Santiago v. Dep't of Transp.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
Citation50 F.Supp.3d 136
Decision Date25 September 2014
Docket NumberCivil No. 3:12cv132 JBA.
PartiesSamuel SANTIAGO, Plaintiff, v. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION,Doreen Rossi, James Redeker, Benjamin Alejandro and Susan Paulauskas, Defendants.

50 F.Supp.3d 136

Samuel SANTIAGO, Plaintiff
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION1 Doreen Rossi, James Redeker, Benjamin Alejandro and Susan Paulauskas, Defendants.

Civil No. 3:12cv132 JBA.

United States District Court, D. Connecticut.

Signed Sept. 25, 2014.

50 F.Supp.3d 139

Jacques J. Parenteau, Magdalena B. Wiktor, Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau, LLC, New London, CT, for Plaintiff.

Colleen B. Valentine, Office of the Attorney General, Hartford, CT, for Defendant.



Plaintiff Samuel Santiago, an employee of the Connecticut Department of Transportation (“DOT”), alleges that Defendants, employees of the DOT, interfered with his rights by denying him leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and retaliated against him for exercising his rights under the FMLA by placing him on unpaid leave.2 Both sides have moved for summary judgment with Defendants moving [Doc. # 79] for judgment on all counts and Plaintiff moving [Doc. # 80] for judgment on Count One (FMLA interference) only. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion is denied in part and granted in part and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

I. Facts

Plaintiff Samuel Santiago has been employed by the DOT since 1998 and from 2006 until October 2012 held the position of Material Storage Supervisor II, a position that required considerable overtime during the snowy winter months. (Santiago Dep. Tr., Ex. A to Pl.'s 56(a)1 Stmt. [Doc. # 80–2] at 27.) In 2000, Mr. Santiago was diagnosed as suffering from “cluster headaches,” which are more intense

50 F.Supp.3d 140

than a migraine attack and have been described as a “suicide headache” because some people have taken their own lives during an attack or in anticipation of one. (Cleveland Clinic, Cluster Headaches, Ex. T to Pl.'s 56(a)1 Stmt. at 1.)

Mr. Santiago first notified the DOT of his medical condition in a May 12, 2011 letter to Doreen Rossi, the Principal Human Resources Specialist. Mr. Santiago wrote “I suffer from cluster headaches which are worse than migraines” and “are completely disabling and can last for hours to days depending on the episode.” (May 12, 2011 Ltr. Santiago to Rossi, Ex. G to Pl.'s 56(a)1 Stmt.) Mr. Santiago explained that his treating physician, Dr. Edmund West, had tried different treatments, including medication, over the years but with “very little success.” (Id. ) Dr. West and Mr. Santiago determined that Mr. Santiago's “excessive work schedule” on occasions when he was required to work “more than 8 hours a day more than 40 hours a week [was] one of the main factors that trigger[ed] [his] cluster headaches and [caused him] not to be able to perform [his] job duties,” and since 2009, Dr. West had suggested that Mr. Santiago limit his work schedule. (Id. )

Because Mr. Santiago's position required mandatory overtime, he did not report his condition but instead sought alternative employment within state government. Because he was unsuccessful in this search, Mr. Santiago told Ms. Rossi that his “condition is getting worse and I cannot tolerate the pain I am in anymore” and requested that she “notify my supervisor ... of my limited hours of work restrictions.” (Id. )

After receiving this letter, Ms. Rossi invited Mr. Santiago to her office for a meeting in which she explained to him that overtime was an essential function of his position and that under Article 39 of his Union Contract if he was unable to perform an essential function of his position, the DOT would search for a position with “less arduous duties” but if none was found, he would either have to apply for disability retirement or the DOT would initiate “separation proceedings.”3 (Rossi Aff. ¶¶ 7–12, Ex. 3 to Defs.' Loc. R. 56(a)1 Stmt. [Doc. # 79–2]; Santiago Dep. Tr. 66–67, 78.)

Ms. Rossi provided Mr. Santiago with the telephone number for his union representative and for Susan Paulauskas, a Human Resources Associate, to contact regarding FMLA leave and told him that he would have to submit a medical certificate and application if he wanted to apply for FMLA leave. (Rossi Aff. ¶¶ 15–17.) However, Ms. Rossi said that if his FMLA medical certificate indicated that he could not perform overtime, he would have to resign or seek disability retirement. (Santiago Dep. Tr. at 67.) Ms. Rossi acknowledged during her deposition that she understood that Mr. Santiago was disclosing to her that he was suffering from a serious medical condition, but believed that Mr. Santiago's only option once he submitted the Medical Certificate was to go through the “Article 39” process in which he would either be put in a “less arduous” position

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or be separated from service. (Rossi Dep. Tr. at 44, 105, Ex. B to Pl.'s 56(a)1 Stmt.)

