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Goss v. Umicore USA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

September 8, 2017

JONATHAN GOSS, Plaintiff,
v.
UMICORE USA, Inc., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          JOHN J. MCCONNELL, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         The question before the Court is how much notice an employee must give in order to invoke the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Rhode Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act. The simple answer in this case is: a jury should decide.

         Facts

         Jonathan Goss worked as an assistant mold maker and then incoming quality control inspector for Umicore USA, Inc. for three years. Umicore regularly warned Mr. Goss about his absenteeism and tardiness, which, even taking the facts in the light most favorable to him, were excessive. His supervisor warned Mr. Goss that "[f]ailure to show immediate and sustained improvement may result in corrective action up to and including termination of employment." In December of 2013, Mr. Goss had two periods of absence due to illnesses that set the stage for this action.

         Mr. Goss was out of work from Wednesday, December 11, 2013, through Friday, December 13, 2013, due to bronchitis. He had already used all of his sick time. He texted his supervisor that he had been "up all night coughing and throwing up." The two exchanged text messages the following two days concerning Mr. Goss' medical progress. He returned to work the following Monday and gave his supervisor a doctor's note that said he had had an "upper respiratory infection" but was now cleared to work. The doctor's note was dated Friday, December 13, 2013.

         Mr. Goss was late to work the day after he returned from his three-day illness. That week, Umicore issued him a "final written discipline warning for over usage of [his] sick time."

         The second period of absence began on Friday, December 27, 2013. On that day, Mr. Goss sent his supervisor a text message indicating: "I know you are not in but not sure who else to text. 103* fever and violently vomiting all night. Physically can't get in. Have flu."[1]

         On Monday, December 30, 2013, Mr. Goss sent his supervisor another text message stating in pertinent part: "I'm still having debilitating pain in my stomach. I'm going back to my doctor today. My wife and son are also really sick and I need to take them in to see someone also. Sorry, I'll try to get in tomorrow to help with end of month." Mr. Goss texted later that day:

Just got out of doctors - thinks I'm on the mend but still a little dehydrated and said my intestines are inflamed which is why I am in pain and haven't eaten since Thursday. Won't be back until this Thursday. Have to rest and get fluids. I know warning said it was my last but this could not be prevented due to severe illness. I apologize.

         On Thursday, January 2, 2014, Mr. Goss sent his supervisor another text message: "I'm still sick and in a lot of pain. Not going to be in today." His supervisor replied the same day, asking how Mr. Goss was doing. In reply, Mr. Goss stated, "Nausea and temp are gone but my stomach is still hurting bad. Just started eating yesterday. Lost about 15 lbs. Gonna try to get in tomorrow if my stomach is ok. Doctor said they can fax my note if I go in." Later that day, Mr. Goss sent his supervisor another text message indicating that he would try to make it in the next day and that he would text his supervisor in the morning and let him know whether he would be in or not.

         On Friday, January 3, 2014, Mr. Goss sent another text message indicating that he would be out of work again: "Was up all night with my stomach again. Won't be in today. Will bring the 2 doctor's notes I have from walk-in and my doctor on Monday."

         During the next week starting on Monday, January 6, 2014, Mr. Goss sent his supervisor the following text messages:

• Stomach isn't any better. In a lot of pain. Going back to doctor ...

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