United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Vanessa L. Bryant United States District Judge.
action involves the employment termination of Ms. Anne
Majocha (“Plaintiff” or “Majocha”),
who worked for Defendant Eversource Energy Service Company
(“Eversource”), formerly known as Northeast
Utilities Service Company (“Northeast
Utilities”), since 1998. Plaintiff was diagnosed with
Lyme disease on April 26, 2013, and she was terminated on
June 5, 2013. The Complaint raises both interference and
retaliation claims in violation of the Family and Medical
Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601,
et seq. Defendant moved for summary judgment on both
counts, and Plaintiff only challenges the retaliation claim.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court DENIES summary judgment
as to Count I and GRANTS summary judgment as to Count II.
1998, Northeast Utilities hired Ms. Majocha as an Associate
Scientist in the Environmental Department. [Dkt. 24 (Def. L.
R. 56(a)(1) Stmt.) ¶ 1; Dkt. 27-2 (Pl. L. R. 56(a)(2)
Stmt.) ¶ 1]. Two years later, she requested and received
a transfer to the Economic and Load Forecasting Department as
an Associate Economic and Load Analyst. [Dkt. 24 ¶ 1;
Dkt. 27-2 ¶ 1]. She took FMLA leave on February 22, 2001
and January 6, 2004. [Dkt. 24 ¶ 19; Dkt. 27-2 ¶
19]. On December 21, 2016, Ms. Majocha was transferred to the
Benefits Division in the Human Resource (“HR”)
Department and worked as an HR Consultant. [Dkt. 24 ¶ 2;
Dkt. 27-2 ¶ 2].
Utilities had a system of internal personnel policies and
procedures that applied throughout the company. See
[Dkt. 29-1 (Reply Ex. B-6, NU Protocol) at ¶ 5021].
These including the Counseling and Discipline policy, which
provided two “corrective action tools available to
management”: (1) job performance counseling and (2)
stepwise discipline. The policy outlines these two provisions
â¢ Job Performance Counseling is not disciplinary
action. Rather, job performance counseling is used to
determine areas for improvement and enable management and the
employee to establish a timetable to correct the problem.
• Stepwise Discipline, which relies on four
steps of increasing severity (verbal, written, suspension and
termination) depending on the severity of the incident, is
intended to achieve corrective positive behavior versus
punishment, with the purpose of:
â¢ increasing employee efficiency and safety, and
â¢ protecting the investments the Company has in the employee,
property, materials and workplace.
[Dkt. 27-7 (Opp'n Ex. P3, NU Counseling and Discipline
Policy)]. “All disciplinary action (written warning and
above) must be reviewed by the Human Resources' Labor
Relations Department for consistency of application.”
Utilities merged with NStar Electric and Gas Company in April
2012; its name was changed to Eversource two years later.
[Dkt. 24 ¶ 3; Dkt. 27-2 ¶ 3]. As a result of this
merger, many employees, including Ms. Majocha, were
reassigned to different job responsibilities. [Dkt. 24 ¶
3; Dkt. 27-2 ¶ 3]. Ms. Majocha's supervisor changed
from Mr. Michael Ehredt (“Ehredt”) to Mr. Michael
Synan (“Synan”) in September 2012 as a result of
the reassignment. [Dkt. 24 ¶ 4; Dkt. 27-2 ¶ 4]. Mr.
Synan testified that Ms. Majocha received a training during
the fourth quarter of 2012 that extended into 2013. [Dkt.
24-10 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D, Synan Dep.) at 12:7-21]. Mr.
Synan also testified that she was not an active participant,
did not go to certain trainings, and was not willing to work
with coworkers. See Id. at 13:16-14-3.
Majocha testified that she requested that her primary care
physician refer her to a Lyme disease specialist in
approximately January 2013. See [Dkt. 24-11 (Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. E, Majocha Dep.) at 74:2-76:12]. She had to wait
approximately three months for an appointment. Id.
February 2013, Ms. Majocha received a merit-based pay raise
and bonus. [Dkt. 24-10 at 38:19-39:1, 39:25-40:2]. As Ms.
Majocha's supervisor and manager, Mr. Synan played a role
in her raise as he gave her “a rating, a performance
review, and agreed with the financial recommendation.”