After this meeting, Ms. Rossi contacted Janice Snyder, Mr. Santiago's manager, and informed her of the doctor's instruction that he not work overtime and Ms. Snyder agreed to restrict Mr. Santiago's overtime. (Rossi Dep. Tr. at 64.) However, Ms. Rossi contends that she did not have “the authority to order Ms. Snyder to not assign overtime to Mr. Santiago.” (Rossi Aff. ¶ 19.)

Mr. Santiago submitted a Medical Certificate form (referred to internally at the DOT as a “P33A” form) completed by Dr. West and received by Human Resources on May 17, 2011 in which Dr. West certified that Mr. Santiago suffered from a “serious health condition” as defined by the FMLA, specifically “periodic severe headache[s]” that required him “to lie in dark room” and not use a computer. (May 2011 Medical Certificate, Ex. Q to Pl.'s 56(a)1 Stmt. at 1.) Dr. West checked a box indicating that Mr. Santiago was not currently incapacitated but estimated that going forward he would be incapacitated four times a year for up to three days at a time and could not perform any work during such periods. (Id. at 2.) Dr. West wrote that Mr. Santiago could not work over eight hour per days because doing so “precipitates” headaches. (Id. ) Parts (a) and (b) of Question Four asking whether additional treatments would cause the patient to be “absent from work ... because of treatment on an intermittent or part-time basis” and requesting the probable number of such treatments was left blank.4 (Id. (emphasis omitted).)

Ms. Paulauskas, who was responsible for handling FMLA requests within the DOT, “assumed” upon receiving the Medical Certificate form that Mr. Santiago was requesting FMLA leave and mailed him an HR1 form (“Employee Request for Leave of Absence under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act”) requesting that he return it to her. (Paulauskas Dep. Tr. at 36–37, Ex. C to Pl.'s 56(a)1 Stmt.; Paulauskas Aff. ¶¶ 7–10, Ex. 10 to Defs.' 56(a)1 Stmt.) Mr. Santiago did not return this form and because Question Four of the Medical Certificate was incomplete, Ms. Paulauskas denied his FMLA request because she did not have sufficient information to determine whether he would be receiving treatment by a physician at least two times per year as required for FMLA eligibility. (Paulauskas Dep. Tr. at 37–38, 70.)

Mr. Santiago contends that he and his physician were never informed that the Medical Certificate was not complete and Mr. Santiago did not recall ever being informed about the status of his FMLA request (Santiago Dep. Tr. at 60–61, 64–65), but Ms. Paulauskas maintains that on May 17, 2011 and May 27, 2011, she sent Mr. Santiago notices explaining that his application was incomplete and wrote “completed”5 and highlighted and placed sticky notes on the sections where Mr. Santiago needed to complete additional information. (Paulauskas Dep. Tr., Ex. 2 to Defs.' Supp. Mem. [Doc. # 92] at 71; Paulauskas Aff. ¶ 12.) In both instances, Ms.

50 F.Supp.3d 142

Paulauskas typed in a section of the form detailing the additional information needed:

PLEASE SEE HIGHLIGHTED SECTIONS ON COPY OF THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE (ATTACHED) THAT REQUIRE COMPLETION. YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER MUST INITIAL AND DATE ANY CHANGES TO THE FORM OR IT WILL NOT[ ] BE CONSIDERED COMPLETE. Specifically: Section 4 A & B ... are blank. For FMLA qualification you must be seen by a doctor at least 2 x per year for f/u treatment for chronic or permanent condition. All information must be completed for FMLA consideration. Call if you have questions 860 594–3147.

(May 17, 2011 HR2b, Ex. 3 to Defs.' Supp. Mem. at 5; May 27, 2011 HR2a, Ex. 4 to Defs.' Supp. Mem. at 5.)6 On May 27, 2011, Ms. Paulauskas sent Mr. Santiago an additional form, writing by hand on the top “ * Final reminder P33a [Health Certificate] incomplete For FMLA Determination[.] No Response from employee—FMLA denied.” (May 27, 2011 HR2a, Ex. 4 to Defs.' Supp. Mem. at 1; Paulauskas Dep. Tr. at 81–82.) In spite of these reminders, Mr. Santiago never submitted a complete application.

On June 2, 2011, Ms. Rossi met with Mr. Santiago, his union representative and Ms. Snyder for approximately thirty minutes and discussed Mr. Santiago's request for a limited schedule. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Santiago indicated that he was going to apply for disability retirement. (Rossi Aff. ¶ 22.) After the meeting, Ms....

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  • Santiago v. Dep't of Transp., Civil No. 3:12cv132 (JBA).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Connecticut)
    • September 25, 2014
    ...?50 F.Supp.3d 136Samuel SANTIAGO, Plaintiff,v.DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION,1Doreen Rossi, James Redeker, Benjamin Alejandro and Susan Paulauskas, Defendants. Civil No. 3:12cv132 (JBA).United States District Court, D. Connecticut.Signed Sept. 25, Ordered accordingly. [50 F.Supp.3d 139] Jacqu......

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