United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division
JOYCE E. FEAGANS, Plaintiff,
J. DIRK CARNAHAN Individually and in his official capacity as Knox County Prosecutor, Defendant.
Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge
case involves a series of disputes arising in the employment
and wage context. Plaintiff Joyce Feagans served as the Title
IV-D child support administrator of the Knox County
prosecutor's office from 1988 through 2015. After
suffering an accidental fall causing severe injuries, Ms.
Feagans exercised her right to take leave under the Family
and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). When she
returned from leave, newly-elected prosecutor Dirk Carnahan
reassigned Ms. Feagans to the position of office
receptionist, and ultimately terminated Ms. Feagans'
employment. Ms. Feagans alleges that these constituted
adverse employment actions, made in violation of her rights
under the FMLA. She also alleges that the adverse actions
were made on the basis of her age, in violation of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 42
U.S.C. § 1983, and the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. She
also alleges that Mr. Carnahan failed to pay her for a
portion of her hours worked, in violation of the Indiana Wage
Claims Act (“IWCA”).
pending before the Court are cross-motions for summary
judgment. Ms. Feagans has moved for summary judgment on her
FMLA interference claim and for partial summary judgment
(liability only) on her IWCA claim. Mr. Carnahan has
cross-moved for summary judgment on all claims. As discussed
below, the Court DENIES both parties' motions for summary
judgment on the FMLA, ADEA, and Section 1983 claims, GRANTS
Ms. Feagans' motion for partial summary judgment as to
IWCA liability, and DENIES summary judgment on all other
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.
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). Fact disputes
that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be
considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
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 fact-finder
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).
existence of cross-motions for summary judgment does not,
however, imply that there are no genuine issues of material
fact.” R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., LLC v.
Int'l Union of Operating Engineers, 335 F.3d 643,
647 (7th Cir. 2003). Specifically, “[p]arties have
different burdens of proof with respect to particular facts;
different legal theories will have an effect on which facts
are material; and the process of taking the facts in the
light most favorable to the non-movant, first for one side
and then for the other, may highlight the point that neither
side has enough to prevail without a trial.”
Id. at 648.
Feagans began her employment with the Knox County
prosecutor's office in 1988 as the Title IV-D child
support administrator and served in that position under five
elected prosecutors. [Filing No. 52-7 at 1; Filing No. 52-7
at 10; Filing No. 52-7 at 12.] She was still employed as
administrator on December 30, 2014, when she suffered an
accidental fall. [Filing No. 52-7 at 5.] As a result of that
accident, Ms. Feagans sustained serious injuries, including a
traumatic head injury and multiple skull fractures. [Filing
No. 52-3 at 2.] She applied for and was granted leave under
the FMLA and was on leave from December 30, 2014 until March
16, 2015, when she was medically released to return to work.
[Filing No. 52-8 at 1; Filing No. 52-3 at 3.] Ms. Feagans was
64 years old at the time that the relevant events took place.
[Filing No. 59-7 at 15.] She testified that she was the
oldest non-attorney employee of the prosecutor's office.
[Filing No. 57-2 at 23.]
Carnahan was elected prosecutor of Knox County in November of
2014. [Filing No. 52-9 at 2-3.] That month, before taking
office, and before Ms. Feagans went on leave, Mr. Carnahan
held a meeting with the prosecutor's office staff.
[Filing No. 57-3 at 48; Filing No. 57-2 at 22.] Ms. Feagans
attended that meeting, and she asserts that Mr. Carnahan
asked her “how long [she] planned on working.”
[Filing No. 57-2 at 27.] She responded that she had “no
reason to retire.” [Filing No. 57-2 at 27.] Mr.
Carnahan then asked if she “was going to retire,
” to which she responded that she was not. [Filing No.
57-2 at 27.] According to Ms. Feagans, Mr. Carnahan did not
ask any of the other attendees about their retirement plans.
[Filing No. 57-2 at 23.] Mr. Carnahan denies having asked Ms.
Feagans about retirement, how long she intended to work, or
about her age. [Filing No. 57-3 at 50.]
