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MacFarlan v. Ivy Hill SNF

July 28, 2010

ALAN MACFARLAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
IVY HILL SNF, LLC, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This case is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 18). For the reasons set forth in the attached Memorandum the Motion shall be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

Factual Background

Plaintiff was employed as a maintenance director at Green Acres Rehab and Nursing Center from 1988 until April 1, 2008, at which point Green Acres Rehab and Nursing Center was purchased by Defendant, and the facility became Ivy Hill Rehabilitation and Nursing Care. Plaintiff remained employed at Defendant's facility until April 10, 2008, when he was terminated by Defendant.

On January 24, 2008, Plaintiff suffered a stroke. Plaintiff was entitled to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), as he had been employed by the owner of the nursing facility for more than twelve months and had worked for at least 1,250 hours in the preceding twelve-month period, and he began this leave on January 29, 2008. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's FMLA leave expired on April 8, 2008, and that this was also the date that Plaintiff selected for his return to work when he requested the leave. Plaintiff, however, argues that he was allowed an additional two weeks of FMLA leave and that he did not select April 8 as his end date for FMLA leave. Instead, Plaintiff asserts that he simply informed Defendants that he had scheduled a doctor's appointment on April 8, which he expected would provide him with clearance to return to work. When Plaintiff did not return to work by April 8, 2008, he was terminated from his position. Plaintiff, however, asserts that he was never informed that he would be terminated if he did not return to work by April 8.

Plaintiff returned to Defendant's facility on April 16, 2008, at which point Defendant states that he was eligible for re-hiring. At that time, however, Plaintiff had only been cleared by his doctor to work part time, starting on May 1, and Plaintiff was not permitted to push, pull, or lift anything weighing over twenty pounds. Plaintiff was informed that part-time work was likely not available, and that he should inform Defendant as soon as he was able to return to full-time work. On April 17, 2008, Plaintiff faxed a doctor's note to Defendant informing it that he was now cleared to return to full-time work immediately, but that the weight limitation remained. Several days later, Plaintiff was informed that any new hires required full-duty clearance, and that Plaintiff would not be hired back with any lifting restrictions.

Plaintiff's lifting restrictions following the stroke were temporary. He received short term disability benefits from February through August of 2008, at which time Plaintiff was cleared by his doctor to return to work without any limitations. Following this clearance, Plaintiff again applied for a position with Defendant, but he asserts that he was never contacted in reference to this application. On August 4, 2008, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. This resulted in an opening of an investigation at that agency, but this investigation was closed without relief to Plaintiff on June 26, 2009.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this Court on May 20, 2009, and then filed an Amended Complaint on June 12, 2009. On November 30, 2009, Plaintiff, with Defendant's consent, again amended his Compliant to include a fourth cause of action. Count I is brought for violations of the FMLA and charges Defendant with both refusing to grant Plaintiff all of his allotted rights under the FMLA and terminating Plaintiff in retaliation for his taking leave under the FMLA. Counts II and III are brought for disability discrimination pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), respectively. Finally, Count IV charges Defendant with violating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), and also seeks to recover for disability discrimination.

Standard

When a party files for summary judgment, "[t]he judgment sought should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(2). In making a summary judgment determination, all inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). In order to survive a motion for summary judgment, however, the non-moving party cannot rely solely on the unsupported allegations found in the pleadings.

Id. at 324. Instead, the non-moving party must raise more than "some metaphysical doubt" as to a material fact. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. Further, when the non-moving party is the plaintiff, he must "make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of [every] element essential to [his] case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Finally, in making a decision as to whether there is a "genuine" issue of fact, the court must determine "whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the plaintiff on the evidence presented." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Discussion

Count I

Under the FMLA, employees who have worked for an employer for at least twelve months and for at least 1,250 hours during the past twelve months are entitled to twelve weeks of leave in any twelve-month period for, among other reasons, a health condition that prevents the employee from working. 29 U.S.C. § 2611(2)(A) (defining "eligible employee" for purposes of the FMLA); id. § 2612(a)(1)(D) (setting forth the leave entitlement). An employer can decide whether the twelve-month period during which its employees are entitled to twelve weeks of leave is the calendar year, some other fixed period such as a fiscal year, the twelve-month period measured forward from the date of the employee's first FMLA leave, or a "rolling" twelve-month period measuring backward from the date that an employee uses any FMLA leave. 29 C.F.R. § 825.200(b). If an employer does not make a selection, the method of calculation most favorable to the employee applies. Id. § 825.200(e).

The FMLA establishes two basic causes of action. Under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1), a plaintiff can bring a claim against an employer who refuses to grant the FMLA leave to which the employee is entitled. A plaintiff seeking to recover under this "interference" or "entitlement" provision must demonstrate that he was entitled to benefits and that his employer denied him these benefits. Callison v. City of Phila., 430 F.3d 117, 119 (3d Cir. 2005). The FMLA also provides a cause of action for "retaliation" claims under 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2). Claims under this subsection require the plaintiff to show that he was protected under the FMLA, that he suffered an adverse employment action, and that there was a causal relationship between his taking or requesting FMLA leave and the adverse employment action. Erdman v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 582 F.3d 500, 508 (3d Cir. 2009). Although an employer ...


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