Id. at 39:8-14. The rating also corresponded to her
bonus. Id. at 40:6-9. Mr. Synan gave her a favorable
review for the time period since September 2012. Id.
at 19-24. Specifically, the 2012 Performance Review, dated
February 22, 2013, stated the following:
Anne's new responsibilities will be heavily focused on
payment of benefit related bills, budgeting and reporting and
requests related to both items. These are extremely important
functions due to the need to pay bills timely, from the
correct asset bucket and track. In this role Anne will also
need to build and maintain strong relationships with her
internal peers and in accounting/budgeting/treasury and with
contacts at NU's many external benefit vendors. Annie has
approached her new role with great enthusiasm and I am sure
she has the ability and aptitude to do the job well. I would
encourage Anne to take the time to listen carefully to her
co-workers ideas and thoughts and to not overcomplicate
processes - keep it simple! Anne has expressed interest in
learning more abo[u]t the various benefit plans and will have
the opportunity to grow that knowledge in her new role.
Teamwork will be the key to knowledge growth and success in
Anne's new role.
Also, I would like to thank Anne for jumping in to help the
team as we experienced a very hectic post-open enrollment
[Dkt. 24-6 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B-4 (2012 Perf. Rev.) at ¶
Synan believes he contacted Nancy Lema (“Lema”)
in the HR Department at the end of February 2013 after her
discovered “that bills weren't being paid and that
we weren't current with our bills.” [Dkt. 24-10 at
63:4-12]. By the end of March, there were roughly 12 bills
that had not been paid and were attributable to Ms. Majocha.
Id. at 65:22-67:3. This bills had accrued since the
beginning of January. Id. at 67:2-19.
point between 2012 and March 2013, Ms. Majocha notified Mr.
Synan that she believed she had Lyme disease. Mr. Synan
testified to the following:
I asked her what that meant for her and she told [me] that
she had a lot of doctor's appointments and I asked her to
let me know when she had appointments. And I remember telling
her about someone I knew that had Lyme disease and that it
took a couple of years for them to get a right mix of
medicine and physical therapy and I asked her - I remember
discussing did she live near the woods, general how do you
think you got it type of thing.
Id. Mr. Synan acknowledged that Ms. Majocha told him
she would have to miss time from work to see doctors, and
stated, “She said that it impacted her in that she had
doctor appointments.” Id. at 35:7-12. At this
time, Ms. Majocha had not yet been diagnosed with Lyme
disease, but she believed she had the disease because she
started to have autoimmune disorders such as
“Hashimoto's Sjogren's, then rheumatoid
arthritis. . ., floaters in [her] eyes, sensitivity to light,
pain in [her] shoulders, achy joints . . ., double vision
once in a while, sensitivity to sound, ” and weakness
when she walked up the stairs. [Dkt. 24-11 at 74:8-20]. Ms.
Majocha testified that Mr. Synan asked on three separate
occasions “if just a round of antibiotics would clear
up the Lyme.” [Dkt. 24-11 at 70:17-73:1]. Mr. Synan
disputes these conversations happened. Id. at
March 25, 2013, Ms. Majocha emailed Mr. Synan in what appears
to be a response to Mr. Synan's request for her to meet
with Brenda Hoffman (“Hoffman”), an HR Benefits
Representative who trained Ms. Majocha prior to being
transferred to a different position. See [Dkt. 24-13
(Mot. Summ. J. Ex. F-1, Emails 3/25/2013)]. Mr. Majocha
indicated, “I don't have time to meet with Brenda
this week, ” due to her need to complete certain
ongoing projects. Id. at P001585. Mr. Synan
responded, “I appreciate the fact that everyone is
busy, but following up to our conversation of last week this
meeting will occur and is not open for discussion. I will be
sending a meeting invite to hold the time on your calendar.
If you do not want to attend or do not meet with Brenda, we
can have a different discussion.” Id. Mr.
Majocha then wrote, “I only asked you to wait one week
while I try to wrap up the VEGA and quarter end items. I
would be happy to meet with Brenda on April 3rd. Id.
On the same day, Ms. Majocha also forwarded Mr. Synan's
email to her husband, Michael Steinbrecher, saying
“I've been scolded. .” [Dkt. 24-14 (Mot.
Summ. J. Ex. F-2, Forwarded Emails 3/25/13) at ¶
001590]. Mr. Steinbrecher responded, “Sorry, you gave
it a valiant effort, and now you have it in writing (e-mail)
that you explained how busy you are and he just didn't
want to listen.” Id.
days later, Ms. Majocha met with Mr. Synan and Ms. Lema.
See [Dkt. 24-15 (Mot. Summ. J. Ex. F-3, Emails
3/29/13)]. The following day, Ms. Lema memorialized the
conversation in an email, wherein ...