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Wiggins v. Coast Professional, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Monroe Division

February 18, 2015

CORA WIGGINS,
v.
COAST PROFESSIONAL, INC

RULING

ROBERT G. JAMES, District Judge.

This is an employment discrimination and retaliation action brought by Plaintiff Cora Wiggins ("Wiggins") against her former employer, Coast Professional, Inc. ("Coast"), pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. ยงยง 2601-2654 ("FMLA").

Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment [Doc. No. 22] filed by Coast. Coast seeks dismissal of all Wiggins' claims. In the alternative, if the Court determines that one or more claims should proceed to trial, Coast moves the Court for a determination as a matter of law that Wiggins is not entitled to attorney's fees. Wiggins has filed a "Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment or in the Alternative Motion to Reserve Plaintiff's Rights to Her Wage Claim" [Doc. No. 29], in which she not only opposes Coast's Motion for Summary Judgment, but raises a wage payment claim for the first time. Coast has since filed a reply memorandum [Doc. No. 33] in support of its Motion for Summary Judgment and in opposition to allowing Wiggins to amend her Complaint to add a wage payment claim.

For the following reasons, Coast's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and Wiggins' FMLA claims are DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE. Wiggins' motion to reserve a wage claim, which the Court construes as a motion to amend her Complaint, is DENIED. Coast may file the appropriate pleadings if its wishes to obtain attorney's fees and/or costs.

I. PERTINENT FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Coast is a private business engaged in the collection of student loans.[1] Wiggins began her employment with Coast in 2008 as a collector.[2] She was employed as a rehabilitation specialist in the Collections Department at the time of her termination.

Coast provided employees who had less than five years of service with ten days of paid time off ("PTO"), in addition to holiday and floating holidays. Unscheduled absences were listed as "occurrences." Additionally, if an employee scheduled an absence, but had no PTO available, the absence would be listed as an "occurrence." Under Coast's attendance policy, an employee would be terminated if he or she accrued six occurrences in a ninety-day period. Each occurrence remained on an employee's record for ninety days, but expired at the end of the ninety-day period and would not longer be considered. Absences protected by the FMLA were not subject to this policy.

On December 21, 2011, Wiggins left work after her adult daughter brought Wiggins' son, B.R., to the emergency room. B.R. had a fever and had suffered an apparent seizure. He was diagnosed with febrile illness and admitted to the hospital. Wiggins was given an occurrence for leaving work, which expired on March 20, 2012. Wiggins notified Coast of the situation by calling the morning after her son was admitted to the hospital. At Coast's request, a nurse faxed verification of her son's hospital stay and expected discharge date. Wiggins remained at the hospital with her son and was absent from work for three days, through December 23, 2011. She did not receive any additional occurrences.

Wiggins admits that she received all time off requested in 2011. However, she was not notified of her FMLA rights, and her time off with her son was not designated as FMLA leave.

From August 19-21, 2012, Wiggins was hospitalized for shortness of breath, chest pain, and constipation. She returned to the hospital on August 24, 2012, for anxiety. In total, she was absent from work from August 20-24, 2012. She received one occurrence for failing to report to work, but did not receive any additional occurrences for her time off. This occurrence expired on November 22, 2012.

In November, 2012, Wiggins also took time off to care for her other son, I.M. On November 5, 2012, Plaintiff called into work, notifying Coast that she was taking I.M. to the doctor for abdominal pain. She received one occurrence for this unscheduled absence, which expired on February 3, 2012. On November 13, 2012, Wiggins was absent to take I.M. back to the doctor for abdominal pain. She received one occurrence for this unscheduled absence, which expired on February 11, 2013.

Wiggins admits that she received all time off requested in 2012. However, she was not notified of her FMLA rights, and the time she took off because of her personal illness and to care for her son was not designated as FMLA leave.

On January 9, 2013, Wiggins again called in sick to take I.M. to the doctor. She received one occurrence for this absence, which expired on April 9, 2013. On February 6, 2013, she notified Coast that she was taking I.M. to a doctor's appointment in Shreveport. She received an occurrence for this unscheduled absence, which expired on May 7, 2013. On March 4, 2013, she left work "sick, " according to her personnel record, and received a one-half occurrence. The following day, she called in sick and received one occurrence, which expired on June 3, 2013. Wiggins later testified that her absences on March 4-5, 2013, were to care for her son, I.M., who was again suffering from abdominal pain.

Some time in late February, 2013, Wiggins met with her supervisor, Jaime Jeffrey; Coast's national Director of Human Resources, Michele Malczewski; and Human Resources Generalist, Rochelle Warford about her absences. At the meeting, Wiggins explained the on-going health concerns with her son, I.M.

After the meeting, Coast provided Wiggins with FMLA forms. She returned the completed FMLA certifications, and Coast granted her request for intermittent FMLA leave. She did not receive any further occurrences. However, she was required to provide a doctor's note or updated certification for each absence.

On or about July, 2013, both of Wiggins' sons required hospitalization. B.R. was diagnosed with Bradycardia and LQT syndrome, and I.M. was determined to have gallstones. On July 29, 2013, B.R. underwent surgery to remove his tonsils and adenoids.

On August 2, 2013, I.M. underwent surgery to have his gallbladder removed.

In 2013, Wiggins received twelve weeks or 480 hours of FMLA leave. On or about the first week of August, 2013, Coast informed Wiggins that her FMLA leave would be exhausted by August 6, 2013, and she would be required to return to work. On August 5, 2013, she requested a leave of absence, but her request was denied.

On August 6, 2013, Wiggins was unable to return to work. Once her leave was exhausted, she began receiving occurrences for failure to report to work. She was terminated after she accrued six occurrences between August 7 and 15, 2013. B.R. was not discharged from a doctor's care until August 15, 2013, and I.M. was not discharged until August 22, 2013. Wiggins was hospitalized on the same ...


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