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Evarts v. Quinnipiac University

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

October 4, 2018

ELLSWORTH EVARTS, Plaintiff,
v.
QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY, Defendants.

          RULING ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [DOC. 33]

          CHARLES S. HAIGHT, JR. SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Ellsworth Evarts, a Public Safety Officer, brings this civil action against his employer, defendant Quinnipiac University ("Quinnipiac”) alleging that it violated his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., and the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq., when it discriminated against him based upon a physical disability.[1]In his Complaint, he alleges that from January 24, 2014, to June 28, 2014, Quinnipiac failed to "afford [him] reasonable accomodation [sic]" for his disability. Doc. 1, ¶¶ 7, 9.

         In particular, Plaintiff alleges that Quinnipiac "sent [him] home" rather than accommodating him; and after back surgery "refused to [allow him] to return to work even after [his] surgeon released [him] for duty."[2] Id., ¶ 7. See also Doc. 16, at 2 (III.A.). According to Plaintiff, Quinnipiac also "insisted [his] FMLA [benefits] had expired in an attempt to vacate [him]" or place him on vacation. Doc. 1, 7.

         Plaintiff subsequently filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") and received a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter on or about July 21, 2015. Id., ¶¶ 10-11; id., at 7 ("Dismissal and Notice of Rights," dated 7/17/2015). Plaintiff alleges that he has the necessary documentation to show that the alleged discrimination occurred. Id., ¶ 12. In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff seeks "backpay" and "[m]onetary damages," which he describes as "lost wages" and "retirement benefits." Id., at 4-5. He also demands a trial by jury. Id., at 5.

         Extensive discovery in the case has been completed. Quinnipiac has now filed a "Motion for Summary Judgment" pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), asserting that, with respect to both claims, there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and Quinnipiac is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff, resisting that motion, contends that the record demonstrates the existence of factual issues which preclude summary disposition. This Ruling resolves the motion.

         II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         The Second Circuit has repeatedly declared that, pursuant to Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P., "[s]ummary judgment is appropriate only if, drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., 811 F.3d 528, 533 (2d Cir. 2016).[3] "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         In deciding whether to award summary judgment, the court "constru[es] the evidence in the light most favorable to the [nonmoving party]' and 'draw[s] all reasonable inferences and resolv[es] all ambiguities in [its] favor.'" Jaffer v. Hirji, 887 F.3d 111, 114 (2d Cir. 2018) (quoting Darnell v. Pineiro, 849 F.3d 17, 22 (2d Cir. 2017)). "[A] fact is material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,' and a dispute is genuine if 'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Baldwin v. EMI Feist Catalog, Inc., 805 F.3d 18, 25 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248).

         Under Rule 56(a), the moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that no genuine issue exists as to any material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-25 (1986); CILP Assocs., L.P. v. PriceWaterhouse Coopers LLP, 735 F.3d 114, 123 (2d Cir. 2013). Then, if the movant succeeds in carrying its burden, "the opposing party must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact." Brown v. Eli Lilly & Co., 654 F.3d 347, 358 (2d Cir. 2011).

         "[A] party may not rely on mere speculation or conjecture as to the true nature of the facts to overcome a motion for summary judgment." Hicks v. Baines, 593 F.3d 159, 166 (2d Cir. 2010) (citation omitted). See also Process Am., Inc. v. Cynergy Holdings, LLC, 839 F.3d 125, 141 (2d Cir. 2016). Instead, a party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed "must support the assertion" by citing to the record or showing that "the materials cited do not establish the absence . . . of a genuine dispute." Torres v. City of New York, No. 09 CIV. 9357 (LGS), 2017 WL 2191601, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. May 17, 2017) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B)). "'[C]onclusory allegations or denials' in legal memoranda or oral argument are not evidence and cannot by themselves create a genuine issue of material fact where none would otherwise exist." Golino v. City of New Haven, 761 F.Supp. 962, 965 (D. Conn.1991) (quoting Quinn v. Syracuse Model Neighborhood Corp., 613 F.2d 438, 445 (2d Cir.1980)).

