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Leonard Gold v. Genesis Healthcare

June 11, 2012

LEONARD GOLD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GENESIS HEALTHCARE CORPORATION, BURLINGTON WOODS CONVALESCENT CENTER, INC., AND JOANNA PASTORE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

This matter has come before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims that defendants violated his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

In June 2006, plaintiff, Leonard Gold, a 69 year-old New Jersey licensed nurse, began working part-time (20 hours a week) as a clinical reimbursement coordinator ("CRC") at defendant Burlington Woods Convalescent Center, Inc. ("Burlington Woods"). Burlington Woods is owned and operated by defendant Genesis Healthcare Corporation. Plaintiff's primary responsibility as a CRC was to prepare minimum data set ("MDS") assessments on residents to assess their functional capabilities. The MDS assessments were transmitted electronically to the State of New Jersey, which used the MDS assessments to determine the amount it would reimburse Burlington Woods for the care provided each to resident.

As of the summer of 2008, plaintiff and his co-worker, Suzette Tuck, a full-time employee, were the two nurses responsible for making MDS assessments. By that time, the number of residents at Burlington Woods was increasing, and, correspondingly, the amount of work required of plaintiff and Tuck was increasing. Over the course of time, plaintiff volunteered to work more hours, ultimately working 32 hours a week.*fn1

Some time in the fall of 2008, defendant Joanna Pastore, Burlington Woods's Nursing Home Administrator, determined that the CRC staffing was insufficient to serve the increasing MDS requirements. Pastore requested that the CRC staff budget be increased to two full-time employees starting in January 2009. Pastore's request was approved by the end of 2008, and Pastore authorized Tuck to offer plaintiff the full-time CRC position.

Although the timing is unclear, in January 2009, plaintiff requested leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for his ill wife from February 3, 2009 through April 7, 2009. Plaintiff's FMLA leave was approved by the human resources department shortly thereafter. Around the same time, Tuck offered plaintiff the full-time position. Plaintiff rejected the 40-hour, five-day per week position, but offered to work 36 hours, four days a week when he returned from leave. Plaintiff never directly communicated with Pastore regarding his request for leave or the work schedule he hoped to work when he returned. Tuck relayed plaintiff's counter-offer regarding the full-time position to Pastore, and Pastore rejected it. Pastore then determined it would make sense to split the new full-time position into two 20-hour part-time positions, where plaintiff would retain his 20-hour per week budgeted position, and the other 20-hour per week budgeted position would be offered to another nurse.

In the beginning of February 2009, plaintiff commenced his leave, and Burlington Woods offered the new 20-hour CRC position to Sheila Christian. Because she had to wait for the state of New Jersey to grant reciprocity for her Pennsylvania nursing license, she was not able to start working until May 11, 2009. When plaintiff returned in April from his FMLA leave, he resumed working 32 hours per week, but with the knowledge that he would have to go back to his budgeted 20 hours once Christian started in May 2009.

Plaintiff worked the 20-hour per week schedule until January 2010, when he requested 12 weeks of FMLA leave to care for his wife who became ill again. The Burlington Woods human resources department denied plaintiff's request because he had not worked the requisite number of hours to qualify for FMLA leave. Pastore, however, approved a 30-day personal leave of absence for plaintiff, beginning on January 11, 2010 and ending on February 8, 2010. Plaintiff signed a form which explained that if he did not return to work on February 9, 2010, he would be considered a "no call, no show," and would be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.

While on personal leave, plaintiff called Tuck numerous times, and he contacted the human resources manager, Joy Azikiwe, several times, to keep them apprised of his wife's condition. On February 9, 2010, plaintiff spoke with Tuck and told her he would not be returning until March 10, 2009. Tuck relayed this information to Pastore in an e-mail. When plaintiff did not show up for work on February 9, 2009, Azikiwe called plaintiff that day to inquire about his intentions, but plaintiff did not answer the call. Pastore determined to terminate plaintiff's employment, and told Azikiwe to prepare and send a letter to plaintiff. After receiving the letter, plaintiff spoke with Tuck and Azikiwe about his termination, and about reapplying for employment, which he was advised he could do in the termination letter. Plaintiff never returned to work at Burlington Woods.

Plaintiff filed suit against Burlington Woods, Genesis Healthcare and Pastore, alleging that defendants violated his rights under the FMLA. Plaintiff also alleges that his termination was in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination because he was fired due to his age. Plaintiff also contends in his complaint that he has been damaged under the theory of promissory estoppel.

Defendants have filed for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims against them. In his opposition papers, plaintiff has opposed defendants' motion, except he has withdrawn his claim for promissory estoppel.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction

This Court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims under 28 U.S.C. ยง 1331, and supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state ...


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