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Perkins v. Pel Hughes Printing, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

December 4, 2018

KATHY PERKINS
v.
PEL HUGHES PRINTING, LLC ET AL.

         SECTION A(4)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 25) filed by Defendants Pel Hughes Printing, LLC and John Victor Hughes (hereinafter collectively referred to as “Defendants”). Plaintiff Kathy Perkins opposes the Motion (Rec. Doc. 61). The Motion, set for submission on November 14, 2018, is before the Court on the briefs without oral argument. Having considered the motion and memoranda of counsel, the opposition, the reply, the record, and the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion for Summary Judgment (Rec. Doc. 25) is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part for the reasons set forth below.

         I. Background

         Kathy Perkins worked for Pel Hughes Printing, LLC (“PHP”) as a Human Resource Administrator. (Rec. Doc. 1, Exhibit A ¶ 5). On December 30, 2015, Perkins was admitted into Ochsner Hospital's Outpatient Behavioral Mental Unit Program due to alleged verbal abuse by John Victor Hughes, president of PHP. (Id, ¶¶ 9-12). After being diagnosed with stress, depression, and anxiety, Perkins remained in the hospital for two weeks. (Id., ¶ 12). While this leave was covered by the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), Hughes allegedly called Perkins' disabled daughter, Aubrey Pitre, and told her that, “Unless [Perkins] comes back to work soon, I'll have to let her go.” (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). Perkins asserts that she returned to work against her physician's advice on January 18, 2016, out of fear of termination. (Id., ¶ 16).

         Defendants assert that on January 18, 2016, Hughes' wife had a conversation with Perkins which resulted in an “agreement” that PHP would terminate Perkins' employment after ninety days. (Rec. Doc. 25-5, p. 2). On April 4, 2016, Perkins took a scheduled day off to receive an epidural. (Rec. Doc. 1, Exhibit A ¶ 21). The next day, Perkins experienced a mental breakdown and was admitted to Ochsner Hospital for suicidal ideations. (Id.). Perkins remained hospitalized until April 13, 2016. PHP terminated Perkins' employment on May 2, 2016. (Id., ¶¶ 21, 26). Perkins filed the instant suit alleging that Defendants violated the FMLA regarding the leave she took in January 2016 and that Defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 32). Defendants now move this Court to enter summary judgment on all of Perkins' claims as she has not presented evidence sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact. (Rec. Doc. 25).

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment is appropriate only if “the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ” when viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact.” TIG Ins. Co. v. Sedgwick James, 276 F.3d 754, 759 (5th Cir.2002) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50 (1986)). A dispute about a material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). The court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Id. (citing Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). Once the moving party has initially shown “that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's cause, ” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986), the non-movant must come forward with “specific facts” showing a genuine factual issue for trial. Id. (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). Conclusory allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences, unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Id. (citing SEC v. Recile, 10 F.3d 1093, 1097 (5th Cir.1993)).

         III. Law and Analysis

          Defendants assert that Perkins must present evidence in support of her claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and interference and retaliation with respect to her rights under the FMLA that raises a genuine issue of material fact. (Rec. Doc. 25-5, p. 4). Defendants argue that Perkins has not presented, and cannot present, evidence in support of: (1) her claim for interference with her right to take qualifying medical leave under the FMLA; (2) her claim for retaliation by Hughes in connection with her FMLA approved leave; and (3) her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress as required by Louisiana law.

         a. Family Medical Leave Act

          The FMLA entitles an eligible employee to a total of twelve workweeks of leave during any twelve-month period for enumerated reasons including due to “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of such employee.” 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). The FMLA establishes that it is unlawful for an employer to “interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right provided” by the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Perkins alleges that while she was on FMLA leave in January 2016, Hughes began calling Aubrey Pitre, Perkins' daughter, and leaving threatening messages. (Rec. Doc. 61, Exhibit A p. 4). Perkins's FMLA claim is founded on these phone calls to allege that she returned to work against her physician's advice out of fear that Hughes would terminate her. (Rec. Doc. 1, Exhibit A ¶ 16).

         1) Interference of FMLA Approved Leave

          In order for a plaintiff to establish a prima facie interference case, she must show that: (1) plaintiff was an eligible employee, (2) defendant was an employer subject to the FMLA's requirements, (3) plaintiff was entitled to leave, (4) plaintiff gave proper notice of her intention to take FMLA leave, and (5) defendant denied her the benefits to which she was entitled under the ...


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