The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM CALDWELL, Senior District Judge
The Plaintiff, Laura Robinson, has sued the Defendant, John E.
Potter, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service,
for violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA),
29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. Robinson claims that the Defendant
interfered with her FMLA right in violation of
29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1),*fn1 by including FMLA covered dates in the
decision to terminate her employment. A bench trial was held on
September 12, 2005. What follows constitutes the our findings of
fact and conclusions of law.*fn2 I. Findings of Fact
1. The Postal service has more than fifty employees.
2. Beginning in May, 1998, the Plaintiff, Laura Robinson, was
employed by the United States Postal Service as a mail handler.
(Robinson testimony, Tr. 6).
3. Prior to September 26, 2002, the Plaintiff had worked for
the Postal Service for twelve months and for at least 1,250
hours. She also had enough FMLA time to cover her absences from
October 11, 2002 to November 3, 2002. (Stipulated).
4. During her employment with the Postal Service, Robinson was
frequently absent from work. These absences resulted in Robinson
being subject to various levels of discipline prior to the time
period in question. These included a letter of warning, a
three-day no time-off suspension, and a fourteen day suspension.
(Def. Ex. 22, 23, 24).
5. To be considered for leave under the FMLA, an employee must
provide a health care provider's, or doctor's, report usually
done on what is known as a WH-380 Form.
6. The Postal Service received a WH-380 Form, dated July 8,
2002, from Robinson regarding a period of absence from June 21,
2002, to June 24, 2002. This absence was due to a history of
asthma and bronchitis. Her doctor stated that the condition was
chronic, and indicated that Robinson could be intermittently incapacitated due to the episodic nature of the condition. (Def.
7. The Postal Service received a WH-380 Form dated October 8,
2002, regarding Plaintiff's absences occurring between October 1,
2002, to October 15, 2002. These absences were due to an episode
of major depression. The healthcare provider indicated that
Robinson's condition qualified under the FMLA as "absence plus
treatment." It was indicated on the WH-380 Form that because
depression can last from six to nine months, Robinson may be
recommended to take FMLA leave when she could not function due to
her condition. (Def. Ex. 15).
8. Asthma/bronchitis and depression are serious health
conditions and the Postal Service approved absences for these
conditions prior to the contested dates. (Stipulated).
9. A classification of "absence plus treatment" by a health
care provider includes not only the immediate absence and
treatment but also "any subsequent treatment or period of
incapacity relating to the same condition." (Def. Ex. 7A).
10. Robinson's depression was also classified as an
"injury-on-duty" (IOD). (Def. Ex. 4).
11. Robinson was informed in the various letters requesting
certification of her conditions, that the person taking a leave
request for an approved FMLA condition should be told that the
request was for a "FMLA ON FILE" condition. (Def. Exs. 5, 9, 11,
13, 14, 16). 12. At some point prior to Robinson's absences beginning on
October 11, 2002, Barbara Nicka, the FMLA coordinator, told
Robinson that because she had more than one FMLA condition on
file, she would have to specify whether the condition she was
experiencing was condition number 1, number 2, etc. Nicka
indicated the condition would be treated as a new request if this
detail was not provided. This requirement was not based on any
written policy. (Nicka Testimony, Tr. 161-2, 165, Proctor
Testimony, Tr. 191).
13. Robinson requested leave from work on October 11 and 14,
2002, and, according to the leave slips filled out by Marsha
Garner, indicated that her request was not related to her IOD or
a FMLA condition. (Def. Ex. 1, pp. 128, 131).
14. Robinson testified that she told Garner that these days
were IOD and FMLA. We do not find this testimony credible.
15. Robinson requested leave from work on October 19, 20, and
21, 2002, and, according to leave slips, indicated that her
request was not related to her IOD but was for a FMLA condition.
(Def. Ex. 1, pp. 132, 133, 134).
16. Robinson requested leave from work on October 25, 2002,
and, according to the leave slip, indicated that her request was
not related to her IOD but was for a FMLA condition. (Def. Ex. 1,
17. Robinson requested leave from work on October 27 and 28,
2002, and, according to the leave slips, indicated that her request was not related to her IOD but was ...