United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
KAYS, CHIEF JUDGE.
action arises out of Plaintiff Rochelle Garrison's
(“Garrison”) employment with Defendant
Dolgencorp, LLC (“Dolgencorp”). Garrison claims
she was forced to resign her position because she was not
offered leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”). Garrison sued Dolgencorp and her
supervisor, Defendant Sandra Bell (“Bell”), for
violations of the FMLA, the Americans with Disabilities Act
(“ADA”), and the Missouri Human Rights Act
before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary
judgment (Doc. 74) and Defendants' motion to strike (Doc.
87). For the reasons set forth below, the Court GRANTS both
April 22, 2013, Garrison began working at a Dollar General
store as a full-time lead sales associate, reporting to the
store manager, Bell. Her position was one of four positions
that had keys to the store-known as key-holders. The other
key-holders were Bell, the assistant manager, and a part-time
lead sales associate. Because of the unique responsibilities
of key-holders, their vacations had to be coordinated so that
at least one key-holder was available to work each day. As it
relates to this motion, the assistant manager was scheduled
for vacation May 10 through May 16, 2014, and Bell was
scheduled for vacation May 15 through May 19, 2014.
Garrison was hired, she was issued an employee handbook. She
also had access to the handbook through an online system. The
handbook reviews the types of leave available and in three
separate sections directs employees interested in leave to
contact Matrix Absence Management (“Matrix”),
Dolgencorp's third-party leave administrator. In one
section, the handbook states, in boldface type: “To
request FMLA Leave, Company Medical Leave, or any other leave
of absence, you should notify your supervisor and immediately
contact Matrix . . . .” (Doc. 75-3 at 11). In a second
section: “After notifying his or her manager of the
need for leave, the employee should immediate initiate a
leave request with Matrix . . . .” (Id. at
27). In a third section, it repeats that in order to report
the need for leave and to initiate the approval process, the
employee must contact Matrix after notifying the
stated Garrison told her she suffered from anxiety,
depression, and headaches, and that she had seen a doctor for
visited her doctor's office several times from April to
June 2014 for different medical issues. On April 8, 2014,
Garrison was treated for sinus congestion, sore throat,
headaches, and a cough. At that visit, she stated she gets
headaches, and while she usually can continue working when
they occur at work, occasionally, they are so severe that
they require her to lie down. She was given two prescriptions
to address the headaches, one for tension headaches, and one
for migraine headaches. She was instructed to follow-up in
one month if her symptoms did not improve, otherwise in three
1, 2014, Garrison returned to her doctor's office for a
lump she found in her breast, headaches, and depression. As
for the headaches, she stated the medication works but that
it makes her tired; as for the depression, she stated she was
doing well but having an increase in anger and sad days. She
was asked to monitor the lump in her breast.
that visit, Garrison and Bell exchanged text messages.
Garrison asked: “How can I request a leave of
absence[?]” (Doc. 81-6 at 2). Bell responded that she
was not sure, that she would talk to the district manager,
and asked when Garrison wanted to take the leave. Garrison
“When ever u guy's [sic] get back from your
vacation so it's not putting u in a bind[.] I hate to
even do this but it's this way and try to figure out what
all is wrong with me or quit[, ] and I really don't want
that[.] I went to the dr today again and this is what me[, ]
bo [Garrison's husband, ] and dr decided was the best and
(Id.) Bell repeated that she would talk to the
district manager and agreed that it would be better if
Garrison could wait to take leave until after Bell and the
assistant manager were back from their scheduled vacations.
worked on May 3, 2014, and with Bell's approval, left
early that day. Garrison does not recall why she left early,
but Bell states it was a non-medical reason.
worked her scheduled shift on May 5, 2014, and that evening
sent Bell two text messages. In the first, Garrison asked
Bell if she had spoken with the district manager about a
leave of absence, and in the second asked if Bell was telling
people that Garrison intended to quit. Bell did not respond
to these text messages. On May 6, Garrison again asked Bell
by text message if Bell had spoken with the district manager.
Bell responded: “Yea and there is no LOA.”
(Id. at 6). Garrison responded: “Then what
about fmla[?] Ok do u not want me their[sic]
anymore[?]” (Id. at 4). Bell stated:
“Read the employee handbook[.] I want [you] there if
you can do the job and not be sick all the time[.]”
(Id.) Garrison replied that she might have to
undergo brain scans and a mammogram because she found a lump
in her breast and then stated, “I hardly ever call in
sick.” (Id.) Bell then asked Garrison to meet
her at the store so they could discuss the options for leave.
that day, Bell hired a new part-time lead sales associate.
Bell planned to have the new associate replace the existing
part-time lead sales associate, but after Garrison resigned
he was ultimately assigned her shift.
7, 2014, Garrison and Bell met at the store to discuss the
leave options. Garrison told Bell she was seeking leave
because of new anxiety and depression medication. Bell and
Garrison reviewed the leave options in the employee handbook.
Bell told Garrison she did not believe Garrison qualified for
any of the leave options, but that Garrison should call human
resources to be sure. Bell told Garrison that it was
important that she work her scheduled shifts because she was
one of the key-holders and that she could not remain a
key-holder if she could not work her assigned schedule.
Garrison does not recall much of this conversation, but
states Bell told her she would be demoted when Bell returned
from her vacation and that Bell had already hired
Garrison's replacement. She does not remember reviewing
the handbook or that Bell told her to call human
12, 2017, Garrison went to the emergency room for gastritis
and anxiety and was released after an hour. The next day,
Garrison visited her doctor's office following up from
her emergency room visit and was told to return in a month.
After her doctor's appointment, she sent Bell a text
message requesting vacation for the remainder of the week.
Bell denied the request because the assistant manager was on
vacation and Bell was scheduled for vacation as well. In
response, Garrison sent Bell a text message stating: “I
am going to have to quit[.] I can't do this anymore[.] My
mind is going a hundred different ways[.] [P]lease don't
be mad but I have to get better and I'm just getting
worse again[.] I'm sorry.” (Id. at 7).
Garrison resigned the next day.
unclear whether Garrison was scheduled to work May 12 and 13,
but for purposes of this motion, the Court assumes she was
scheduled to work and that she took vacation those
3, 2014, Garrison followed-up with her doctor regarding daily
headaches. She stated none of the medication was working and
that she quit her job because of the headaches. She also
complained of “a sense of severe anxiety.” On
June 16, 2014, she returned to her doctor's office and
was diagnosed with headaches, reflux, and blurred vision.
never contacted Matrix to initiate a leave request. Also, she
stated she did not read the employee manual. After her
resignation, she filed a complaint with the Missouri
Commission on Human Rights and received a right to sue
filed a three-count lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Lafayette
County, Missouri alleging: (1) disability discrimination and
retaliation in violation of the MHRA against both Defendants;
(2) disability discrimination and retaliation in violation of
the ADA against Dolgencorp; and (3) “violation of FMLA
against both Defendants” (Doc. 1-2). Defendants timely
removed this action to this Court (Doc. 1).
moving party is entitled to 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 party who moves
for summary judgment bears the burden of showing there is no
genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986). Summary judgment
is also appropriate when the plaintiff fails to establish any
element of her prima facie case. Nesser v. Trans World
Airlines, Inc., 160 F.3d 442, 445 (8th Cir. 1998). A
court must view the facts in light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and allow the nonmoving party to benefit from
all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the evidence.
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 588-89 (1986).
Defendants' motion to ...