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Ologundudu v. Manorcare Health Services, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 18, 2017

FOLASHADE OLOGUNDUDU, Plaintiff,
v.
MANORCARE HEALTH SERVICES, INC., Defendant.

          DRAKE P. BEARDEN, JR. KEVIN M. COSTELLO COSTELLO & MAINS, P.C. On behalf of Plaintiff

          RACHEL ANNE SEATON WILLIAM P. MCLANE LITTLER MENDELSON PC On behalf of Defendants

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.

         Presently before the Court is the motion of Defendant for summary judgment in its favor on Plaintiff's claims that Defendant violated the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1, et seq., by discriminating and retaliating against her because she was pregnant. For the reasons expressed below, Defendant's motion will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, Folashade Ologundudu, began working at Defendant, Manor Care Health Services, Inc., as a Licensed Practical Nurse (“LPN”) supervisor on March 5, 2014. Work shifts at Defendant are 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. On November 5, 2014, Plaintiff was working the night shift when at around 4:30 a.m. she took the half-hour break afforded to night shift employees. After assisting a patient, Plaintiff sat down in a chair in the lounge that is closest to the nurses' station.

         Even though the lounge is considered to be a lounge for patients and their families, and employees have a lounge solely for their use, Plaintiff claims that nurses often take their night shift breaks in the patient lounge, which the assistant director of nursing, Tameka Wall, calls the “nursing lounge, ” because of its close proximity to the nurses' station.

         While Plaintiff was on break, Wall, along with nurse manager Tawana Wisdom, came to the facility to hold a meeting. Wall asked about Plaintiff and was directed to the lounge where she observed Plaintiff sitting with her head in her hands and eyes closed. Wall accused Plaintiff of sleeping, but Plaintiff denied that she was sleeping. Plaintiff told Wall she was resting because she was nauseous and fatigued. According to Defendant, employees are permitted to sleep during their break, but they are not permitted to do so in the patient lounge, even though there is no written rule that employees are not permitted to use the patient lounge for their breaks. Plaintiff then accompanied Wall back to the nurses' station for the remainder of the planned meeting.

         After the meeting, Plaintiff returned to her job duties. Wall called the director of nursing, who told Wall to obtain a statement from Plaintiff and to advise her she was suspended. Wall tried to contact the facility administrator, but she could not reach him. Wall also called the human resources director, Angela Hood, and told Hood that she found Plaintiff sleeping in the patient lounge and that she had notified the director of nursing.

         A few minutes later, Wall, who was with Wisdom, summoned Plaintiff to her office. Wall told Plaintiff that she was suspended for sleeping in the patient lounge. Plaintiff claims that she again denied that she was sleeping, and told Wall and Wisdom that she was feeling nauseous because she was pregnant. Hood called Plaintiff later that day on November 6, 2014, and told Plaintiff that someone would contact her about her employment.

         Eleven days later, on November 17, 2014, Plaintiff met with Hood, who presented Plaintiff with a termination letter. The basis for her termination was that Plaintiff violated work rule commitment A-4, which requires employees to stay awake on the job. Plaintiff refused to sign the termination letter because she was not sleeping, and was instead resting because she was nauseous and fatigued.

         Plaintiff claims that her termination violates the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-12(s), which prohibits an employer from discriminating against a pregnant employee and requires that the employer provide reasonable accommodations to a pregnant employee. Plaintiff claims are three-fold: 1) Defendant terminated her because she was pregnant; 2) Defendant retaliated against her for her pregnancy and accommodation requests; and 3) Defendant failed to provide her reasonable accommodations for her pregnancy.

         Defendant has moved for summary judgment on all of Plaintiff's claims. Defendant argues that the decision to suspend Plaintiff was made before Plaintiff informed Wall that she was pregnant, and that Plaintiff's pregnancy, which is not considered a disability under these circumstances, is an after-the-fact attempt to excuse her violation of work rule commitment A-4. Plaintiff has opposed Defendant's motion.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Subject matter jurisdiction

         Defendant removed this action from New Jersey state court to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. This Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) because there is complete diversity of citizenship between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Plaintiff is a citizen of New Jersey, and Defendant is a citizen of Delaware and Ohio. (See Docket No. 41.)

         B. Standard for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied that the materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, or interrogatory answers, demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a ...


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