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Lisa M. Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges Inc.

September 8, 2011

LISA M. LUPYAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORINTHIAN COLLEGES INC., SUCCESSOR IN INTEREST TO MJB ACQUISITION CORP., T/D/B/A WYOTECH, JAMES THOMAS, ARTHUR HERMAN AND MARK REYNOLDS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David Stewart Cercone United States District Judge

Electronic Filing

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Lisa M. Lupyan ("Lupyan" or "Plaintiff"), initiated this action by filing a Complaint against Defendants, Corinthian Colleges, Inc. ("CCI"), James Thomas ("Thomas"), Arthur Herman ("Herman"),and Mark Reynolds ("Reynolds")(collectively "Defendants") alleging violation of her rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 261("FMLA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 ("ADA"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, 43 PA. STAT. § 951 et seq. ("PHRA"). Lupyan has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Concise Statement of Material Facts. Defendants have responded to the motion, but aside from an objection to Paragraph No. 81 of Lupyan‟s Concise Statement referenced in their brief in opposition, Defendants failed to file a responsive concise statement of material facts as required under LR*fn1 56.1(C)(1). Material facts set forth in a moving party‟s concise statement of material facts will be deemed admitted for the purpose of deciding the motion for summary judgment "unless specifically denied or otherwise controverted by a separate concise statement of the opposing party." See LR 56.1(E). Defendants have also filed a motion for summary judgment to which Lupyan has responded, and the matters are now before the Court.

II. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

CCI is a post-secondary, for-profit school offering programs in Automotive Technology, Diesel Technology, Applied Service Management and Collision/Refinishing. Complaint ¶¶ 3 & 16. Lupyan was hired by CCI‟s predecessor, Wyotech, on June 23, 2004, as an instructor in the Applied Service Management program. Complaint ¶¶ 15 & 17.

In early December, 2007, Thomas testified that Lupyan appeared depressed and informed her that a leave of absence was an option for her. Plaintiff‟s Concise Statement of Material Facts ("Pl. CSMF") ¶¶ 38 & 41. Lupyan was concerned about her job, but she agreed that it would be to her advantage to take a leave of absence. Pl. CSMF ¶¶ 19, 21 & 43. Thomas called Sherri Hixson ("Hixson"), Supervisor of Administration, and asked what paperwork Lupyan needed to go on a leave of absence. Pl. CSMF ¶¶ 68 & 75. Hixson sent the forms to Thomas, and printed a set for Lupyan. Pl. CSMF ¶ 76. Hixson testified that she made no recommendation about what type of leave Lupyan would need, because the forms were processed by CCI‟s HR Department ("HR") in California, and HR made the determination of the type of leave that was appropriate. Pl. CSMF ¶ 78; Defendant‟s Exhibit ("Def. Ex.") A, Hixson Aff.¶¶ 6 & 8.

CCI‟s Request for Leave form was completed by Lupyan and signed on December 3, 2007. Hixson Aff.¶ 4; Def. Ex. C. On the original form, Lupyan requested "Personal Leave" from December 4, 2007 through December 31, 2007. Hixson Aff.¶ 4; Def. Ex. C. Lupyan selected Personal Leave by placing an "x" in box No. 4 of the form. Pl. CSMF ¶ 80; Def. Ex. C. On or about December 17, 2007, Lupyan produced a Certification of Health Provider, a standard United States Department of Labor form for providing certification of medical condition. Hixson Aff.¶ 7; Def. Ex. D. Lupyan‟s Request for Leave form and Certification of Health Provider were forwarded to CCI‟s HR Department. Hixson Aff.¶ 8. Based on these documents, HR determined that Lupyan was eligible for FMLA leave. Id.; Hixson Depo. pp. 16-17. Hixson received an e-mail from Anne Binns, CCI‟s Human Resource Coordinator located in California, regarding Lupyan‟s Request for Leave form which stated: "please white out the "Personal Leave.‟ This will fall under FMLA." Id.

