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Schonewolf v. Waste Management, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 19, 2018

JANICE R. SCHONEWOLF, as Administrator of the Estate of William Harry Schonewolf, III, Plaintiff,


          ROBERT F. KELLY, SR. J.

         Former Plaintiff William H. Schonewolf (“Schonewolf”) had a heart attack on December 25, 2015 that rendered him unable to return to work immediately. His employer, Defendant Waste Management, Inc. (“Waste Management”), allegedly fired him just two weeks later. This action followed, in which he asserts claims under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 951-963.

         Schonewolf died during the pendency of this action.[1] Waste Management now moves to dismiss Schonewolf's claims under the ADA and ADEA (Counts III through VI) on the basis that they are time-barred. It further moves to dismiss claims of liquidated and punitive damages on the grounds that they extinguished upon Schonewolf's death. For the reasons noted below, Waste Management's Motion for Partial Dismissal is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Schonewolf began working at Waste Management as a Plant Maintenance Manager in June 2014.[2] (Compl. ¶ 11.) On December 25, 2015, he suffered a heart attack. (Id. ¶ 17.) Over the next few days there was communication over the telephone between Schonewolf and Waste Management regarding the former's need to go on disability leave. (Id. ¶ 18(a)-(b).) On December 28, 2015, Schonewolf's physician submitted information to Waste Management to initiate FMLA leave and short-term disability. (Id. ¶ 18(c).) The next day, Sedgwick Claims Management Services, Inc., Waste Management's administrator for FMLA leave, notified Waste Management that Schonewolf requested leave from December 23, 2015 until January 19, 2016. (Id. ¶ 18(d).) Waste Management acknowledged the request for FMLA leave and requested that Schonewolf submit a “Medical Authorization for Release of Information Form” and a “Certification of Health Care Provider (Medical Certification) Form” by January 13, 2016. (Id. ¶ 18(e).)

         Schonewolf went to his physician's office for testing on January 8, 2016. (Id. ¶ 19.) While he was in the physician's office for the medical testing, he received a call from a representative from Waste Management's Human Resources Department notifying him that his employment was terminated and that his medical benefits ended effective January 7, 2016. (Id. ¶ 20.) Schonewolf alleges Waste Management replaced him with a significantly younger individual. (Id. ¶ 29.)

         Schonewolf timely filed a Charge of Discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). (Id. ¶ 2(a).) On February 28, 2017, the EEOC issued a Dismissal and Notice of Rights (“right-to-sue letter”) to Schonewolf. He alleges that he never received the right-to-sue letter and did not actually have notice of it until June 20, 2017, when the EEOC responded to his counsel's inquiry as to the status of the Charge of Discrimination. (Id. ¶ 2(b)-(d).)

         Schonewolf filed suit in this Court on August 21, 2017. He specifically alleges that the ninety-day filing period should be equitably tolled because he did not have actual notice of the EEOC's right-to-sue letter until June 20, 2017. (Id. ¶ 2(f).) Waste Management moves to dismiss the ADA and ADEA claims on the basis of timeliness, and it seeks dismissal of all liquidated and punitive damages under the FMLA, ADA, and ADEA on the basis that they extinguished upon Schonewolf's death.


         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). “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, 679 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), courts must “accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them after construing them in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.” Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 341 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Foglia v. Renal Ventures Mgmt., LLC, 754 F.3d 153, 154 n.1 (3d Cir. 2014)) (internal quotation marks omitted). However, courts need not “accept mere[] conclusory factual allegations or legal assertions.” In re Asbestos Prods. Liab. Litig. (No. VI), 822 F.3d 125, 133 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Finally, we may consider “only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon [those] documents.” Davis, 824 F.3d at 341 (quoting Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010)) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         As indicated above, Waste Management seeks dismissal of Schonewolf's ADA and ADEA claims, as well as claims for liquidated and punitive damages under the FMLA, ADA, and ADEA. Because Waste Management seeks dismissal of the ADA and ADEA claims in their entirety on timeliness grounds, we will first address that aspect of its Motion and will then proceed to determine whether any remaining liquidated and punitive damages survive.

         A. The ADA and ADEA Claims (Counts III through VI)

         1. ...

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