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Garrison v. Dolgencorp, LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

October 3, 2019

Rochelle Garrison Plaintiff- Appellant
v.
Dolgencorp, LLC; Sandra Bell Defendants - Appellees Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Amicus on Behalf of Appellant

          Submitted: February 13, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Kansas City

          Before SMITH, Chief Judge, BENTON and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

          STRAS, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         After Dollar General denied Rochelle Garrison's request for a leave of absence, she quit and sued for disability discrimination and retaliation. We conclude that her reasonable-accommodation claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act can proceed, but that her others cannot.

         I.

         Garrison was a lead sales associate at a Dollar General store in Concordia, Missouri. Her immediate supervisor was Sandra Bell, who, like Garrison, had a key to open and close the store. The four "key holders" had to coordinate their schedules so that at least one of them could be there when the store opened and closed each day.

         Garrison, who suffers from anxiety, migraines, and depression, wished to take a leave of absence due to her worsening medical condition. At one point, following a visit to her doctor, Garrison texted Bell and asked, "[h]ow can I request a leave of absence[?]," to which Bell responded, "I'm not sure [but] I'll talk to [the district manager]."

         One week later, Garrison followed up by texting Bell again. She also asked about a rumor that she intended to quit, which Bell had allegedly spread among her co-workers. Bell did not initially respond, but Garrison was persistent. When Bell finally texted back, she had three messages for Garrison: "there [was] no [leave of absence]," she could remain with Dollar General as long as she could "do the job and not be sick all the time," and she should "[r]ead the employee handbook."

         Garrison and Bell later met in person. During the meeting, Garrison made clear that she was seeking a leave of absence due to anxiety and depression. Bell reiterated that she did not believe that any form of leave was available and warned Garrison that she could not remain a full-time employee or continue as a key holder if she kept missing shifts.

         The following week, Garrison missed a shift due to an emergency-room visit for gastritis and anxiety. She requested vacation for the remainder of the week, but Bell refused because two of the four key holders (including Bell herself) were scheduled to be gone. Garrison then informed Bell that she was quitting because it was the only way she could "get better." Dollar General replaced Garrison with someone Bell had hired about a week earlier, after the subject of leave had come up.

         Garrison sued Bell and Dollar General in Missouri state court. She claimed that they discriminated against her under both the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") and the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), interfered with her ability to seek medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), and retaliated against her for attempting to exercise her rights under each of these laws. The defendants removed the case to federal district court, which dismissed Garrison's lawsuit in its entirety on summary judgment.

         II.

         "We review the district court's decision to grant summary judgment de novo." Tonelli v. United States, 60 F.3d 492, 494 (8th Cir. 1995). "Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, viewed in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party, shows no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of ...


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