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Losota v. Child Guidance Resource Centers, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 27, 2018

MONICA LOSOTA, Plaintiff,
v.
CHILD GUIDANCE RESOURCE CENTERS, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          ROBERT F. KELLY, SR. J.

         Plaintiff Monica Losota (“Ms. Losota”) filed suit against Defendant Child Guidance Resource Centers, Inc. (“CGRC”) on February 16, 2018, in this Court. (Doc. No. 1.) In her Amended Complaint, filed May 2, 2018, Ms. Losota brings four causes of action against CGRC. (Doc. No. 5.) In Count I, Ms. Losota claims violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27-37.) In Count II, she alleges violations of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 955. (Id. ¶¶ 38-48.) In Counts III and IV, she claims violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq. for failure to reinstate and retaliation, respectively. (Id. ¶¶ 49-62.)

         Presently before this Court is CGRC's “Motion to Dismiss Counts III and IV of First Amended Complaint and Motion to Strike Punitive Damages Claim in Count II of Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint” (Doc. No. 7), Ms. Losota's Brief in Support of her Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 8), and CGRC's Reply Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 10). For the reasons noted below, CGRC's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Ms. Losota was hired in September 2013 as a mental health professional in CGRC's “Family First” department. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) On August 7, 2016, Ms. Losota experienced double vision and was admitted to Jefferson Hospital. (Id. ¶ 10.) Following her discharge, she was referred to Dr. Robert Sergott, a neuro-ophthalmologist. (Id. ¶ 11.) Dr. Sergott diagnosed Ms. Losota with multiple sclerosis on September 2, 2016. (Id. ¶ 12.) Shortly thereafter, Ms. Losota was informed by CGRC's Staff Development Coordinator that she was approved for FMLA leave beginning on August 8, 2016, with a return to work date of November 1, 2016, so that she could complete a recovery program designed to stabilize her condition to the point that she could return to work. (Id. ¶ 13-14.) However, during a follow-up appointment on October 14, 2016, Dr. Sergott informed Ms. Losota that her condition had not improved quickly enough to meet her return to work date. (Id. ¶ 15.) Dr. Sergott estimated she would not be cleared to work until January 16, 2017. (Id. ¶ 16.)

         Shortly after her appointment with Dr. Sergott, Ms. Losota had a meeting with CGRC's Human Resources Representative, Marsha Ejiofo (“Ms. Ejiofo”), and Division Director, Michael Graziano (“Mr. Graziano”), to inform them that she would not be able to return to work on November 1, 2016, and that she would require additional leave. (Id. ¶ 17.) Mr. Graziano told Ms. Losota to prepare a letter requesting additional leave, but that she should “not worry about it” and focus on recovering her health. (Id. ¶ 18.) Following these instructions, Ms. Losota sent a letter, dated October 25, 2016, requesting that her leave be extended through January 13, 2017. (Id. ¶ 19.) On October 26, 2016, Ms. Losota received a letter in response stating that she would not be granted an extension and that her employment would be terminated on November 1, 2016, “at the end of [her] FMLA [leave].”[2] (Def.'s Mem. Law in Supp., Ex. B.)

         Ms. Losota was ultimately cleared to return to work at full capacity on January 16, 2017. (Id. ¶ 21.) However, according to Ms. Losota, CGRC refused to engage in a meaningful back and forth towards the “development of an accommodation” for her multiple sclerosis condition, as required under the ADA. (Id. ¶ 22.) Ms. Losota claims that as a direct result of her diagnosis, CGRC terminated her employment. (Id. ¶ 24.) She also avers that at all material times, CGRC was hostile to her disability and her need to utilize FMLA leave. (Id. ¶ 25.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion to dismiss under Rule 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)). 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 non-movant.” 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)). 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)).

         III. DISCUSSION

         CGRC seeks to strike Ms. Losota's demand for punitive damages under the PHRA. (Def.'s Mem. Law in Supp. 1.) Ms. Losota concedes that the PHRA does not provide punitive damages as a remedy and withdraws this demand. (Pl.'s Br. in Opp'n Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss 1, 9.)[3] CGRC also seeks dismissal of Ms. Losota's claims of failure to reinstate and retaliation under the FMLA. (Def.'s Mem. Law in Supp. 1.) We will first address Ms. Losota's claim for failure to reinstate under the FMLA and then her FMLA retaliation claim.

         A. CGRC Did Not Fail to Reinstate Ms. Losota as Required by the FMLA

         The FMLA provides eligible employees with the right to take up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave, as well as protection from discrimination for exercising that right. See Panto v. Palmer Dialysis Ctr./Total Renal Care, No. 01-6013, 2003 WL 1818990, at *6 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 7, 2003) (citing Hodgens v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 144 F.3d 151, 159 (1st Cir. 1998)). Under the FMLA, an employee may take twelve weeks of leave once over a period of twelve months for specific reasons, including “when the employee has ‘a serious health condition that makes [him or her] unable to perform the functions of [his or her] position.'” Hodgens, 144 F.3d at 159 (alterations in original) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 2612). “Upon returning from this statutory leave, an employee is entitled to . . . the same, or equivalent position as the one . . . held before taking the leave. An employer may not ‘interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise' any rights that the FMLA guarantees.” Frederick v. Brandywine Hosp., Inc., No. 03-3362, 2003 WL 21961372, at *1 (E.D. Pa. July 7, 2003) (internal citation omitted) (quoting 29 U.S.C. §§ 2612, 2615).

         Employers may offer their employees more generous leave policies; however, any policy beyond the statutorily required twelve week period is not protected by the FMLA. See 29 C.F.R. § 825.700 (“An employer must observe any employment benefit program or plan that provides greater family or medical leave rights to employees than the rights established by the FMLA.”); see also Panto, 2003 WL 1818990, at *6 ...


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