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Johnson v. Wheeling Mach. Prods.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 20, 2015

Kendrick Johnson, Plaintiff - Appellant,
v.
Wheeling Machine Products; U.S. Steel Tubular Products, Inc.; United States Steel Corporation, Defendants - Appellees

Submitted December 11, 2014

Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas - Pine Bluff.

For Kendrick Johnson, Plaintiff: Lucien Ramseur Gillham, Sutter & Gillham, Benton, AR.

For Wheeling Machine Products, U S Steel Tubular Products Inc, United States Steel Corporation, Defendants: Emmett B. Chiles, Amber Davis-Tanner, Quattlebaum & Grooms, Little Rock, AR.

Before WOLLMAN, COLLOTON, and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 515

WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

Kendrick Johnson appeals from the district court's[1] grant of summary judgment

Page 516

in favor of his employer, U.S. Steel Tubular Products, Inc., and related defendants.[2] Johnson brought this action under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § § 2601-2654, alleging that U.S. Steel retaliated against him for taking protected FMLA leave, failed to reinstate him after a period of protected leave, and otherwise unlawfully interfered with his FMLA rights. We affirm, although on a ground different from that relied upon by the district court.[3]

I.

The facts are presented in the light most favorable to Johnson. In May 2004, Johnson began working at a U.S. Steel plant in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He was eventually promoted to a lead position that sometimes required him to drive a forklift. Johnson was scheduled to work May 12 through May 15, 2011. On May 12, he informed his supervisor that he was not feeling well. Johnson was suffering from blurred vision, a stiff neck, back pain, and a " major" headache, and he claims that he felt as though his head would " explode." Johnson waited for employee-relations supervisor Tammara Love to arrive, but when she still had not arrived several hours into Johnson's shift, he left her a voicemail, in which he stated that he was not feeling well and was leaving work to see a doctor.

Johnson left work and went to a nearby health care clinic, where he saw physician assistant Stephen Stewart,[4] whom he had never seen before. Stewart diagnosed Johnson with high blood pressure, prescribed him blood-pressure medication, and told him to follow up with his regular physician. Stewart did not indicate when Johnson should schedule the follow-up appointment. Stewart gave Johnson a note, asked him to fill in his own name, and then signed the note, which stated that Johnson was seen at the clinic and could return to work on May 16, 2011. Johnson returned to the plant and gave the note to a supervisor, explaining that he would be back on May 16. Johnson also left Love another voicemail, in which he stated that he had been taken off work for a few days and that he had left a work excuse with his supervisor.

The next day, May 13, Love called Johnson and asked him to come in to discuss the note from Stewart. She asked him who had written his name on the note, and he explained that he had filled in his own name at Stewart's request. Love instructed him to return to the clinic and get another excuse. Later that day, Johnson returned with a second note, which a paramedic at the clinic had signed because Stewart was busy. Love rejected the note, telling Johnson that it was not acceptable and that he needed to obtain another note that stated the reasons for being off work. She said that she would prefer if he brought the note back before the end of the day. U.S. Steel's attendance policy also required that, ...


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