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Stewart v. The Boeing Co.

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

December 23, 2013

William Stewart, Plaintiff,
The Boeing Company and Does 1-50, Defendants.


RONALD S.W. LEW, Senior District Judge.

After consideration of all the papers submitted pursuant to Defendant The Boeing Company's ("Defendant")Motion for Summary Judgment, or Alternatively Partial Summary Judgment [43], the Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law:


1. Plaintiff William Stewart ("Plaintiff") was employed by Defendant as an "Expeditor" working on the assembly of the C-17 military transport aircraft in Long Beach California beginning in 1985 until his termination, effective on April 1, 2010. Miller Decl. ¶¶ 5, 20; Defendant's Statement of Uncontroverted Facts ("SUF") # 1.

2. During his employment with Defendant, including at the time of his termination, Plaintiff was a member of the United Aerospace Workers Union (Local No. 148) ("Union") and was subject to a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between Defendant and the Union. Miller Decl. ¶ 5.

3. Defendant and the Union have specific written policies governing Medical Leaves of Absence ("MLOA") and its employees are provided with or have access to these policies. Miller Decl. ¶¶ 7-8, Exs. A, B.

4. Plaintiff is familiar with Defendant's policies governing MLOA. O'Brien Decl., Ex. A (Deposition of William Stewart ("Stewart Depo.")) 108:23-110:22, 112:17-113:22, 116:19-117:7.

5. Defendant's MLOA policy requires employees to submit requested medical documentation to Defendant's Leave Administrator, Aetna, within 15 days of the request and requires employees to contact Aetna prior to the expiration of an approved MLOA to inform Defendant whether the employee plans to return to work or extend his or her leave. Miller Decl. ¶ 7, Ex. A.

6. Defendant's MLOA policy advises employees that failure to comply with these rules could result in termination, and that failure of an employee to contact the company within three days after expiration of his/her approved leave would result in termination, retroactive to the leave expiration date. Id.

7. The CBA contains a similar provision requiring union employees to timely provide medical information updates from health care providers to extend their MLOA, and provides a designated MLOA union representative to follow up with employees. Miller Decl. ¶ 8, Ex. B.

8. During his employment with Defendant, Plaintiff suffered from physical and psychological issues for which he took several medical leaves of absence. O'Brien Decl. ¶¶ 4-6, Exs. B and C.

9. On or about January 8, 2010, Plaintiff went on a MLOA. Plaintiff submitted his required medical paperwork to Aetna, and his MLOA was initially approved through February 12, 2010. He later, upon request, submitted updated medical information to further extend his MLOA until March 31, 2010. Miller Decl. ¶¶ 4, 9, Exs. C & D; Stewart Depo. 118:9-123:14.

10. On March 12, 2010 and March 18, 2010, Defendant and Aetna sent letters to Plaintiff's home address informing him that his approved MLOA would be expiring at the end March and requesting that he provide additional or supplemental documentation from his health care providers in order to extend his leave beyond March 2010. The letter stated that the updated medical information needed to be submitted to Defendant prior to March 26, 2010. Miller Decl. ¶ 10, Exs. E and F.

11. Plaintiff brought the medical form to his doctor to fill out, and it was faxed to Aetna on or about March 25, 2010, but the faxed form was incomplete. On March 29, Id. at ¶ 11.

12. On March 29, 2010, Defendant and Aetna sent a letter to Plaintiff's home address, informing him that his prior medical submission on March 25, 2010 was incomplete, and that a completed form needed to be returned to Defendant and Aetna no later than April 8, 2010. Id. at ¶ 12, Ex. G.

13. Neither Defendant nor Aetna ever received the requested information by April 8, 2010, and heard nothing further from Plaintiff or his health care providers as of that date. Id. at ¶ 13.

14. On April 14, 2010, Nancy Miller, who was the assigned "Leave of Absence" person in Defendant's Human Resources Department, contacted Donnell Harding, who was the appointed MLOA union representative for Plaintiff. Ms. Miller informed Ms. Harding that Plaintiff's leave had expired, and that Ms. Harding needed to call Plaintiff to let him know that he needed to contact Defendant immediately to clear up the situation. Id. at ¶ 14, Ex. H.

15. In addition to contacting Ms. Harding, Ms. Miller also sent a letter, dated April 20, 2010, addressed to Plaintiff at his home, notifying him that he was "AWOL" and that he needed to contact Defendant's Leave of Absence office no later than April 27, 2010 to review his current employment status. The letter also stated that Plaintiff was "in violation of company agreements, policies, and procedures governing attendance and leaves of absence, " and that failure to contact Defendant "will result in your immediate termination without further notice." Id. at ¶ 15, Ex. I.

16. The April 20, 2010 letter was sent via certified mail, and three attempts were made by the U.S. Postal service to deliver it to Plaintiff's home address, with notices being left at his residence. Ultimately, the letter was never picked up by ...

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