         "If, as to the issue on which summary judgment is sought, there is any evidence in the record from which a reasonable inference could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is improper." Victory v. Pataki, 814 F.3d 47, 59 (2d Cir. 2016) (quoting Rodriguez v. City of New York, 72 F.3d 1051, 1061 (2d Cir.1995)). Conversely, if the non-moving party fails to submit proof concerning an essential element of its case, summary judgment is warranted. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.[4]

         In sum, the ultimate test "is whether the evidence can reasonably support a verdict in plaintiff's favor." James v. N.Y. Racing Ass'n, 233 F.3d 149, 157 (2d Cir. 2000). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial." Baez v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 793 F.3d 269, 274 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)).

         With respect to employment discrimination claims, "[t]he Second Circuit has cautioned district courts that they must be 'particularly cautious about granting summary judgment to an employer in a discrimination case when the employer's intent is in question. Because direct evidence of an employer's discriminatory intent will rarely be found, 'affidavits and depositions must be carefully scrutinized for circumstantial proof which, if believed, would show discrimination.'" Miller v. Edward Jones & Co., 355 F.Supp.2d 629, 636 (D. Conn. 2005) (quoting Schwapp v. Town of Avon, 118 F.3d 106, 110 (2d Cir.1997)). However, "[s]ummary judgment is appropriate even in discrimination cases," Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000), because "a plaintiff must provide more than conclusory allegations of discrimination to defeat a motion for summary judgment." Schwapp, 118 F.3d at 110.

         III. FACTS

         From the Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statements of the Parties [Doc. 33-5 and Doc.40-18], the Court discerns the following undisputed facts.[5]

         In January of 2006, Quinnipiac hired Plaintiff as a full-time security officer and assigned him to the night shift with responsibility for covering entry points, typically Gate 1, the booth at the New Road entrance to Quinnipiac's campus in Hamden, Connecticut. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 1. In that position, Plaintiff was responsible for directing traffic, stopping vehicles as they entered campus, checking individuals' IDs coming onto campus, confirming that visitors had passes, directing drivers to the correct parking lot, and dealing with issues on student transport buses. Id., ¶ 2. After Plaintiff worked for almost eight years at night at Gate 1, Quinnipiac reassigned him to Gate 3, located at the Mount Carmel Avenue entrance to campus, where he performed essentially the same duties he had performed at Gate 1. Id., ¶ 3. A few months after his switch to Gate 3, Plaintiff successfully applied to fill an opening on the day shift for Gate 3. Id.

         In August 2013, Quinnipiac began assigning Plaintiff to cover a security desk at the soon-to-open medical school on the North Haven campus. Id., ¶ 4. At that location, he was responsible for checking IDs, issuing key cards, monitoring the coming and goings of construction workers on site, and responding to emergencies. Id.

         In June of 2013, a couple of months before Plaintiff began working primarily at the North Haven campus, he tripped over a floor mat while walking to punch out at the conclusion of his shift, fell, and suffered a cervical injury. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 5; see also Doc. 33-1, at 6 (citing Evarts Dep., at 93-94, 96-97, 99-100).[6] When Plaintiff returned to work after a brief absence, he worked on "regular duty" per a medical note issued by Yale-New Haven Hospital Occupational Health Plus. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 5; see also Doc. 33-4 (Affidavit of Nicole Lambusta ("Lambusta Aff.")), ¶ 3, Ex. 1. He pursued a workers' compensation claim and brought a civil suit against MagnaKleen, the company responsible for installing and servicing the rug; that suit settled for $275, 000.00. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 6; Evarts Dep. at 97-99, Doc. 33-2, at 49-53 (Evarts Dep., Ex. H).

