United States District Court, D. Colorado
Brooke Jackson United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on defendant Craig Hospital's
motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 17]. For the reasons
described below, the motion is GRANTED.
following facts are not in dispute unless otherwise noted.
Plaintiff Lilia Smith-Megote is a former employee of
defendant Craig Hospital (“Craig”). ECF No. 1 at
¶¶13-14 (Complaint). In July of 2015 she requested
leave to travel to the Philippines to care for her ailing
mother. ECF No. 17-2 at 2 (Leave of Absence Request Form).
Craig approved plaintiff for five to six weeks of leave under
the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to care for
her mother beginning on July 24, 2015. ECF No. 17-4 at 3
(FMLA Designation Notice).
August 9, shortly into plaintiff's leave, her mother
passed away. ECF No. 1 at ¶6. Plaintiff did not notify
Craig of her mother's death, or ask that her FMLA leave
be extended beyond the death, or ask for bereavement leave
(to which she would have been entitled). Instead, plaintiff
subsequently remained in the Philippines for roughly three
weeks and then flew to Spain on August 28, 2015 to check up
on her sister. ECF No. 17-5 at 73:16-19, 74:3-22 (Dep. of
Lilia Smith-Megote, Aug. 18, 2016). Plaintiff returned to the
United States on September 1. See id. Two days later
she contacted Craig to notify them that she wanted to return
to work early, which plaintiff did soon thereafter.
Id. at 75:2-8.
September 4 defendant first learned that plaintiff's
mother had passed away back in early August. ECF No. 17-3 at
129:23-25 (Dep. of Stacy Abel, Aug. 19, 2016). After
determining that plaintiff's FMLA leave did not apply to
her absences after her mother passed away, defendant
terminated plaintiff's employment on September 17.
Id. at 157:3-11, 160:8-20. Defendant claims that it
fired plaintiff due to plaintiff's missing too many
shifts while failing to produce a legitimate reason why she
remained abroad for over three weeks after her mother's
passing, as well as because of plaintiff's prior written
warning for absences and a previous incident on her record
involving improper conduct. Id. at 74:2-7; ECF No.
17-5 at 87:7-12; ECF No. 17-10 at 2 (Craig Hospital Employee
Discipline Form); ECF No. 17 at 3.
January 22, 2016 plaintiff filed suit against defendant,
alleging retaliation under the FMLA. ECF No. 1 at
¶¶12-17. After answering plaintiff's complaint
on February 16, 2016, ECF No. 6, defendant moved for summary
judgment on September 29, 2016, ECF No. 17. Defendant's
motion has been fully briefed.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court may grant summary judgment if “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). A fact is “material if under the substantive law
it is essential to the proper disposition of the
claim.” Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144
F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). A material fact is genuine 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 has the burden to show that there is an absence
of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).
The nonmoving party must “designate ‘specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.'” Id. at 324 (citation omitted).
complaint asserts a single cause of action under the FMLA.
However, as defendant acknowledges, plaintiff really
maintains two distinct theories of recovery under that
statute: (1) “interference” in violation of 29
U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1); and (2) “retaliation”
in violation of 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2). ECF No. 1 at
¶¶12-17; Metzler v. Fed. Home Loan Bank of
Topeka, 464 F.3d 1164, 1170 (10th Cir. 2006). Defendant
argues that it is entitled to summary judgment on both
theories. For the reasons below, the Court agrees.
first theory asserts interference under the FMLA. “To
establish an interference claim, [plaintiff] must show: (1)
that [s]he was entitled to FMLA leave, (2) that some adverse
action by the employer interfered with h[er] right to take
FMLA leave, and (3) that the employer's action was
related to the exercise or attempted exercise of h[er] FMLA
rights.” See Campbell v. Gambro
Healthcare, Inc., 478 F.3d 1282, 1287 (10th Cir. 2007)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The parties
only appear to dispute the first ...