The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge
This matter has come before the Court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's federal law claim, and, if granted, dismissal of the entire action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. For the reasons expressed below, Defendants' summary judgment motion will be granted, and the remaining counts in Plaintiff's Complaint will be dismissed.
Plaintiff, Debora Palen, was employed by Defendant, Alcan Packaging, for eighteen years prior to being "downsized"*fn1 on February 14, 2003. Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint against Defendants, claiming that her termination violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (NJLAD) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She has also asserted claims for breach of an implied contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing of Defendants' severance pay policies. Defendants have moved for summary judgment on Plaintiff's FMLA claim, and if that motion is granted, Defendants have requested dismissal of the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. In the event that the Court retains subject matter jurisdiction, Defendants also seek judgment in their favor on Plaintiff's NJLAD claim. Plaintiff opposes Defendants' requested relief.
A. Summary Judgment Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).
An issue is "genuine" if it is supported by evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" if, under the governing substantive law, a dispute about the fact might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. In considering a motion for summary judgment, a district court may not make credibility determinations or engage in any weighing of the evidence; instead, the non-moving party's evidence "is to be believed and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Marino v. Industrial Crating Co., 358 F.3d 241, 247 (3d Cir. 2004)(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255).
Initially, the moving party has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met this burden, the nonmoving party must identify, by affidavits or otherwise, specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. Thus, to withstand a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must identify specific facts and affirmative evidence that contradict those offered by the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. A party opposing summary judgment must do more than just rest upon mere allegations, general denials, or vague statements. Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001).
B. Plaintiff's FMLA Claim
From June 29, 2002 to November 18, 2002, Plaintiff had been on FMLA leave and disability as a result of toe surgery. Plaintiff's Complaint can be construed as asserting three claims with regard to her FMLA leave: 1) Plaintiff was "denied any later family medical leave," and "refused any extended medical leave beyond the 12 weeks of family leave" (Compl. ¶ 3, Count Two); 2) Plaintiff was "selected for downsizing on February 14, 2003" because she believed "she was retaliated against for . . . requesting additional family medical leave" (id. ¶ 6, Count Two); and 3) Plaintiff was "selected for downsizing on February 14, 2003" because she believed "she was retaliated against for having taken family medical leave" (id.). Thus, it must be determined whether Defendants are entitled to summary judgment on any of these FMLA claims.
The FMLA affords eligible employees "a total of twelve workweeks of leave during any twelve-month period" if the employee has 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)(D). Following FMLA leave, an employee is entitled to be reinstated to the former position or an alternate one with equivalent pay, benefits and working conditions. See id. § 2614(a)(1). The FMLA provides relief for interference of these FMLA rights as well as for retaliation for using these FMLA rights.
Plaintiff's first FMLA claim can be construed as an interference claim. The FMLA declares it "unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right provided" in the FMLA. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Such a claim is typically referred to as an "interference" claim. Sommer v. The Vanguard Group, 461 F.3d 397, 398-99 (3d Cir. 2006). To assert an interference claim, "the employee only needs to show that he was entitled to benefits under the FMLA and that he was denied them." Sommer, 461 F.3d at 399 (citation omitted). "An interference action is ...