United States District Court, D. Colorado
BOYD N. BOLAND, Magistrate Judge.
This matter arises on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. # 28, filed 8/18/2014], which is DENIED.
I. SUMMARY OF CLAIMS
The plaintiff alleges claims under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). "The FMLA guarantees the substantive rights of up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees of covered employers for serious health conditions and reinstatement to the former position or an equivalent one upon return from that leave." Metzler v. Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka , 464 F.3d 1164, 1170 (10th Cir. 2006).
The plaintiff asserts two claims for relief. In her First Claim, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants interfered with her rights under the FMLA by "terminating her employment"; "refusing to allow her to return to her job, or to an equivalent position, upon return from leave"; and "failing to provide written notice of SASIAK's rights and obligations as required under the FMLA." Complaint [Doc. # 1] at ¶32. The defendants characterize these allegations as asserting an FMLA entitlement claim. Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. # 28] at pp. 6-8.
In her Second Claim, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants interfered with her rights under the FMLA by intentionally discriminating against her "by terminating her employment and refusing to allow her to return to her job, or to an equivalent position, upon return from leave." Complaint [Doc. # 1] at ¶38. The defendants characterize these allegations as asserting an FMLA retaliation and discrimination claim. Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. # 28] at pp. 8-10.
II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, and that party must be afforded the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence. Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co. , 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). Summary judgment shall be rendered "if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A genuine issue of material fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating by reference to portions of pleadings, discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits, the absence of genuine issues of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "The moving party may carry its initial burden either by producing affirmative evidence negating an essential element of the nonmoving party's claim, or by showing that the nonmoving party does not have enough evidence to carry its burden of persuasion at trial." Trainor v. Apollo Metal Specialties, Inc. , 318 F.3d 976, 979 (10th Cir. 2002).
The party opposing the motion is then required to go beyond the pleadings and designate evidence of specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex , 477 U.S. at 324. Only admissible evidence may be considered when ruling on a motion for summary judgment. World of Sleep, Inc. v. La-Z-Boy Chair Co. , 756 F.2d 1467, 1474 (10th Cir. 1985).
A. Plaintiff's Entitlement Theory
An employer may not "interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under [the FMLA]." 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). To recover on an FMLA entitlement theory, the plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) she is entitled to FMLA leave; (2) some adverse action by the employer interfered with her right to take FMLA leave; and (3) the employer's action was related to the exercise or attempted exercise of her FMLA rights. Metzler , 464 F.3d at 1170.
The defendants concede for purposes of their summary judgment motion that the plaintiff has established the first two elements-that she was entitled to FMLA leave and that her termination from employment was an adverse action. Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. # 28] at p. 6. Defendants dispute, however, that the adverse action was related to the plaintiff's exercise of her FMLA rights. Thus here, as in Metzler, "[t]he crucial inquiry... is whether [the plaintiff] has alleged and presented ...