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ROBINSON v. POTTER

November 22, 2005.

LAURA C. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM CALDWELL, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

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. (Stipulated).

  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. Ex. 7).

  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, p. 138).

  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 ...


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