Hixson met with Lupyan on December 18, 2007, to correct the paperwork necessary for Lupyan‟s leave. Hixson Aff.¶ 9. Hixson testified that she whited out box No. 4, and Lupyan placed an "x" in box No. 1 for FMLA leave and initialed it to show the change. Hixson Depo. p. 17; Hixson Aff.¶ 9. Hixson changed the date of return from 12/31/07 to 4/01/08, based upon the doctor‟s statement in the Certification of Health Provider provided by Lupyan during the meeting. Pl. CSMF ¶¶ 83 & 84; Hixson Aff.¶ 9. CCI mailed a letter dated December 18, 2007, to Lupyan advising her that her leave was deemed FMLA leave, and further explained her rights under the FMLA. Hixson Aff.¶ 11; Def. Exhibit F. Lupyan was released by her doctor to return to work on March 13, 2008. Complaint ¶¶ 34 & 35; Pl. CSMF ¶ 1. Specifically, the release stated in relevant part: "I feel that [Lisa] is able to return to work. She would benefit from a position with minimal student contact if at all possible. This type of position would help decrease her anxiety symptoms." See Plaintiff‟s Appendix Ex.

6. Lupyan advised Thomas that she was released to return to work and offered to provide CCI with a copy of the release. Complaint ¶¶ 35. Thomas indicated that he did not want a copy of the release, and advised Lupyan that he had to first discuss the matter with Mark Reynolds ("Reynolds"), CCI‟s Direct of Education. Pl. CSMF ¶ 3. On March 26, 2008, Thomas advised Lupyan that he had spoken with Reynolds and it was decided that Lupyan was to return to work as an Instructor III with limited teaching responsibilities. Pl. CSMF ¶¶ 5 & 6. On April 1, 2008, Thomas advised Lupyan that she could not return with restrictions. Pl. CSMF ¶¶ 7, 8 & 9.

On April 3, 2008, Reynolds advised Lupyan that if she could get a release from her psychiatrist stating that she had no work restrictions, CCI could lay her off. Complaint ¶ 41. Lupyan then called Reynolds, and a meeting was scheduled for April 9, 2008. Pl. CSMF ¶¶ 12 & 13. On April 9, 2008, Lupyan then met with Reynolds and Arthur Herman ("Herman"), Vice President and Senior Administrator. Pl. CSMF ¶ 14. Lupyan brought a release from her psychiatrist to the meeting indicating she was released to return to work with no restriction. Pl. CSMF ¶ 31. During the meeting, Lupyan was advised that she was terminated from her position because of low student numbers. Pl. CSMF ¶ 15. Reynolds advised Lupyan that she was also being terminated because she had not been released to return to work within twelve (12) weeks of taking FMLA leave. Complaint ¶ 50. Lupyan insisted that she was not on FMLA leave, but that she was on short term disability. Complaint ¶ 51. Reynolds replied that CCI only recognized FMLA leave*fn2 . Complaint ¶ 52.

In her motion for summary judgment, Lupyan contends that (1) Defendants interfered, restrained or denied her exercise, or attempt to exercise, her rights under the FMLA; (2) Defendants retaliated against her for taking FMLA leave; and (3) she is entitled to an award of liquidated damages. Defendants contend they are entitled to summary judgment as to all of Lupyan‟s claims.

III. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

Pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P 56(c), summary judgment shall be granted when there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To support denial of summary judgment, an issue of fact in dispute must be both genuine and material, i.e., one upon which a reasonable fact finder could base a verdict for the non-moving party and one which is essential to establishing the claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Id. The court‟s consideration of the facts must be in the light most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment and all reasonable inferences from the facts must be drawn in favor of that party as well. Whiteland Woods, L.P. v. Township of West Whiteland, 193 F.3d 177, 180 (3d Cir. 1999), Tigg Corp. v. Dow Corning Corp., 822 F.2d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1987).

When the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). In the language of the Rule, the nonmoving party must come forward with "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." FED. R. CIV. P 56(e). Further, the nonmoving party cannot rely on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions in attempting to survive a summary judgment motion. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir.1989) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986)). The non-moving party must respond Aby pointing to sufficient cognizable evidence to create material issues of fact concerning every element as to which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial.@ Simpson v. Kay Jewelers, Div. Of Sterling, Inc., 142 F.3d 639');">142 F. 3d 639, 643 n. 3 (3d Cir. 1998), quoting Fuentes v. Perskie, 32 F.3d 759, 762 n.1 (3d Cir. 1994).

IV. DISCUSSION

The FMLA was enacted to allow "employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, and for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition." 29 U.S.C. § 2601(b)(2). The Act grants eligible employees the right to take up to twelve workweeks of leave in any twelve-month period if a "serious health condition . . . makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of such employee." 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D). At the end of the ...


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