Submitted: January 27, 1998
On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Camden County.
Before Judges Pressler, Wallace and Carchman.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wallace, Jr., J.A.D.
In this action under the Family Leave Act (Act) and the Law Against Discrimination (LAD), plaintiff appeals from the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant dismissing her complaint. On appeal, plaintiff essentially contends that it was error to dismiss her complaint because she established a prima facie case that she qualified for Family Leave benefits. We find merit to plaintiff's contention and reverse.
Plaintiff Donna Kenney began her employment with defendant Meadowview Nursing and Convalescent Center in 1988 as a licensed practical nurse. On November 21, 1993, plaintiff was injured at work. In her claim petition seeking workers' compensation benefits, plaintiff stated she tore a ligament in her left arm and shoulder while cranking a bed. Defendant's answer to the claim petition revealed that plaintiff returned to work January 7, 1994, and that she was paid temporary disability of $3,601.92 at the weekly rate of compensation of $382.30. Plaintiff's compensation claim was settled and an order approving settlement was entered on August 23, 1995. As a result, plaintiff received temporary disability pay for the period of November 21, 1993, through January 7, 1994, totaling $3,601.92.
Plaintiff returned to work in January 1994. She was pregnant at that time. She requested information concerning the benefits she was entitled to receive under defendant's Family Leave policy. On March 17, 1994, plaintiff wrote to her supervisor, Alice DelRossi:
As per our Discussion on Friday, March 11, 1994, I still have questions and concerns which I feel have not been completely addressed. Since I had been informed that I was not eligible for a Family Medical Leave, I have not been informed as to what amount of time I am permitted to be absent from work after I have my baby, and what it will be classified as.
Also, as per my letter of March 1, 1994, I continue to be concerned about job security. Therefore, I am requesting several things from you in writing. First, I would like to be informed specifically the exact amount of time I am permitted to be absent after the birth of my baby. Second, the date I would have to return in order to maintain my current position on the 7pm to 7am half weeks on Worker's Compensation will have on any leave I require after giving birth.
I have reviewed my employee handbook thoroughly, and can find nothing that prohibits me from using accrued vacation time prior to an unpaid leave. If there is such a policy, I would appreciate a copy to add to my handbook.
When I was first approached by Pat Bacon on February 24, 1994, I requested a letter from her documenting the date that my medical coverage would be terminated as well as information on COBRA which would allow me to pay for my own coverage. I still do not have this information.
I plan to send a copy of this letter to Jane Greenburg. Thank you for your expedient attention to this matter.
Plaintiff was later informed by DelRossi that she did not qualify for Family Leave benefits because she had not worked the required 1,000 hours during the previous twelve months. Defendant claimed that plaintiff had only worked 974 hours and that she was not entitled to receive any credit for the time she was paid workers' compensation benefits, approximately 360 hours. Plaintiff stopped working for medical reasons during her pregnancy on or about March 27, 1994. *fn1
The meager facts provided by the parties do not reveal when plaintiff wished to return to work. However, that information is ...