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Lamitie v. Middlesex Hospital

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

May 10, 2019

LINN LAMITIE, Plaintiff,
v.
MIDDLESEX HOSPITAL, Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Linn Lamitie (“Plaintiff”) sued Middlesex Hospital (“Defendant” or “Hospital”) for discrimination under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2611(2) (“FMLA”); Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (“ADA”); and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-51(15) (“CFEPA”). Complaint, ECF No. 1 (“Compl.”). Middlesex Hospital has moved for summary judgment. Defendant Middlesex Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 35 (“Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.”).

         For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Hospital's motion for summary judgment as to the FMLA and ADA.

         The Court also declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Ms. Lamitie's CFEPA claim.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Middlesex Hospital, a 297-bed, non-profit community hospital in Middletown, Connecticut, employs over 3, 000 people. Affidavit of Gregory Nokes, ECF No. 36-2 (“Nokes Aff.”), at ¶ 4.

         On August 10, 2007, Middlesex Hospital hired Linn Lamitie to work approximately thirty hours per week. Compl., at ¶ 9; Defendant's Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement of Undisputed Facts, ECF No. 38 (“Def.'s SUF”), [1] at ¶ 6. She initially worked in Hospital Access before moving to Cash Control and Collections in 2009, where she stayed until the end of her employment at Middlesex Hospital. Compl., at ¶ 12. Ms. Lamitie often worked up to forty hours, when the work was available. Def.'s SUF, at ¶ 7.

         Throughout her time at the Hospital, Ms. Lamitie began taking FMLA leave in 2010. Id. at ¶ 8. She received FMLA leave in 2010 for a hip injury, in June 2011 to care for her mother, in October 2011 for other health reasons, and leave in November and December 2014 to participate in a group therapy program. Id. at ¶ 11; Lamitie Aff., at ¶ 9.

         Since July 2013, Ms. Lamitie allegedly has suffered from a depressive disorder and anxiety, which the Hospital has known about throughout this time. Affidavit of Linn Lamitie, ECF No. 42-3 (“Lamitie Aff.”), at ¶¶ 3, 4; Def.'s SUF, at ¶ 16.

         In October 2014, Middlesex Hospital denied Ms. Lamitie FMLA leave to care for her adult daughter and newborn granddaughter, because the FMLA allegedly did not cover that requested leave. Def.'s SUF, at ¶ 12.

         The same month, Ms. Lamitie applied for intermittent leave to address her depression; she remained on this intermittent leave until Middlesex Hospital terminated her. Id. at ¶ 14.

         A. Factual Allegations

         On or around December 2014, Ms. Lamitie used two weeks leave under the FMLA to participate in a group therapy program. Compl., at ¶ 16. At that time, she allegedly worked around forty hours per week. Id. at ¶ 17.

         In response to her FMLA leave, Ms. Lamitie alleges that Diane Eck, who became her supervisor in July 2014, reduced her hours. Id. at ¶¶ 15, 18. After bringing the issue to Human Resources, the Middlesex Hospital allegedly restored some of Ms. Lamitie's hours. Id. at ¶ 19.

         Ms. Lamitie alleges that she could not go to work on one occasion because of vomiting due to her depression, but Ms. Eck allegedly refused to recognize the absence as FMLA leave. Id. at ¶ 20. After bringing this issue to Human Resources, Middlesex Hospital allegedly changed the absence designation to FMLA leave. Id. at ¶ 21. Thereafter, Ms. Lamitie alleges that she only had one non-FMLA absence between January 2015 and August 12, 2015. Id. at ¶ 22.

         In early 2015, Middlesex Hospital switched to an outside vendor for credit card processing, which limited the scope of Ms. Lamitie's work. Deposition of Diane Eck, ECF No. 36-4 (“Eck Dep.”), 57:14-60:7. After the switch, Middlesex Hospital had difficulty providing Ms. Lamitie forty hours of work per week. Id. at 62:13-64:11.

         On or around April 2015, a coordinator position became vacant. Compl., at ¶ 23. According to Ms. Lamitie, Middlesex Hospital gave a vacant coordinator position “to a non-disabled, less qualified employee, ” even though Ms. Lamitie allegedly performed most of the duties of the position at the time. Id. at ¶¶ 23-25. Ms. Lamitie went to Human Resources about not getting the position; although allegedly told there would be an investigation, Ms. Lamitie claims that Human Resources never communicated the results of the investigation. Id. at ¶ 26.

         Middlesex Hospital allegedly filled the vacant position by adding a twenty-hour-per-week employee and re-assigning other duties among the remaining employees in the Cash Control and Collection Office. Def.'s SUF, at ¶ 51. This restructure of the department allegedly resulted in discord between Ms. Lamitie and Diane Eck. Id. at ¶ 52.

         By June 2015, Diane Eck believed that Ms. Lamitie was “struggling to stay focused on the task at hand, ” “struggling to complete her work, ” “easily distracted, and making errors.” Eck Dep. 75:10-16. Ms. Eck then began working with Susan DeToro in Human Resources regarding Ms. Lamitie's schedule. Id. at 76:13-77:7. Pat Neisser, Sarah DeToro, Wallicia McNeil, and Diane Eck met regarding Ms. Lamitie's “performance, her attitude, her insubordination.” Id. at 80:2-17.