         Plaintiff worked at Gate 1 on January 10, 11, 16, 17, 20, and 21, 2014. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 7. Then, on January 23, 2014, several months after his June 2013 injury, Plaintiff sent an email to Sam Cotto, then Assistant Chief of the Department of Public Safety, reporting a series of back, neck, knee, and shoulder issues he was experiencing. He also stated that although he was scheduled to work at Gate 1 for the next two days, he was unable to direct traffic. Id., ¶ 8. The text of that email stated:

         Chief,

I'm on Gate One for the next two day shifts. As I said in the past I have no problem with working the Gate but I can not direct traffic due to my injuries. Along with the back and neck issues my right knee and shoulder are giving out as I now have to rely on my right side for mobility causing my knee to give out and severe pain in the right shoulder. My Doctor told me my gates are in bad shape because of the Disc C-3 in my neck is crushing the spinal cord up there. I have another appointment on the 28th of January and the 5th of February to schedule the surgery. I'll keep you posted.
Thanks,
027

Doc. 33-2, at 54 (Evarts Dep, Ex. I).

         The following day, Assistant Chief Cotto assigned Evarts to Gate 2, near the admissions building, because that gate had no traffic-directing duties. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 9; Evarts Dep., at 119. In response to Plaintiff's suggestions in his email to Cotto that he was not physically capable of performing the full range of tasks associated with his position, Nicole Lambusta, then Quinnipiac's Human Resources Business Partner, directed Plaintiff's immediate supervisor, Sergeant Jim Moniello, to send Plaintiff home until such time as he provided a new medical note updating his condition.[7] Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 10; Evarts Dep., at 119-20; Doc. 33-4 (Lambusta Aff.), ¶¶ 4, 5. Later that day, Plaintiff consulted with his physician, Gary Bloomgarden, M.D., by phone. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 12. Dr. Bloomgarden issued Plaintiff an "Out Of Work Note," which pronounced him "unable to return to work … until further notice." Id.

         Two days later, on January 26, 2014, Plaintiff forwarded Bloomgarden's note to Lambusta by email. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 13; Doc. 33-2, at 55 (Evarts Dep., Ex. J). In that email, he also expressed a complaint that he had "requested reasonable accommodations to perform [his] duties on Friday the 24th of January," but instead had been sent home. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 13. Evarts pointed out that he had previously been released to full duty by his physicians with the understanding that he was assigned exclusively to a sedentary desk job at the medical school. Id. His email further stated:

Recently I was taken out of the Medical School and placed in gate positions at Mt. Carmel that required standing, walking, twisting directing traffic and had to walk greater distances to use the facilities, so I asked for reasonable accommodations. I let Chief Cotto know that I could work the gate but could not direct traffic.

Doc. 33-2, at 55 (Evarts Dep., Ex. J).

         Lambusta replied on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, as follows:

The university requires medical documentation for all requests for restrictions, light duty or other accommodations. Because we did not have documentation on file for you, we followed our standard practice and temporarily relieved you from your duties until you could provide us with such documentation from your physician. Until you submitted the recent note from Dr. Bloomgarden's office on Sunday, attached to this email and dated 1/24/14, all of the doctors' notes in the file, convey your status as regular duty with no restrictions at all.

Id. (Evarts Dep., Ex. J) (emphasis added).

         Lambusta then offered to provide Plaintiff with a job description to enable his physician to "make an accurate assessment of [Plaintiff's] ability to perform [his] job, including what accommodations are needed." Id. She assured Plaintiff he would be fully compensated for his scheduled work hours on January 24, 27, and 28. Id. She also requested Plaintiff to provide documentation of his surgery date, a follow-up report as to his upcoming medical appointment to update his status, and any additional measures that Quinnipiac could take to accommodate his needs. Id.

