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CAUCCI v. PRISON HEALTH SERVICES

May 10, 2001

EMILIO CAUCCI
v.
PRISON HEALTH SERVICES, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Padova, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Emilio Caucci filed the instant action against Prison Health Services, Inc. alleging violation of the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., and seeking payment of accrued overtime pay under state law. Before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

The Amended Complaint alleges the following facts. Defendant provides medical services in Philadelphia correctional facilities. In August 1993, Plaintiff began working for Defendant as Associate Medical Director and Chief Medical Officer at a Philadelphia Detention Center. At that time, Plaintiff was classified as a non-exempt employee paid hourly, but did not receive time and a half for overtime work. In December 1995, Plaintiff was transferred to the Philadelphia Industrial Corrections Corporation to be Chief Medical Officer. At that time, Plaintiff was still a non-exempt employee earning $65.00 per hour and working 56-64 hours per week. Plaintiff also began working additional overtime shifts at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and the Philadelphia Detention Center, but did not receive overtime pay. The additional overtime shifts ceased in 1996.

On January 1, 1997, Plaintiff became an exempt employee receiving a salary. In August 1997, Defendant asked Plaintiff to work additional overtime shifts for his regular hourly wage. On November 4, 1997, Plaintiff informed Defendant that he was being evaluated for a degenerative medical condition. On November 10, 1997, Plaintiff requested leave under the FMLA for these medical problems and submitted a certificate from his insurance carrier and a note from his doctor stating that he could not work from November 19, 1997 through December 12, 1997. On December 1, 1997, Defendant approved Plaintiff's FMLA leave, but on the same day terminated Plaintiff from his position of Chief Medical Officer and Associate Medical Director.

Although Defendant told Plaintiff that he was eligible for FMLA leave through February 11, 1998, Plaintiff extended his leave only to January 15, 1998 when he returned to work. On January 16, 1998, Defendant offered Plaintiff part-time work beginning on January 26, 1998, on an as-needed basis at various facilities at an hourly rate that was less than what he had been paid prior to taking his leave. Plaintiff returned to work on January 26, 1998. On January 28, 1998, Plaintiff requested reinstatement to his prior positions and an equivalent salary and benefits, but Defendant refused. On March 1998, Defendant stopped giving any work to Plaintiff.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A claim may be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) only if the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle her to relief. ALA, Inc. v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994). The reviewing court must consider only those facts alleged in the complaint and accept all of the allegations as true. Id. Generally, district courts ruling on motions to dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings. In re Burlington Coat Factory Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). District courts, however, may consider documents that are "integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint" without converting the motion into one for summary judgment. Id. Affirmative defenses may be raised on a 12(b)(6) motion "where the defect appears on the face of the pleading". Continental Collieries v. Shober, 130 F.2d 631, 635-36 (3d Cir. 1942).

III. DISCUSSION

The Amended Complaint contains three counts. Count One alleges that Defendant violated the FMLA by failing to restore Plaintiff to his pre-leave or an equivalent position, only offering him part-time employment after he returned from FMLA leave, and reducing Plaintiff's hours to zero. Count Two asserts Defendant's liability for unpaid overtime wages from August 1993 through January 1, 1997, and again from August 1997 until his termination pursuant to the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act ("PMWA"), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat § 333.102. Count Three alleges a breach of contract claim based on Defendant's employee handbook. Defendant moves to dismiss all claims in the Amended Complaint. The Court will address each count in turn.

A. Count One — FMLA

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of employers meeting certain statutory criteria to twelve weeks of leave during any twelve-month period in the event of "a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of such employee."*fn2 29 U.S.C.A. § 2612(a)(1)(d) (West 2001). An employee returning from leave properly taken under the FMLA is entitled either to be restored to his or her former position or placed in an equivalent position in terms of benefit, pay and other conditions of employment. 29 U.S.C.A. § 2614(a)(1) (West 2001). Defendant argues that Count One is barred by the statute of limitations.

The FMLA requires a plaintiff to file suit "not later than 2 years after the date of the last event constituting the alleged violation for which the action is brought." 29 U.S.C.A. § 2617(c)(1) (West 2001). In cases where the violation is willful, the plaintiff must file suit "within 3 years of the date of the last event constituting the alleged violation for which such action is brought." 29 U.S.C.A. § 2617(c)(2) (West 2001). To successfully allege a willful violation of the FMLA, the plaintiff must show that the employer knew or showed reckless disregard for the matter of whether its conduct was prohibited by the statute. McLaughlin v. Richland Shoe Co., 486 U.S. 128, 133 (1988) (citing Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 125-30 (1985)). The Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant's conduct was "willful, intentional, and in flagrant disregard of the provisions of the FMLA." (Am. Compl. ¶ 37.) Under the liberal pleading standards of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this is sufficient to plead willfulness and trigger the three-year statute of limitations. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 9(b).

Plaintiff's Complaint was filed on January 26, 2001. Under the statutory language, the statute of limitations begins to run as of the date of the last event constituting a FMLA violation. See 29 U.S.C.A. § 2617(c)(2) (West 2001). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant violated the FMLA by refusing to restore him to his pre-leave position or an equivalent position and instead offering him part-time employment after his return to work, and eventually reducing his hours to zero and effectively terminating his employment in March 1998. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32, 34.) Plaintiff argues that the reduction of his hours and termination in March 1998 is the date of the last event constituting the alleged FMLA violation, and thus the action is not time-barred. Defendant views the refusal to reinstate Plaintiff to full-time employment as the dispositive date for the purposes of the statute of limitations, and the reduction of Plaintiff's work hours are only continuing damages that independently constitute an FMLA violation. Under ...


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