United States District Court, D. Maryland
MARK COULSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
suit arises out of allegations of violations of the Family
and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) asserted by
Plaintiff Trina Williams (“Plaintiff” or
“Ms. Williams”) against Defendants Wexford Health
Sources, Inc., (“Wexford”), Mark Blewett,
Chinyere Agbayi, and Aminata Jalloh (collectively, the
“Defendants”). The parties consented to proceed
before a magistrate judge for all proceedings pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rules 301 and 302. (ECF Nos. 22,
23). Currently pending before this Court is Defendants'
Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 46). The Court has
reviewed Defendants' Motion, as well as Plaintiff's
Opposition thereto and Defendants' Reply in Support
thereof. (ECF Nos. 53, 56). No. hearing is necessary. Loc. R.
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow,
Defendants' Motion, (ECF No. 46), is DENIED.
Health Sources, Inc. provides healthcare services to
correctional and other institutions across the United States.
(ECF No. 46-1 at 2). On October 28, 2015, Trina Williams was
hired by Wexford and began working at the Maryland
Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland
(“MCIW”). Id. Ms. Williams had applied
to Wexford at the suggestion of Aminata Jollah, a longtime
neighbor of Ms. Williams's parents and the Health
Services Administrator for Wexford at MCIW. Id. Ms.
Williams was originally hired as a per diem nurse
(“PRN”), but began working as a full-time
Certified Nursing Assistant (“CRN”) on January
26, 2016. Id. Her work hours were scheduled from
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Id.
Ms. Jalloh was Ms. Williams's next-level supervisor,
although Ms. Williams directly reported to Chinyere Agbayi as
the Assistant Director of Nursing. Id.
November 29, 2016, Ms. Williams notified Wexford that she
required intermittent leave under the Family and Medical
Leave Act to care for her ailing mother. (ECF No. 46-1 at 3).
Ms. Williams submitted the necessary documentation on January
4, 2017 and Wexford approved Ms. William's request for
intermittent leave under the FMLA on January 16, 2017.
Id. On March 15, 2017 around 9:00 p.m., Ms. Williams
called Ms. Agbayi to inform her that Ms. Williams would need
to take leave the next day to escort her mother to a
scheduled doctor's appointment. Id. at 4. Ms.
Williams then called Ms. Jalloh and left her a voicemail
message, explaining that she had requested FMLA leave and Ms.
Agbayi had denied the request. Id. Thereafter, the
three women participated in a number of phone calls with each
other, during which Wexford alleges Ms. Williams became upset
and used foul language and Ms. Williams alleges that she was
told she was not allowed the leave for March 16, 2017.
Id. at 4-5; (ECF No. 53-1 at 3). Wexford further
asserts that, by the end of the phone conversations, it was
clear that Ms. Williams would not be at work on March 16,
2017. (ECF 46-1 at 4-5).
next morning (March 16) at around 9:00 a.m., Ms. Jalloh left
Ms. Williams a voicemail to inform her that: (1) Ms. Williams
would not be permitted to return to work until she met with
Ms. Jalloh; (2) Ms. Jalloh was first available to meet on
March 17; and (3) Ms. Williams should return Ms. Jalloh's
call so that a time for the meeting could be finalized. (Ex.
1 to Decl. of Aminata Jalloh, ECF No. 46-2). Ms. Williams
alleges that she returned Ms. Jalloh's call and left a
voicemail, sent text messages later that day, and called
again several times, but Ms. Jollah never answered and a time
for the proposed meeting on March 17 was never confirmed.
(ECF No. 1 at 6; 53-1 at 4-5). As instructed by Ms. Jalloh in
her voicemail, Ms. Williams did not report to work at any
time on March 16. (Ex. 1 to Decl. of Aminata Jalloh, ECF No.
46-2). She also did not report for her scheduled shifts on
March 17, 20, and 21. (ECF No. 46-1 at 6). Ms. Williams
claims that she was not contacted by anyone from Wexford on
any of those three days, and so finally contacted Mark
Blewett, Director of Human Resources for Wexford. (ECF No. 53
at 5). Ms. Williams asserts that she told Mr. Blewett she had
lost her identification badge the previous week, and that he
told her he would look into her employment status.
Id. Ms. Williams did not hear back from Mr. Blewett,
and so left him a voicemail “stating that she was
removed from the work schedule and did not know why” a
few days later. (ECF No. 1 at 6; 53-1 at 5). On April 5,
2017, Ms. Williams claims she received a call from Mr.
