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Jones v. New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

November 15, 2019

BILL JONES
v.
NEW ORLEANS REGIONAL PHYSICIAN HOSPITAL ORGANIZATION, INC. D/B/A PEOPLES HEALTH NETWORK

         SECTION: "A" (3)

          FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil action brought by plaintiff Bill Jones pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) against his former employer, defendant New Orleans Regional Physician Hospital Organization, Inc. d/b/a Peoples Health Network. Jones alleges that Peoples Health terminated his employment in retaliation for making an FLSA complaint.

         The case was tried to the Court sitting without a jury on October 15-16, 2019, as to the issue of liability only. Having considered the testimony and evidence at trial, the depositions submitted in lieu of live testimony, the arguments of counsel, and applicable law, the Court now enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a). To the extent that any finding of fact may be construed as a conclusion of law, the Court hereby adopts it as such. To the extent that any conclusion of law constitutes a finding of fact, the Court adopts it as such.

         I. FINDINGS OF FACT

         Peoples Health is an enterprise engaged in commerce that at all times relevant had annual gross sales of at least $500, 000.00.

         Bill Jones started working for Peoples Health in March 2013 as a Contracting Specialist in its Network Development Department. Peoples Heath's Network Development Department is responsible for establishing and maintaining a network of health care providers who are willing and able to provide services to its plan members. As a Contracting Specialist, Jones's job duties included contacting health care providers to attempt to recruit them to join the Peoples Health's network, facilitating having those who were interested join the network, and maintaining a relationship with the providers who elected to and were approved to join the network.

         In April 2015, Hunt Graham became Jones's immediate supervisor. Graham reported to Anthony Bonck, an assistant vice president with Peoples Health.

         Jones had a history of performance problems at Peoples Heath that pre-dated the incidents that led to Jones's termination. (Exhibits 1 - 13). These performance issues were not insignificant.

         On May 17, 2016, Bonck and Graham met with Jones about those problems. Ann Wolff from Human Resources was also present. The meeting did not go well. Jones left work abruptly on May 18, 2016 without telling anyone and did not return for four months. Peoples Health later discovered that on the day that Jones walked out his voicemail box was full and contained 95 unreviewed messages. (Exhibit 13). The work files that Jones left had little or no information in them. Jones used FMLA leave from May 19, 2016 until September 2016, when he finally returned to work.

         Peoples Health was willing to continue with Jones's employment and give him a “fresh start” going forward. (Exhibit 17). Jones therefore avoided having to account for the performance problems that had preceded his sudden, unannounced departure. Graham was less sanguine about the likelihood that Jones's performance problems would improve once he returned to work. (Id.). In October 2016 Graham gave Jones a below average employee performance review. (Exhibit 20).

         Jones never believed that his performance appraisals accurately reflected his successes.

         On March 10, 2017, Jones's father suffered a stroke. As of that time, Jones had exhausted his Family Medical Leave Act time and all of his paid time off. On March 22, 2017, Jones requested to work remotely 3-5 days per week during certain weeks so that he could care for his father and continue to be paid.

         On March 28, 2017, Bonck emailed Jones to confirm that Peoples Health would allow him to work remotely and to outline Peoples Health's expectations relating to the approved remote work arrangement. (Exhibit 33 at 124). The specific requirements for the remote work arrangement were drafted by Anne Wolff with Human Resources. On April 23, 2017, Jones confirmed his agreement to comply with Peoples Health's expectations for the remote work arrangement. (Exhibit 24). Peoples ...


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