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Deming-Archambault v. Lennox International

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 20, 2018

CHRISTOPHER DEMING-ARCHAMBAULT, Plaintiff,
v.
LENNOX INTERNATIONAL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Cathy Bissoon Judge

         Pending before the Court are several motions from Defendant, Lennox International, and Plaintiff, Christopher Deming-Archambault, concerning Plaintiffs retaliation claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and Defendant's request for sanctions. For the reasons below, the Court will resolve the pending requests as follows:

• Defendant's Motion for Leave to File Reply Brief (Doc. 18) will be denied;

• Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. 7) will be granted, and the FMLA claim will be dismissed;

• Defendant's request for involuntary dismissal of the FMLA claim (Doc. 10) will be denied as moot;
• Defendant's request for attorneys' fees as a sanction (Doc. 10) will be granted in part, in the amount of $4, 900.00 against Kraemer, Manes & Associates LLC, the firm representing Plaintiff;
• Plaintiff s request for oral argument (Doc. 15) will be denied;
• Plaintiff s request for leave to file an amended complaint adding claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (Doc. 15) will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit on December 21, 2017. Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) asserts a retaliation claim under the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2611-2619, against Defendant, his previous employer. The Complaint states that Plaintiff became employed with Defendant on or about January 29, 2016, and was approved for FMLA leave from December 8, 2016, to February 12, 2017. (Complaint at ¶¶ 7, 12.) It alleges that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff by placing him on a performance improvement plan after he returned from leave and by downgrading his sales territory to one that was “set up to fail, ” thus triggering his resignation on May 7, 2017. (Complaint at ¶¶ 31, 36.)

         Defendant timely answered the Complaint on February 20, 2018, (Doc. 6) and, on the same day, filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (hereinafter “MJOP, ” Doc. 7) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Defendant argued that, as apparent from the Complaint, Plaintiff was not an Eligible Employee under the FMLA. Specifically, he was not employed for at least 12 months when he commenced his absence from work on December 8, 2016. (MJOP at ¶ 4.) Defendant also argued that Plaintiff was not an Eligible Employee because Defendant employed fewer than 50 employees at or within 75 miles of Plaintiff's worksite. (Id.) In the Answer, Defendant states that Plaintiff never applied for, or received, approval for FMLA leave and that Plaintiff's leave was pursuant to his short-term disability (“STD”) benefits. (Answer at ¶ 12.)

         The Court set a response deadline to the MJOP for March 12, 2018. On March 15, 2018, as no response had been filed, the Courtroom Deputy Clerk contacted Plaintiff's counsel via email to remind her of the deadline. Plaintiff's counsel responded by email: “I have no response to file. I agree with their [Defendant's] Motion and would ask Judge Bissoon to grant it.” Email from Christi Wallace, Counsel for Plaintiff, to Jim Imhof, Courtroom Deputy Clerk (Mar. 15, 2018, 09:06 EDT).

         On March 26, 2018, with the MJOP pending, Defendant filed a combined motion for involuntary dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b) and for attorneys' fees to be imposed against Plaintiff as a sanction for filing an “obviously and admittedly meritless claim, and then compounding that bad-faith conduct by coercively threatening and then pursuing other meritless claims” (hereinafter, “Sanctions Motion, ” Doc. 10). Defendant alleged that Plaintiff and his counsel either knew or should have known about Plaintiffs ineligibility for FMLA by virtue of the fact that the period from late January to early December 2016 was, obviously, less than 12 months. (Sanctions Motion at ¶ 1.) Defendant also argued that Plaintiffs counsel ought to have pursued dismissal of the FMLA claim upon her realization that Plaintiff was ineligible, but instead “threatened more meritless claims.” (Id at ¶¶ 3-4.)

         Plaintiff timely opposed the Sanctions Motion on April 6, 2018 (Docs. 15, 16). In addition to opposing the Sanctions Motion, Plaintiff stated the following in her “response”:

• “Plaintiff hereby consents to dismissal of the pending lawsuit, ”
• “Plaintiff also asks that Oral Arguments be scheduled in this matter, ”
• Plaintiff “ask[s] this Court['s] permission to amend the Complaint to dismiss the FMLA claims and ...

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