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Eagle v. SMG Salt Palace

United States District Court, D. Utah

November 30, 2018

ROBERT EAGLE, Plaintiff,
v.
SMG SALT PALACE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          DEE BENSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         District Judge Dee Benson Before the court is Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. (Dkt. No. 19.) The Motion has been fully briefed by the parties, and the court has considered the facts and arguments set forth in those filings. Pursuant to civil rule 7-1(f) of the United States District Court for the District of Utah Rules of Practice, the Court elects to determine the motion on the basis of the written memoranda and finds that oral argument would not be helpful or necessary. DUCivR 7-1(f).

         Facts

         The court, as it must, “examine[s] the factual record and reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment.” Applied Genetics Int'l, Inc. v. First Affiliated Sec., Inc., 912 F.2d 1238, 1241 (10th Cir. 1990).

         Plaintiff began his employment with Defendant in November of 2014, as an Event Supervisor. (Dkt. No. 20 at 10, ¶¶1-2.) On May 16, 2016, Plaintiff contacted Defendant's third-party Family Medical Leave Act “FMLA” administrator, Matrix, to request intermittent FMLA leave for his own serious health condition. (Dkt. No. 24-7.) After several attempts to obtain medical certification satisfactory to Matrix, Matrix approved Plaintiff's request for intermittent leave on August 11, 2016. (Dkt. No. 24-8-24-11.) Matrix based its intermittent leave approval on certification from Plaintiff's pulmonary specialist, Dr. Shah. (Dkt. No. 24-10.) Matrix granted intermittent leave “from 03/13/2016 to 03/12/2017” and approved Plaintiff's absences on May 6, 7, 11, and 12. (Dkt. No. 24-11.) The document memorializing the leave approval also stated: “Your Leave is certified for 3 Day(s), at a frequency of 2 events per 12 Month(s).” (Id.)

         On September 1, 2016, Plaintiff contacted Matrix to receive FMLA leave approval for his absences from August 25- September 1, 2016. (Dkt. No. 24-12.) The Matrix representative informed Plaintiff that she would seek certification for his absence from Dr. Shah. (Id.) On September 7, 2016, Plaintiff again contacted Matrix and was again informed that the Matrix representative would seek certification from Dr. Shah. (Id.) On September 8, 2016, the Matrix representative requested certification from Dr. Shah and was informed that Dr. Shah would not provide additional certification without seeing Plaintiff again. (Id.) On September 9, 2016, the Matrix representative relayed this information to Plaintiff. (Id.)

         On September 10, 2016, Plaintiff returned to work and presented a doctor's note to Defendant's Human Resource Manager, Bradley Christensen. (Dkt. No. 22, ¶18.) The Instacare “Work Release Note” stated: “EAGLE, ROBERT E was seen at instacare today for a valid medical reason. Please released [sic] them [sic] from school/work August 25th, September 9 and 10, 2016 per M.D. order. Patient is released to go back to work.” (Dkt. No. 24-15.) Based on that note, Mr. Christensen permitted Plaintiff to return to work. (Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 18.) On October 4, 2016, Mr. Christensen reported the excused hours/ dates from August 25 to September 10 to Matrix. (Id., ¶19.)

         On October 11, 2016, Plaintiff visited Dr. Shah for a follow-up visit and to request an adjustment to his FMLA form. (Dkt. No. 24-18.) Plaintiff reported to Dr. Shah that his condition had not improved, that he was experiencing chest pain, cough, and hemoptysis, and that he feared he would lose his job, as he had “missed work a lot lately due to these symptoms.” (Id.) Dr. Shah stated that he would send his clinic notes to Plaintiff's employer and inform them that the amount of time Plaintiff would need to be out would be an estimate, since he did not yet have a clear diagnosis. (Id.)

         On October 14, 2016, Plaintiff began another absence from work that continued through November 3, 2016. (Dkt. No. 24-14.) On or about October 19, 2016, Plaintiff called Matrix to attempt to update his FMLA leave parameters. (Id.) Matrix called Plaintiff back and left him a voicemail instructing him to have his doctor fax medical documentation to Matrix. (Dkt. No. 24-19.) On October 25, 2016, Plaintiff again called the Matrix representative to see if she had received the updated parameters from Dr. Shah. (Dkt. No. 24-20.) She informed him that she had not received the documentation. (Id.) The record does not show any effort made by Matrix or Defendant to obtain certification directly from Dr. Shah during this time period.

         On November 4, 2016, Plaintiff met with his direct supervisor and Mr. Christensen and informed them that he was prepared to return to work. (Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 32.) Plaintiff presented an Instacare “Work Release Note” that appeared almost identical, apart from the dates listed and small changes in wording, to the note Plaintiff had presented upon his return to work in September. (Dkt. No. 24-24.) The note stated: “EAGLE, ROBERT E was seen at the Memorial Instacare on 11/03/16 for a valid medical reason. Please excuse him/her from time missed from work/school 10/14/2016, 11/02/2016, and 11/03/2016 for a valid medical illness. Per Dr. Willis, EAGLE, ROBERT E is allowed to return to work as of 11/03/2016.” (Id.) Mr. Christensen “told Plaintiff that the InstaCare note was insufficient and that he would be out of work until he provided a doctor note from his treating physician.” (Dkt. No. 22, ¶ 32.)

         On November 7, 2016, Plaintiff wrote a letter to Mr. Christensen asking why he had not been allowed to return to work. (Dkt. No. 19, Exh. F.) He also informed Mr. Christensen that he would have to seek employment elsewhere until his leave status was resolved and reaffirmed that he was ready and able to work as of November 4, 2016. (Id.)

         On November 11, 2016, Plaintiff provided Mr. Christensen with a note from Dr. Shah which stated:

Robert Eagle has been under my care for hemoptysis and pulmonary nodules. His evaluation is currently underway but he continues to have intermittent symptoms. Please excuse him from work 08/26/2016 to 09/10/2016 and 10/14/2016-11/3/2016. I expect him to improve over the next few months. Please contact our office if any additional information is needed.

(Dkt. No. 24-25.) Mr. Christensen did not allow Plaintiff to return to work at that time, nor did he contact Dr. Shah's office for additional information. He instead forwarded the note from ...


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