United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
F. KENNEY JUDGE
alleges Defendant violated the Family Medical Leave Act by
terminating Plaintiff four days after he informed Defendant
he could return to work from FMLA leave. Defendant moves to
dismiss, alleging Plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead
causation between his termination and FMLA leave because the
seventeen weeks between Plaintiffs request for FMLA leave and
his termination are not "unusually suggestive" of a
began working for Defendant in 2005 and was employed as an
Area Supervisor at the time of his termination. ECF No. 1 at
¶ 11. On March 29, 2018, Plaintiff alleges he suffered
serious injuries from a motor vehicle accident including a
"concussion and injuries to his neck, back, shoulder and
right knee." Id. at ¶ 12. Following the
incident, the Complaint alleges Plaintiff reported this
accident to Doug Caplan ("Caplan"), Defendant's
owner, who "instructed Plaintiff to stay out of work
until he was medically cleared to return." Id.
at ¶ 13. Plaintiff alleges that "[s]hortly after
the motor vehicle accident" and a discussion with
Caplan, Defendant forwarded FMLA paperwork to Plaintiffs
treating physician. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiffs
treating physician completed and returned the required FMLA
paperwork to Defendant, and Plaintiff was approved for FMLA
leave. Id. at ¶¶ 15-16. During Plaintiffs
FMLA leave, Plaintiff alleges he "regularly communicated
with Mr. Caplan regarding his injuries and medical
treatment." Id. at¶17.
26, 2018, seventeen weeks after Plaintiffs accident,
"Plaintiff called Defendant and spoke with Nancy Henry
['Henry']." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 18. "Plaintiff
advised  Henry that he was ready to return to work."
Id. Four days later, on July 30, Plaintiff spoke
again to Henry, who "told Plaintiff that he had been
terminated from employment." Id. at ¶ 19.
"Henry did not provide a clear reason for Plaintiffs
termination." Id. "Plaintiff believes . .
. that he was terminated from employment because of his use
of FMLA leave." Id. at ¶ 20.
reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court "accept[s] as
true all allegations in plaintiffs complaint as well as all
reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and [the
court] construes them in a light most favorable to the
non-movant." Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC,
882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Sheridan v. NGK
Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 262 n.27 (3d Cir. 2010)).
"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 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial
plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that
allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."
Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557, 127
S.Ct. 1955)). "The plausibility determination is 'a
context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'"
Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 786-87
(3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
courts reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must engage
in a three-step process. First, the court "must
'take note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to
state a claim.'" Id. at 787 (alterations in
original) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675).
"Second, [the court] should identify allegations that,
'because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.'" Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Third,
'"[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations,
[the] court should assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.'" Id. (alterations in original)
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
alleges Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff in violation
of the FMLA by terminating him within a close temporal
proximity of his FMLA leave. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶
25-26. Plaintiff claims Defendant is an employer
under the FMLA, Plaintiff was an FMLA eligible employee,
Plaintiff exercised his rights under the FMLA since he
requested and was approved for FMLA leave arising from
"serious injuries," and Defendant terminated
Plaintiffs employment in close temporal proximity to his
protected leave. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 12,
moves to dismiss the Complaint, claiming Plaintiff has not
shown a casual connection between Plaintiffs protected
activity and the adverse employment action because the
seventeen weeks between Plaintiffs request for FMLA leave and
his termination is too long a time period to establish a
casual connection. ECF No. 9-1 at 6-7. In his response,
Plaintiff contends he was "terminated from employment
within days of informing Defendant that he was ready to
return to work following his FMLA leave." ECF No. 13 at
Family and Medical Leave Act was designed to "balance
the demands of the work place with the needs of
families" and "to entitle employees to take
reasonable leave for medical reasons." 29 U.S.C. §
2601(b)(1)-(2). Prior to the statute, "there [was]
inadequate job security for employees who ha[d] serious
health conditions that prevent[ed] them from working for
temporary periods." 29 U.S.C. § 2601(a)(4). Now,
employees eligible for FMLA leave are "entitled to a
total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month
period." 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). It is
"unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain,
or deny the exercise of. . . any right" delineated in
the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Employers cannot
"discriminate against any individual for opposing any
practice made unlawful by" the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. §
retaliation claims "arise under 29 U.S.C. §
2615(a)(2)." Erdman v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 582
F.3d 500, 508 (3d Cir. 2009). "They prohibit an employer
from 'discriminating or retaliating against an employee
... for having exercised . . . FMLA rights." Budhun
v. Reading Hosp. & Med. Ctr., 765 F.3d 245, 256 (3d
Cir. 2014) (quoting 29 C.F.R. § 825.220(c)). "[T]o
permit employees to take leave from work for certain family
and medical reasons and to return to the same or equivalent
job at the conclusion of that leave' would be undermined
if retaliation were not prohibited." Egan v. Del
River PortAutk, 851 F.3d 263, 271 (3d Cir.2017).
establish a prima facie retaliation claim under the FMLA,
Plaintiff must prove (1) he "invoked [his] right to
FMLA-qualifying leave," (2) he "suffered an adverse
employment decision," and (3) there was a casual
connection between the protected activity and the adverse
action. Lichtenstein v. Univ. of Pittsburgh Med.
Ctr.,691 F.3d 294, 301-02 (3d Cir. 2012); see also
Conoshenti v. Public Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d
135, 146 (3d Cir. 2004). Both parties agree to assume
Plaintiff has ...