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Griffin v. Weiss

United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division

September 11, 2014

LARRY D. GRIFFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD WEISS, in his official capacity as Director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration; and ANDY MORGAN, in his official and individual capacities, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

J. LEON HOLMES, District Judge.

Following his termination from the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration ("DF&A"), Larry Griffin brought this action against Richard Weiss in his official capacity as Director of the DF&A and Andy Morgan in his official and individual capacities. Griffin alleges violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2601, and the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 12101. The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, the plaintiff has responded, and the defendants have replied. For the following reasons, the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

I.

Griffin began his employment in the Office of Field Audit with the DF&A in 1986. He started as a Tax Auditor Trainee and was promoted first to Tax Auditor I and then to Tax Auditor II. Document #38-1 at 3 ¶ 8. Griffin worked in the Central Division. Document # 38-1 at 3 ¶ 9. His supervisors included Andy Morgan, who was promoted to manager in 2007, and Guy Meneley beginning in 2009. Document #38-3 at 2. Tax Auditors are responsible for conducting audits of individual and corporate taxpayers. Document #38-1 at 2 ¶4. They often travel to taxpayers' homes or places of business to complete audits. Id. A tax auditor is required to prepare a weekly itinerary stating each place that he will be located when he is not in the district office during office hours. Id.

Tax Auditors are subject to the Field Audit Personnel Work Rules and Administrative Memorandum 300.22. Id. at 2 ¶ 5; Document #38-2 at 1; Document #38-4. These rules include provisions stating that office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; an employee must submit a weekly itinerary to his supervisor; an employee must notify his supervisor of his location at all times during working hours; and any employee who is on leave for part of the day must contact his supervisor prior to the expiration of the leave if he is going to take additional leave. Document #38-2 at 1 ¶¶ 1, 6, 7. Failure to comply with the rules is a basis for disciplinary action and may result in immediate termination. Id. at 2 ¶ 16. A four-step disciplinary process exists for violations of the rules leading up to termination. Document #38-4. A more severe disciplinary action, including immediate dismissal, may be implemented depending on the severity of the offense. Document #38-1 at 3 ¶ 6.

Griffin violated these policies twice - first on January 13, 2012, and again on July 27, 2012. Documents #38-10 and #38-11.

In January 2012, Griffin submitted a weekly itinerary stating he would be at a taxpayer's place of business on January 13, but when a supervisor conducted a field check, he was not present and did not have authorized leave. Document #38-10. His manager, Andy Morgan, and other administrators determined that Griffin violated the Field Audit Personnel Work Rules and Administrative Memorandum 300.22. Document #38-1 at 4 ¶ 11. This incident resulted in an escalated disciplinary action of suspension without pay for five days and a warning that another violation would result in termination. Id.

In July 2012, Griffin requested leave for orientation for jury duty the morning of July 27, and his weekly itinerary stated he would be at the district office following jury duty. Document #38-12; Document #38-3 at 36. On the morning of July 27, Griffin drove to jury orientation at the Pulaski County Courthouse, as scheduled, after waking up with a headache and not feeling well. Document #38-3 at 37-38. Jury orientation began at 8:00 a.m. and concluded by 9:30 a.m., during and after which Griffin felt nervous and had a headache. Document #38-3 at 40-41; Document #38-11. After jury orientation concluded, Griffin did not go to the district office as his itinerary stated; rather, he drove home without contacting his employer. Document #38-3 at 40. Griffin then slept until approximately 11:00 a.m. Document #38-3 at 44-46. He called the DF&A to request additional leave at 1:51 p.m. Id. He spoke with Dale Brashears and requested leave for the remainder of the day because he "wasn't feeling well." Id. at 46-47. Prior to this call, Morgan and another DF&A employee had driven to the Pulaski County Courthouse to conduct a field check and discovered that Griffin was not there. Document #38-1 at 5 ¶ 12.

Griffin took off from work on Monday, July 30, 2012, due to car trouble, and he took another day of annual leave on Tuesday, July 31, 2012. He returned to work on August 1, 2012. He did not seek medical treatment at any time from July 27, 2012, through August 1, 2012. Document #38-3 at 48, 50, 52, 63.

Upon returning to work on August 1, 2012, Griffin met with Morgan and another DF&A employee to discuss disciplinary action. Id. at 54. At this time he informed them that he had driven home from jury orientation because he was nervous and had a headache. Id. at 56-57. They requested proof of medical treatment for July 27. Document #38-1 at 5 ¶ 13. At Griffin's request, his doctor, Dr. Gil Foster, sent a one-sentence note "to verify that Mr. Griffin is under our care for his mood disorder." Document #38-13; Document #44-2 at 135.

Griffin was terminated on August 2, 2012, for violating the Field Audit Work Rules and Administrative Memorandums. Documents #38-14 and #44-2 at 104.

II.

A court should grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). If the moving party meets that burden, the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts that establish a genuine dispute of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc). A genuine dispute of material fact is presented only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in favor of the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2510, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must give that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the record. Spencer v. Jackson Cnty. Mo., ...


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