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Calderone v. Tarc

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 6, 2015

MICHELLE CALDERONE
v.
TARC, SECTION

ORDER & REASONS

ELDON E. FALLON, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendant TARC's Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 13). The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law and now issues this Order & Reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

This case involves a claim made by Plaintiff Michelle Calderone against her former employer, TARC, under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 260, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 USC § 12101 ("ADA"), as well as the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, LSA-RS 23:321-325. According to Calderone's complaint, filed on December 17, 2013, Calderone was employed by the Defendant TARC as a Program Coordinator. TARC is a non-profit that provides a variety of services to persons with special needs in the Florida Parishes area of Louisiana. Calderone claims that on December 19, 2011, she was injured in an automobile accident. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 3). According to Calderone, she was diagnosed with a fractured sternum on January 25, 2012. Calderone claims that her physician told her that she would not be able to work in the office but could work from home instead. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 4). Calderone alleges that the Chief Executive Officer, Kathleen Abels, began acting hostile toward her. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 4). Calderone claims that the hostility at work got so bad that she tendered her resignation in November, 2012. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 5).

Calderone alleges that she was subject to the Family Medical Leave Act and that the Defendant interfered with her FMLA protected rights by failing to inform her of those rights. Calderone also claims that the Defendant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 USC § 12101 as well as the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, LSA-RS 23:321-325. Calderone asks to be compensated for loss of earnings, loss of benefits, and statutory penalties. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 5). Calderone also asks the Court to order that she be reinstated. (Rec. Doc. 1 at 9).

On June 2, 2014, TARC filed an answer in which it denies that Calderone had a disability or impairment that substantially limited her activities. TARC denies all liability and asserts various affirmative defenses.

II. UNDISPUTED FACTS

TARC hired Calderone as a social worker in 2000, and she remained employed there until her resignation in 2012. Kathleen Abels joined TARC as CEO in 2010 and remains at TARC in this capacity. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 33). According to Calderone, about a year after TARC hired Abels, Calderone and Abels started to experience a problematic working relationship. (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 22). Calderone testified that their relationship only got worse over time, and starting in 2010, they would have "daily disputes." (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 24, 58). Indeed, Calderone stated that "the last couple of years I was there, it was just a very hostile environment. It was no secret... throughout the agency that she and I didn't get along." (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 26). Calderone met with two TARC board members in June 2011 to discuss her issues with Abels. (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 33). Calderone also began to maintain records in 2011 of her problems with Abels to prepare for a meeting with the board. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 35).

On December 19, 2011, Calderone was injured in a car accident. Calderone returned to work after the Christmas holidays and worked the entire month of January. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 87). On January 25, 2012, Calderone's doctor diagnosed her with a fracture. Calderone and her doctor discussed the options of bedrest versus working from home, and Calderone ultimately decided that she would prefer to work from home because she felt that no other TARC employee could cover her job in her absence. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 88). Calderone's doctor approved of this plan, and Calderone spoke with Abels who also agreed to this plan. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 89-90). Calderone testified in her deposition that during this time TARC never offered her FMLA leave but she knew FMLA leave was an option. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 91). Nevertheless, she testified that she "wouldn't have taken [FMLA leave] [ ] as long as they allowed me to work from home." Calderone thus worked from home for two months and then went back to work part-time in March 2012. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 92).

TARC provided Calderone with an agreement ("the Agreement") that outlined her parttime work schedule. The agreement stated:

In the continued attempt to accommodate the recently disabled employee, Michelle Calderone, TARC has immediately implemented the following temporary modified job description and list of essential job functions for the position of Director of Pragmatic Services. The sole purpose of this temporary modified job description is to provide the employee an opportunity to perform her duties despite her disability.

(Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 5). The Agreement then outlined that Calderone would work twenty (20) hours from home and twenty (20) hours at the TARC office through March 31, 2012, at which point her job duties would revert to normal. (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 5).

Calderone refused to sign the Agreement and took issue with the fact that the agreement referred to her as "disabled." (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 98). She later testified that she does not think that TARC thought she was disabled but was merely trying to incense her. (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 133). In response to the proposed agreement, Calderone sent a letter outlining her reasons for refusing to sign the Agreement. Specifically, she said stated, inter alia, that (1) she did not consider herself disabled and attached a definition of the term; (2) the CEO told her that the Executive Committee would require her to return to work full-time on April 1, 2012; (3) there was no provision requiring a physician's release as a condition to her return to full-time employment; (4) FMLA was not mentioned as an option. (Rec. Doc. 13-5 at 2). In her deposition, Calderone stated that Abels had vocally expressed that she could not work the parttime schedule, but the part-time schedule was contained within the Agreement, thus either undermining Calderone's testimony or indicating that Abels experienced a change of heart. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 100).

Calderone returned to work full-time April 1, 2012. Calderone's doctor released her to go back to work full-time on this date, and Calderone did not ask for any leave in April. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 127). Calderone testified that "[m]y doctor asked me, Do you feel like you can go back to work April 1st?' And I said, Yes.'" (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 105). She further testified that she felt like she had to go back because her job was in jeopardy. (Rec. Doc. 13-4 at 105). Calderone testified that she did not take FMLA "because [she is] a dedicated person to my staff and employees and my kids" and because she knew that nobody could do her job. (Rec. Doc. ...


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