Carnahan took office in January of 2015 and officially became
Ms. Feagans' supervisor. [Filing No. 57-2 at 10.] At all
relevant times, Mr. Carnahan had the authority to hire, fire,
assign, and reassign duties of employees within the
prosecutor's office. [Filing No. 57-3 at 23-24.] While
Ms. Feagans was on leave, Mr. Carnahan assigned Kaylee
Steele, who had previously worked as the child support
paralegal, to serve in the role of child support
administrator. [Filing No. 57-3 at 90-91.] Samanetha Thomas,
who was the office's receptionist, began assisting in
some of the child support paralegal responsibilities. [Filing
No. 57-3 at 99-100.] According to Mr. Carnahan, he did not
intend for Ms. Steele's reassignment of duties to be
permanent. [Filing No. 57-3 at 130.]
Ms. Feagans' absence, Mr. Carnahan implemented several
changes to the manner in which child support cases were
managed and processed. [Filing No. 57-3 at 72; Filing No.
57-2 at 24.] As those changes were implemented, and as Ms.
Steele and Ms. Thomas continued processing cases previously
assigned to Ms. Feagans, they reported that they had
discovered numerous errors made by Ms. Feagans in calculating
child support obligations. [Filing No. 57-3 at 124-26; Filing
No. 57-6.] They reported those errors in emails to Mr.
Carnahan and Deputy Prosecutor Monica Gilmore. [Filing No.
57-6.] According to Ms. Feagans, IV-D staff routinely caught
mistakes made by one another. [Filing No. 57-2 at 34.] When
mistakes were uncovered, they would correct them and move on.
[Filing No. 57-2 at 34.]
February 24, 2015, Ms. Gilmore sent an email to Mr. Carnahan
stating, in relevant part:
I've heard there is a possibility that Joyce will be
released this week to return to work. We can only have one
CSA in the IV-D office. Joyce was the CSA before her medical
leave, and we made Kaylee the CSA in her absence. My
preference is to keep Kaylee as CSA.…
[Filing No. 52-5.] Mr. Carnahan responded, “I agree
with you. Still not sure if/when or in what position Joyce
may return. I want to keep the progress you have started
going forward.” [Filing No. 52-5.] Also on
February 24, Ms. Thomas sent an email to Mr. Carnahan
stating, in relevant part:
Rumor has it that Joyce is coming back in the next week or
two as long as the doctor says it is ok. If this is true I
was just wanting to know if I was still moving to Child
Support and if I needed to continue training or not? Please
let me know when u have time.…
[Filing No. 59-1.] Mr. Carnahan responded, “Continue
training. When there is any news about Joyce I will let you
know immediately.” [Filing No. 59-1.]
being cleared by her physician to resume work, Ms. Feagans
returned to the prosecutor's office on March 16, 2015.
[Filing No. 57-2 at 13]. She arrived at around 7 a.m. and
proceeded to her office. [Filing No. 57-2 at 19-21.] She
found stacks of files covering her desk, floor, and chairs,
and she began sorting the files. [Filing No. 57-2 at 16-17.]
At some point during the day, Ms. Feagans was made aware of
the changes to the office's case management protocol.
[Filing No. 57-3 at 72.]
here, the parties' accounts of the day's events
diverge. According to Mr. Carnahan, before he arrived in the
office, he received a phone call reporting that Ms. Feagans
was cursing at coworkers, yelling, and throwing objects in
her office. [Filing No. 57-3 at 67-68.] Ms. Feagans caused
the Title IV-D regional director to storm out, in tears,
stating that she would never return as long as Ms. Feagans
was in the office. [Filing No. 57-3 at 67.] Ms. Steele was
also crying and “ready to quit.” [Filing No. 57-3
at 71.] Ms. Feagans also refused to work or to implement the
new case management protocol. [Filing No. 57-3 at 67; Filing
No. 57-3 at 71.] After arriving at the office, Mr. Carnahan
spoke to Ms. Feagans, who stated that she had not engaged in
the behavior reported, and that “everyone was making
that up.” [Filing No. 57-3 at 71.] According to Mr.
