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Mosher v. YMCA of Metropolitan Hartford

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 6, 2019

MELISSA MOSHER, Plaintiff,
v.
YMCA OF METROPOLITAN HARTFORD, Defendant.

          ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          STEFAN R. UNDERHILL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Melissa Mosher (“Mosher”) filed suit alleging the following seven counts against her former employer, YMCA of Metropolitan Hartford (“YMCA”): pregnancy discrimination (Count I); failure to provide a reasonable leave of absence for a disability resulting from pregnancy (Count II); retaliation (Count III); disability discrimination (Count IV); failure to accommodate (Count V); interference in violation of the FMLA (Count VI); and retaliation pursuant to the FMLA (Count VII).

         YMCA moved for summary judgment on all claims. Motion for Summary Judgment, Doc. No. 39. For the reasons set forth below, YMCA's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED on all seven counts.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment).

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the facts of record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is required to “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party”). When a motion for summary judgment is properly supported by documentary and testimonial evidence, however, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, but must present sufficient probative evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995).

         “Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see also Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits evidence that is “merely colorable, ” or is not “significantly probative, ” summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

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. As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

Id. at 247-48. To present a “genuine” issue of material fact, there must be contradictory evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Id. at 248.

         If the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof at trial, then summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In such a situation, “there can be ‘no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23; accord Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant's burden satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of nonmoving party's claim). In short, if there is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may enter. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         II. Background

         Melissa Mosher was employed as a membership sales director with a health club called Club Longitude. Def's Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, at ¶ 1 (“Undisputed Facts”). In the fall of 2015, YMCA bought the Club Longitude space. Id. at ¶ 2. Mosher and other Club Longitude employees applied for positions at YMCA. Id. Mosher was hired as a membership director at YMCA and began her employment in November 2015. Id. at ¶¶ 3-4. She reported to Executive Director Rick Hersom and Supervisor Tim Moore. Id. at ¶ 5.

         In January 2016, Mosher informed her supervisors, Hersom and Moore, that she was pregnant with triplets. Id. at ¶ 9. She applied for FMLA leave beginning July 16, 2016. Id. at ¶ 10. Mosher was initially denied FMLA leave because the Human Resources advisor, Cote, determined she was ineligible: she had not worked for YMCA for the required 12 months and had not completed the necessary 1, 000 hours of service. Id. at ¶ 12. YMCA asserts that its policy is to provide eligible employees with 16 weeks of FMLA leave, per Connecticut's FMLA. Id. at ¶ 11. Mosher, however, states that YMCA's policy is to grant a minimum of 16 weeks CFMLA leave. Pl's Local Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 11 (“Rule 56(a)(2) Statement”). The parties agree that Cote approved Mosher for a medical leave of approximately six to eight weeks. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 11.

         YMCA contends that on or about April 4, 2016, Mosher “stopped coming to work” because of her pregnancy. Id. at ¶ 16. Mosher states that she was “incapable of coming to work” and was medically restricted from working. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 16. The parties agree that on April 28, 2016, Mosher contacted Cote and informed Cote that someone at the U.S. Department of Labor had told Mosher that she was eligible for FMLA leave because YMCA was the successor in interest to Club Longitude. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 17. On May 5, 2016, Cote informed Mosher that she did in fact qualify for FMLA leave, and she was approved for 16 weeks of FMLA leave from April 6, 2016 through July 26, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19. YMCA states that although it had initially denied Mosher's leave, “it reversed that decision and approved her leave with no prejudice to her.” Id. at ¶ 20. Mosher asserts that, although YMCA eventually approved her FMLA leave, “it did so only reluctantly, and was displeased” to do so. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 20. The parties agree that Mosher was required to provide weekly reports of her status and intent to return to work. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 21. The parties dispute whether or not Mosher submitted those medical notes. Id. at ¶ 32, Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 32. The parties agree that on May 20, 2016, Mosher gave birth to triplets. Id. at ¶ 25. The parties do not dispute that, although Mosher originally applied for leave beginning July 16, 2016, her leave actually began earlier, on April 6, 2016. Id. at ¶¶ 18-19.

