United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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.,
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).
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)).
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.
Family Medical Leave Act
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 ¶
Interference of FMLA Approved Leave
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 ...