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Hewett v. Willingboro Board of Education

March 15, 2006

GALE HEWETT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WILLINGBORO BOARD OF EDUCATION, MARVIN D. HOPKINS, ALOZNO KITTRELLS, JOHN DOES 1-10. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

The narrow question presented by this motion for partial judgment on the pleadings is whether the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. ("FMLA"), imposes individual liability on employees of public agencies.*fn1 Because the plain language of the statute so provides, the motion will be denied and the Court will permit Plaintiff to proceed with her claims against the Executive Director of Human Resources and Administrative Services and the Superintendent of the Willingboro Public Schools in their individual capacities.

I. BACKGROUND

The factual allegations that bear upon this motion are straightforward.

According to the Complaint, on October 4, 2004, Plaintiff, a teacher employed by the Defendant Willingboro Board of Education ("Board of Education"), severely injured her right foot following the packaging and transport of personal teaching materials and classroom supplies from McGinley Elementary School, where she had been a pre-Kindergarten teacher for approximately one year, to Twin Hills Elementary School, where she was subsequently reassigned as a kindergarten teacher. (Compl. ¶¶ 4-10.) Plaintiff visited her primary physician the very next day, and he arranged for her to see a podiatrist, Dr. Donna McAnespey. (Id. at ¶ 11.) On October 7, 2004, Dr. McAnespey diagnosed Plaintiff as suffering from a stress fracture of the third metatarsal of her right foot. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Dr. McAnespey placed Plaintiff's right foot in a "cam walker" which extended to her knee, and provided her with a note directing that she remain out of work until October 18, 2004. (Id. Ex. A.)

On October 8, 2004, Plaintiff visited Twin Hills Elementary School to discuss her injury with the school's principal, Barbara Doneghy. Ms. Doneghy was was not in that day, however, so Plaintiff left her the note from Dr. McAnespey, recommending that she remain out of work until October 18th. Plaintiff also advised the school nurse, Brenda Carey, of her injury. Ms. Carey proceeded to inform the Human Resources Department of Plaintiff's injury, and arranged for Plaintiff to be seen by Dr. Nathaniel Evans. Dr. Evans evaluated Plaintiff's injury, and his diagnosis matched Dr. McAnespey's. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

According to the Complaint, the pain in Plaintiff's foot persisted and prevented her from working until October 12, 2004, at which time, at the advice of Dr. Evans, she returned to work with an assistant. Plaintiff continued to work until October 18, 2004, at which time Plaintiff's assistant was apparently removed at Ms. Doneghy's instructions. (Id. at ¶ 14.) Plaintiff was working without an assistant when, on October 21, 2004, she further injured her right foot. The following day, Plaintiff reported her injury to Ms. Carey. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Once again, Ms. Carey arranged for an appointment with Dr. Evans. After an x-ray and follow-up visit with another podiatrist, Robert J. Filoramo, it was revealed that Plaintiff had a full fracture of the third metatarsal of her right foot. Dr. Filoramo ordered that Plaintiff not work until a follow-up visit on November 22, 2004. (Id. at ¶¶ 16-17.)

On October 28, 2004 Defendant Hopkins sent to Plaintiff a letter confirming her transfer to the position at Twin Hills Elementary School. (Id. at ¶ 18; Ex. C.) Several days later, on November 3, 2004, Defendant Alonzo Kittrells, the Superintendent of the Willingboro Public Schools, sent the following letter to Plaintiff:

Dear Ms. Hewett:

This is to advise you that, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:16-1, the Willingboro Board of Education intends to exercise its right to terminate your employment with the district. The decision is being made because of the district's need to have a full-time certified teacher in the classroom on a consistent basis.

This letter is your official written 60-day notification of the Board's intention to terminate your contract. Your last day in the district is January 3, 2005.

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Marvin Hopkins, Executive Director of Human Resources & Administrative Services at 609-835-8674.

Sincerely,

Alonozo Kittrels Superintendent of Schools

(Compl. at ¶ 19; Ex. D.)

Plaintiff filed this action on April 6, 2005, alleging violations under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., and New Jersey law.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The instant motion is for partial judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c), Fed. R. Civ. P.*fn2 "The Rule 12(c) judgment on the pleadings procedure primarily is addressed to . . . the function of disposing of cases on the basis of the substantive merits of the parties' claims and defenses as they are revealed in the formal pleadings." 5C Charles ...


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