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Hoskins v. GE Aviation

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Oxford Division

March 25, 2019




         This cause comes before the Court on Defendant GE Aviation's Motion for Summary Judgment on All Claims in Consolidated Cases [Doc. #76]. Plaintiff Lalangie Hoskins filed her response in opposition [Doc. #78], to which GE Aviation filed its reply [Doc. #80]. The Court, having considered the memoranda and submissions of the parties, along with relevant case law and evidence, is now prepared to rule.

         I. Factual Background

         GE Aviation produces jet engines and other components for commercial and military aircrafts. According to the facts as set out by Defendant in its present motion, the Declaration of Angel Contreras (attached as an exhibit to Defendant's motion), and other exhibits attached to Defendant's motion, GE Aviation's Batesville facility has a workplace harassment policy in place and a Composite Operations Site Handbook as well as an integrity program called The Spirt & The Letter. All GE Aviation employees are expected to follow the policies and, if concerns arise or if a potential violation has occurred, the employee is expected to raise such concerns as promptly as possible.

         On August 23, 2013, Plaintiff was hired by GE Aviation to work as a Production Associate in its Batesville, Mississippi facility. During her employee orientation, Plaintiff received a copy of the Batesville Site Handbook and later received an updated version in March of 2016.

         According to the only set of facts provided to this Court, mostly identical to the Declaration of Angel Contreras, and the attached exhibits to the Defendant's motion, the Batesville facility followed the GE Aviation policy-available to all employees-which required full compliance with the Americans with Disability Act. As per GE Aviation's Accommodations Procedure for Individuals with Disabilities, company representatives are to engage in “interactive dialogue” when a job seeker requests an accommodation in order to “determine whether a reasonable accommodation is appropriate and can be implemented.” Ultimately, the entire process, as per GE Aviation procedures, may include and require “submission of medical documentation completed by the treating physician, or other information on a case-by-case basis.” Additionally, per the Batesville Site Handbook, any employee who fails to cover his or her absences with either a benefit program such as the FMLA or the ADA, or simply fails to have their absence otherwise excused, is considered to have acquired an unexcused absence. GE Aviation policy considers absences excessive if:

a. An employee misses in excess of 8 hours unexcused in a 90-day period; or
b. An employee misses in excess of 32 hours unexcused in a 365-day period.

         On June 19, 2014, after receiving a Coaching Discussion-“the first level of the progressive discipline process”-for taking excessive breaks, Lalangie asserted that she had been sexually harassed by a coworker. She did not file a Charge of Discrimination for this alleged incident.

         On April 13, 2016, Lalangie filed her first EEOC Charge of Discrimination alleging discrimination based on sex and retaliation for the time period between August 1, 2014 to April 13, 2016. An investigation was conducted. GE's investigation found that Lalangie's claims were either unsubstantiated or unconfirmed.

         GE Aviation, upon Plaintiff's request, granted her intermittent FMLA leave from May 13, 2016 to August 31, 2016 in order to allow her opportunities to leave work early. However, to leave early and be covered under FMLA, Plaintiff was required to provide notice of when she was leaving early. During this time, Plaintiff received disciplinary warnings for failing to provide notice of her late arrivals or early departures.

         Plaintiff was later granted more intermittent FMLA leave, this time from September 1, 2016 to February 28, 2017. However, on November 4, 2016, Plaintiff was admitted to the hospital for a period of three days, and then stopped showing up to work. However, Plaintiff was, nonetheless, granted FMLA leave from November 5, 2016 to January 11, 2017.

         As the end of her FMLA leave grew close, Plaintiff reached out to HR representatives to inquire about an extension of coverage under the ADA. HR Representatives explained to Plaintiff what steps needed to be taken to acquire coverage under the ADA. One of these steps was obtaining proper medical documentation and submitting completed documents to the company.

         On January 11, 2017, Plaintiff's primary care physician submitted the forms to GE Aviation. After review of the forms, HR Representatives determined that the forms were unclear and incomplete. Seeking clarification of the basis for the leave and the duration of her disability, GE Aviation requested additional information by sending a letter to Plaintiff's physician. Her physician responded on January 13, 2017 by suggesting that Plaintiff's psychiatrist would be better equipped to complete the requested documentation. GE Aviation then requested that Plaintiff have her psychiatrist fill out the documentation and explain the basis for the leave and the duration of her inability to work. Plaintiff was given a deadline of January 27, 2017.

         Stating that she would see her psychiatrist on February 2, 2017 and could have him complete the paper work then, GE Aviation extended her deadline. On February 2, 2017, Plaintiff emailed HR and explained that her psychiatrist refused to complete the ADA forms because “it hasn't been 6 months” of treatment and that he could complete the forms “when he treats me for at least 3-6 months.” Plaintiff's email further stated that “the first form was correctly filled out so it's valid until my psychiatrist treats me further.” In his response, HR Manager Angel Contreras responded that the first form was “incomplete or needed clarification” because “we did not know whether you were completely unable to work or [if] your ability to work was simply limited, the form did not specify what restrictions you were under if you could work, it did not state what medically supported accommodations you would need, and it did not specify the medical reasons for any restriction or inability to work.” In his response email, Angel granted Plaintiff until 5 p.m. on February 10, 2017 to submit the required information.

         About one hour later, Plaintiff responded to Angel and stated that she would be using the first form “since it has been reviewed and is sufficient” and no other accommodation was requested “other than the 2-3 month time off.” On February 6, 2017, Angel emailed Plaintiff specifying that her deadline to provide the company with the completed form was February 10, 2017. This time, Plaintiff responded that her psychiatrist would “fill them out April 3, 2017” and that there was no way for him to fill them out sooner, so she was requesting “TIME” and sending her first “sufficient ADA document back” to the company.

         On March 9, 2017, Angel sent a letter to Plaintiff terminating her employment and explaining the reasons for her termination. Among the reasons listed in the letter is the fact that as of March 9, 2017 Plaintiff had still not submitted any of the requested documentation (other than her first insufficient form). Her failure to provide GE Aviation with properly completed forms resulted in her absences being unexcused. Over a period of 365 days, Plaintiff acquired 298.88 hours of unexcused absences, 296 of which were acquired within a 90-day period.

         II. Procedural Background

         On November 09, 2017, Lalangie filed her complaint in this case, No. 3:17-cv-00224, pro se, against Eugene Droder, III, Angel Contreras, and GE Aviation alleging claims of employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Then, on April 27, 2018, Plaintiff filed another complaint, No. 3:18-cv-00099, this time asserting ...

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