Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Amanda Howard v. Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare

November 3, 2011

AMANDA HOWARD, PLAINTIFF
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

Amanda Howard brings this employment action against her former employer, the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare ("DPW") and DPW employees, Maureen Lewandowski, Carrie Stoner, and five unknown John Doe employees. Howard brings claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"). She also alleges a § 1983 due process claim and state law claims for defamation and slander. Defendants DPW, Lewandowski, and Stoner filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff‟s amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. For the reasons set forth below, I will deny the defendants‟ motion to dismiss Howard‟s FMLA, ADA, RA, § 1983 and state law PHRA claim. I will grant thedefendants motion todismiss plaintiff‟s state law defamation and slander claims.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Howard began employment with DPW as an income maintenance caseworker at the Lancaster County Assistance Office in 2004. (First Amended Complaint ("Compl.") at ¶¶ 13-14.) Her position was a sedentary job primarily involving work processing, communicating with individuals over the phone or in person, reviewing documents, completing forms, and analyzing information in order to determine eligibility for welfare benefits. (Id. at ¶ 22, Exh. A.) Although it was not an essential job function, she shared periodic filing responsibilities with other workers on an as-needed basis. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.) Within LCAO, there was flexibility as to who performed the filing tasks. (Id. at ¶ 25.)

In 2004, Howard was diagnosed with chronic fibromyalgia, which limited some of her major life activities. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Howard also suffered from psychiatric illness and depression, some of which was related to her chronic fibromyalgia condition. (Id. at ¶ 17.) In 2006, Howard applied for intermittent FMLA leave for her fibromyalgia so she could attend doctor‟s appointments and miss work when necessary due to the chronic nature of her condition and the associated flare-ups that would occur. (Id. at ¶ 18.) DPW granted Howard intermittent FMLA leave from 2006 to 2009. (Id. at ¶ 19.)

In 2008, Howard‟s doctor diagnosed her with biceptendonitis and lateral epicondylitis (collectively, "tendonitis") in her left arm and told Howard that she should avoid the use of her left arm. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-45.) Howard informed Kimberly McMahon of her diagnosis. (Id. at ¶ 36.) McMahon is the Human Resource Officer at the Lancaster County Assistance Office. (Id.) Howard requested that she not be required to continue to do ancillary filing tasks because the filing tasks shifted among caseworkers in the past. (Id. at ¶¶ 37-41.) McMahon denied her request and responded that if Howard submitted a doctor‟s note with any limitations that affected her ability to perform the ancillary task of filing, she would be sent home and not allowed to work. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-43, 169.)

Howard continued to perform the filing duties but she informed her supervisor that the filing was worsening the symptoms of her fibromyalgia and tendonitis and prolonging the recovery period. (Id. at ¶ 44.) Howard explained to Lewendowski that she suffered from chronic fibromyalgia, which exacerbated her tendonitis, and extra filing, assigned from another employee, was further aggravating her condition. (Id. at ¶ 57.) Lewendowksi stated that the pain in Howard‟s left shoulder was the result of attending an "exercise class" and was not work related. (Id. at ¶ 58.) Lewendowski instructed Howard that she should continue to do the filing. (Id.)

On April 13, 2009, Howard submitted FMLA paperwork ("Serious Health Condition Certification") substantiating her chronic fibromyalgia and tendonitis. (Id. at ¶ 59.) Two separate certifications were completed for her tendonitis and fibromyalgia. (Id. at ¶ 60.) Her paperwork stated that she would need intermittent time off from work to attend doctor‟s appointments and for severe-flare-ups, but otherwise she would not require a part-time or reduced work schedule. (Id. at ¶ 62.) On April 30, 2009, DPW sent Howard two Designation Notices granting her FMLA leave on an intermittent basis. (Id. at ¶ 63.) Neither of these notices required that Howard provide to DPW a fitness to return to work certification in order to resume working following an absence for family medical leave. (Id. at ¶ 64.)

Following a visit with her doctor on May 21, 2009, Howard provided a doctor‟s note to Lewandowski stating she should avoid repetitive movements at work with her left arm. (Id. at ¶ 77.) On May 22, 2009, Lewandowski gave Howard a letter stating "the Lancaster County Assistance Officer is unable to honor your request for work accommodations" regarding limiting the repetitive use of her left arm at work. (Id. at ¶ 78.) Upon her return to work on May 22, 2009, Howard resumed doing her job and continued to perform all ancillary filing tasks. (Id. at ¶¶ 80-81.)

Howard saw an orthopedic specialist on May 29, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 82.) The orthopedic specialist completed a Return to Work form for Howard stating that she should make minor modifications when using her left arm to limit the frequency she lifts and reaches at countertop level with her left arm to no more than 66% of her day and limit the frequency she lifts and reaches above her shoulder level to no more than 33% of her day. (Id. at ¶ 85-86.) These modifications did not interfere with Howard‟s ability to complete the essential job functions of her position because her job was sedentary in nature and did not require regular lifting and reaching. (Id. at ¶ 88.)

When Howard reported to work following her approved FML appointment with the orthopedic specialist, she completed the Return to Work form and gave it to McMahon. (Id. at ¶¶ 89-90.) Howard proceeded to her workstation and began working but McMahon, at the instruction of Lewandowski, refused to allow Howard to return to her job. (Id. at ¶ 91.) McMahon instead ordered Howard to go home on FML. (Id. at ¶ 92.) Howard did not understand why she could not return to work following her approved FML because she was ready and able to begin working and could complete the essential functions of the job without any accommodations. (Id. at ¶ 93.) Howard was told that she could only return to work after she obtained a completed Return to Work form that listed no limitations or modification regardless if the restrictions were minor or did not interfere with the essential functions of the job. (Id. at ¶ 96.) By not allowing Howard to return to work from FML, Lewandowski forced Howard onto sick leave and onto full-time FML. (Id. at ¶ 102.)

On July 13, 2009, Howard received a letter from Carrie Stoner, DPW‟s FMLA administrator, stating that Howard must "substantiate a full-time absence" by providing a new Serious Health Condition Certification by July 28, 2009 in order to continue to remain on FMLA and sick leave. (Id. at ¶ 113.) Stoner demanded that Howard provide a medical certification for an on-going full time absence or else she would receive disciplinary action, including termination. (Id. at ¶ 118.) DPW, however, was aware that Howard could not get a medical certification justifying a full time absence because Howard was able to work and her doctor previously cleared her to return to work. (Id. at ¶ 125.)

Howard asked her doctor to complete another "Serious Health Condition Certification" form. (Id. at ¶ 126.) Howard‟s doctor did not state that a full time absence was necessary and did not identify any essential job functions that Howard could not perform. (Id. at ¶130.) After submitting this form, Howard received another Disapproval Notice from Stoner that stated Howard must report to work on September 22, 2009 or face discipline. (Id. at ¶ 131.) Howard reported to work at 8:00 a.m. on September 29, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 132.) Lewandowski, however, refused to allow Howard to return to work from her FML and ordered Howard to go home. (Id. at ¶ 134.) Lewandowski again stated that Howard must present a Return to Work form with absolutely no limitations on her left arm before she would allow her back on the job. (Id. at ¶ 135.)

Following their interaction on September 29, 2009, Lewandowski sent Howard a certified letter stating, "You have been absent from work, without authorization, since August 1, 2009 and continue to be carried in an unauthorized, unexcused status." (Id. at ¶¶ 136-138.) The letter continues by stating, "Once more, you are hereby ordered to report to work, full-time, full-duty, immediately." (Id. at ¶ 137.) Lewandowski concluded the letter stating that an investigation has been started regarding the allegations ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.