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Nell Cupps v. Pittsburgh Care Partnership Inc

January 26, 2011



Plaintiff, Nell Cupps, brings this action against Defendant, her former employer, Pittsburgh Care Partnership, Inc., d/b/a Community Life ("PCP"), alleging that PCP‟s termination of her employment after she took medical leave violated her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. " 2601-54 (FMLA).

Currently pending before the Court is PCP‟s motion to dismiss. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted with respect to Count I but denied with respect to Count II.


Plaintiff was employed by PCP as a home care scheduler. Beginning on April 12, 2010, she was off work on a leave covered by the FMLA for gastric bypass surgery. She was scheduled to return from this leave on June 7, 2010. In late May 2010, before she returned to work, her husband, who also worked at PCP, was fired from his position. At that time, Plaintiff learned that her husband had been carrying on a sexual affair with a co-worker at PCP. (Compl. ¶¶ 8-12.)

The news of her husband‟s job dismissal and his affair caused her to suffer serious mental distress. In addition, she has heart disease and has had a heart attack in the past. She alleges that PCP was aware of both these issues. When she returned to work on June 7, 2010, she became aware that her husband‟s infidelity had become generally known in the workplace, which added to her stress. On June 15, 2010, she received a message informing her that over the years her husband had had affairs with four other women co-workers. This further aggravated her already disturbed mental state. (Compl. ¶¶ 13-18.)

Plaintiff contacted her psychological counselor, who advised her that she remove herself from this stressful work environment to alleviate her mental distress. She then made plans to visit an uncle in Massachusetts and she requested that she be permitted to take four personal days off in July 2010 for the visit. The request was denied, and she requested three days off, but she was only permitted to take two days. During this period, her mental distress grew worse, which caused anxiety, depression and difficulty concentrating. (Compl. ¶¶ 19-25.)

Plaintiff contacted her physician‟s office and complained that she was suffering mentally and that her psychological counselor had recommended that she get away from work, but that her requests had been denied. Her doctor felt that her mental distress constituted a serious condition that was getting worse and that she was also still recovering from her gastric bypass surgery, so he felt an FMLA leave was necessary. On July 16, 2010, Plaintiff submitted an "Employee Request for Family Medical Leave" form to the Human Resources Department at PCP. (Compl. ¶¶ 26-28 & Ex. A.) On July 19, 2010, the Human Resources Department preliminarily approved of the request, pending receipt of an FMLA medical form. (Compl. ¶ 29 & Ex. B.)

That same day, Plaintiff‟s doctor submitted the FMLA form, in which he stated that "due to increased anxiety, stress, this leave was physician advised due to inability to concentrate making patient unable to perform job functions." (Compl. ¶ 30 & Ex. C.) Plaintiff‟s request for FMLA leave was then approved. (Compl. ¶ 31 & Ex. D.)

When she returned from her FMLA leave, Plaintiff arranged for her psychological counselor to contact the Human Resources Department of PCP to provide information regarding Plaintiff‟s serious mental health issues. Plaintiff alleges that, despite PCP‟s knowledge of the significant stress Plaintiff was under due to her husband losing his job and her learning of his infidelities with co-workers and despite receiving the FMLA form from her physician and despite the information it learned from her psychological counselor, PCP fired her for being dishonest about her request for FMLA leave. She contends that this alleged reason was a pretext and that PCP‟s real reason for firing her was that she had used FMLA leave in the past and it was concerned that she might need to do so in the future. (Compl. ¶¶ 33-35.)

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action on October 19, 2010. Count I alleges a claim of interference with FMLA rights and Count II alleges a claim of retaliation. On December 24, 2010, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss.

Standard of Review

The Supreme Court has recently stated that:

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As the Court held in [Bell Atlantic Corp. v.] Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 [(2007)], the pleading standard Rule 8 announces does not require "detailed factual allegations," but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation. Id., at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)). A pleading that offers "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not ...

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