         In light of Dr. Bloomgarden's statement on January 24, 2014, indicating that Plaintiff was "unable to return to work . . . until further notice," Quinnipiac's Human Resources Department interpreted his absence as involving a "serious health condition" within the meaning of the FMLA and directed Plaintiff to have his physician complete the FMLA paperwork. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 16; Doc. 33-3 (Affidavit of Lori Musante ("Musante Aff.")), ¶ 3. Plaintiff, however, disagreed, believing that because his injury was work-related, involving a workers' compensation claim, the FMLA was not applicable.[8] Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 17. It was finally mid-March of 2014, a day or two before Plaintiff's scheduled surgery when he picked up the FMLA paperwork from Quinnipiac and gave it to his physician. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 18; Evarts Dep., at 126-27.

         On or about March 17, 2014, Plaintiff submitted to Quinnipiac a "Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee's Serious Health Condition," completed by Patrick Tomak, M.D., Plaintiff's spinal surgeon. Doc. 33-5, ¶ 19. The form, dated March 14, 2014, indicated that Plaintiff would be out of work from March 18, 2014 (the date of surgery) until June 18, 2014. Doc. 33-5, ¶ 19; Evarts Dep., at 113-14, 187; Doc. 33-2, at 59-62 (Evarts Dep., Ex. K). Along with this form, Plaintiff submitted an "Employee Statement of Understanding," detailing the terms of his FMLA leave, which included the following provisions: (1) paid leave would be used concurrently; and (2) before returning from leave, Plaintiff would provide a certification from his health care provider confirming that he was medically able to resume work. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 20; Doc. 33-2, at 63 (Evarts Dep., Ex. L).

         Until late April 2014, Plaintiff received paychecks from Quinnipiac for forty (40) hours per week at his regular rate of pay through a combination of vacation time, sick time, and personal time. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 21; Evarts Dep., at 207-10. In a letter dated April 25, 2014, Tina Monteiro, Quinnipiac's Human Resources Coordinator, informed Plaintiff that his accrued paid time off had been exhausted and his FMLA leave allotment would run out on May 1, 2014, based on his first day out of work being January 27, 2014. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 22; Doc. 33-2, at 64 (Evarts Dep., Ex. N.).

         On April 29, 2014, Plaintiff presented a "Return to Work" note from Dr. Tomak dated April 28, 2014, indicating that Plaintiff could return to sedentary work on May 5, 2014, six weeks earlier than the originally projected date of June 18. Doc. 33-5, ¶ 23; Doc. 33-2, at 65 (Evarts Dep., Ex. O); Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 4. Also on April 29, Plaintiff submitted a second medical note to Quinnipiac, dated March 10, 2014, and issued by Dr. David Cohen, who treated Plaintiff's shoulder and knee. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 23; Evarts Dep., at 165, Doc. 33-2, at 66 (Evarts Dep., Ex. P); Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 5. In this note, Doctor Cohen released Plaintiff to return to work as of March 11, 2014, seven days before his scheduled surgery, in a sedentary position that would not require him to lift, push, pull, reach over shoulder-level height, walk distances, or direct traffic. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 23; Evarts Dep., at 164, Doc. 33-2, at 66 (Evarts Dep., Ex. P).

         After receiving the notes, Musante, then Quinnipiac's Human Resources Business Partner, faxed Dr. Tomak a copy of the public safety officer job description, requesting clarification regarding the full extent of Plaintiff's restrictions. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 23. In particular, Musante sought clarification because there was no uniform definition of "sedentary" as applied to the workplace and Dr. Tomak's FMLA certification indicated that Plaintiff would be unable to perform all job functions until he was evaluated 12 weeks after his March 18 surgery (approximately June 18). Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 23; Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 6; Evarts Dep., at 163; Doc. 33-2, at 59-62 (Ex. K). Dr. Tomak's nurse phoned Musante and advised her that Plaintiff was restricted to a "desk job" and could not lift, push or pull over ten pounds, perform tasks that might involve physical contact, or respond to emergencies. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 25 (citing Musante Aff., ¶ 7). Musante then described the responsibilities of the post at the medical school, the various gates on campus, and dispatch. In response, Dr. Tomak's nurse advised that Plaintiff could work either at a gate or in dispatch. Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 7. Moreover, the nurse stated that Plaintiff had a follow-up appointment on June 9, 2014, after which she would provide an update. Id.

