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Employee Needs More than Personal Opinion of Performance to Support Claims

Keith Buckmaster worked for Amtrak in a variety of roles. He experienced some medical issues that led him to request less physically demanding positions. While working as a senior technical trainer, Buckmaster received a counseling letter based on his performance issues. Two months later, he received a final warning indicating that his performance had to improve or he could be terminated. In fact, Amtrak management had started the termination process when Buckmaster called in sick. He requested Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, but he did not provide a specific medical reason. Amtrak responded by allowing the leave and providing him with an FMLA eligibility notice and form for his medical provider to fill out. Amtrak never received medical documentation from Buckmaster’s doctor. Thus, Amtrak denied the FMLA request and terminated Buckmaster’s employment.

Buckmaster sued Amtrak for disability discrimination, interference with FMLA, and retaliation for requesting medical leave. The federal district court rejected Buckmaster’s claim for disability discrimination because he could not show Amtrak’s reasons for terminating him were a pretext for discrimination or retaliatory. Regarding his performance issues, the court said Buckmaster offered no evidence “beyond his self-serving deposition and discovery responses” to raise an inference of discrimination. Amtrak’s documentation showed Buckmaster was not performing the position “at a level that met his employer’s legitimate expectations.” In addition, Buckmaster’s failure to provide documentation for his medical leave after 58 days of unexcused, paid absence provided another justifiable reason for his termination. Amtrak had no obligation to provide FMLA leave when Buckmaster failed to provide medical documentation. Lacking any evidence connecting his termination with any protected activities, the court dismissed Buckmaster's claims.