Carnahan, Ms. Feagans indicated that she would not implement
the case management changes, but that she would “try to
get along better or something to that effect.” [Filing
No. 57-3 at 71.]
Feagans disputes Mr. Carnahan's account. While she
acknowledges that she was not happy with the case management
changes that had been made, she asserts that she did not
raise her voice when speaking about them. [Filing No. 57-2 at
25; Filing No. 57-2 at 51.] She also denies cursing at Ms.
Steele, or making her cry. [Filing No. 57-2 at 52-54.] Ms.
Feagans asserts that she is not aware of having upset anyone
at the prosecutor's office and would be surprised to
learn that someone said that she had. [Filing No. 57-2 at
54.] She also states that she was not aware of having had any
conflicts with outside state employees with whom she
interacted. [Filing No. 57-2 at 36.]
parties disagree regarding the timing, but at some point
during that afternoon, Mr. Carnahan informed Ms. Feagans that
she was being removed from her position as the Title IV-D
child support administrator and was being reassigned to a
position as the office's receptionist. [Filing No. 57-3
at 66-67; Filing No. 57-2 at 23-24.] According to Mr.
Carnahan, he informed Ms. Feagans that “her attitude
was not acceptable, that it was not working and that [they]
were going to attempt to move her to a different
position.” [Filing No. 57-3 at 67-68.] By Ms.
Feagans' account, Mr. Carnahan said, “he knew [she]
was going to be retiring, and that [she] had permanent brain
damage, and he was going to move [her] into the receptionist
position starting the next day.” [Filing No. 57-2 at
21.] Ms. Steele was assigned to the child support
administrator position. [Filing No. 59-7 at 19.] Ms. Steele
is estimated to be approximately 25 to 40 years old. [Filing
No. 59-6 at 4.]
Title IV-D administrator, Ms. Feagans sat in a private office
with a door. [Filing No. 57-3 at 13.] Her responsibilities
included the general preparation of cases, preparation of
motions, proposed orders, and affidavits, and the duty to
testify in court. [Filing No. 57-2 at 24.] The administrator
also had the authority to sign official documents on behalf
of the prosecutor's office, and with the approval of an
attorney, could negotiate settlements of child support
enforcement disputes. [Filing No. 57-3 at 80.] Ms. Feagans
also served as the primary point of contact with state Title
IV-D officials. [Filing No. 57-3 at 24.] As the office
receptionist, her duties included answering phones, greeting
visitors, and preparing filings in juvenile cases. [Filing
No. 57-3 at 81-83.] She sat at a desk in the reception area,
separated from the room by a glass partition. [Filing No.
57-3 at 81.]
Feagans worked as the office receptionist from March 17, 2015
through May 1, 2015. [Filing No. 57-2 at 23-24; Filing No.
57-2 at 33.] During that time, she typically arrived at 7
a.m., an hour before the office opened, in order to clean the
reception area and kitchen and to make coffee. [Filing No.
57-2 at 25.] She completed and submitted time cards
reflecting her hours in the office-typically 7 a.m. through 4
p.m., with a one-hour lunch break. [Filing No. 52-2.] Mr.
Carnahan testified that the non-attorney staff members were
only authorized to work seven hours per day, not eight as Ms.
Feagans did. [Filing No. 57-3 at 128.]
parties dispute the facts surrounding Ms. Feagans' tenure
as receptionist. According to Mr. Carnahan, Ms. Feagans could
not avoid conflict with her coworkers and was convinced that
they were seeking to upset her. [Filing No. 57-2 at 30.] Mr.
Carnahan received reports of at least one instance in which
Ms. Feagans lied to a caller or office visitor, saying that
the child support staff were gone for the day, when they were
actually in their offices. [Filing No. 57-3 at 117.] She then
failed to relay the individual's message to the
appropriate staff. [Filing No. 57-3 at 117.] Mr. Carnahan
believed that Ms. Feagans on one occasion turned off the
central office phone in order to take a personal call on her
cell phone. [Filing No. 57-3 at 117.] Mr. Carnahan also
asserts that Ms. Feagans ordered office supplies without
authorization. [Filing No. 57-3 at 134.]
attempt to smooth over the conflict between Ms. Feagans and
her coworkers, and as a “last-ditch effort to save her
job, ” Mr. Carnahan instructed Ms. Feagans to go out
for lunch with several coworkers to talk through their
issues. [Filing No. 57-3 at 116.] Those coworkers reported to
Mr. Carnahan that Ms. Feagans became angry during the lunch
and pointed and yelled inside the restaurant. [Filing No.
