This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Wells Fargo Services Company,
Filed May 2, 2006
Reversed and remanded
Hennepin County District Court
File No. EM-04-010890
Mark A. Greenman, Ruth Y. Ostrom, Greenman & Ostrom, 270
Grain Exchange North,
Tammy L. Pust, Jesson & Pust, P.A., 340 Gilbert Building,
Considered and decided by Shumaker, Presiding Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Halbrooks, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
The district court granted summary judgment dismissing Lee Lenoir’s claim that she was improperly discharged for excessive absenteeism in violation of the Sick or Injured Child Care Leave Act. Lenoir appeals the dismissal, asserting that the record establishes a genuine issue of material fact on the amount of her remaining sick leave when she took time off to care for her child. Because we conclude that the disputed evidence does create a genuine issue of material fact, we reverse and remand.
F A C T S
Lee Lenoir was employed as an operations processor at Wells Fargo Services Company beginning on April 5, 1999. According to the terms of her employment, which are set forth in the company’s employee handbook, Lenoir was an at-will employee. Wells Fargo discharged Lenoir for excessive absenteeism on November 2, 2001.
As a Wells Fargo employee, Lenoir received a specified amount of paid time-off (PTO) for each calendar year. The PTO could be used for both scheduled and unscheduled absences. Wells Fargo defines an unscheduled absence as “one or more consecutive workdays when [the employee is] not present at work as scheduled and which cannot be defined as protected.” It also specifies that “[l]eaving work with more than half a shift remaining will be considered an unscheduled absence.”
Wells Fargo has an explicit disciplinary policy on absenteeism. Its employee handbook states that excessive absences or tardiness may be grounds for termination. The company further explained its policy in a memorandum to employees, stating that eight unscheduled absences in a twelve-month rolling period could result in termination. Lenoir received and read both the handbook and memorandum.
Throughout the course of her employment, Lenoir had numerous unscheduled absences and repeated incidents of tardiness. For the twelve-month period preceding her termination, Wells Fargo’s attendance records indicate that Lenoir had seven absences that meet the definition of an unscheduled absence. Lenoir states in a personal affidavit, buttressed by other evidence, that these records contain several inaccuracies. Relevant to the summary judgment determination, she asserts that the records incorrectly show that she took eight hours of PTO and did not report for work on February 12, 2001. The accuracy of these records determines whether she had sick leave available for an absence.
On October 29, 2001, Lenoir received permission from Wells Fargo to leave work one and one-half to three and one-half hours before the end of her shift because her child had a dental emergency. The following morning, October 30, she called Wells Fargo to report that she would not be at work that day. Lenoir asserts that she provided a reason for her absence: she needed to care for her child. Wells Fargo, relying on its attendance records, disputes that Lenoir provided an explanation for her absence. The attendance records, which included the eight-hour deduction for February 12, 2001, show that Lenoir had no PTO remaining for use on October 30. When Lenoir appeared for work the following day, Wells Fargo terminated her employment because of “inconsistencies with attendance and failure to comply with department expectations outlined in previous warnings.”
Lenoir filed a complaint against Wells Fargo, alleging that it violated the Sick or Injured Child Care Leave Act by terminating her when she was absent to care for her sick child. Wells Fargo moved for summary judgment and argued that Lenoir was not entitled to protection under the statute because she did not have PTO remaining and that it therefore lawfully terminated her at-will employment. The district court concluded that no genuine issue of material fact existed, and that, because Lenoir was an at-will employee, Wells Fargo properly terminated her employment. Lenoir now appeals.
D E C I S I O N
The Sick or Injured Child Care Leave Act
(SICCLA) provides that an employee “may use personal sick leave benefits
provided by the employer for absences due to an illness of or an injury to the
employee’s child . . . on the same terms the employee is able to use sick leave
benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.”
The district court granted summary judgment dismissing Lenoir’s claim based on its conclusion that Lenoir was discharged for excessive tardiness and absences and that no genuine issue of material fact exists on whether she was entitled to protection under the act. The district court did not address the disputed evidence on whether Lenoir had PTO remaining when she took time off following her child’s dental emergency on October 29 and 30, 2001.
On appeal from summary judgment, we consider
whether, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, a genuine issue of material fact exists and whether the district court
erred in its application of the law. Funchess v. Cecil Newman Corp., 632
N.W.2d 666, 672 (
Lenoir asserts that a genuine issue of material fact exists on whether she had PTO remaining when she was absent on October 30 and that this issue precludes summary judgment. Because Lenoir is eligible for protection under SICCLA only if she had PTO remaining, this factual issue affects the outcome of the case and is therefore material. Consequently, our inquiry centers on whether Lenoir has presented sufficient evidence to establish a genuine issue on the availability of additional PTO.
As of October 29, 2001, Wells Fargo’s PTO
record indicates that Lenoir only had 3.34 hours remaining. This calculation assumes that Lenoir was
in an affidavit, states that she did not miss work on February 12, 2001, and
points to additional evidence that buttresses her affidavit. According to Lenoir, she initially called in
on the evening of February 11 to report that she would be absent from work on
February 12 because she was in
Wells Fargo contends that Lenoir’s affidavit
should be discounted because it is self-serving and contradicts the entry of
eight hours of PTO into the time-entry system.
See Oreck v. Harvey Homes, Inc., 602 N.W.2d 424, 429 (Minn. App. 1999)
(stating that self-serving affidavit contradicting earlier deposition testimony
does not create material fact issue), review
The record arguably provides support for Lenoir’s contention that the record system is not dispositive on her absences. Although the PTO program, which is not connected to the time-entry system, indicates that Lenoir used eight hours of PTO on February 12, Wells Fargo’s utilization report, which tracks the productivity of the employee, shows that Lenoir worked eight hours that day. While Lenoir’s supervisor claims that she mistakenly entered Lenoir’s data from February 13 in the space provided for February 12, the inconsistencies in the record systems support Lenoir’s assertion that Wells Fargo did not properly record her PTO.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Lenoir, these inconsistencies, coupled with Lenoir’s affidavit, are sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact. Consequently, the district court erred by granting Wells Fargo’s motion for summary judgment.
Wells Fargo and Lenoir direct additional
argument to the issue of whether Lenoir was an at-will employee. SICCLA applies whether employment is
contractual or at will.
Reversed and remanded.