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Jackson v. BNSF Railway Co.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Fort Worth Division

July 28, 2017

MICHELLE JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN McBRYDE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Came on for consideration the motion of plaintiff, Michelle Jackson, for partial summary judgment, and the motion of defendant, BNSF Railway Company, for summary judgment. The court, having considered the motions, the responses, the replies[1], the record, the summary judgment evidence, and applicable authorities, finds that plaintiff's motion should be denied and that defendant's motion should be granted.

         I.

         Plaintiff's Claims

         Plaintiff's operative pleading is her second amended complaint filed April 10, 2017. Doc.[2] 18. In it, she alleges that she was terminated as an employee by defendant in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-54 ("FMLA"). She asserts two causes of action, one for interference with her FMLA leave and one for retaliation for her use of FMLA leave.[3]

         II.

         Grounds of the Motions

         Defendant seeks judgment on both of plaintiff's claims. As to the interference claim, defendant says that plaintiff cannot show that she was denied benefits to which she was entitled. Specifically, defendant maintains that discharging plaintiff for abusing her medical leave does not constitute interference as a matter of law and neither does asking plaintiff about her attendance at a concert or otherwise communicating with her while she was on leave. As for the retaliation claim, defendant says that plaintiff cannot prevail because defendant discharged her for legitimate, non-retaliatory reasons.

         Plaintiff seeks judgment only as to the first of her claims. She maintains that defendant interfered with her rights under the FMLA by terminating her employment shortly into her FMLA leave for insupportable and unlawful reasons. Doc. 32 at 1, ¶ 2.

         III.

         Applicable Summary Judgment Standards

         Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the court shall grant summary judgment on a claim or defense if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed, R. Civ. P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The movant bears the initial burden of pointing out to the court that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 325 (1986). The movant can discharge this burden by pointing out the absence of evidence supporting one or more essential elements of the nonmoving party's claim, "since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323. Once the movant has carried its burden under Rule 56(a), the nonmoving party must identify evidence in the record that creates a genuine dispute as to each of the challenged elements of its case. Id., at 324; see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) ("A party asserting that a fact ... is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to particular parts of materials in the record") If the evidence identified could not lead a rational trier of fact to find in favor of the nonmoving party as to each essential element of the nonraoving party's case, there is no genuine dispute for trial and summary judgment is appropriate. Matsushita Elec., Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 597 (1986). In Mississippi Prot. & Advocacy Sys., Inc. v. Cotten, the Fifth Circuit explained:

929 F.2d 1054, 1058 (5th Cir. 1991).

         The standard for granting a motion for summary judgment is the same as the standard for rendering judgment as a matter of law.[4]Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. If the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial. Matsushita, ...


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