United States District Court, D. Rhode Island
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
J. McConnell, Jr. United States District Judge.
Janice Washington filed suit against Defendants Honeywell
International, Inc. and North Safety Products LLC, for
disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of the
Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"); the Rhode
Island Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (RIPFMLA");
the Civil Rights of People with Disabilities Act
("CRPD"); the Rhode Island Fair Employment
Practices Act ("RIFEPA"); and the Rhode Island
Civil Rights Act of 1990 ("RICRA"). Before the
Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
40) and Ms. Washington's Cross-Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 44). For reasons set forth below, the
Court DENIES both motions.
Background and Facts
Washington worked for Honeywell in various positions from
1999 until Honeywell terminated her on June 2, 2011. In
approximately 2002, Ms. Washington began working as a
customer service representative. In 2009, Ms.
Washington's doctor, Dr. Suzanne McLaughlin, diagnosed
her with hypertension, stress, and anxiety. The following
year, Ms. Washington notified her direct supervisor Kimberly
Richardson and the customer service manager Sandy Silva of
her disabilities and requested time off from work to receive
medical treatment. Over the next year, specifically in June
2010, February 2011, and April 2011, Ms. Washington applied
for and received intermittent FMLA leave. Ms.
Washington's intermittent leave allowed her to attend
medical appointments up to three hours per day, one day a
week. During Ms. Washington's final April intermittent
leave, she requested and Honeywell granted her continuous
medical leave from March 31, 2011 through April 11, 2011.
After her continuous leave ended, Ms. Washington's
previously-approved intermittent FMLA continued until May 30,
this period of FMLA leave, Honeywell disciplined Ms.
Washington for excessive tardiness in violation of
Honeywell's Site Attendance Policy ("SAP"). The
SAP details the steps that Honeywell can take to discipline a
worker for tardiness, from the "verbal notice"
stage to "termination." Ms. Silva testified that
Ms. Washington had a history of tardiness and yet, Honeywell
never cited or disciplined her for violating the SAP until
after she received FMLA leave. For example, on January 31,
2011, Honeywell issued Ms. Washington a
"counseling" for arriving to work a few minutes
late on five separate occasions that month. On or about March
28, 2011, while she was on approved intermittent leave,
Honeywell skipped several SAP steps and issued Ms. Washington
a "Final Warning" for being tardy on seven
occasions in February and March. Because it deemed Ms.
Washington's absences to be "general abusive
unauthorized time away," Honeywell asserts that the
SAP's progressive steps can be accelerated. Although the
SAP permits acceleration, Ms. Washington was the only
employee in Honeywell's customer service department
terminated for violating the SAP, even though time records
show that other employees were tardy. Moreover, Ms. Washington
denies that she was late multiple times per month, claiming
that the appearance of tardiness was due to issues with the
new eCharge time recording system,  defects with her badge, or
approved medical appointments. She did testify, however, that
whenever she noticed an issue with eCharge's accuracy,
she would notify Ms. Richardson who corrected the punch
Washington also claims that Ms. Richardson made multiple
discriminatory comments regarding her disabilities during
this period. Ms. Washington alleged that after she learned of
her disabilities, Ms. Richardson commented at work
"don't stroke out on me." In addition, Ms.
Richardson questioned why Ms. Washington needed a second MRI
after recently having one.
her intermittent leave expired, Ms. Washington alleges that
she requested an extension of her intermittent leave, but
there does not appear to be any documentation in the record
and Honeywell denies receiving any such request. There is
some testimony that Honeywell had a policy of reaching out to
employees on leave or returning from leave to see if they
need additional accommodations, but Honeywell disputes that
this proactivity binds it. Three days after Ms.
Washington's intermittent FMLA medical leave ended, and
without initiating a dialogue with Ms. Washington to see if
she needed further accommodation per Honeywell policy,
Honeywell terminated her employment.
Washington applied for unemployment benefits and notified the
Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training that she was
available for full time work, After failing to obtain work
after over one year, Ms. Washington applied for Social
Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI"). Ms.
Washington testified that the only reason that she applied
for disability was that she did not think that another
employer would accommodate her medical issues, She further
testified that she believed that she could still perform her
previous job, but would not return because of how Honeywell
treated her. Honeywell's customer service manager, Ms.
Silva, also testified that Ms. Washington was able to perform
all the essential functions of her job. Based on all the
relevant testimony provided during Ms. Washington's SSDI
hearing, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found
that Ms. Washington was not disabled and denied her SSDI
application. Ms. Washington then commenced suit against
Standard of Review
"court shall grant summary judgment if the movant 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). "A fact is material only if it
possesses the capacity to sway the outcome of the litigation
under the applicable law." Vineberg v.
Bissonnette, 548 F.3d 50, 56 (1st Cir. 2008) (internal
quotation marks omitted). "A genuine issue exists where
a 'reasonable jury could resolve the point in favor of
the nonmoving party.'" Meuser v. Fed. Express
Corp., 564 F.3d 507, 515 (1st Cir. 2009) (quoting
Suarez v. Pueblo Int'l, Inc., 229 F.3d 49, 53
(1st Cir. 2000)). When there are cross motions for summary
judgment, the Court must "evaluate each motion
independently and determine 'whether either of the
parties deserves judgment as a matter of law on facts that
are not disputed.'" Matusevich v. Middlesex Mut
Assur. Co., 782 F.3d 56, 59 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting
Barnes v. Fleet Nat'l Bank, N.A., 370 F.3d 164,
170 (1st Cir. 2004)). Further, in viewing each motion
separately, the Court "draw[s] all inferences in favor
of the nonmoving party." Cooper v. D'Amore,
881 F.3d 247, 249-50 (1st Cir. 2018) (quoting Fadili v.
Deutsche Bank Nat'l Tr. Co., 772 F.3d 951, 953 (1st
Court will begin its discussion with Ms. Washington's
claim as it encompasses much of the same analysis as the
other claims. Congress enacted the FMLA, recognizing that
there are times when individuals are incapable of performing
their work duties when they are sick. Hodgens v. Gen.
Dynamics Corp., 144 F.3d 151, 159 (1st Cir. 1998)
(citing Price v. City of Fort Wayne, 117 F.3d 1022,
1024 (7th Cir. 1997)); see 29 U.S.C. § 2601(b)(2)-(3)
(purpose of the Act is to "entitle employees to take
reasonable leave for medical reasons" "in a manner
that accommodates the legitimate interests of
has two entitlements. First, a qualified employee is entitled
to up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave per year when she has
"a serious health condition that makes the employee
unable to perform the functions of the position." 29
U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D). The FMLA also provides for
"intermittent" leave, which allows an employee to
take such leave intermittently "when medically
necessary" to attend medical appointments. 29 U.S.C.
§ 2612(b)(1). Second, the employee is entitled to return
to the same position with equivalent pay following a
qualified absence. 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(1)(A)-(B). These
protections ensure that employers do not discriminate against
employees who have used FMLA leave, and cannot "use the
taking of FMLA leave as a negative factor in employment
actions, such as ... disciplinary actions." 29 C.F.R.
§ 825.220(c). And the FMLA prohibits both interference
and retaliation; to assert an interference claim, a plaintiff
asserts that "the employer denied [ ] her substantive
rights under the FMLA" and for a retaliation claim, she
must assert "that the employer retaliated against ...