57-3 at 116.] Mr. Carnahan states that Ms. Feagans was
repeatedly warned about her behavior, but he knew of no
written or disciplinary record that had been kept reflecting
these behavioral issues. [Filing No. 57-3 at 69-70.]
Feagans denies several of the specific incidents described by
Mr. Carnahan. She generally asserts that Ms. Steele had an
incentive to blame Ms. Feagans for any conflict or tension in
the workplace, because Ms. Steele wanted to remain the child
support administrator-the position that Ms. Feagans
previously held. [Filing No. 57-2 at 67.] Ms. Feagans also
disputes Mr. Carnahan's account of the lunch attended by
her and several coworkers. [Filing No. 57-2 at 43-44.] She
asserts that her coworkers “instantly…jumped all
over [her], accusing [her] of different things…in the
office.” [Filing No. 57-2 at 43-44.] Ms. Feagans states
that she raised her voice during the conversation, but it was
her coworkers who yelled inside the restaurant. [Filing No.
57-2 at 71-72.] She is also unaware of any behavioral issues
being reported to Mr. Carnahan. [Filing No. 57-2 at 51.] Ms.
Feagans testified that she had never been cited for any
disciplinary issues or write-ups during her career at the
prosecutor's office. [Filing No. 57-2 at 36.]
1, 2015, Mr. Carnahan states that he called Ms. Feagans into
his office and stated, “it just hasn't worked out.
We've tried. It hasn't worked out. This is your last
day.” [Filing No. 57-3 at 118.] Mr. Carnahan attests
that his decision to terminate Ms. Feagans' employment
was based on the performance and behavioral issues that he
had witnessed and that had been reported to him. [Filing No.
57-3 at 117-18.] Ms. Feagans disputes Mr. Carnahan's
factual account of her termination. According to her, Mr.
Carnahan told her he was aware that she had permanent brain
damage and that she was “getting meaner by the
day.” [Filing No. 57-2 at 46.] He then suggested that
Ms. Feagans retire. [Filing No. 57-2 at 46.] When she refused
to retire, he told her to clean out her desk. [Filing No.
57-2 at 46.] After doing so, she was escorted out of the
building. [Filing No. 57-2 at 46.]
20, 2015, Mr. Carnahan sent a letter to the Knox County
Council describing the circumstances of Ms. Feagans'
departure. [Filing No. 59-3.] In relevant part, Mr. Carnahan
It was apparent at that time that [Ms. Feagans] would be
unable to continue her employment in this office beyond that
day. Ms. Feagans decided that she would retire. I later
received a phone call from her indicating that she had
decided not to retire or quit. Later, I received a text
message telling me to disregard the phone call and that she
would be retiring. A few hours later I received another text
message that told me to disregard the previous text message
and that she would not be retiring. It is my belief that Ms.
Feagans retired. However, if she did not retire then her
employment here would have been terminated. She has not
returned or attempted to return to work here.
[Filing No. 59-3.]
her time as receptionist, Ms. Feagans completed and submitted
weekly time sheets indicating her hours worked. [Filing No.
52-2.] Her pay stubs during that period consistently
reflected payment for fewer hours than she indicated on her
time sheets. [Filing No. 52-2; Filing No. 52-1.] Ms. Feagans
typically submitted time sheets documenting 36-40 hours of
work per week, while her pay stubs reflect payment for only
35 hours of work per week. [Filing No. 52-2; Filing No.
52-1.] Mr. Carnahan asserts that Ms. Feagans was only
authorized to work seven hours per day, or 35 hours per week.
[Filing No. 57-3 at 128-29.]