failed to allege any FMLA violations, the court finds that her claim
regarding Defendants' interference with her FMLA rights do not state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.
Plaintiff also alleges that the Defendants discriminated against her on
the basis of her serious health condition, failed to provide her with
reasonable accommodations, and wrongfully terminated her because of her
disability and her attempt to exercise her rights under the FMLA.
Defendants seek to dismiss these allegations on the grounds that under
the FMLA, an employer is under no obligation to provide reasonable
accommodation to an employee returning from medical disability leave. We
Unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the FMLA does not
require an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee's serious
health condition. See: 29 C.F.R. § 825.702(a) and
29 C.F.R. § 825.214(b). The regulations also make clear that if the
employee is unable to perform an essential function of the position
because of a physical or mental condition, including the continuation of
a serious health condition, the employee has no right to restoration to
another position under the FMLA. 29 C.F.R. § 825.214(b).
Accordingly, since Plaintiff could not return to work and perform her
job, terminating her employment did not amount to any violation of the
Plaintiff's FMLA rights and she has therefore failed to state a
cognizable cause of action under the FMLA on this basis.
The court shall also grant the motion to dismiss with respect to the
allegations that Defendants violated the FMLA when they discriminated
against and wrongfully terminated Plaintiff as it is clear from the face
of Plaintiff's complaint that she has failed to establish a prima facie
case with respect to these claims.
In the Third Circuit, claims brought under Section 2615(a)(2) of the
FMLA are analyzed according to the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting
framework. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 n. 13, 93
S.Ct. 817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973)); Churchill v. Star Enterprises,
183 F.3d 184 (3d Cir. 1999); Cohen v. Pitcairn Trust Co., 2001 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 10876 (E.D.Pa. 2001); Baltuskonis v. US Airways,
60 F. Supp.2d 445, at 448 (E.D.Pa. 1999); Voorhees v. Time Warner Cable
Nat'l Div., 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13227 (E.D.Pa. 1999); Holmes v. Pizza
Hut of America., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13787 (E.D.Pa. 1998). Within this
framework, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she is protected under the
FMLA; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) that a
causal connection exists between the adverse employment action and the
plaintiff's exercise of her rights under the FMLA. Baltuskonis v. US
Airways, 60 F. Supp.2d 445, at 448.
Plaintiff has not met the first requirement. Because Plaintiff was not
qualified for her job at the time of her termination, she has not shown
that she suffered an adverse employment action. Clark v. Germantown, 2001
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1221 (E.D.Pa. 2001) (stating that as part of prima facie
case, Plaintiff must show she was qualified for her position at the time
of the adverse employment action; Hodgens v. General Dynamics Corp.,
144 F.3d 151 (1st Cir. 1998) (stating same); 29 C.F.R. § 825.214(b)
(stating that if "the employee is unable to perform an essential function
of the position because of a physical or mental condition, including the
continuation of a serious health condition, the employee has no right to
restoration to another position under the FMLA.")
Plaintiff availed herself of her leave rights and upon returning to
work, informed her employer of the following restrictions: (1) an eight
hour work day and (2) no travel with the exception of the trips to and
from work. Since she was unable to fulfill an essential function of her
job, that is, traveling throughout the northeastern United States, and
was thus not qualified for her position, she did not suffer an adverse
employment action under the FMLA. Accordingly, the court grants the
motion to dismiss with respect to the claims of discrimination and
wrongful termination and dismisses Count I of the complaint in its
B. Counts II & III: Violations of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (ADA) and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA.
Plaintiff next alleges that Defendants violated her rights under the
Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et. seq. (ADA)
and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 P.S. § 951, et. seq.
(PHRA) when it discriminated against her based on her disability,
retaliated against her, and terminated her employment. It is
well-established that the Pennsylvania courts have interpreted the PHRA
using the same legal standards of the ADA. Kelly v. Drexel University,
94 F.3d 102 (3d Cir. 1996); Gomez v. Allegheny Health Servs., Inc.,
71 F.3d 1079, 1083-84 (3d Cir. 1995); See Also, Fehr v. McLean Packaging
Corp., 860 F. Supp. 198, 200 (E.D.Pa. 1994). (stating the PHRA definition
of "handicap or disability" is co-extensive with the definition of
"disability" under the ADA).
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the ADA
and PHRA, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she is disabled within
the meaning of the law; (2) she is otherwise qualified to perform
the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable
accommodation; and (3) she has suffered an otherwise adverse
employment decision as a result of the discrimination. See, Deane
v. Pocono Med. Ctr., 142 F.3d 138, 142 (3d Cir. 1998) (en banc);
Gaul v. Lucent Technologies, Inc., 134 F.3d 576, 580 (3d Cir.
1998). Defendants seek to dismiss Counts II and III on the sole
basis that Plaintiff has failed to meet the first prong because
she is not disabled within the meaning of the ADA.
The ADA defines "disability" as "a physical or mental impairment
that substantially limits one or more major life activities of the
individual."*fn1 42 U.S.C. § 12102(2). To bring a claim under the
ADA and PHRA, Plaintiff must allege that she has "a physical or
mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life
activities of the individual." According to Defendants, Plaintiff
is not disabled because the only impairment from which she suffers
is her inability to work longer than eight hours per day and to
travel for work.
They argue that because these limitations do not substantially limit
any major life activity, she is not disabled within the meaning of the
ADA and PHRA.
While the court finds that Defendants' reading of the statutory
requirements of the ADA is sound, we disagree with their reading
of the Complaint. The Complaint clearly states Plaintiff's
disability as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. In
addition, Exhibits A and E, physicians' letters to Defendants,
written on October 5, 1999 and February 7, 2000 respectively,
clearly explain that Plaintiff's condition is fibromyalgia and
chronic fatigue syndrome and that her resulting disability
consists of more than work-related restrictions. Moreover, the
Complaint suggests that Defendants continually were aware of
Plaintiff's symptoms. At the Defendants' request, Plaintiff, from
June 22, 1999 through June 2000, sent a "Physician's Statement" to
the Defendants each month.
Thus, the issue in deciding whether to dismiss Counts II and III
is whether her fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, not her
work-related limitations, constitute a disability. Plaintiff avers
in her Complaint that she is disabled within the meaning of the
ADA and, by standards governing 12(b)(6) motions, has pled
sufficient facts to support that assertion. Plaintiff has stated
that her physical impairment is fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
syndrome and that her symptoms included, but were not limited to
"chronic fatigue, body aches and pains, headaches, nausea,
palpitations, lightheadedness, and insomnia" (Plaintiff's
Complaint at 3). She also has alleged that her symptoms
"intensified to the point that they were interfering with her
major life functions, including her work" (Plaintiff's Complaint
at 3). Evaluated in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, the
Complaint is sufficient to satisfy the disability element of a
claim under the ADA and the PHRA.
Because there is a set of facts under which the Plaintiff could be
granted relief under the ADA and PHRA, Defendants' motion to
dismiss Counts II and III is denied.
AND NOW, this day of December, 2001, upon consideration of
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint, Plaintiff's
Answer thereto and Defendant's Reply Brief, it is hereby ORDERED
that Defendants' Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART and
Count I of Plaintiff's Complaint is DISMISSED with prejudice.