United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
AUSTIN MCHUGH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action brought under the Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq,
alleging both that Defendants interfered with Plaintiff's
right to FMLA leave, and that Plaintiff was unlawfully
terminated in retaliation for seeking leave to which she was
statutorily entitled. With discovery closed, Defendants have
moved for summary judgment. Because the record is clear that
Defendants made the decision to terminate Plaintiff before
she requested leave, and did so for reasons wholly unrelated
to her request for leave, Defendants' motion will be
Relevant Factual Background
Delwanna Simpson worked for Temple University as the
Assistant Director of Maintenance and Operations for five
years, between November 2012 and January 2018. Simpson Dep.
24:13-15, 26:6-9, ECF No. 41-6. Defendant Temple University
hired co-defendant T.J. Logan to be the Associate Vice
President for Student Affairs in March 2017. In that role,
Logan had supervisory authority over Plaintiff, although he
was not her direct supervisor. Logan Dep. 11:18-22, ECF No.
41-7. Plaintiff received positive feedback for the skill and
effort she displayed in her work throughout her tenure at
Temple; however, she also received warnings from her
supervisors, including Logan, about her need to adopt a more
supportive leadership style toward her subordinates.
Def's Ex. D, 0042, ECF No. 28-4; Def's Ex. C, 0081,
ECF No. 28-3.
Logan was hired, there was a change in Plaintiff's direct
supervisor. Logan informed Plaintiff that he was aware of her
prior performance issues relating to staff supervision and
that “her margin to gain trust from her staff was very
narrow.” Def's Ex. C, 0081. Logan began weekly
meetings with Plaintiff “to ensure that [he] was doing
everything possible to promote [Plaintiff's]
success.” Id. Nonetheless, issues with
Plaintiff's performance continued. Logan Dep.
76:20-77:17, 81:12-82:7; Def's Ex. C, 0081; Def's Ex.
E, 0084, ECF No. 28-5. In one instance, an employee, together
with that employee's supervisor, came forward to complain
that Plaintiff had “berated” and “yelled
at” him. Logan Dep. 78:12-79:9; Def's Ex. C, 0081.
In another instance, an employee approached Logan to express
frustration with Plaintiff's “punitive”
managerial style and requested to be transferred to another
department. Logan Dep. 79:22-80:16; Def's Ex. E, 0084.
December 2017, Plaintiff had a verbal confrontation with
another employee not under her supervision. Simpson Dep.
145:4-148:12. Logan learned of the incident when he was
contacted by another Temple employee who was also a union
representative. Def. Ex. E, 0083. The employee raising the
complaint-who was not under Plaintiff's
supervision-reported that she was sequestered and yelled at
by Plaintiff. Simpson Dep. 145:4-22; Def. Ex. C, 0082; Def.
Ex. E, 0083. When the employee sought to leave the room and
end the encounter with Plaintiff, she was threatened with
insubordination, which was a terminable offense. Simpson Dep.
147:13-14, 148:13-149:5; Def's Ex. C, 0082. That incident
was consistent with prior complaints about Plaintiff's
management style. After investigating, Logan decided to
terminate Plaintiff's employment on Friday, January 19,
2018, telling Plaintiff that same day that he had lost faith
in her ability to be a supervisor. Logan Dep. 82:11-14;
Def's Ex. E, 0084. Plaintiff acknowledges that Logan
communicated his lack of confidence in her at the January 19
meeting. Simpson Dep. 126:4-8.
same day, following Logan's meeting with Plaintiff, Logan
sent an email to human resources communicating his intention
to terminate Plaintiff along with his underlying reasoning.
Def's Ex. C; Logan Dep. 94:16-21, 95:14-24, 98:15-19. But
before Logan could formally notify Plaintiff of his decision,
he needed to complete additional steps in the regular
termination protocol. Logan Dep. 34:4-35:17, 38:3-14,
45:16-46:1, 82:11-20. That involved, in part, Logan providing
a second email to human resources detailing his decision to
terminate Plaintiff, which he sent on Monday, January 22,
2018 at 10:53 a.m. Def's Ex. E.
record further shows that on the morning of Monday, January
22, Plaintiff applied for two job openings, evidence
consistent with an understanding on her part that she was
being terminated by Temple following the meeting on Friday,
January 19. Def's Ex. F, ECF No. 28-6; Def's Ex. G,
ECF No. 28-7.
that evening she went to the emergency room experiencing
abdominal pain and nausea. Simpson Dep. 114:15-17, 178:11-14.
After being discharged the following morning on January 23,
Plaintiff emailed the human resources staff person
responsible for handling FMLA requests at Temple about
obtaining medical leave pursuant to FMLA. Def's Ex. M,
ECF No. 28-13. Logan was not copied on the email nor made
aware of the request by Plaintiff or human resources staff.
Id.; Simpson Dep. 202:20-24; Allen Dep. 20:16-19,
ECF No. 28-14. Regardless, both his initial email
communicating his decision to terminate Plaintiff, and his
follow-up email addressing the formalities required to
implement the decision, on January 19 and 22 respectively,
were sent before Plaintiff made her
initial request for FMLA leave on January 23.
did not return to work that week. Logan Dep. 36:14-37:8. On
Friday, January 26, Logan emailed Plaintiff her termination
papers, having been unable to personally deliver them to her
in her absence from work. Logan Dep. 71:6-24. Plaintiff
subsequently filed the present action against Defendants on
May 31, 2018, seeking monetary damages in the form of back
pay and front pay, along with liquidation damages.
Standard of Review
Motion is governed by the well-established standard for
summary judgment set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), as
amplified by Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477
U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).