United States District Court, D. New Jersey
P. BEARDEN, JR. KEVIN M. COSTELLO COSTELLO & MAINS, P.C.
On behalf of Plaintiff
ANNE SEATON WILLIAM P. MCLANE LITTLER MENDELSON PC On behalf
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Subject matter jurisdiction
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.)
Standard for Summary Judgment
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