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Antekeier v. Laboratory Corporation of America

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 8, 2018



          T.S. Ellis, III United States District Judge.

         At issue in this Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”)[1] case are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff, a former salesperson for defendant, suffered medical incidents requiring that she take two periods of FMLA leave. According to plaintiff, defendant (i) impermissibly interfered with her FMLA leave by contacting her on several occasions while she was on FMLA leave, and (ii) terminated plaintiff in retaliation for plaintiff having taken FMLA leave on two occasions. Defendant now seeks summary judgment on both claims. Plaintiff also seeks summary judgment on defendant's failure to mitigate affirmative defense, arguing that defendant has failed to present any evidence showing plaintiff failed to mitigate her damages.

         Because there are disputed issues of fact with respect to plaintiff's retaliation claim and defendant's failure to mitigate defense, the cross-motions for summary judgment on those issues must be denied. But in contrast, there is no genuine dispute of material fact with respect to plaintiff's interference claim, and thus for the reasons that follow, defendant's motion for summary judgment on that claim must be granted.


         The following facts are derived from the parties' statements of undisputed fact, most of which were not specifically or properly disputed. In this respect, both parties, consistent with Local Rule 56(B) and the Rule 16(B) Scheduling Order, submitted in connection with their motions for summary judgment a separately captioned section listing in numbered-paragraph form all material facts as to which the parties contend no genuine dispute exists. See Antekeier v. Laboratory Corporation of America, No. 1:17-cv-786 (E.D. Va. Aug. 30, 2017) (Order). Also consistent with the Local Rule and Scheduling Order, both parties provided “a separately captioned section within the[ir] brief[s] addressing, in numbered-paragraph form corresponding to the movant's section, each of the movant's enumerated facts and indicating whether the non-movant admits or disputes the fact with appropriate citations to the record.” Id.

         Given that the parties essentially complied with Local Rule 56(B) and the Scheduling Order, the following statement of facts is based on the parties' statements of undisputed facts and responses thereto. Where the parties dispute a material fact and cite supporting record evidence, this dispute is noted below.

• Defendant, Laboratory Corporation of America, a company engaged in the business of providing lab testing services to doctors and other healthcare providers, hired plaintiff, Kelly Antekeier, in March 2010.
• Plaintiff was originally hired as a Key Account Executive (“KAE”). In that role, plaintiff was responsible for assisting defendant's existing clients and attempting to expand business opportunities with those existing accounts.
• Because plaintiff performed well in her KAE position, she was promoted to Senior Marketing Executive (“SME”) in 2013. This new position required plaintiff to seek out new clients in addition to her continuing responsibility to assist existing clients and to manage their accounts. Plaintiff continued working in her SME role without incident for three years.
• In August 2016, plaintiff took two weeks of leave for sinus surgery, returning to work on August 17, 2016.
• On September 15, 2016, plaintiff collapsed in the course of a client visit and was then informed that the collapse was attributable to a brain aneurism requiring both surgery and FMLA leave.
• Accordingly, plaintiff took FMLA leave from September 15, 2016 to October 17, 2016.
• Plaintiff took a second period of FMLA leave from November 23, 2016 to December 13, 2016 to undergo surgery for her brain aneurysm. On November 29, 2016, plaintiff underwent brain surgery, and then remained on FMLA leave until December 13, 2016.
• During the two periods of FMLA leave, plaintiff received a number of telephone calls from individuals at her workplace.
• During the first period of FMLA leave, plaintiff received two telephone calls from a coworker asking plaintiff for a client's contact information, another two calls from another coworker asking for information for a new account plaintiff had opened prior to taking FMLA leave, and a telephone call from a third coworker to update plaintiff on a client leaving the company and to let plaintiff know that her supervisor had resigned.
• During both periods of FMLA leave, plaintiff's supervisors had plaintiff's work calls and emails forwarded to the supervisors instead of being sent to plaintiff. Furthermore, plaintiff admits that she was never told by either supervisor that she was required to work while she was on leave. The record also reflects that plaintiff was never required to respond to or return any calls or emails.[2]
• During the second period of FMLA leave, plaintiff received several calls from her supervisors asking plaintiff about her medical condition and asking when plaintiff planned to return from leave. Plaintiff's new supervisor also left voicemails for plaintiff asking for client contact information. Plaintiff did not return these telephone calls, but instead responded to some via email. Plaintiff also received a call from a coworker asking plaintiff if plaintiff thought the company should hold a holiday party for a client. Plaintiff told her coworker that she thought the party was important and that the company should find someone to work the party. This was done; the party was held, but plaintiff did not plan, work on, or attend the holiday party. After returning from FMLA leave, plaintiff placed the bill for the party on her credit card merely to facilitate the billing process.
• On November 2, 2016, between plaintiff's first period of FMLA leave and her second, defendant's Vice President of Business, James Maruca, called plaintiff to a meeting to discuss complaints from two clients concerning plaintiff's conduct. The parties sharply dispute whether plaintiff's conduct complained of by clients actually occurred.
• One of the complaining clients, Dr. Chambers, contends he had attempted to establish an account with defendant. Plaintiff was assigned to follow-up and establish the account, but the account was not established even after several telephone calls. Maruca then sent another employee, Gloria Mann, to resolve the issue with Dr. Chambers. Mann visited Dr. Chambers and reported to Maruca that Dr. Chambers complained about plaintiff discussing plaintiff's health issues with Dr. Chambers. For her part, plaintiff disputes that she ever met Dr. Chambers, and notes that she was on FMLA leave when Dr. Chambers made his requests for assistance in opening an account.
• Plaintiff claims that when she tried to explain to Maruca that plaintiff was on leave at the time of the Dr. Chambers incident, Maruca told plaintiff she was unprofessional and yelled at her, stating that ...

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