Blewett in which he informed her that her employment had been
finding Ms. Williams's employee identification badge
under the door of Wexford's administrative office at
MCIW, and taking into consideration her three absences, Ms.
Jalloh informed Mr. Blewett that Ms. Williams's behavior
constituted a voluntary resignation. (ECF No. 46-1 at 6).
Thereafter, due to multiple conversations between Ms. Jalloh
and Jayme Litterini, Senior Human Resources Generalist for
Wexford, an Employee Separation Notice form was created for
Ms. Williams. Id. Although Ms. Jalloh originally
noted three termination reasons on the form,  the final version
of the form noted that Ms. Williams was “voluntarily
terminated for job abandonment and dissatisfaction.”
Id. at 7. Ms. Williams denied placing her employee
identification badge under the office door and further denied
that she voluntarily resigned her position in a conversation
with Mr. Blewett, but was told that her employment would
remain terminated. (ECF No. 1 at 7; 53-1 at 5-6).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to
“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.” The moving
party bears the burden “to demonstrate the absence of
any genuine dispute of material fact.” Jones v.
Hoffberger Moving Servs. LLC, 92 F.Supp.3d 405, 409 (D.
Md. 2015) (internal citations omitted). A dispute as to a
material fact “is genuine if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” J.E. Dunn Const. Co. v. S.R.P. Dev. Ltd.
P'ship, 115 F.Supp.35 593, 600 (D. Md. 2015)
(quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.
242, 248 (1986)).
nonmoving party “opposing a properly supported motion
for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere
allegations or denials of [his] pleadings,' but rather
must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Baltimore
Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir.
2003). The court is “required to view the facts and
draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable
to” the nonmoving party, Iko v. Shreve, 535
F.3d 225, 230 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Scott v.
Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 377 (2007)), but must also
“abide by the ‘affirmative obligation of the
trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and
defenses from proceeding to trial.'” Heckman v.
Ryder Truck Rental, Inc., 962 F.Supp.2d 792, 799-800 (D.
Md. 2013) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774,
778-79 (4th Cir. 1993)).
1993, Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act to
balance “workplace demands with family needs and
personal health needs while accommodating the legitimate
interests of employers and minimizing the potential for
employment discrimination.” Neel v. Mid-Atlantic of
Fairfield, LLC, 778 F.Supp.2d 593, 596 (D. Md. 2011)
(citing 29 U.S.C. § 2601(b)). Certain claims brought
under the FMLA are referred to as “interference claims,
” pursuant to the statute's section that states,
“It shall be unlawful for any employer to interfere
with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to
exercise, any right provided under this subchapter.” 29
U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Other FMLA claims are referred to
as “retaliation claims” under a different
section: “It shall be unlawful for any employer to
discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any
individual for opposing any practice made unlawful by this
subchapter.” Id. at § 2615(a)(2). In her
Complaint, Plaintiff lodges both interference and
retaliations claims under the FMLA against Defendants. (ECF
No. 1). In their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants
argue that they are entitled to summary judgment because
Plaintiff cannot show that Wexford denied her FMLA benefits
to which she was entitled nor can she show that her discharge
was causally related to any protective activity under the
FMLA. (ECF No. 46). Both of Defendants' arguments will be
addressed in turn.
Count 1 of her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant
interfered with her FMLA rights by denying her benefits to
which she was entitled under the statute. Under the FMLA,
eligible employees are entitled to twelve (12) weeks of leave
during a twelve (12) month period for covered reasons,
including care for a parent when the parent has a serious
health condition. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(C). In order to
establish unlawful interference with regard to entitlement to
FMLA benefits, Plaintiff must prove: (1) she was an eligible
employee; (2) Wexford, as her employer, is covered by the
FMLA; (3) she was entitled to leave under the FMLA; (4) she
gave Wexford adequate notice of her intention to take such
leave; and (5) Wexford denied her that leave as an FMLA
benefit to which she was entitled. Sherif v. Univ. of
Maryland Med. Center, 127 F.Supp.3d 470, 477 (D. Md.
2015) (citing Wonasue v. Univ. of Maryland Alumni
Ass'n, 984 F.Supp.2d 480, 495 (D. Md. 2013)).
Plaintiff must also establish that Wexford's denial of
leave “prejudiced [her] in some way.”
Id. (citing Anderson v. Discovery ...