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Brown v. Regional West Medical Center

Supreme Court of Nebraska

August 31, 2018

Melinda J. Brown, appellant.
v.
Regional West Medical Center et al., appellees.

         1. Summary Judgment: Appeal and Error. An appellate court will affirm a lower court's grant of summary judgment if the pleadings and admitted evidence show that there is no genuine issue as to any material facts or as to the ultimate inferences that may be drawn from those facts and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         2. ___: ___. In reviewing a summary judgment, an appellate court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the party against whom the judgment was granted and gives that party the benefit of all reasonable inferences deducible from the evidence.

         3. Limitations of Actions: Appeal and Error. The point at which a statute of limitations begins to run must be determined from the facts of each case, and the decision of the district court on the issue of the statute of limitations will not be set aside by an appellate court unless clearly wrong.

         4. Termination of Employment: Workers' Compensation. To establish a prima facie case for retaliatory discharge for filing a workers' compensation claim, a plaintiff must establish the following elements: (1) The plaintiff filed a workers' compensation claim, (2) the plaintiff was terminated from employment, and (3) a causal link existed between the termination and the workers' compensation claim.

         5. Termination of Employment: Workers' Compensation: Evidence: Time. A plaintiff supports an assertion of retaliatory motive by demonstrating proximity in time between the workers' compensation claim and the firing, along with evidence of satisfactory work performance and supervisory evaluations.

          [300 Neb. 938] Appeal from the District Court for Scotts Bluff County: Leo P. Dobrovolny, Judge. Affirmed.

          Robert M. Brenner, of Robert M. Brenner Law Office, for appellant.

          Howard P. Olsen, Jr., Steven W. Olsen, and John L. Selzer, of Simmons Olsen Law Firm, PC, for appellee Regional West Medical Center.

          Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, Funke, and Papik, JJ., and Schreiner, District Judge.

          Schreiner, District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Melinda J. Brown appeals from an order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of Regional West Medical Center (RWMC) and dismissing her complaint for employment discrimination and retaliatory discharge. The district court found that Brown's discrimination claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations. It dismissed her retaliation claim on the basis that there was no evidence to support a finding that her termination was retaliatory. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

         BACKGROUND

         Brown was employed by RWMC as a customer service representative in the patient financial services department. On August 16, 2011, Brown fell in the parking lot of RWMC as she was leaving work, injuring her right hand and wrist. She reported for work the following day, but was instructed to seek medical care shortly after she arrived. Brown notified RWMC of the injury and made a workers' compensation claim. Despite being cleared to work with certain restrictions as of March 21, 2012, she has not returned to work since that day.

         After providing Brown with 12 weeks of requested leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, RWMC sent a letter to Brown on December 13, 2011, advising her that she had been [300 Neb. 939] approved for an additional 8 weeks of director-approved leave which would expire on January 7, 2012. The letter further advised Brown that she was "not guaranteed a return to any job" but was "encouraged to apply to any posted open position" with RWMC.

         On December 16, 2011, Brown delivered a letter to RWMC asking for reasonable accommodations to allow her to continue her employment, either in her current department or in another department within RWMC. RWMC responded with a letter asking Brown to complete an employee accommodation request form in order to determine whether she was eligible for accommodation. Brown completed the form, writing that she had "limited use of [her] Right hand," and requested the following accommodation: "Want a job that I can come back to after I am cleared by my Doctor . . . ."

         On January 19, 2012, RWMC sent a letter to Brown informing her that her period of director-approved leave had been exhausted as of January 8, 2012, and that she was being placed on furlough until August 15. It explained that although her position was not being held, she would remain on the employment rolls for purposes of receiving benefits while in furlough status. The letter further notified Brown that her employment would terminate on August 15 unless she applied for and secured another position with RWMC before ...


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