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Payton v. Federal Express

September 22, 2006

KARIN R. PAYTON AND DAVID C. PAYTON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
FEDERAL EXPRESS, CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiffs, David and Karin Payton, brought this action alleging that Defendant Federal Express Corporation ("FedEx") terminated David Payton in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. ("FMLA"). Before this Court is FedEx's motion for summary judgment. Both parties have filed briefs and the motion is ripe for consideration. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion will be denied in part and granted in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background*fn1

David Payton ("Payton") served as a courier for FedEx from 1992 until his termination on December 29, 2000. During Payton's employment, FedEx's attendance policy required its employees attend work at least 96.92% of the eligible days within a twelve-month period. If an employee's "attendance ratio" fell below the 96.92% threshold, the employee was subject to discipline. If an employee received three written disciplinary actions within twelve months, he was subject to termination.

Over the duration of his employment, Payton demonstrated a pattern of poor attendance. On July 10, 1995, FedEx issued a letter informing him that he had missed ten days in a twelve-month period resulting in a 96.03% attendance ratio, based on 242 days out of a possible 252. On February, 18, 1998, Payton received another reminder letter informing him that he had missed fifteen days in a twelve-month period resulting in a 94.23% attendance ratio.

On February 9, 2000, Payton received yet another reminder letter ("February 2000 letter") indicating that he had been absent nine days in the previous twelve months resulting in a 96.5% attendance ratio. Payton subsequently took thirty days of FMLA leave in March and May to care for his wife, who experienced complications related to pregnancy. On June 5, 2000, Payton received a fourth reminder letter ("June 2000 letter") indicating that he had been absent eight days in the past twelve months. Significantly for the purposes of the present action, the letter stated that:

David, recently you have utilized the Family Leave policy for the birth of your son. Policy mandates that the days of Family Leave are also deducted from the base days that are used to calculate your attendance percentage. During this time you used 30 days. Therefore, your current attendance percentage with eight absences on a base of 230 days is 96.52%. This percentage is below satisfactory. David, this trend is unacceptable and must be corrected. (Doc. No. 4-6.) Payton was also notified that the June 2000 letter was his second active disciplinary notification within a twelve-month period.

On December 29, 2000, Payton received his third disciplinary notification within twelve months for violating FedEx's Acceptable Conduct policy after Payton failed to deliver eight packages two days before Christmas. Upon receiving his third disciplinary notification, Payton's employment was terminated.

Payton does not dispute his absenteeism or the basis of the December 29, 2000, disciplinary action. Nevertheless, Payton claims that his termination violated the FMLA because his second disciplinary notification, the June 2000 letter, improperly counted his FMLA leave against his attendance percentage.

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiffs initially filed this action under chapter 13 of the United States Bankruptcy Code in the United States Bankruptcy Court for Middle District of Pennsylvania on December 26, 2002. Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint on December 12, 2003, and filed a second amended complaint on February 17, 2004. FedEx filed an answer with affirmative defenses on May 20, 2004.

On May 24, 2005, FedEx filed a motion for summary judgment. On June 20, 2005, Plaintiffs filed an "Answer to Motion for Summary Judgment" with only the following statement:

Plaintiffs oppose any motion for summary judgment. The Facts and the exhibits clearly speak for themselves. Plaintiff, David Payton, was clearly penalized for taking time off of work under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Plaintiff's attendance ration [sic] was calculated on an eleven month calendar year rather than a twelve month calender year. FMLA absences were counted against his attendance ratio. The mis-calculation ...


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