United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Abingdon Division
E. Strelka, L. Leigh R. Strelka, and N. Winston West, IV,
Strelka Law Office, P.C, Roanoke, Virginia, for Plaintiff;
M. Law son, Elliott Lawson & Minor, P.C, Bristol,
Virginia, for Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
P. JONES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil case, the plaintiff, a former employee, alleges that
the defendant, his former employer, violated his rights under
the federal Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA").
Because the plaintiff has failed to offer evidence showing
that his children suffered from a serious health condition,
he has not met his burden of establishing that he was
entitled to FMLA leave. Accordingly, I will deny the
plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment and grant the
defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
following facts taken from the summary judgment record are
undisputed except where noted.
Taylor Wayne Trail began working for Utility Trailer
Manufacturing Company ("Utility") as a welder on
August 31, 2016. He worked second shift, from 4:00 p.m. to
has two minor sons, one of whom has cerebral palsy. On March
1, 2018, Trail obtained from a human resources clerk at
Utility a form to request leave under the FMLA. When he asked
for the form, he told the clerk about his son's
diagnosis, and she wrote a note about it. Trail gave the form
to his son's doctor to be completed with supporting
documentation. The completed form and accompanying
documentation were never returned to Utility.
has an attendance system in which employees receive a point
for missing more than half a day of work and half a point for
missing less than half a day of work. Company policy provides
that when an employee accumulates more than 15 points in a
rolling 12-month period, the employee will be terminated.
Trail knew that he was approaching the 15-point limit and
that several of his absences had been due to illnesses or
injuries of himself or his immediate family members. His
mother told him about the FMLA, which prompted him to obtain
the leave request form. He was under the mistaken belief that
if he was approved for FMLA leave, it would cover any
medical-related absence in the future, even those unrelated
to the condition he identified in his request.
March 8, Trail had accumulated 14.5 attendance points. On the
evening of March 8, Trail's wife called Utility in an
attempt to reach Trail. The couple's young children were
vomiting and had rashes, and she had decided to take them to
an emergency room. Mrs. Trail spoke to Pamela Greer
Armstrong, a human resources clerk. There is some dispute
about what Mrs. Trail told Armstrong. According to Armstrong,
Mrs. Trail asked to speak to her husband, and Armstrong asked
her if it was a "911 emergency." Pl.'s Br.
Supp. Ex. B, Armstrong Dep. 14, ECF No. 47-2. Mrs. Trail
answered in the affirmative. Armstrong transferred the call
to Adam Harris, Trail's acting supervisor for the shift.
Armstrong testified that she did not ask Mrs. Trail for any
details about the nature of the emergency and Mrs. Trail did
not provide any details. Mrs. Trail testified that she told
the woman on the phone that she was taking her kids to the
emergency room "because they were broke out and they
were puking." Id. at Ex. C, Harmony Trail Dep.
8, ECF No. 47-3.
testified that when he answered the phone, he offered to get
Trail, but Mrs. Trail asked him to just tell Trail that she
was taking their child to the hospital. Harris relayed the
message to Trail, who asked if he could take FMLA leave.
Harris responded that he was not sure. Harris called
Armstrong and asked if Trail's FMLA request had been
approved. Armstrong said she did not know and that he would
have to call back in the morning to find out.
told Harris that he needed to leave because his child was
going to the hospital, and then he left. According to Trail,
Harris told him that everything was fine and he could leave.
Harris disputes this and testified in his deposition that he
did not convey that Trail's absence would be excused.
Trail did not personally speak with any human resources
representative that evening. When Trail left work, he was
unaware of the reason his child or children were being taken
to the emergency room. Harris never followed up with Trail or
the human resources department about Trail's absence.
children had started feeling sick on the evening of March 7.
They had begun vomiting shortly before Mrs. Trail took them
to the hospital on March 8.When asked why she had called her
husband before taking the children to the hospital, Mrs.
Trail responded, “It was just two kids, and they were
both puking and feeling awful. It was a little
overwhelming.” Id. at 13.
hospital, the five-year-old child, J.S.T., was tested for and
diagnosed with “Strep pharyngitis with scarlet
fever.” Pl.'s Br. Opp'n Ex. B, ECF No. 56-2.
The younger child, M.T., was assessed as having “Strep
tonsillitis” after having been exposed to his brother.
Id. Ex. C, ECF No. 56-3. Both children were
prescribed a ten-day course of amoxicillin. When asked in her
deposition, “What happened after you started
administering the amoxicillin?” Mrs. Trail replied,
“I think they got ...