United States District Court, E.D. Arkansas, Western Division
OPINION AND ORDER
LEON HOLMES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Flowers worked as a nurse at the University of Arkansas for
Medical Sciences. She entered into a contract with UAMS that
provided for her to work on weekends with an additional 30%
pay as long as she did not miss more than six weekend shifts
during the contract's six-month period. In the second
half of 2016, Flowers missed more than six shifts due in part
to her taking FMLA leave in July and August. When she
returned to work, UAMS discontinued her 30% weekend pay
differential. After Flowers continued to clock in using the
30% pay differential code despite being told she was not
receiving such pay anymore, UAMS terminated her employment in
sued. Her complaint asserts violations of the Family and
Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the
Rehabilitation Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. She also
brings state law claims for breach of contract and an
Arkansas Civil Rights Act violation. The defendants move for
summary judgment. For the reasons to be explained, their
motion is granted.
should enter summary judgment if the evidence, viewed in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, demonstrates
that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and
that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511,
91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Torgerson v. City of
Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en
banc). A movant meets its “far from stringent”
initial burden if it points out that there is an absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case.
Bedford v. Doe, 880 F.3d 993, 996 (8th Cir. 2018).
Once this is done, the nonmoving party must submit
evidentiary materials showing there is a genuine issue for
trial. Id. at 997. A genuine dispute of material
fact exists only if the evidence is sufficient to allow a
jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511.
mentioned, Flowers was a nurse who worked weekend shifts at
UAMS. All nurses working weekend shifts received a 10%
weekend differential increase in pay, but some nurses who
worked weekend shifts signed a “Weekend Option
Agreement” which provided, instead, for a 30% weekend
pay differential. To receive the 30% increase in pay, the
nurses agreed not to miss more than six weekend shifts.
If a nurse missed more than six shifts, that nurse no longer
qualified for the 30% pay differential and could not apply to
receive the weekend option pay for one year.
was on a Weekend Option Agreement from January 1, 2016 to
June 30, 2016. During that period she missed work for her
mother's illness and funeral. The parties dispute whether
Flowers was on a Weekend Option Agreement from July 1, 2016
to December 31, 2016. Flowers said she slid the signed
contract under her supervisor's door; the defendants say
she did not. For the purposes of this motion the Court
assumes that Flowers turned the contract in and was on the
Weekend Option Agreement for the second half of 2016.
began having health problems requiring hospitalization in
mid-July. She took FMLA leave from July 23, 2016 until August
10, 2016. During that FMLA leave, Flowers missed six weekend
shifts. Prior to that leave she had also missed two other
weekend shifts for a vacation, so by the time she returned to
work in August, Flowers had missed more than six weekend
Flowers returned to work, UAMS discontinued her 30% weekend
pay differential. In November, Flowers asked a supervisor why
she did not receive the 30% pay differential during the
previous pay period. The supervisor responded that she was
not in the system as a weekend option employee. Another
supervisor told her a few days later that she was not on the
pay differential due to her absences. Flowers continued to
clock in the way she had always done, which, as she learned
later, involved pushing a button indicating she was on the
shift differential. UAMS characterized this as intentional
falsification of time records and terminated Flowers's
employment in January 2017.
and Medical Leave Act
Flowers's claims rely on whether the defendants could
lawfully discontinue the 30% shift differential because of
her absences due to FMLA leave. Under the circumstances, they
employee who takes FMLA leave is entitled, upon return, to be
restored to the same position or an equivalent position with
equivalent benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions.
See 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(1). The FMLA also
prohibits retaliation against an employee who exercises her
FMLA rights. Lovland v. Emp'rs Mut. Cas. Co.,
674 F.3d 806, 810-11 (8th Cir. 2012).
regulations interpreting the FMLA expand upon what
“equivalent pay” means. They state:
(c) Equivalent pay.
(1) An employee is entitled to any unconditional pay
increases which may have occurred during the FMLA leave
period, such as cost of living increases. Pay increases
conditioned upon seniority, length of service, or work
performed must be granted in accordance with the
employer's policy or practice with respect to other
employees on an equivalent leave status for a reason that
does not qualify as FMLA leave. An employee is entitled to be
restored to a position with the same or equivalent pay
premiums, such as a shift differential. If an employee
departed from a position averaging ten ...