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Blodgett v. 22 South Street Operations

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

July 8, 2019

JENNIFER BLODGETT, Plaintiff,
v.
22 SOUTH STREET OPERATIONS, Defendant.

          RULING AND ORDER ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Jennifer Blodgett (“Plaintiff”) has sued 22 South Street Operations, LLC (“22 South Street Operations”) under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), for both interference and retaliation, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), for failure to accommodate and retaliation, as well under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”), for disability discrimination and retaliation. Complaint, ECF No. 1, at 5-12.

         22 South Street Operations now has moved for summary judgment in this case. Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 70.

         For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS 22 South Street Operation's motion for summary judgment as to the ADA and FMLA claims.

         The Court also declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Ms. Blodgett's state law claims and therefore directs the Clerk of Court to close this case.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Allegations

         22 South Street Operations owns and operates Fox Hill Center, a 150-bed skilled nursing facility with 148 employees in Rockville, Connecticut. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities June 6, 2016 Letter, ECF No. 78-11; Compl. at ¶ 14 (“Defendant owns and operates the Fox Hill Center located at 1253 Hartford Turnpike, Vernon, Connecticut 06066”). Licensed by the Connecticut Department of Public Health, Fox Hill Center must adhere to federal and state nursing requirements and federal guidelines on Medicare and Medicaid funds. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities June 6, 2016 Letter, ECF No. 78-11.

         In December 2008, Fox Hill Center hired Jennifer Blodgett to work as a Licensed Practical Nurse/management-level Charge Nurse. Affidavit of Gaye Cassells, ECF No. 71-1 (“Cassells Aff.”), at ¶ 3. In that role, Ms. Blodgett's essential job functions were to: “Directly provide safe care and nursing services for elderly, infirmed patients; Supervise and coordinate nursing personnel in providing direct patient care; Develop and implement patient care plans to ensure patient safety and comfort; Assist physicians in examination and patient care.” Id. In addition, Ms. Blodgett had to “[c]ontribute to an environment that is respectful, team-oriented, and responsive to the concerns of staff, patients and families.” Id. at ¶ 5.

         In March 2012, Fox Hill Center met with Ms. Blodgett after she allegedly “failed to appropriately handle a ‘combative' dementia patient.” Id. at ¶ 6; Ex. 2 to Ex. A, ECF No. 71-1.

         In October 2014, Fox Hill Center disciplined Ms. Blodgett for “‘verbally abusing' at least one dementia patient.” Cassells Aff. at ¶ 9. After investigating the incident, Fox Hill Center “concluded that Plaintiff had ‘yelled at least one resident.'” Id. at 10; Ex. 3 to Ex. A, ECF No. 71-1, at 1. Fox Hill Center contends that it “clearly instructed Plaintiff that she would be terminated if any similar any similar instances occurred in the future.” Cassells Aff. at ¶ 11; Ex. 3 to Ex. A, ECF No. 71-1, at 2.

         On April 20, 2015, Ms. Blodgett received a performance evaluation, noting that, at that time, she “exceeds expectations.” Ex. P5, ECF No. 78-8.

         On December 16, 2015, Fox Hill Center fired Ms. Blodgett's son, who also worked at Fox Hill Center in the kitchen area, for performance issues. Cassells Aff. at ¶¶ 13-14. The Human Resources Department asked Gaye Cassells to let Ms. Blodgett know of her son's termination. Id. at ¶ 16. After Ms. Cassells told Ms. Blodgett of her son's termination, Ms. Blodgett allegedly became enraged and began yelling profanity before storming out of the room. Id. at ¶¶19-22.

         According to staff accounts, Ms. Blodgett then threatened employees, cursed at them, and pushed over a cart in the kitchen before leaving the facility. Id. at ¶¶ 25, 27; Exs. 4 & 5 to Ex. A, ECF No. 71-1. Ms. Blodgett does not recall what happened after Ms. Cassells told her that Fox Hill Center fired her son. Jennifer Blodgett September 14, 2018 Deposition, Ex. D, ECF No. 71-1 (“Blodgett September 14, 2018 Dep.”), at 72:10-74:14.

         Later that day, Nancy Pagani, Ms. Blodgett's supervisor, called Ms. Blodgett to inform her of her suspension pending an investigation. Cassells Aff. at ¶ 28. Ms. Blodgett does not recall Ms. Pagani telling her about her suspension. Blodgett September 14, 2018 Dep. at 94:6- 10. Ms. Blodgett alleges that she only learned about the suspension days later, when Fox Hill Center sent her a letter. Id. at 97:17-20; see also December 16, 2015 Suspension Letter, ECF No. 78-16.