         In late May or early June, Plaintiff met with Musante and Ron Mason, Quinnipiac's then Vice President of Human Resources, to discuss the options for Plaintiff's return to work. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 26; Evarts Dep., at 151-52. Certain positions discussed were determined to be unsuitable.[9] Musante and Mason offered Plaintiff a position on the security desk at North Haven, but explained that the job was "rotational" and would require him to patrol on foot for a portion of the shift. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 26; Evarts Dep., at 152. Plaintiff replied that he thought the North Haven post involved an 8-hour assignment at the desk without any rotation during the shift. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 26; Evarts Dep., at 152-53.

         On June 4, 2014, Human Resources Coordinator Tina Monteiro sent Plaintiff a letter in which she corrected an error in her previous April 25, 2014, letter regarding the expiration of Plaintiff's FMLA leave. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 27. The April letter had mistakenly identified May 1, 2014 as the date Plaintiff's FMLA leave would be exhausted, but the June 4 letter confirmed that Plaintiff's FMLA leave actually expired on May 19, 2014 (16 weeks after Plaintiff's initial absence on January 27, 2014), per the requirements of Connecticut law.[10] Id.; see also Doc. 33-2, at 64, 67, (Evarts Dep., Ex. N, Q). In response to the letter, Plaintiff phoned Musante to ask why he had not yet been reinstated to his position. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 28. Musante explained that Quinnipiac required a release from Plaintiff's doctors before he could return to work, as indicated in the "Employee Statement of Understanding" he had signed. Id., Doc. 33-2, at 6 (Evarts Dep., Ex. L) (attesting that "[b]efore I return to work following a leave for my own serious health condition, I will be required to provide certification from a health care provider that I am medically able to resume work").

         On June 10, 2014, one day after Plaintiff's follow-up June 9 appointment with Dr. Tomak, Musante phoned Plaintiff to inquire whether Dr. Tomak had issued him a "return to work note." Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 29. Plaintiff explained that he had seen Tomak the day before but would not receive a note from him for a few days. Id.; Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 18. He also said that he had a scheduled appointment to see Dr. John McCallum, his knee doctor, on June 18, 2014. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 29.

         On June 16, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a report from his June 9 appointment with Dr. Tomak indicating that Plaintiff was medically cleared to return to a desk position at the medical school. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 30; Doc. 33-2, at 69 (Evarts Dep., Ex. S); Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 9. Tomak had been given an official job description for a security officer, including functions that were physically demanding beyond the scope of Plaintiff's restrictions. Doc. 33-2, at 44-48 (Evarts Dep., Ex. B). However, Plaintiff also provided Dr. Tomak with a document regarding "Medical School Desk and Law School Desk Duties," positions comprised mainly of sedentary functions and created by the sergeant in charge of the North Haven campus. Evarts Dep., at 172-75; Doc. 33-2, at 71-72 (Evarts Dep., Ex. T).

         After Plaintiff met with Dr. McCallum on June 18, McCallum documented the following restrictions: no gate duty, limited walking, and sedentary work until Plaintiff was seen in two weeks for a follow-up appointment. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 32; Evarts Dep. at 188-89, Doc. 33-2, at 73 (Evarts Dep., Ex. U). Around this time, Quinnipiac received a June 3, 2014, note from Dr. Cohen stating that Plaintiff was cleared for "Sedentary Work," defined as "[l]ifting 10 lbs maximum, carrying such articles as dockets, ledgers, and small tools." Doc. 33-5, ¶ 33; Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 10; Doc. 33-2, at 68 (Evarts Dep., Ex. R). Such "[w]ork essentially involves sitting and is considered sedentary if only a small amount of walking is necessary to carry out your duties." Doc. 33-2, at 68 (Evarts Dep., Ex. R). Dr. Cohen then listed the following restrictions: "no lifting, limit walking, no long distance walking, and no directing traffic." Id.