         In July 2016, Mosher applied for long-term disability benefits from Sun Life Insurance. Id. at ¶ 33. YMCA contends that as part of the application, Mosher's doctor certified that she could return to work full-time with no restrictions on August 1, 2016. Id. Mosher states that the August 1 date was merely an estimated return to work date. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 33. Mosher's application for long-term disability benefits was denied. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 33. She reapplied and was denied again. Id. She did not appeal the decision. Id.

         YMCA contends that Cote attempted to contact Mosher “numerous” times and left messages for her, but Mosher did not inform YMCA of her return to work status and did not submit any updated medical notes regarding her leave. Id. at ¶ 32. Cote and Mosher spoke on July 8, 2016, and Mosher asked to extend her leave until September. Id. at ¶ 33. Cote asked Mosher to attend an in-person meeting on July 19, 2016, to discuss the extension request and YMCA's upcoming restructuring of positions. Id. at ¶ 34.

         YMCA's senior leadership team met in June and July 2016 to discuss restructuring job duties for some positions, as a result of a proposed Department of Labor rule that would require YMCA to raise employees' salaries to maintain exemption from federal overtime laws. Id. at ¶¶ 26-31. The team discussed eliminating six Membership Director positions and replacing them with three Regional Membership Director positions as a result of the proposed Department of Labor rule. Id.

         When Mosher met with Executive Director Rick Hersom, Vice President of Human Resources Lori Lehan, and Chief Operating Officer Nichol Higdon on July 19, 2016, she requested additional time off. Id. at ¶ 39. YMCA asserts that Mosher did not discuss any medical issues involving her or her triplets and stated that she needed the additional time to enable her to find childcare. Id. at ¶¶ 38-39. Mosher contends that she did not portray childcare issues as the sole reason for the request. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 39. YMCA contends that Hersom, Leghan and Higdon offered to extend Mosher's leave by at least one additional week. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 40. Mosher counters that they stated that there would be no possibility of extending leave beyond one week. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 40. The parties agree that Hersom, Lehan and Higdon also explained that YMCA would be restructuring, eliminating some positions and creating others. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 42. They stated that the Membership Director position would likely be eliminated and that YMCA would likely establish Regional Membership Director positions instead. Id. YMCA states that Mosher did not express any interest in that position. Id. at ¶ 43. Mosher asserts that in fact, she was not capable of performing that position, or any other positions, when she was notified of the position in mid-July 2016. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 43.

         YMCA states that Lehan understood that Mosher's short-term disability benefits would soon end if they hadn't ended already, so Lehan offered Mosher the option of self-selecting for layoff so that she could continue to collect unemployment and continue to receive some income. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 44. YMCA states that Mosher was told that if she chose the self-selecting layoff option, she could resign and then reapply to work at YMCA again in the fall. Id. at ¶ 44. Mosher, however, asserts that she was given only a “Hobson's choice between returning to work without the time off to recover from childbirth…and being terminated.” Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 44. Mosher further argues that she was “terminated with a vague invitation to apply for ‘future openings'” and that there is “no evidence that [Mosher] failed to apply for any specific open position or that [Mosher] was told she would be hired for any opening if she did apply.” Id. at ¶ 45.

         YMCA contends that it gave Mosher “some time” to review the options discussed at the meeting and to contact Lehan when she had made a decision. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 46. Mosher states that she was given “a day or two” to decide what to do. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 46. YMCA states that on July 22, 2016, Mosher told Lehan that she would accept the layoff. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 47. Mosher argues that she did not voluntarily accept the layoff, but rather told Lehan that she would need to take the layoff even though she didn't want to because she could not physically return to work. Rule 56(a)(2) Statement at ¶ 47.

         YMCA asserts that after Mosher self-selected layoff, YMCA sent her a letter memorializing the conversation and Mosher's decision to self-select termination. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 48. YMCA further asserts that, during the July 19 conversation, it had offered to extend Mosher's leave by three weeks. Undisputed Facts at ¶ 48. Mosher, however, states that the offer to extend leave was not an actual offer, but rather an “after-the-fact characterization” of a phone call between Lehan and Mosher on July 22, during which time Lehan “made no such offer.” Rule 56(a)(2) Statement ...


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