         That same day, Ms. Blodgett contacted Ms. Cassells to request FMLA paperwork, which Ms. Cassells provided to her. Cassells at ¶ 29.

         On December 17, 2015, Ms. Blodgett submitted an employee request for leave of absence, citing continuous disability under the FMLA. Employee Request for Leave of Absence, ECF No. 78-14.

         On December 18, 2015, Ms. Blodgett submitted a partially completed FMLA application, and then supplemented the application days later with a medical certification from Dr. Serge Poulin. Affidavit of Stephanie Willis, ECF No. 71-1 (“Willis Aff.”), at ¶ 4; Ex. 1 to Ex. B, ECF No. 71-1, at 4. Ms. Blodgett submitted her FMLA application to “Fox Hill's out-of-state corporate leave management division, ” but allegedly “[n]o one from Fox Hill reviewed plaintiff's application for FMLA leave, or rendered any decision to her application.” Cassells Aff. at ¶ 30.

         According to the Fox Hills Center Leave Analyst, “Plaintiff's application was reviewed by a Leave Specialist in conjunction with a Nurse Consultant” and “the Nurse Consultant determined that the medical certification Plaintiff submitted was insufficient, as it failed to certify a serious health condition sufficient to warrant FMLA leave.” Willis Aff. at ¶¶ 6-7. Because of the failure to submit a proper medical certification, the Leave Analyst denied Ms. Blodgett's FMLA leave application. Id. at ¶ 8.

         Ten days later, a Leave Specialist retroactively granted Ms. Blodgett's personal leave of absence from December 17, 2015 to January 9, 2016. Id. at ¶ 9; Ex. P12, ECF No. 78-15.

         On January 8, 2016, Dr. Poulin cleared Ms. Blodgett to return to work. Willis Aff. at ¶ 10.

         According to Ms. Blodgett, she spoke with Nancy Pagani two to three weeks before her termination about feeling depressed because of deaths at the facility, but never communicated a medical diagnosis of depression. Blodgett September 14, 2018 Dep. at 70:9-15; 86:7-87:10.

         On January 11, 2016, Ray Talomona, Pam Liggins, Nancy Pagani, and Gaye Cassells met with Ms. Blodgett to complete the investigation into her behavior on December 16, 2015. Cassells Aff. at ¶¶ 32, 33.

         After that meeting, Ms. Liggins, Ms. Pagani, and Ms. Cassells “decided to terminate Plaintiff's employment due to her unprofessional conduct, and messaged that to Plaintiff, effective immediately.” Id. at 34.

         On July 7, 2016, Ms. Blodgett applied for Social Security disability insurance benefits, and reported a disabling depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Id. She also said that she was disabled since December 16, 2015. Ex. C, ECF No. 71-1; Blodgett September 14, 2018 Dep. at 131:19-21.

         On June 28, 2018, the Social Security Administration rendered a fully favorable decision on Ms. Blodgett's disability, noting that Ms. Blodgett “has been under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act since December 16, 2015, the alleged onset date of disability.” Notice of Decision, ECF No. 71-1.

         Though the Social Security Administration declared Ms. Blodgett disabled, Ms. Blodgett believed that she could return to work a full shift on January 15, 2016. February 11, 2019 Deposition of Jennifer Blodgett, ECF No. 71-1, at 19:3-6. Ms. Blodgett also allegedly never requested any hours or duty accommodations from anyone at Fox Hill Center. Id. at 23:4-13.

         B. Procedural History

         On May 9, 2017, Ms. Blodgett filed her Complaint against 22 South Street Operations. Complaint, ECF No. 1.

         On July 12, 2017, 22 South Street Operations responded to the Complaint with an Answer and affirmative defenses. Answer to Complaint with Affirmative Defenses, ECF No. 13.

         On October 5, 2018, the Court held a post-discovery telephonic status conference. Minute Entry, ECF No. 52.

         On March 29, 2019, 22 South Street Operations moved for summary judgment in this case. Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 70.

         On May 20, 2019, Ms. Blodgett objected to 22 South Street Operation's motion for summary judgment. Objection re Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 78.

         On June 28, 2019, the Court held a hearing on 22 South Street Operation's motion for summary judgment.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Motions for summary judgment are 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 showing 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 ...


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