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Wegelin v. Reading Hosp. and Medical Center

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 29, 2012


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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John D. Bucolo, Matthew Michael Setley, Setley, Rauch & Bucolo LLC, Wyomissing, PA, for Rachel A. Wegelin.

Lindsey Ellen Snavely, Vincent Candiello, Post & Schell PC, Harrisburg, PA, for The Reading Hospital and Medical Center.


SAVAGE, District Judge.

This action brought under the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ) [1] presents the question whether a parent of a special needs child is entitled to FMLA leave to make suitable arrangements for the care of her child. We conclude that she is.

Plaintiff, Rachel Wegelin, contends that defendant, the Reading Hospital and Medical Center (" Reading Hospital" ), violated the FMLA by refusing to grant her leave to find alternative daycare arrangements for her daughter, who suffers from pervasive developmental disorder (" PDD" ) and congenital blindness in one eye. Wegelin argues that due to a change in her job conditions, she needed time off work to arrange for a transfer of her daughter, who cannot be left unsupervised, to a different daycare that could accommodate the change in her work schedule.

Reading Hospital moved for summary judgment. It contends that Wegelin was not entitled to FMLA leave because her daughter did not suffer from a " serious health condition" and Wegelin was not " needed to care for" her daughter.

We denied summary judgment because there are genuine issues of fact regarding whether Wegelin's daughter, Carolyn, had a " serious health condition," as defined in the FMLA and regulations promulgated under it, and whether Wegelin " needed to care for" her daughter when she had to make arrangements to transfer her to another daycare. We now explain our rationale.

Facts and Procedural Background

Wegelin was employed at the Reading Hospital as a technician assistant since 1997. She was terminated on January 25, 2010, after she failed to report for duty.

In 2003, Wegelin gave birth to Carolyn, who suffers from PDD and congenital blindness in one eye. PDD is an autism spectrum disorder, " characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, repetitive stereotyped patterns of behavior, and uneven intellectual development often with mental retardation." [2] After Carolyn's birth, Wegelin returned to work full-time, Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. She enrolled Carolyn in the Bowmansville Mennonite Church Before and After School Program. The daycare's hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Reading Hospital provides each employee a parking space in one of its garages or parking lots based on various criteria, including seniority, department location, and shift.[3] Wegelin was assigned to the Spruce Street parking garage, which was within walking distance to her job location. After she used a purloined parking pass to park at a parking garage that was closer to her department location, Wegelin was disciplined, resulting in the reassignment of her parking space to a remote parking lot, which required her to take a shuttle. Due to the additional time needed to get to

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her car, she contends that she was unable to get to Bowmansville to pick up her daughter before the daycare closed. Thus, Wegelin needed to change Carolyn's daycare center to one that would be open until 6:00 p.m.

On January 18, 2010, Wegelin had a scheduled day off. She did not report to work the rest of the week because she was looking for a daycare center that could take care of Carolyn with her special needs. It is undisputed that she notified her supervisor that she needed time off to find a new daycare. On January 21, 2010, Wegelin was told that she would be allowed to utilize her paid time off for the week of January 18 through 22, 2010, but she was expected to return to work on January 25, 2010. When Wegelin did not report to work on January 25, Reading Hospital terminated her employment.

Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate if the movant shows " that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Judgment will be entered against a party who fails to sufficiently establish any element essential to that party's case and who bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In examining the motion, we must draw ...

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