United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Western Division
MAURICE L. HALL, Plaintiff,
THE NUTRO COMPANY, and MARS PETCARE US, INC., Defendants.
ORDER AND OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
D. SMITH, SENIOR JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. Doc. #32. For
the following reasons, Defendants' motion is granted.
Maurice Hall was employed by Defendant The Nutro Company
(“Nutro”) from April 4, 2011, through May 28,
2015. Nutro was a division of Defendant Mars Petcare US, Inc.
(“Mars”), until Nutro merged with Mars on January
1, 2016. Nutro produces dog and cat treats in
Kansas City, Missouri. Both Nutro's and Mars's
policies apply to the Kansas City employees. A few of those
policies are relevant to this matter. Mars's Family and
Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) policy sets forth
eligibility requirements, and states an employee, upon return
from FMLA leave, “must be restored to his or her
original job, or to an equivalent job with equivalent pay,
benefits, and other employment terms and conditions.”
Doc. #33-2, at 10-16. Nutro's Incident Investigation and
Reporting Policy and Nutro's Occupational Injury and
Illness Policy require employees immediately report
work-related injuries to management. Id. at 18, 29.
Managers are responsible for filing an initial report for any
work-related injury. Id. at 19, 29.
April 2011 through February 2012, Hall worked in the
Greenies section in the role of utility operator on
the third shift (11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.). In February 2012,
Hall transferred to the Pill Pockets section where he worked as a
packaging operator on the third shift. In June 2014, Hall
moved to the first shift (7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) in the Pill
Pockets section as a batching operator.
February 15, 2015, Hall sustained a hip injury playing
basketball with coworkers on a league team. Hall did not file
a worker's compensation claim for the injury, and did not
report the injury as work-related. Hall submitted
documentation related to the injury to Nutro's Regional
Nurse Case Manager Jonette Penton, and was approved for FMLA
leave. Hall was on FMLA leave and off work until April 27,
time of Hall's basketball injury, six batching operators
(including Hall) worked in the Pill Pockets section, and the
operators were evenly divided among three shifts. According
to Hall, the other Pill Pockets batching operators had more
experience in batching and/or had longer tenure with
Defendants than Hall did. Doc. #33-1, at 8. In early 2015 but
no later than February 23, 2015,  management discussed shift
changes in the Pill Pockets section for production reasons.
Employees in the Pill Pockets section were invited to an
off-site meeting in late March 2015 to discuss shift
changes. Hall was not invited to the meeting, and
did not learn about the meeting until after it was held.
April 22, 2015, the Pill Pockets section switched from three
8-hour shifts over five days to two 12-hour shifts (6:00 a.m.
to 6:30 p.m., and 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.) over four days. The
shift changes were temporary, and based on production
schedule. Hall was on FMLA leave when the shifts
changed, but was informed he would be working from 6:00 p.m.
to 6:30 a.m. when he returned. Hall told his manager, Jim
Garlich, he could not be at work at 6:00 p.m. due to his
childcare situation. Garlich told Hall he could report to
work at 10:00 p.m., allowing Hall to find childcare. Garlich
informed Hall that he could use vacation time for the hours
missed, and also said they would “work something
returned to work on April 27, 2015. Although his shift
changed, Hall was restored to the same job with the same
duties, and his pay and benefits remained unchanged. On his
first day back, Hall claims he injured his hip. According to
Hall, he informed his supervisor, C.J. Bauer, that he
“lifted up on the hopper and… stepped down
and…injured [his] hip.” Doc. #33-1, at 5, 13-14.
Bauer, according to Hall, told Hall to go home, and said she
“would take care of the process, the
paperwork…and would let Jim Garlich know.”
Id. According to Bauer, she informed Hall “he
could leave work early because he was hurt.” Doc.
#33-3, at 2. Hall left his shift around 3:00 a.m. Bauer did
not send Hall to the hospital. According to Hall, he informed
Regional Nurse Case Manager Penton about the work injury, but
Penton did not tell him to do anything in response. Doc.
#33-1, at 14. Penton, on the other hand, maintains Hall
called her on April 28, 2015, saying he was in pain, but did
not mention a work injury. Doc. #33-2, at 45. Hall returned
to work on May 4, 2015, but was restricted to light duty.
Upon his return, no one asked Hall about the injury. Hall
never filed a worker's compensation claim for the alleged
injury, and did not receive worker's compensation
benefits. Hall's time off from work was later approved
for FMLA leave.
May 4, 2015, Hall had 80 hours of vacation time. On May 5,
May 6, and May 7, 2015, Hall logged vacation time in the
timekeeping system for hours missed due to childcare issues.
Based upon his discussion(s) with Garlich, Hall thought he
was allowed to use his 80 hours of vacation time to arrive at
work late. According to Hall, approximately two weeks after
returning to work, Garlich informed Hall that his vacation
was running low, and they would start using emergency
vacation. Doc. #33-1, at 10, 11. After this conversation,
Hall understood he would begin using emergency vacation.
Id., at 11. But, sometime between May 7 and May 21,
2015, Garlich changed Hall's vacation time entries on May
4, May 5, May 6, and May 7 to emergency vacation time. Doc.
#33-1, at 13, 32-33.
21, 2015, Hall was given a document entitled “final
written warning, ” which listed six emergency
occurrences and the accumulation of nine attendance points.
Hall was informed “[a]ny additional attendance
violation may result in your termination….” Doc.
#33- 1, at 25. Attached to the warning were (1) a
memorandum from Garlich to Hall dated May 20, 2015, (2) a
verbal warning to Hall dated May 20, 2015, and (3) a written
warning to Hall dated May 20, 2015. According to Hall, he did
not receive these three documents until he was discharged.
Doc. #33-1, at 20. On May 28, 2015, Hall's employment was
terminated because, according to Defendants, Hall accumulated
9.75 attendance points.
April 28, 2017, Hall filed this lawsuit alleging FMLA
interference and retaliation (Count I), retaliation in
violation of section 287.780 of the Missouri Revised Statutes
(Count II), and infliction of emotional distress (Count III).
Doc. #1. The Court previously dismissed Hall's infliction
of emotional distress claim. Doc. #16. In March 2018,
Defendants moved for summary judgment on Hall's remaining
claims. Doc. #32. In response to Defendants' motion, Hall
conceded he was not bringing an FMLA retaliation claim. Doc.
#38, at 36. The Court must now decide whether Defendants are
entitled to summary judgment on Hall's FMLA interference
claim and/or worker's compensation retaliation claim.
moving party is entitled to summary judgment on a claim only
if there is a showing that “there is no genuine issue
as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled
to a judgment as a matter of law.” Williams v. City
of St. Louis, 783 F.2d 114, 115 (8th Cir. 1986).
“[W]hile the materiality determination rests on the
substantive law, it is the substantive law's
identification of which facts are critical and which facts
are irrelevant that governs.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Thus,
“[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly
preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Wierman v.
Casey's Gen. Stores, 638 F.3d 984, 993 (8th Cir.
2011) (quotation omitted). The Court must view the evidence
in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, giving
that party the benefit of all inferences that may be
reasonably drawn from the evidence. Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 588-89
(1986); Tyler v. Harper, 744 F.2d 653, 655 ...