The opinion of the court was delivered by: DENNIS CAVANAUGH, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court upon motion by AT&T
Corporation ("Defendant"), for summary judgment pursuant to Rule
56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on all counts of the
Complaint filed by Jane Ashton ("Plaintiff"). No oral argument
was heard pursuant to Rule 78 of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is
Plaintiff brought this action against Defendant, her former
employer, under the New Jersey Jury Service Statute, N.J. Stat.
Ann. § 2B:20-1 et seq.; the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination
("LAD"), N.J. Stat.Ann. § 10:5-2.1; the American with
Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101; and the
Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601. Plaintiff
claims Defendant violated N.J.S.A. § 2B:20-17 by retaliating
against her for serving as a juror. Plaintiff also alleges Defendant violated the NJLAD and
the ADA by failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for her
alleged mental disability and by subjecting her to disparate
treatment. Finally, she claims Defendant violated the FMLA by
retaliating against her for taking medical leave.
Plaintiff began working for Defendant on March 17, 2002, and
held a number of different positions during the term of her
employment. (Defendant's Statement of Material Facts ("Def. R.
56.1 Stmt.") at 2). On January 1, 2002, she became a Customer
Relations Specialist ("CRS"), which entailed assisting business
clients. (Id.). In February 2002, Plaintiff's supervisor gave
her a "Below Target" rating on her annual performance assessment.
("Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition ("Pl. Br."), at 2).
From June 4, 2002, until August 4, 2002, Plaintiff took a short
term disability leave due to mental impairments. (Id.) She
continued to receive her usual salary during this period.
(Defendant's Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment
("Def. Br."), at 8). In an attempt to ease her return to the
workplace, Plaintiff requested she be allowed to work from home
part time beginning August 5, 2002. (Pl. Br. at 3). Defendant
granted the request and on August 8, 2002, Plaintiff began
working full-time from home. (Id.) At the end of August,
Plaintiff informed Defendant that she would like to continue
working from home until October. (Def. Br. at 9). Defendant
denied this request and told Plaintiff to return to the office by
September 12, 2002, at which time both parties could engage in a
discussion about other possible accommodations. (Def. Br. at
9-10). Plaintiff refused to return to work as requested and on
September 11, 2002, she took another disability leave. (Pl. Br.
at 4). On October 4, 2002, Metlife, Defendant's disability benefits
provider, denied Plaintiff's application for short term
disability benefits because her medical documentation did not
support Plaintiff's disability claim. (Id. at 5). Once
Defendant learned Metlife denied the disability claim, Plaintiff
was told to return to work by October 25, 2002. (Def. Br. at
11-12). Plaintiff then informed Defendant she would not return to
work on October 25 and that she would be taking the following
week off as vacation. (Pl. Br. at 8). In response, Defendant gave
Plaintiff two options: (1) return to work and discuss alternative
accommodations besides working from home; or (2) take a sixty day
leave of absence from her current job in order to seek another
position at AT&T. (Id.) If Plaintiff failed to find another
position during that time, she would be terminated at the end of
the sixty days. (Def. Br. at 13). Plaintiff chose the latter
option but failed to find another position during the sixty-day
period. (Id. at 14). As a result, Plaintiff's employment was
terminated on January 3, 2003. (Def. R. 56.1 Stmt. at 14).
Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming Defendant
discriminated against her due to her disability in violation of
the ADA. (Id.) The EEOC dismissed the Charge on April 30, 2003,
after finding her allegations did not involve a disability
covered by the ADA. (Id.) Plaintiff then filed a pro se
Complaint before this Court on July 1, 2003.
Summary judgment is granted only if all probative materials of
record, viewed with all inferences in favor of the non-moving
party, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of
showing either (1) there is no genuine issue of fact and it must
prevail as a matter of law; or (2) that the non-moving party has
not shown facts relating to an essential element of the issue for
which he bears the burden. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 331. If either
showing is made then the burden shifts to the non-moving party,
who must demonstrate facts that support each element for which he
bears the burden and must establish the existence of genuine
issues of material fact. Id. The non-moving party "may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading" to satisfy
this burden, Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), but must produce sufficient
evidence to support a jury verdict in his favor. Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986).
B. Plaintiff's Jury Service Claim
N.J.S.A. § 2B:20-17 prohibits employers from taking adverse
action against employees for performing jury service. If an
employer does threaten or penalize an employee for partaking in
this civic duty, the employee must commence an action against the
employer regarding these acts "within 90 days from the date of
the violation or the completion of jury service, whichever is
later." N.J.S.A. § 2B:20-17(c).
In this case, Plaintiff served as a grand juror in Essex
County, New Jersey, during March through June of 2002. (Pl. Br.
at 2). Her service required her to be absent from work every
Friday during those months. (Def. Br. at 6-7). Plaintiff alleges
Defendant penalized her for performing her jury service. (Id.)
The Court does not have to consider the merits of this claim at this time because Plaintiff's claim under the statute is
untimely. She completed jury duty on June 14, 2002, and the
Defendant's termination of her employment became effective on
January 3, 2003. (Id. at 16). In order for Plaintiff to have a
timely claim under the statute, the latest date she could have
commenced her action was April 3, 2003. Instead, Plaintiff did
not file her Complaint until July 1, 2003, three months after the
statute of limitations had run. In fact, Plaintiff's initial
Complaint failed to even mention any cause of action under the
jury service statute. It was not until she filed her Amended
Complaint on November 17, 2003, more than seven months after the
statute limitations had expired, that Plaintiff raised her first
claim under the statute. Due to Plaintiff's failure to file a
timely claim, her jury service claim is barred.
C. Plaintiff's Claim under the New Jersey Law Against
The New Jersey LAD exists to ensure that all New Jersey
citizens enjoy the civil rights guaranteed by the State
Constitution, especially in the work place. N.J.S.A. § 10:5-2.1.
Because the overarching goal of the LAD is to rid society of
discrimination, the New Jersey Supreme Court has advised courts
to liberally construe its provisions. Dale v. Boy Scouts of
America, 160 N.J. 562
(1999). Although the LAD's protections
have been broadly interpreted, the LAD does not prevent an
employer from terminating or changing the employment ...