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McCuin v. The Campbell's Soup Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

December 26, 2019

PAULA MCCUIN, Plaintiff,



         Came on for consideration the report of the United States Magistrate Judge in this action, this matter having been heretofore referred to the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. On November 4, 2019, the Magistrate Judge held a hearing (the “Hearing”) on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #15). On November 25, 2019, the Magistrate Judge entered proposed findings of fact and recommendations (the “Report”) (Dkt. #42) that Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. #15) be denied. On December 4, 2019, The Campbell's Soup Company (“Defendant”) filed objections to the Report (the “Objections”) (Dkt. #46). Paula McCuin (“Plaintiff”) filed a response (Dkt. #55).

         The Court has made a de novo review of the Objections and is of the opinion that the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge are correct and the Objections are without merit as to the ultimate findings of the Magistrate Judge. The Court hereby adopts the findings and conclusions of the Magistrate Judge as the findings and conclusions of the Court.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The present case concerns Defendant's termination of Plaintiff. Plaintiff asserts claims related to leave taken under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq. (“FMLA”). At the center of the matter is Plaintiff's absence from work on April 15, 2015, termed by Defendant as a “No Call/No Show” absence. On the two days prior to April 10, 2015, Plaintiff was absent from work due to a migraine headache (Dkt. #15 at p. 8). Defendant granted those absences as FMLA-protected absences upon Plaintiff returning to work (Dkt. #1 at p. 5). Disputed, however, is whether Plaintiff was required to work or call in on April 15, 2015, given the issues considered in the Report, and whether Defendant's actions surrounding discipline for Plaintiff's absence present actionable conduct under the FMLA.


         A. Factual Findings

         Defendant objects to five characterizations in the Report (Dkt. #46 at p. 2). Each of the “objections” appear to be complaints of word choice in the Report rather than substantive objections. While the Report states that several “No Call/No Show absences” are “alleged, ” Defendant argues it is undisputed Plaintiff failed to come to work on the days in question and failed to call in to work to report she would be absent on those days. This issue may be undisputed, but it is also alleged, that is, Defendant made the assertion as an “allegation.” The objection is a distinction without significance. Similarly, Defendant disagrees with the use of the words “basis, ” “erased, ” and “testify.”

         A party who files timely written objections to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation is entitled to a de novo review of those findings or recommendations to which the party specifically objects. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2)-(3). Objections to a report must specifically identify portions of the report and the basis for those objections. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); see also Battle v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 834 F.2d 419, 421 (5th Cir. 1987) (explaining that if the party fails to properly object because the objections lack the requisite specificity, then de novo review by the court is not required.). In other words, a party objecting to a magistrate judge's report must specifically identify those findings to which he or she objects.

         The Court finds that the objections to factual findings lack both specificity and substance, each only conclusory sentences that the Report made a mischaracterization without providing meaningful argument for a basis for a different outcome in deciding Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Therefore, this objection is OVERRULED.

         B. Willful Violation

         Defendant objects to the Report's finding that Plaintiff raised a genuine issue of material fact with respect to Defendant's knowledge of a statutory violation or reckless disregard for the statutory requirements such that the conduct could be considered a willful violation entitling Plaintiff to the three-year statute of limitations (Dkt. #46 at p. 2). Defendant argues the Report's finding is inconsistent with the Supreme Court's finding in McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe, 486 U.S. 128 (1988). The Report cites the same standard cited by Defendants, albeit from a different case: “To prevail on a willful violation, a plaintiff must show that his employer ‘either knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by statute.'” (Dkt. #42 at p. 11) (citing Braziel v. Medtronic, Inc., No. 4:12cv426, 2012 WL 4092600, at *4 (E.D. Tex. Aug. 22, 2012) (quoting Henson v. Bell Helicopter Textron, Inc., 128 Fed.Appx. 387, 93 (5th Cir. 2005))). Defendant seems to imply the Report applied the wrong standard, but the Report cites the same language as McLaughlin. Therefore, the Report did not apply the incorrect standard. Defendant flatly states there is no evidence in this case to justify the Report's finding. The Report, however, identifies evidence such that there is a fact issue as to willfulness:

As alleged, and considering the facts in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, Defendant posted essential information, namely, that April 10, 2015, was changed from a “furlough day” to a “rework day” on which Plaintiff could be assigned to work, knowing that Plaintiff was absent (and potentially out on FMLA leave) and would, thus, be unaware of the information. Thereafter, Defendant held her accountable for the information and the unestablished procedure of calling in on a day which was allegedly previously identified as a “furlough day” without the possibility of “rework.” Finally, Defendant terminated Plaintiff even though Defendant knew at the time of decision Plaintiff missed work as a result of her taking FMLA leave.

(Dkt. #42 at p. 12). Defendant has not demonstrated how this evidence does not raise a fact issue as to willfulness, and on this issue alone, the Report's finding of denial of summary judgment is appropriate. However, for the sake of thoroughness, ...

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