Southern District of Florida Rejects the Plaintiff’s Bare Assertions in FMLA Lawsuit
Recently, in Diamond v. Hospice of Florida Keys, Inc., Case No. 15-CV-10007-KING, 2015 WL 7758513, at *5 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 1, 2015), the Southern District of Florida granted summary judgment in a Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) interference and retaliatory case. In doing so, the Court rejected a plaintiff’s illogical arguments and unsupported assumptions to find there was no genuine issue of fact for a jury to decide.
In this case, the plaintiff worked for Hospice Florida Keys, Inc. (“HFK”). While the plaintiff worked at HFK, her father was diagnosed with a serious illness. The plaintiff took time off from work pursuant to the FMLA to care for him. During her tenure at HFK, the plaintiff requested leave 13 times during an 11-month span. HFK granted each of her requests, even when she technically did not have time available under the Act to cover her request. Eventually, however, HFK terminated the plaintiff, citing her failure to complete specific work assignments or following corporate policies.
Disturbed by her termination, the plaintiff sued HFK for interference and retaliatory termination under the FMLA. In her complaint, the plaintiff argued that HFK interfered by discouraging her from exercising her FMLA rights and retaliated by terminating her after growing frustrated with her exercise of leave under the FMLA. The Court disagreed.
The Court found that the plaintiff’s interference claim failed because she was unable to prove that she suffered harm because of any alleged interference. Moreover, the Court was not persuaded by the plaintiff’s assertion that HFK’s statements discouraged her from using FMLA leave because HFK granted all of her leave requests. The Court was also not persuaded by the plaintiff’s argument that she would have taken more leave but for HFK’s alleged interference because she presented no evidence to support her contention.
In addition, the Court found the plaintiff’s retaliatory claims failed because she relied only on her subjective belief that the true reason for her termination was not her failure to complete assignments or follow policy but was her use of her FMLA right. In granting summary judgment, the Court found that such “speculation does not create a genuine issue of fact; instead, it creates a false issue, the demolition of which is a primary goal of summary judgment.” Diamond, 2015 WL 7758513, at *5 (quoting Cordoba v. Dillard’s Inc., 419 F.3d 1169, 1181 (11th Cir. 2005).
By Anitra Raiford and Scott Anderson