         In mid-June, Musante phoned Plaintiff and informed him that he would be assigned exclusively to the desk at the North Haven campus, consistent with his desires and the restrictions imposed by his physicians. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 34; Evarts Dep., 156-58; Doc. 33-3 (Musante Aff.), ¶ 12. Plaintiff returned to work to that position on June 28, 2014, and was assigned to a security desk at the North Haven campus. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 35. Since that time, there has been no deviation in his responsibilities. Id., Evarts Dep., at 193-94. According to Quinnipiac, and with no contradictory evidence presented by Plaintiff, Plaintiff is the only officer with an exclusive desk assignment because all other security officers must rotate posts with varying degrees of frequency. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 36; see also Doc. 33-4 (Lambusta Aff.), ¶ 9; Evarts Dep., at 60-61, 161-62. In other words, Quinnipiac essentially asserts that it created a unique position for Plaintiff for his continued employment. Plaintiff remains confined to sedentary work and Quinnipiac has honored his restrictions from the time he returned to his position in late June 2014. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 37; Evarts Dep., at 189-91.

         With respect to Plaintiff's workers' compensation claim, on June 24, 2014, Travelers Insurance Company accepted Plaintiff's claims for the June 2013 fall as a work-related injury. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 38; Evarts Dep., at 195. Travelers retroactively paid Plaintiff workers' compensation benefits for the period beginning on January 27, 2014 until May 6, 2014. Doc. 40-18, ¶ 38; Evarts Dep., at 196. Plaintiff received "double payment" for this period because Plaintiff used various forms of "paid leave" (sick time, vacation time, and personal time) to cover a portion of his leave before the workers' compensation claim was approved. Doc. 33-4 (Lambusta Aff.), ¶ 7. The total double payment consisted of 301.5 hours of sick time, 127 hours of vacation, and 16 hours of personal time. Doc. 33-2, at 74 (Evarts Dep., Ex. W). At the hourly rate of $19.11, the double payment added up to $8, 494.40. Id.

         Due to this period of double payment, Quinnipiac contacted Plaintiff about making reimbursement to his account for the paid time he had used during his leave because he had now been paid by Travelers for the same period. Id. It is customary for employees to repay paid leave following acceptance of a workers' compensation claim so that paid time off may be restored to the employee for later use. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 39; Doc. 33-4 (Lambusta Aff.), ¶ 7. When asked whether he wished to repay the double payments, Plaintiff stated that he wanted to arrange a plan of repayment after speaking to an attorney, but he never got back to Quinnipiac regarding repayment. Consequently, the paid time was never restored. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 40; Evarts Dep., at 198, Doc. 33-4 (Lambusta Aff.), ¶ 8.

         In addition to filing his workers' compensation claim, Evarts pursued a personal injury action against MagnaKleen, the company that installed and serviced the floor mat over which he tripped. Doc. 33-5 & 40-18, ¶ 41. That action settled for the sum of $275, 000, of which $84, 236.24 was paid to Plaintiff's lawyers as fees and $1, 181.77 covered costs incurred. Id. An additional $82, 081.99 was paid to Standard Fire Insurance Company to pay off a lien, representing the amount that was given back to the workers' compensation carrier by MagnaKleen to account for expenses the carrier paid for Plaintiff's lost wages and medical benefits. Id. Plaintiff retained the balance of the settlement proceeds (approximately $107, 500). Evarts Dep., at 205, Doc. 33-2, at 49-53 (Evarts Dep., Ex. H).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Quinnipiac's Motion for Summary Judgment

         In its Motion for Summary Judgment, Quinnipiac moves for dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety. Quinnipiac thus requests summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims arising under: (1) the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq.; and (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. Quinnipiac argues that Plaintiff has failed to adduce "sufficient evidence in discovery to engender a genuine issue of material fact" as to either of these claims; and accordingly, the Court must dismiss them as a matter of law. Doc. 33, at 1.