         On or around July 2015, Ms. Eck allegedly directed Ms. Lamitie to change her lunch time from 1:00 p.m. to 11:30 a.m. Compl., at ¶ 27. Even though Ms. Lamitie stated that she needed to take lunch during that time to make personal calls and schedule medical appointments, Ms. Eck refused to allow Ms. Lamitie to keep her 1:00 p.m. lunch time. Id. at ¶¶ 27, 28. In addition, Ms. Eck “instructed the plaintiff that she was to tell Eck when each of her medical appointments were. The plaintiff declined to do so.” Id. at ¶ 29.

         In the beginning of August 2015, Ms. Lamitie's therapist renewed her FMLA leave paperwork-and specifically suggested that she be permitted to maintain her 1:00 p.m. lunch time. Id. at ¶ 30.

         Ms. Lamitie allegedly provided Middlesex Hospital with her FMLA paperwork either on August 7 or August 10, 2015. Lamitie Aff., at ¶ 17

         1. Involuntary Leave of Absence

         On or around August 12, 2015, Ms. Lamitie was had to attend a meeting with Human Resources personnel. Compl., at ¶ 32. During the meeting, Pat Neisser, one of the Middlesex Hospital's directors, allegedly “told the plaintiff that she could not return to her job.” Id. at ¶ 33. When Ms. Lamitie asked why, Wallicia McNeil, who also worked in Human Resources, allegedly told her that she would receive assistance in finding another job at Middlesex Hospital. Id. at ¶ 34. Ms. Lamitie requested to return to her desk for her personal belongings, but she was not allowed and instead had to give back her Middlesex Hospital identification. Id. at ¶ 35.

         Middlesex Hospital kept Ms. Lamitie on the payroll until she was terminated on March 31, 2016. Id. at ¶ 36. During this period, Ms. Lamitie could not find other work and also could not volunteer for work at Middlesex Hospital. Id. at ¶¶ 37-41.

         Middlesex Hospital allegedly based its decision on Ms. Lamitie's continued disruptive behavior and difficulty with her co-workers. Nokes Aff., at ¶¶ 6, 7. And the “arrangement was never intended to be for an indefinite paid leave, and Ms. Lamitie was on notice that this was the case.” Id. at ¶ 8. Ultimately, the situation “just wasn't working. And so [the Hospital] had to figure out what [Hospital staff] needed to do. And part of that was to remove her from her position.” Wallicia McNeil, ECF No. 36-5 (“McNeil Dep.”), at 22:20-22.

         2. Termination

         In January 2016, Middlesex Hospital put Ms. Lamitie on a March 31, 2016 deadline to find a new position. Nokes Aff., at ¶ 9. During this interim period, Middlesex Hospital paid Ms. Lamitie, even though she was not working, an arrangement not intended to be indefinite. McNeil Dep. 22:23-23:10.

         Ms. Lamitie alleges that up until her termination on May 31, 2016, she never received any written disciplinary action. Compl., at ¶ 14.

         Ms. Lamitie allegedly also suffers from extreme emotional distress from being forced to leave her position and continues to suffer from lost wages and employment benefits from her termination. Id. at ¶¶ 42-43.

         Middlesex Hospital claims not to have known that Ms. Lamitie had been employed at MedConn in August 2015, while still working for Middlesex Hospital or that she had not been clocking out during her therapy appointments. Nokes Aff., at ¶ 10-11. Middlesex Hospital alleges that either the alternative employment or not clocking out during her therapy appointments would have been grounds for termination. Id.

         3. Administrative Proceedings

         On July 11, 2016, Ms. Lamitie brought a disability discrimination charge against Middlesex Hospital before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”). Compl., at ¶ 4. On February 17, 2017, CHRO released jurisdiction over Ms. Lamitie's case. Id. On February 27, 2017, the EEOC issued a right to sue letter for Ms. Lamitie's case. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         On May 8, 2017, Linn Lamitie sued Middlesex Hospital for discrimination under FMLA, ADA, and CFEPA discrimination. Compl.

         On July 5, 2017, Middlesex Hospital answered the Complaint. Answer with Special Defenses, ECF No. 13.

         On November 8, 2018, Middlesex Hospital moved for summary judgment. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.

         On January 7, 2019, Ms. Lamitie filed a Memorandum in Opposition to the Hospital's Motion for Summary Judgment. Memorandum in Opposition regarding Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 42 (“Pl.'s Mem. in Opp'n. to Mot. for Summ. J.”).

         On February 5, 2019, the Hospital replied to Ms. Lamitie's opposition. Defendant Middlesex Hospital's Reply Memorandum in Further Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 45 (“Reply”).

         On April 30, 2019, the Court held a hearing on the Hospital's motion for summary judgment.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A motion for summary judgment will be granted when the record shows no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the movant is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Cartrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The non-moving party may defeat the motion by producing specific facts to prove that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

         “[T]he 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.” Id. at 247-48 (emphasis in original). The moving party, however, may satisfy this burden by pointing to an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. See PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam).

         When documentary evidence and sworn affidavits supporting a motion for summary judgment “demonstrate[] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the non-moving party must do more than vaguely assert the existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or “rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).

         The party opposing the motion for summary judgment then “must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.” Id.; see also Atkinson v. Rinaldi, 3:15-cv-913 (DJS), 2016 WL 7234087, at *1 (D. Conn. Dec. 14, 2016) (holding non-moving party must present evidence that would allow reasonable jury to find in his favor to defeat motion for summary judgment); Pelletier v. Armstrong, 3:99-cv-1559 (HBF), 2007 WL 685181, at *7 (D. Conn. Mar. 2, 2007) (“[A] nonmoving party must present ‘significant probative ...


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