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Wilson v. Republic Airways Holdings, Inc.

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

April 8, 2015




Plaintiff Summer Wilson sued Defendant Republic Airways Holdings, Inc. ("Republic") after she was terminated from her position as a Flight Attendant. Ms. Wilson asserts an interference claim against Republic under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"). Presently pending before the court is Republic's Motion for Summary Judgment on Ms. Wilson claim. [Filing No. 33.] For the reasons explained below, Republic's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.



A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). As the current version of Rule 56 makes clear, whether a party asserts that a fact is undisputed or genuinely disputed, the party must support the asserted fact by citing to particular parts of the record, including depositions, documents, or affidavits. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). A party can also support a fact by showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute or that the adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B). Affidavits or declarations must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant is competent to testify on matters stated. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4). Failure to properly support a fact in opposition to a movant's factual assertion can result in the movant's fact being considered undisputed, and potentially in the grant of summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable factfinder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011). The Court need only consider the cited materials, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3), and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has "repeatedly assured the district courts that they are not required to scour every inch of the record for evidence that is potentially relevant to the summary judgment motion before them, " Johnson, 325 F.3d at 898. Any doubt as to the existence of a genuine issue for trial is resolved against the moving party. Ponsetti v. GE Pension Plan, 614 F.3d 684, 691 (7th Cir. 2010).



A. Employment Record

Ms. Wilson began employment with Republic on December 3, 2001, and held the position of Flight Attendant throughout her tenure. [Filing No. 35-2 at 64.] In 2009, Ms. Wilson began to suffer from foot pain that was originally diagnosed as recurrent edema, [Filing No. 35-3 at 14], but was later diagnosed as cellulitis which qualifies as a "serious health condition" under 29 C.F.R. § 825.113(a) and/or 29 C.F.R. § 825.115(c). Over the next few years, Ms. Wilson took FMLAqualified leave from work due to her condition, [Filing No. 35-3 at 18], including on September 24 through September 27, 2011, [Filing No. 35-3 at 18]. Around this same time, Ms. Wilson began employment with Kentucky Fried Chicken ("KFC"). [Filing No. 37-3 at 2.] In a letter dated November 21, 2011, Republic terminated Ms. Wilson's employment (effective November 18, 2011) due to "abuse of travel privileges, abuse and/or misuse of FMLA, and calling in absent in connection with other employment." [Filing No. 36-1 at 2.] Ms. Wilson is a member of Union Local 135 which filed a grievance with Republic for her termination, which was denied after a final hearing on February 4, 2014. [Filing No. 36-1 at 2.] The instant case was filed by Ms. Wilson on September 25, 2013. [Filing No. 1 at 1.]

B. Republic's Policies and Guidelines

Republic provides its employees with discounted airfares for them and for qualifying family members and companion use, sometimes referred to as "buddy passes" or "companion passes." [Filing No. 35-2 at 117.] Republic and its partner airlines have strict guidelines and prohibitions on the use of these passes, which are outlined in its employee manual. One such rule is that employees may not sell buddy passes for a profit, [Filing No. 35-2 at 117-118], and the selling of a pass for profit is a terminable offense, [Filing No. 35-2 at 119]. Another rule applicable to the travel privilege is that buddy passes may not be used for self-employment or other business purposes, which is terminable after the third offense. [Filing No. 35-2 at 119.] Further, although Republic's policy is to allow employees to work other jobs, absence from Republic employment in connection with other employment is a violation of its employment policy. [Filing No. 35-2 at 124.]

C. Republic's Investigation of Ms. Wilson

Republic conducted two investigations into Ms. Wilson's conduct that were first initiated by separate divisions of the company. First, on October 10, 2011, Republic received an email concerning the possibility that of some of Ms. Wilson's companion' travel was for business purposes. [Filing No. 35-2 at 28.] This initiated an investigation that was at first led by Ms. Wilson's supervisor Nicole Simonson. [Filing No. 35-2 at 27-29.]

On November 8, 2011, while the first investigation was ongoing, Republic received a complaint from Allesande Mboup that Ms. Wilson had sold him "buddy passes" for which he had paid her, but was ultimately unable to use due to an invalid confirmation number. [Filing No. 35-2 at 13.] The complaint from Mr. Mboup initiated a second investigation into Ms. Wilson's alleged violation of Republic's travel policies-that is, profiting from the sale of a buddy pass. [Filing No. 35-2 at 13.] Rachel Hernandez, ...

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