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Bevan v. County of Lackawanna

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 12, 2017

JAMES BEVAN, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNTY OF LACKAWANNA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Presently before me is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 7) filed by Defendant County of Lackawanna (the “County” or Defendant”). James Bevan (“Bevan” or “Plaintiff”), a former corrections officer at the Lackawanna County Prison, contends that after he was granted intermittent medical leave from mandated overtime, Defendant adopted a policy in retaliation that resulted in the rapid depletion of Plaintiff's available leave time. Plaintiff alleges that once his available leave was exhausted and he refused to work mandated overtime, Defendant terminated his employment. Defendant's conduct, Plaintiff asserts, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S .C. § 12101 et seq., the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S .C. § 2601 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 P.S. § 951 et seq. Defendant has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's ADA/PHRA discrimination based on disability and failure to accommodate claims, as well as Plaintiff's FMLA interference and denial of benefits claims. Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's FMLA interference and denial of benefits claims will be granted because Plaintiff fails to allege that he was denied benefits to which he was entitled under the FMLA. Plaintiff will, however, be permitted to proceed with his ADA/PHRA discrimination and failure to accommodate claims because the facts as alleged in the Complaint sufficiently state such causes of action.

         I. Background

         The facts as pled in the Complaint are as follows:

         Plaintiff was employed as a corrections officer at the Lackawanna County Prison until he was terminated on June 3, 2015. (See Doc. 1, ¶ 14). Plaintiff has a psychological impairment, namely, severe anxiety and depression. (See id. at ¶ 15). On account of this impairment, Plaintiff requested, and was granted, intermittent leave for any hours in excess of forty (40) hours per week and/or eight (8) hours per day under the FMLA beginning on September 16, 2014. (See id. at ¶ 17).

         County corrections officers were routinely mandated to work overtime. (See id. at ¶ 24). When mandated, Plaintiff would decline the overtime based on his approved leave and the amount of overtime mandated to Plaintiff would be applied to his leave and subtracted from the allotment to which he was entitled. (See id. at ¶¶ 25-26). When he was first granted intermittent leave, Defendant treated intermittent leave in place of overtime “for the purpose of order of subsequent mandates, the same as for employees who had worked the mandated overtime.” (Id. at ¶ 27).

         Beginning on October 26, 2014, though, Defendant instituted a policy mandating Plaintiff for overtime more frequently than his co-workers and in a manner deliberately calculated to require Plaintiff to exhaust his available medical leave. (See id. at ¶¶ 23, 28-31). More specifically, every time Plaintiff took intermittent leave “he was returned to the bottom of the mandate list and was the very next employee to be mandated again the very next time overtime was required at the prison. The net effect of Defendant's policy was to devour Plaintiff's contractual leave entitlement.” (Id. at ¶¶ 29-30). Plaintiff unsuccessfully objected to this policy. (See id. at ¶ 31). Plaintiff was terminated on June 3, 2015 after he refused mandated overtime without available time for intermittent leave. (See id. at ¶ 32). When he was terminated, Plaintiff had available unexhausted sick and vacation time per his union contract. (See id. at ¶ 33).

         Plaintiff's employment with the County was governed by the terms of a Collective Bargaining Agreement (the “CBA”). (See Doc. 9, Ex. A, § 1).[1] The CBA's overtime provision states, in pertinent part:

1. The County shall be the sole judge of the necessity for overtime.
. . .
5. Overtime shall be worked as assigned at the direction of the employer. The employer will attempt to assign overtime in accordance with the following procedure: When the employer determines the need for overtime in a classification, it will first ask for volunteers, going from most senior to least senior qualified non-probationary employees in that classification on a rotational basis. If there are an insufficient number of volunteers, the employer shall have the right to assign such work on a non-volunteer basis beginning with the least senior of those employees on the shift on a rotation basis; provided, however, that in a situation which the employer solely determines to be emergency, it shall assign such overtime as is necessary without regard to the above procedure.

(Id. at Art. 20, § (B)).

         Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff commenced this action against the County on May 25, 2017. (See Doc. 1, generally). The Complaint sets forth the following claims: discrimination based on disability, failure to accommodate, and retaliation in violation of the ADA (Counts I-III); discrimination based on disability, failure to accommodate, and retaliation in violation of the PHRA (Counts IV-VI); and termination (retaliation), interference and obstruction, and denial of leave in violation of the FMLA (Counts VII-IX). (See id.).

         On July 25, 2017, Defendant filed its motion to dismiss. (See Doc. 7, generally). Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's ADA and PHRA discrimination based on disability and retaliation claims (Counts I, II, IV, and V), as well as Plaintiff's interference and denial of leave claims (Counts VIII and IX). (See Doc. 8, generally). The motion to dismiss is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “Under the ‘notice pleading' standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with ‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         When resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court must consider no more than whether the complaint establishes ‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements' of the cause of action.” Trzaska v. L'Oreal USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 789 (3d Cir. 2016)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must take three steps: (1) identify the elements of the claim; (2) identify conclusions that are not entitled to the assumption of truth; and (3) assume the veracity of the well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (citations omitted). “To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

         III. Discussion

         Defendant, as stated, seeks dismissal of Plaintiff's ADA and PHRA discrimination and failure to accommodate claims, as well as the FMLA interference and denial of leave claims. The sufficiency of the ADA and PHRA ...


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