United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANT’S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
an action by plaintiff Wanda Palmer alleging that defendant
Liberty Mutual Group Inc. discriminated against her and
failed to accommodate her in violation of the ADA Amendments
Act of 2008 (Counts I and II) and the Connecticut Fair
Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”) (Counts III
and IV) based upon her disability. Plaintiff further alleges
that defendant discriminated against her in violation of the
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (Count V) and CFEPA
(Count VI) based upon her age. Finally, plaintiff alleges
that defendant discriminated against her based upon and
interfered with her use of Family Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) leave in violation of that Act (Counts
VII and VIII).
has moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons,
defendant’s motion will be granted in part and denied
following facts are gleaned from the parties’
statements of fact, affidavits, deposition transcripts, and
other exhibit documentation.
hired plaintiff as a Claims Specialist III in March 2006.
Plaintiff was 38 at the time. For the first four years of her
employment, plaintiff worked from home, and defendant
provided her a company car. In her role as Claims Specialist,
plaintiff determined her own tasks and schedule, including
off-premises field work.
April 2010, defendant took away plaintiff’s car and
required plaintiff to work out of defendant’s
Wallingford, Connecticut, office.
November 2009, plaintiff developed a uterine condition with
dysfunctional bleeding, which resulted in her hemorrhaging
many times. Defendant denies having knowledge of
plaintiff’s condition at the time, but plaintiff
disputes that assertion. Since she worked out of her house at
the time, plaintiff was able to accommodate herself and was
able to complete all of her work in spite of her condition.
November 24, 2009, to February 1, 2010, plaintiff took a
leave of absence due to anxiety.
April 2012, plaintiff advised her manager, Peter Bennett,
that she would need surgery. Plaintiff underwent a
hysterectomy on June 8, 2012. FMLA leave was approved for the
surgery, and plaintiff returned to work on July 23, 2012.
Upon returning to work, plaintiff no longer suffered from
uterine bleeding and had no other physical problems other
than some temporary abdominal discomfort across the surgical
site, which lasted only a couple of months. Plaintiff
required no post-surgery accommodation, but defendant
provided flexibility in her schedule for post-surgical
suffered from what she refers to as “anxiety disorder,
” which resulted in panic attacks. In the event of a
panic attack occurring at work, plaintiff would simply go to
her car and listen to soothing music for a few minutes.
plaintiff’s 2007 Objective Setting and Performance
Evaluation (“OPSE”), plaintiff’s manager,
Kristine Biel, rated plaintiff as “Partially Met”
or “Did not Meet” in 7 of 15 performance
objectives. Ms. Biel also discussed what she perceived as
plaintiff’s continuing performance deficiencies:
Throughout the year, many files were brought to Wanda’s
attention where claimant follow up was lacking. Improper
in-box management throughout the year. Files continued to be
overdue or cycled ahead without being worked. Planner and
outlook calendar reviews in 2007 show at least two full in
days per week, yet files lacked proactive handling, follow up
and pricing to bring claims to resolution. During the second
half of the year, I coached and met with Wanda to assist her
in these areas and some improvement was noted. Going forward,
Wanda’s files must reflect timely contact, accurate
evaluations and good negotiations. She needs to improve her
time management to ensure she is working her files when they
are on her diary. She also needs to adhere to the financial
V3 OFAC guidelines.
Ms. Biel issued a detailed written warning to plaintiff on
April 28, 2008, stating that:
Areas of your performance that fail to meet expectations
include the following:
• Perform timely follow up with claimants,
policyholders, and witnesses.
• Perform timely and accurate homeowner liability
• Perform timely Evaluations/Negotiations/Settlements.
• Timely response to Team Manager direction.
plaintiff’s 2008 OSPE, which was prepared by a new
manager, Peter Bennett, plaintiff was rated “Partially
Met” in 2 of 3 performance objectives.
in 2009, plaintiff’s OSPE by Mr. Bennett reflected only
“Partially Meets” in 2 of 3 performance
objectives. Mr. Bennett noted that, during the second half of
2009, plaintiff was not maintaining adequate
“reserves” on all of her cases, and file reviews
showed delays in “case price.”
2010 OSPE by Peter Bennett again reflected only
“Partially Meets” in 2 of 3 performance
objectives. Mr. Bennett noted in the OPSE that, in April
2010, “file reviews revealed issues with quality and a
lack of proactive filing handling” and that they
“implemented action plans” for most of
plaintiff’s claims at that time “resulting in
improved file handling.”
performance improved in 2011, although her 2011 OSPE by Mr.
Bennett once again reflected plaintiff’s propensity
towards unsatisfactory performance during one half of the
year, followed by counseling and improvement during the next
six months. Plaintiff testified that she received a raise and
bonus based on her 2011 performance.
Bennett subsequently gave plaintiff a verbal warning in April
2012 due to her continued unsatisfactory performance.
Plaintiff asserts that the warning followed her notice to
defendant of her need for a leave of absence to undergo
surgery. Plaintiff also testified that defendant
contemporaneously reduced her authority over her case files.
a team meeting with plaintiff on May 9, 2012, Mr. Bennett
advised plaintiff that they “were four weeks into the
‘verbal’ warning regarding her file
handling” and that he was not seeing enough improvement
and would continue to monitor her progress.
team meeting on May 30, 2012, Mr. Bennett advised plaintiff
that her performance was still unsatisfactory:
We discussed the last four weeks of [performance meetings]
and I indicated to Wanda that I do not see enough improvement
and would have recommended moving to a Written Warning;
however we will wait until she returns in July. I advised her
that she will need to improve her claim handling specifically
in the areas that we have discussed to include proactive