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Criscitello v. Mhm Services, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

August 9, 2013



MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

This civil action for claims arising under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. ("FMLA"), as well as various state law causes of action was commenced on September 27, 2010. Compl., ECF No. 1. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (ECF No. 25), filed on March 6, 2012, and Plaintiff's Motion to Strike the Declarations of John Wilson and Joel Andrade (ECF No. 37), filed on April 17, 2012.

Defendants seek summary judgment in their favor both with respect to Plaintiff's FMLA claims of interference and retaliation as well as on the breach of contract and Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law claims. ECF No. 25.

I. Factual Background

Defendants MHM Services, Inc. and MHM Correctional Services, Inc. (Collectively "MHM") are national providers of health care services to governmental agencies including Pennsylvania's Rockview Correctional Facility ("SCI Rockview"). Def. Statement of Facts ("SOF") ¶ 2. Defendant Sandra Cherewka ("Defendant Cherewka") was employed as the Program Manager at SCI Rockview, and served as Plaintiff's supervisor. Id. at ¶ 3. Plaintiff was employed by Defendants at SCI Rockview from October 2004 until November 3, 2008. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 4, 86. During that time, Plaintiff held two positions; she first served as the Director of Nursing until March 2007, and was then promoted to Mental Health Unit Director, which position she held until her termination in November 2008. Id . ¶¶ 4, 5, 86.

For several months in 2007 and 2008, however, Plaintiff carried out the duties of both Director of Nursing and Mental Health Unit Director while a new Director of Nursing was sought. Def. SOF ¶¶ 6, 9, 18. The parties dispute the extent to which Plaintiff was owed additional compensation during this time; this forms the basis of Plaintiff's state law claims. See e.g., SOF ¶¶ 6-17; 9-20, and see Compl. ¶¶ 86-146, ECF No. 1.

From August through October 2008 concerns were allegedly raised regarding Plaintiff's leadership and managerial skills. See e.g., Def. SOF ¶¶ 30-33; 35-38. Of particular concern was Plaintiff's alleged failure to implement so-called "treatment plans" and "treatment team meetings, " which are held between staff members and an inmate to discuss the inmate's treatment, progress, and goals. Id. at ¶ 39. Defendants contend that it was culmination of these concerns, along with Plaintiff's un-excused absences which resulted in her termination on November 3, 2008. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 84-86.

Plaintiff tells a different story of the events leading up to her termination. She maintains that her performance while employed by Defendants was perfectly satisfactory, but as a result of Defendants' micro management and false accusations of performance deficiencies, Plaintiff developed symptoms associated with, inter alia, stress, anxiety, insomnia, and stress-related dermatologic and gastrointestinal disorders. See Compl. ¶ 41, ECF No. 1. For these reasons, Plaintiff sought to take a medical leave of absence pursuant to the FMLA. Id. at ¶ 44.

Although the specifics regarding Plaintiff's various requests for such leave are in dispute, it is undisputed that Plaintiff raised the issue of an FMLA leave on three separate occasions and to three separate individuals. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 87-93, Pl. SOF ¶¶ 87-93. Plaintiff first raised the issue of taking a medical leave by requesting the appropriate paperwork, via email, from an employee in the human resources department on October 10, 2008. Def. SOF ¶¶ 87-88. Subsequently, on October 13, 2008, Plaintiff informed Defendant Cherewka that she needed to take leave in order to attend medical appointments. Def. SOF ¶¶ 90-91, Pl. SOF ¶ 96. On October 17, 2008, Plaintiff advised Dr. Alysia Handel - the Assistant Program Manager for MHM - that Plaintiff had requested a medical leave of absence and would need "help with coverage, " because she understood that Dr. Handel was also taking a leave of absence. See Def. SOF ¶¶ 92-93, Pl. SOF ¶ 88.

Plaintiff was informed by Defendant Cherewka that her request for FMLA leave was denied on October 30, 2008. See Pl. SOF ¶ 88. Shortly thereafter, on November 3, 2008, Plaintiff was terminated. Def. SOF ¶ 86. Plaintiff maintains that it was her requests for FMLA leave that serve as the real reason behind her termination and that the claimed performance deficiencies are mere pretext. Compl. ¶¶ 56, 71, ECF No. 1.

It is undisputed that at no time in October 2008 did Plaintiff visit a physician or have scheduled such an appointment. Def. SOF ¶ 97 Rather, Plaintiff claims that she was intending to make an appointment once her FMLA leave was granted, and she knew this would not be a problem as her treating physician was routinely available. See Pl. SOF ¶¶ 94, 97. Nevertheless, Plaintiff claims she did suffer from a serious health condition in October 2008 because she diagnosed herself as suffering from anxiety and depression based on her training as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and employing cognitive behavior therapy, biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation techniques. Pl. SOF ¶ 94.

It appears to be undisputed that Plaintiff visited her doctor only once - on November 24, 2008. Pl. SOF ¶¶ 98, 101-02. Dr. Shedlock performed lab work on Plaintiff and diagnosed her with residual symptoms of fatigue and tiredness. Def. SOF 98, 100. Plaintiff was not prescribed medication but was advised to return for further concerns and to continue the same efforts she had previously employed. Id . Plaintiff did not return to Dr. Shedlock, and explains that by the time she visited him most of her symptoms had abated as the primary stressor - her employment with Defendants - had been alleviated. Pl. SOF ¶ 107.

The complaint sets forth claims for FMLA interference and retaliation, breach of contract, violation of the Wage Payment and Collection Law, unjust enrichment, fraud in the inducement and negligent misrepresentation. Compl., ECF No. 1. Defendants move for summary judgment on the FMLA claims, breach of contract and Wage Payment and Collection Law claims. Defs['] Brf., Mar. 6, 2012, ECF No. 27. Plaintiff moves separately to strike the declarations of John Wilson and ...

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