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Purvis v. Wal-Mart Stores East, LP

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division

March 26, 2019

NAKITA PURVIS, Plaintiff,
v.
WAL-MART STORES EAST, LP, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          THERESA L. SPRINGMANN CHIEF JUDGE

         This litigation arises out of Plaintiff Nakita Purvis' termination from her employment with Defendant Wal-Mart Stores East, LP. The Plaintiff claims that the Defendant violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) when it terminated her. Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 26]. The Plaintiff responded to the Defendant's Motion [ECF No. 29], and the Defendant replied [ECF No. 31].

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Two of the Defendant's policies are relevant to the present litigation. First, the Defendant's Field Attendance and Punctuality Policy (Attendance Policy) requires employees to report any absence or late arrival at least one hour before their scheduled start time. Employees may report by calling the Associate Information Line or submitting the “Report an Absence” form on the WalmartOne application. Failure to report an absence through one of these methods results in a no-call/no-show. An employee receives one “occurrence” for an unauthorized absence, and three occurrences for a no-call/no-show. Thus, if an employee was absent from a scheduled shift without timely reporting the absence, the employee would receive four occurrences, one for the absence and three for not calling ahead. The Attendance Policy provides that, if an employee accumulated nine or more occurrences in a rolling six-month period, the employee is subject to termination. The Defendant also has an FMLA policy, which requires employees to report any FMLA needs to Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc., (Sedgwick), the Defendant's third-party leave of absence administrator. Sedgwick then provides the relevant documentation to the employees, and employees return it to Sedgwick.

         The Plaintiff began working for the Defendant as a Pharmacy Sales Associate at the Defendant's store in Marion, Indiana, in January 2014. The Plaintiff was promoted to Pharmacy Technician that June. The Plaintiff was aware of, and subject to, the Defendant's Attendance Policy. The Plaintiff was familiar with the call-in procedure, and regularly utilized the call-in system to report her absences in accordance with the policy. The Plaintiff was also familiar with the FMLA policy. The Plaintiff requested and received FMLA leave multiple times during her employment with the Defendant.

         On January 6, 2017, the Plaintiff contacted Sedgwick to request FMLA leave, covering her absences from December 28, 2016 through January 1, 2017. The Plaintiff requested that Sedgwick send the relevant documentation by postal mail. In response to her request, on the same day, January 6, 2017, Sedgwick sent the claim-related documentation to the address it had on file for the Plaintiff. However, the address was not up-to-date.

         On January 24, 2017, the Plaintiff received a text message from Sedgwick, reminding her that her medical certification form had not yet been received and that it was due by January 26, 2017. The Plaintiff retrieved the package from her former address, delivered it to her healthcare provider, and asked them to complete it by the January 26, 2017 deadline. The Plaintiff did not request an extension of the deadline from Sedgwick. The Plaintiff did follow-up with her healthcare provider several times over the next few days.

         On January 26, 2017, the Plaintiff's immediate supervisor followed up on her behalf with Sedgwick, and informed the Plaintiff that Sedgwick still had not received the medical certification form. The Plaintiff asked her supervisor what she should do if her medical certification form was not received by Sedgwick by the end of the day, and he told her to leave her badge in the pharmacy when she clocked out, “just in case.” See Pl.'s Dep., ECF No. 28-1, p. 37. The Plaintiff did leave her badge when she left that evening.

         The Plaintiff was scheduled to work on January 27, 2017. That morning, the Plaintiff contacted the personnel coordinator at her store, and asked whether her requested FMLA leave had been granted. The coordinator told the Plaintiff she was not sure. The Plaintiff asked what she should do, and whether she still had her job, and the coordinator responded that the deadline was the deadline. See Supp. to Resp. to Mot., ECF No. 30-1, Ex. A, p. 21. Subsequently on January 27, 2017, the Plaintiff contacted her supervisor by text. She told him that she was not getting answers about whether her FMLA leave was granted and asked what to do. The Plaintiff's supervisor responded that he had not gotten answers either, but that he had been asked to be informed if the store received confirmation. The Plaintiff responded that she was not going to waste gas until she knew the status of her employment because she could not afford to use up all of the gas in her vehicle if she no longer had a job.

         On January 28, 2017, around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., the Plaintiff again spoke with the personnel coordinator at her store. The Plaintiff asked about the status of her job, and the coordinator told her to contact her supervisor. The Plaintiff did so, and her supervisor informed her that her FMLA leave had been approved. The Plaintiff responded that she was now able to relax, having been very concerned about the situation.

         The Plaintiff's supervisor next sent a message saying, “they just told me you didn't show up yesterday and didn't call in. That's four points.” See Supp. to Resp. to Mot., Ex. A, p. 34. The Plaintiff explained that she did not call in because she thought she was already fired, partly because she had tried to log in to the WalmartOne application and had been unsuccessful. The Plaintiff asked if the Defendant could make an exception. The Plaintiff's supervisor told her no exception could be made; and the Defendant terminated the Plaintiff's employment due to “excessive points for showing up late and absences, ” the last of which was a four-point occurrence “due to a no-call no show Friday 1/27.” See Supp. to Resp. to Mot., Ex. E.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is proper where the evidence of record shows that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. at 323. The burden then shifts to the non-movant to “go beyond the pleadings” to cite evidence of a genuine factual dispute precluding summary judgment. Id. at 324. “[A] court has one task and one task only: to decide, based on the evidence of record, whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial.” Waldridge v. Am. Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918, ...


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