S.C. §§ 2612(a), 2614(a).
unlawful for an employer to “interfere with, restrain,
or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right
provided” by the FMLA. Id.; § 2615(a)(1).
Generally, any action by an employer that deters an employee
from participating in FMLA-protected activities qualifies as
an interference with the employee's FMLA rights.
Bachelder, 259 F.3d at 1124.
Department of Labor interprets § 2615(a)(1) as
prohibiting employers from refusing to authorize leave,
discouraging an employee from using such leave, or using an
employee's taking of FMLA leave “as a negative
factor in employment actions, such as hiring, promotions or
disciplinary actions.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c).
Thus, an employee will prevail on a claim for unlawful
interference with FMLA rights if she shows that (1) she was
eligible for FMLA protections, (2) her employer was covered
by the FMLA, (3) she was entitled to leave under the FMLA,
(4) she provided sufficient notice of her ...