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Sparkler v. Home Infusion Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 6, 2013

CARLA B. SPARKLER, Plaintiff,
v.
HOME INFUSION SOLUTIONS, LLC d/b/a HOME SOLUTIONS INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM

JAN E. DuBOIS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Carla B. Sparkler, filed this employment-discrimination suit against defendant, Home Infusion Solutions, LLC d/b/a Home Solutions Inc. ("Home Solutions"). Plaintiff's claims arise from defendant's termination of plaintiff's employment after she sought treatment for alcoholism. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her disability and wrongfully withheld her annual commission for 2011. Presently before the Court is defendant's Motion to Transfer Venue to the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies defendant's Motion.

II. BACKGROUND

Defendant is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of business in Northfield, New Jersey. Decl. of Paul Sorensen ¶¶ 3-4 (Document No. 12-2) [hereinafter Sorensen Decl.]. Defendant regularly does business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and maintains an office in Horsham, Pennsylvania. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3-4 (Document No. 14).

Pursuant to an employment contract dated September 14, 2006, defendant hired plaintiff as its Vice President of Managed Care. Decl. of Laura Scully, Esq. Ex. B at 1 (Document No. 12-5) [hereinafter Emp't Agmt.]. Plaintiff was an executive-level employee. Sorensen Decl. ¶ 3. As such, she was a member of defendant's New Jersey-based Home Solutions's Executive Group, along with Tim Timbrook - defendant's owner and Chief Executive Officer - and Paul Sorensen - defendant's Chief Financial Officer. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. Timbrook directly supervised plaintiff from the inception of her employment until August 2011, during which time Timbrook allowed plaintiff to work from her Pennsylvania home office. See Am. Compl. ¶ 28; Sorensen Decl. ¶ 6; Decl. of Carla B. Sparkler ¶ 6 (Document No. 13-2) [hereinafter Sparkler Decl.]. Plaintiff alleges that under Timbrook's supervision, she "consistently received positive annual performance evaluations and met or exceeded her targets." Am. Compl. ¶ 31.

In August 2011, plaintiff began reporting directly to Sorensen. Id. ¶ 29. As plaintiff's new direct supervisor, Sorensen assigned plaintiff the additional responsibility of assisting defendant's New Jersey billing department with its collection, authorization, and billing processes, starting in September 2011. Am. Compl. ¶ 6; Sorensen Decl. ¶ 6; Sparkler ¶ 7. Plaintiff thereafter worked from a conference room in the New Jersey office during normal business hours.[1] Sparkler Decl. ¶ 8. Plaintiff asserts that she "received the highest rating possible in several categories" on her October 2011 performance evaluation. Am. Compl. ¶ 31.

On December 16, 2011, plaintiff advised Sorensen that she would have to take a leave of absence between Christmas and New Year. Id. ¶ 32. On December 25, 2011, plaintiff checked herself into to a Pennsylvania inpatient facility for alcoholism treatment. Id. ¶ 34. While a patient in the Pennsylvania medical facility, plaintiff spoke with defendant's Human Resource Director, Desiree Polumbo, on January 3, 2013 and requested that she be granted FMLA leave. Id. ¶ 36. On January 4, 2012, plaintiff's treatment facility faxed medical verification of her treatment to defendant, as requested by Polumbo, and plaintiff informed Sorensen by telephone of her condition, treatment, and expected length of absence. Id. ¶¶ 37-39. On January 5, 2012, defendant notified plaintiff that her employment was terminated, effectively immediately, because of "her alleged failure to perform her duties in connection with the negotiations concerning a certain provider contract amendment." Id. ¶¶ 40-41.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant's stated reason for her termination was pretextual and that defendant discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Family Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), 43 P.S. § 951 et seq., and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 et seq. Plaintiff also alleges breach of contract and violations of the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Law (PWPC), 43 P.S. 260.1 et seq. on the ground that defendant wrongly withheld plaintiff's annual commission for 2011.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Defendant seeks to transfer this case to the District of New Jersey pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). Section 1404(a) permits transfers of venue, stating that "[f]or the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." Id. Once a court determines that venue would be proper in another district, the court must "consider all relevant factors to determine whether on balance the litigation would more conveniently proceed and the interests of justice be better served by transfer to a different forum." Jumara v. State Farm Ins. Co., 55 F.3d 873, 879 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting 15 Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3847 (2d ed. 1986)).

The party moving to transfer venue bears the burden of establishing the need for the transfer. Id. Although "[t]he decision to transfer is in the court's discretion, ... a transfer is not to be liberally granted." Shutte v. Armco Steel Corp., 431 F.2d 22, 25 (3d Cir. 1970) (quoting Handlos v. Litton Indus., Inc., 304 F.Supp. 347, 352 (E.D. Wis. 1969)).

IV. DISCUSSION

Section 1404(a) presents the Court with two questions: (1) whether plaintiff could have brought this case in the District of New Jersey; and (2) whether transfer is in the interest of justice. ...


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