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Jacqueline M. Phelps v. Balfour

February 15, 2013

JACQUELINE M. PHELPS
PLAINTIFF
v.
BALFOUR, COMMEMORATIVE BRANDS INC., AMERICAN ACHIEVEMENT CORP., AMY KUHN, JOE DRURRY, TAYLOR SIMPSON, STEVE VINCE, AND TERRY RANGEL
DEFENDANTS



MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case is before the court on two motions to dismiss the Plaintiff's Complaint in which she asserts claims against the Defendants for (1) Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") discrimination and interference; (2) Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act ("ADAAA") disability discrimination and failure to accommodate; and (3) an Employee Retirement Income Security Act ("ERISA") violation (DN 1). Phelps requests injunctive relief, compensatory damages, liquidated damages under the FMLA, punitive damages, and she contends that attorneys' fees, costs, and expenses are warranted (DN 1).

Defendants, Commemorative Brands Inc. ("CBI") (DN 6), Amy Kuhn, Joe Drurry, Taylor Simpson, Steve Vince, and Terry Rangel ("Individual Defendants") (DN 7) request dismissal under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The Defendants allege that Phelps's Complaint fails to identify factual allegations to state a claim that is plausible on its face. The Individual Defendants also seek to dismiss Phelps's ADAAA claims pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), alleging that Phelps failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to them.

BACKGROUND

Phelps's Complaint alleges that CBI hired her in August 1997, and that (DN 1):

(1) In January 2009, Phelps complained about her workplace being cold. She was sick for twelve days and filed for both short-term disability and FMLA leave.

(2) March 2-17, 2009, Phelps was sick and then hospitalized for ten days. Phelps contacted Amy Kuhn in CBI's Human Resources Department, an Individual Defendant, regarding her unpaid short-term disability pay from January 2009.

(3) On March 17, 2009, Phelps called Terry Rangel, Director of CBI's Human Resources Department and an Individual Defendant, to inquire about her unpaid short-term disability. Rangel explained that Phelps's leave was under investigation because she was the only employee to get sick. Though later CBI did, in fact, pay Phelps's January 2009 short-term disability payment.

(6) In mid-April 2009, Phelps requested two days leave for doctor's appointments from her supervisor, Steve Vince, another Individual Defendant. Vince granted the request but also suggested that Phelps quit and draw disability because of her health issues and continuing illness.

(7) In late April 2009, Phelps requested three weeks vacation leave to begin in early May 2009. Vince denied the request because of Phelps's recent sick leave but later approved the request after Phelps complained to Vince's supervisor, Joe Drurry, the Plant Manager and Individual Defendant.

(8) In May 2009, during Phelps's three-week vacation, she was hospitalized for appendicitis and applied for short-term disability a second time.

(9) On June 15, 2009 and again on June 26, 2009-after her three-week vacation leave expired-Phelps was hospitalized for a surgery and another procedure.

(10) On June 29, 2009, Phelps received a letter from Rangel, the Human Resources Director, stating that Phelps exhausted her FMLA leave on June 15, 2009 and that she was being placed on a six-month leave of absence.

In July 2009, while unable to work, Phelps contacted a CBI Human Resources representative regarding what days CBI counted toward her FMLA leave. The representative explained that Phelps's FMLA period ran from June to June to coincide with her hiring date. Phelps then contacted Amy Kuhn who also explained that Phelps's FMLA coverage period ran from June to June. Phelps responded that she was hired in August, not June, and asserted that her FMLA period should run from August to August to coincide with her hiring date.

Phelps informed Kuhn that she had not received paperwork regarding long-term disability leave, nor had she been compensated for her short-term disability leave from May 2009. Kuhn instructed Phelps to notify her when Phelps was able to return to work. Then, on July 17, 2009, when Phelps was released from her doctor's supervision she informed Kuhn that she could return to work on July 22, 2009. On July 20, 2009, two days before Phelps could return to work, Kuhn told Phelps that her position had been eliminated and she need not return to work.

Phelps inquired about why she, instead of the other four employees in her department, was being eliminated. Kuhn did not explain or clarify Phelps's inquiries or address her complaints. When Phelps's request to return to work was denied she asked if Kuhn: (1) could place Phelps on furlough through August or September, which CBI had done before; or (2) could transfer Phelps to the night shift or another department (DN 1). Kuhn denied these requests and suggested that Phelps file for unemployment benefits.

DISCUSSION

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a short plain statement of the claims showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. The pleading standard in Rule 8(a)(2) does not require detailed factual allegations, but "demands more than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 ...


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