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Jones v. NRG Texas, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

April 26, 2017

KENNY JONES, Appellant
NRG TEXAS, LLC, Appellee

         From the 77th District Court Limestone County, Texas Trial Court No. 30, 721-A

          Before Justice Davis, Justice Scoggins, and Judge Fancy Jezek [2]



         Kenny Jones filed suit again NRG Texas, LLC for wrongful termination based upon a claim of workers' compensation retaliation. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of NRG Texas, LLC. We affirm.


         Jones began his employment with NRG on March 17, 2008.[1] On February 21, 2011, Jones was replacing the seals on covers in the plant's ductwork. Jones was instructed to remove the old seal covers, which are made of steel and weighed about ten to fifteen pounds, and transport them to the shop for new seals to be installed. As Jones was removing a seal cover, it slipped from his hand and struck him in the thigh. Jones informed his crew leader, David Scott, about the injury and the pain he was experiencing. Scott instructed another worker to take Jones to the locker room and put ice on his thigh.

         After putting ice on his thigh, Jones went to the plant's first aid clinic for treatment. At the plant's first aid clinic, Jones saw the plant Safety Leader, Monte Atchley, and told him about the injury. Atchley instructed Jones to go home for the day. Jones reported for work the next morning. Jones says that he asked to be assigned to another job that would not require him to go up and down stairs, but his request was denied. Jones sought out a Union Steward who escorted Jones to the plant first aid clinic for medical treatment. On February 23, 2011, Craig Warren, the Operations Manager in Maintenance, took Jones to the Limestone Medical Clinic Emergency Room for treatment. Jones was evaluated, and x-rays were taken of his leg. Jones was instructed to take Motrin as need for pain, and he was released to return to work.

         After returning to work, Jones again asked to be assigned to a position that did not require him to climb stairs, but his request was denied. Jones had conflicts with his crew leaders and others after his return. On September 12, 2011, Jones was terminated for insubordination, and he filed a grievance. The arbitrator ruled in Jones's favor finding that Jones should have received progressive discipline, but also finding that Jones did engage in actionable misconduct. As a condition of his reinstatement, Jones agreed that "if at any time in the next two years he should engage in insubordinate conduct his employment may be summarily ended."

         Jones returned to work in October 2012, and he reported to a different crew leader. Jones was late for work on a few occasions because he did not have reliable transportation. Jones also returned to work without a valid driver's license which was a requirement of his employment. Jones was given time off from work to obtain a driver's license, but he did not obtain his license. Jones admitted to driving company trucks on the property with other employees in the vehicle.

         Jones took medical leave from April 1, 2013 until May 15, 2013, due to stress and anxiety he was experiencing at work and in his personal life. NRG contends that Jones failed to timely and correctly report his absences from work. His medical leave was extended until June 15, 2013 when he was released to return to work. NRG suspended Jones pending an investigation for failing to properly report his absences from work. NRG was also investigating Jones for drawing threatening messages and images on his toolbox. On June 28, 2013, Jones was terminated.

         Summary Judgment

         Jones argues in five issues on appeal that the trial court erred in granting NRG's no evidence and traditional motion for summary judgment. We review the trial court's granting of a motion for summary judgment de novo. The movant in a traditional summary judgment motion must show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); Nixon v. Mr. Prop. Mgmt. Co., Inc., 690 S.W.2d 546, 548 (Tex. 1985). The granting of a no-evidence motion will be sustained when the evidence offered by the non-movant to prove a vital fact is no more than a mere scintilla. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc. v. Havner, 953 S.W.2d 706, 711 (Tex. 1997). When the trial court does not specify the grounds upon which it ruled, the summary judgment may be affirmed if any of the grounds stated in the motion is meritorious. W. Invs., Inc. v. Urena, 162 S.W.3d 547, 550 (Tex. 2005).

         Wrongful Termination

         Section 451.001 of the Texas ...

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