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Campbell v. Jefferson Univ. Physicians

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 27, 2014




Page 479


Dalzell, J.

I. Introduction

Joanne Campbell brings this action against her former employer, Jefferson University Physicians (" JUP" )[1], alleging violations of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ), 29 U.S.C. § § 2601, et seq. JUP now moves for summary judgment on Campbell's FMLA claim, and we exercise jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

In her amended complaint, Campbell claimed that JUP " interfered with, restrained, discriminated against[,] and denied Plaintiff's entitlement to FMLA benefits" by, inter alia, " terminating Plaintiff",

Page 480

" denying Plaintiff her entitlement to full FMLA benefits", " discriminately ending Plaintiff's right to leave", and " discriminating against Plaintiff for taking FMLA leave", Am. Comp. at ¶ 26.

JUP argues that summary judgment is warranted because it contends that Campbell's interference and retaliation claims depend on her " demonstrably false assertion that the third-party administrator for JUP's FMLA program told her that her employment at JUP had been terminated." Def. MSJ at 1. According to JUP, Campbell stopped reporting for work and following JUP's " call-off protocol", and " no manager of JUP ever told her she had been terminated until after she removed her belongings and said goodbye to her co-workers." Id. JUP argues that Campbell was thus " not denied any rights under the FMLA as she received all of the leave to which she was entitled", and that she was not " denied reinstatement as she never sought to return to her position" . JUP also contends that Campbell was not the victim of retaliation because " [t]here is no causal connection between Plaintiff's FMLA leave and the end of her employment, nor is there any evidence of pretext on any level." Id. at 1-2.

In her opposition to the motion for summary judgment Campbell does not address retaliation, discussing only interference with her FMLA rights. In her contentions as to the interference claim in her response to JUP's summary judgment motion, Campbell raises for the first time the argument that JUP interfered with her FMLA rights by improperly conducting the recertification process that 29 C.F.R. § 825.308 provides her. See Pl. Resp. at 3.

Campbell now contends that

The crux of this case is whether Defendant JUP, by and through its designated third party administrator for FMLA, interfered with Plaintiff's rights under the FMLA, by not informing her of her rights to a recertification, by not informing her of the consequences of not obtaining the recertification, denying her the full amount of time to obtain the recertification, and by terminating her before she had opportunity to obtain a recertification.


Campbell argues that there are genuine disputes over whether she violated any company call-out policy, whether she was fired, and whether her continuing absences from work subjected her to termination. Id. at 4-5.

II. Standard of Review

A party moving for summary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the district court of the basis for its argument that there is no genuine issue of material fact by " identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact", Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

If the moving party meets this initial burden, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 then obliges " the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. at 324.

A factual dispute is genuine

[I]f the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. . . . The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which

Page 481

the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 252, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A fact is " material" if it " might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law" . Id. at 248.

We " must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and [we] may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000), cited in Armour v. County of Beaver, 271 F.3d 417, 420 (3d Cir. 2001).

III. Facts

In rehearsing the facts in this matter we refer primarily to JUP's Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter " SMF" ). Campbell admitted all but one of these items -- she contests only the date of her termination. We will note those instances below where Campbell has submitted additional facts relevant to our analysis.

JUP hired Campbell as a Patient Registrar in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology on June 5, 2005, and she worked there until January of 2013. Def. Statement of Material Facts (hereinafter " SMF" ) at ¶ ¶ 1, 3. Campbell reported to Nurse Manager Leslie Kinkler, who reported to Fran Herr, Administrator for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Campbell's " second-level supervisor." Id. at ¶ ¶ 4-5.

On January 22, 2008 Campbell's husband, Darryl Maxwell, was diagnosed with chronic grand mal seizures. Id. at ¶ 13. These seizures occur occasionally and last for about two to four minutes, during which Maxwell suffers loss of consciousness and motor control. Id. at ¶ 14. After the seizures, Maxwell returns to a normal level of functioning within six to eight hours, during which he sleeps and Campbell and her children check on him to make sure he has not had another seizure. Id. at ¶ ¶ 16-17. Maxwell typically does not require hospitalization or ongoing care after this recovery period. Id. at ¶ 19.

JUP has contracted with Matrix to administer employee leaves of absence. Id. at ¶ 10. Campbell requested and received intermittent use of FMLA leave from 2008 through 2012 to care for Maxwell. On June 12, 2012 Maxwell's treating neurologist, Dr. Mintzer, filled out an FMLA re-certification form in which he wrote that Campbell may need intermittent FMLA leave for one seizure in a twelve-month period, for one day per episode. Id. at ¶ 21. On July 24, 2012, Matrix told Campbell that JUP had approved her to take FMLA leave for one event per year, with a duration of four days per event. Id. at ¶ 22.

JUP's absentee policy -- contained in an employee handbook Campbell received -- provided that on any day an employee would be absent she had to report that absence by making two phone calls -- one to her supervisor, to whom she was required to speak directly rather than leave a message, and the other to Matrix through its call-in line. Id. at ¶ ¶ 6-11.

During the course of Campbell's employment, JUP had expressed concern about the number and pattern of her absences. Campbell received several warnings for " patterned absenteeism" in 2010 and 2012, and on December 3, 2012, she was disciplined for two unscheduled days off in November of 2012. Id. at ¶ ¶ 25-31. On that day Campbell signed a disciplinary form containing a warning that " any further unscheduled time off before November 12, 2013 would result in progressive discipline including termination of her employment." Id. at ¶ 32 (quoting Campbell Dep., SMF Ex. A at 139:18 - 141:16). On

Page 482

December 18, 2012 JUP disciplined Campbell for unscheduled lateness and informed her that any further lateness, early departures, or unscheduled absences before December of 2013 would result in termination of her employment. SMF at ¶ 34.

On the afternoon of Sunday, January 13, 2013, Maxwell had a seizure. Campbell did not report to work the next day on the ground that Maxwell was " still weak" from his seizure. She called both JUP and Matrix to report this absence. Id. at ¶ ¶ 36-38. When she spoke with Kinkler, her ...

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