         First, Quinnipiac states that "Plaintiff's FMLA claim appears to be based on an interference theory, but there is no evidence that his FMLA rights were impinged in any way." Id. Specifically, a "faulty premise" underlies Plaintiff's contention that Quinnipiac began "running the clock on his FMLA leave" at the wrong time. Id. Rather, Quinnipiac "properly designated plaintiff's extended leave of absence for a 'serious health condition' as FMLA-covered as of the first day he was out." Id. In addition, as to the allegation that Quinnipiac delayed in reinstating him, "the record is clear that plaintiff was promptly and timely restored to the same position he held prior to the leave (modified to accommodate his medical restrictions), at the same rate of pay and with the same level of benefits, immediately after appropriate medical certifications were provided." Id., at 2. Furthermore, even had there been any delay, Plaintiff "was fully compensated during the entirety of his leave" so that "any delay in restoring plaintiff to his prior job did not result in prejudice." Id. Consequently, in the absence of prejudice, concludes Quinnipiac, an "interference claim will not lie." Id.

         Next, with respect to Plaintiff's ADA failure to accommodate and/or discrimination claim, Quinnipiac argues that the claim must be dismissed a matter of law. Plaintiff has "challeng[ed] [Quinnipiac's] directive sending him home after he announced he was unable to perform one of his job duties." Id. However, that claim "is undone by a contemporaneous doctor's note declaring plaintiff unable to work until further notice." Id. Also, with regard to Plaintiff's claim that there was an "8-week lag between a note releasing him to 'sedentary' work and his return to the workplace," Quinnipiac has a legitimate business reason (i.e., it was "waiting on appropriate medical certifications"), and Plaintiff has failed to gather sufficient evidence to create "an inference of disability-based discrimination" or to prove that Quinnipiac's reason for the delay was a pretext for such discrimination. Id. Quinnipiac thus requests that the Court dismiss this claim as well. Id.

         Plaintiff opposes Quinnipiac's motion for summary judgment and asserts that there exist "genuine issues of material fact with respect to whether the Defendant interfered with the rights and benefits afforded to the Plaintiff under the Family and Medical Leave Act; whether the Plaintiff was afforded reasonable accommodations when required to do his job under the Americans With Disabilit[ies] Act; and whether the Defendant discriminated against the Plaintiff as a result of his disability." Doc. 40, at 1.

         B. FMLA

         The FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., provides employees with distinct rights to take leave under certain medical circumstances. First, it "generally requires covered employers to grant employees who have worked for twelve months (or 1250 hours in twelve months) up to twelve weeks' leave during any twelve month period for, inter alia, a 'serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of such employee.'" Hale v. Mann, 219 F.3d 61, 68 (2d Cir. 2000) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D)). Furthermore, the FMLA "protects an employee from discharge or demotion by an employer if that action is motivated by the employee's taking of leave pursuant to the FMLA." Hale, 219 F.3d at 68 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(1)). The FMLA allows leave to be taken "intermittently or on a reduced leave schedule when medically necessary" as well as on a full-time basis. Poitras v. ConnectiCare, Inc., 206 F.Supp.3d 736, 742-43 (D. Conn. 2016). Moreover, the statute requires an employer to reinstate the employee to his or her former position at the end of FMLA leave, unless the employee is unable to perform an essential function of the job at the end of his [or her] leave." Id.

         The Second Circuit recognizes two types of FMLA claim: retaliation and interference. See Potenza v. City of New York, 365 F.3d 165, 168 (2d Cir.2004) (per curiam). To plead an FMLA retaliation claim, one must establish: "1) he exercised rights protected under the FMLA; 2) he was qualified for his position; 3) he suffered an adverse employment action; and 4) the adverse employment action occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of retaliatory intent." Potenza, 365 F.3d at 168. See also ...


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