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Schaaf v. Trane U.S., Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 21, 2014

SUSAN SCHAAF, Plaintiff,
v.
TRANE U.S., INC., Defendant.

Clayton D. Halunen, Barbara Jean Felt, and Ross D. Stadheim, Halunen & Associates, Counsel for Plaintiff.

David J. Duddleston and Sara G. Sidwell, Jackson Lewis P.C., Counsel for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OF LAW & ORDER

MICHAEL J. DAVIS, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Docket No. 11] The Court heard oral argument on November 14, 2013. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part Defendant's motion.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

1. The Parties

Defendant Trane U.S., Inc. ("Trane") provides heating, ventilating, and air conditioning systems and building management systems and controls. (Watson Decl. ¶ 3.) Trane has approximately 29, 000 employees at 104 manufacturing locations in 28 countries. ( Id. ¶ 4.) It has offices in St. Paul, Minnesota, and La Crosse, Wisconsin. (Id.) Trane became a subsidiary of Ingersoll Rand, a global, diversified industrial corporation, in 2008. (Blase Decl. ¶ 4.) Ingersoll Rand's U.S. headquarters are in Davidson, North Carolina. (Id.)

In March 2009, Plaintiff Susan Schaaf, age 42, was hired by Trane as a senior financial analyst at its St. Paul location in Trane's Integrated Supply Chain ("ISC") Financial Planning and Analysis ("FP&A") group. (Schaaf Dep. 9-10, 37; Collier Dep. 50; Boettcher Dep. 8.) Schaaf has a bachelor's degree in accounting and an MBA in finance. (Schaaf Dep. 19.) She has also been licensed as a CPA, but her license is inactive. ( Id. 20, 22.) Before working for Trane, Schaaf worked in a variety of financial jobs for different employers. (See Schaaf Dep. 22, 47-48, 57-61; Stadheim Decl., Ex. 23.)

2. Schaaf's Employment with Trane

As a senior financial analyst for Trane's ISC FP&A group, Schaaf worked primarily with manufacturing plants and plant controllers in Trane's climate solutions sector, which covered commercial air conditioners and furnaces. (Schaaf Dep. 37-39.) Her job duties were forecasting, monthly reporting of actual versus planned expenses, annual budgeting, long-range planning, special projects, and testing associated with implementation of computer upgrades, all for Trane's climate solutions division. ( Id. 38-39.) According to Trane, the specific job duties and responsibilities of its financial analysts differ from business unit (stream) to business unit. (Watson Dep. 43-47.) Initially, Schaaf's only other team member, besides her manager, was financial analyst Tonda Collier-Sumrain ("Collier")[1]. (Schaaf Dep. 73; Boettcher Dep. 23.)

Schaaf initially reported to Finance Manager Joe Schmitz, who was located in St. Paul with Schaaf, until he left his position in May 2009. (Schaaf Dep. 72-73, 77.) She then reported to Schmitz's former manager, Mike Pokrandt in St. Paul, until August or September 2009, when April Wehling became her supervisor.

(Id. 73, 77.) Wehling worked out of Trane's La Crosse, Wisconsin office and supervised Schaaf remotely. ( Id. 77.)

3. Maria Blase's Plan to Consolidate

Maria Blase became Ingersoll Rand's Vice President of Finance for Climate Solutions in October 2009. (Blase Decl. ¶ 3.) One of her first duties was to create a plan for combining the finance functions of Ingersoll Rand's three subsidiaries: Trane, Thermo King, and Hussmann. ( Id. ¶ 5.) In early 2010, Blase and the rest of Ingersoll Rand's Finance Leadership Team met to discuss the integration of the three finance departments. ( Id. ¶ 6.) They decided that the organization would operate more efficiently if the subsidiaries' FP&A departments were headquartered in Davidson, North Carolina, with the rest of Ingersoll Rand's leadership team. ( Id. ¶ 7.) After the meeting, Blase decided to begin consolidating Trane's North America FP&A team in Davidson. ( Id. ¶ 8.) In late 2010 or early 2011, Blase reviewed her consolidation decision with Steven Shawley, Ingersoll Rand Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and Rick Weller, Vice President Controller, and received approval to move forward. ( Id. ¶ 9.)

In June 2011, Mark Majocha took over the position of Director of North America Finance. (Blase Decl. ¶ 12.) Soon after Majocha took over, Blase told him that she wanted to move quickly to consolidate the North American FP&A team in Davidson. (Id.) As part of the consolidation process, Blase decided to move the ISC FP&A leader and Director of FP&A for Trane North America positions to Davidson. ( Id. ¶ 14.)

On June 29, 2011, during Ingersoll Rand's annual Organization and Leadership Review meeting, Blase discussed her plan to consolidate the North America FP&A team in Davidson. (Blase Decl. ¶¶ 10-11; Blase Decl., Ex. A, Power Point: Organization & Leadership Review 2011-2012: CS Finance ("Power Point") at 8 ("Minimize matrix and centralize NA FP&A.").)

4. Kimberly Boettcher's Promotion

In April 2011, Wehling left her job. (Schaaf Dep. 73.) Schaaf reported to Susan Thomas until, in July 2011, Trane promoted Kimberly Boettcher to be the North American ISC FP&A team leader, and Boettcher began supervising Schaaf and Collier. (Schaaf Dep. 73; Boettcher Dep. 8-10.) Boettcher had previously worked in Trane's La Crosse location, but, when she accepted the finance manager position, Trane required her to transfer to Davidson, North Carolina; she was told that this was because the goal for the ISC FP&A team was that, at some point, it would be based in Davidson and that positions not based in Davidson would be eliminated. (Schaaf Dep. 76; Boettcher Dep. 29-30; Blase Decl. ¶ 15.)

When Boettcher was hired, Majocha told her that the non-Davidson based, St. Paul positions on her team would be eliminated. (Boettcher Dep. 29, 57, 112.) However, Boettcher testified that she was not informed that Trane was under any financial constraints in her department that would require layoffs in 2011 or 2012. ( Id. 28-29.) Until November 2011, Boettcher worked and supervised Collier and Schaaf from La Crosse, as Wehling had done. ( Id. 30-31; Schaaf Dep. 76.) She moved to Davidson on November 1, 2011. (Boettcher Dep. 31.)

5. Douglas Watson's Promotion

In August 2011, Majocha was promoted to Director of Finance, and Douglas Watson became the new Director of FP&A for Trane North America. (Watson Dep. 8; Watson Decl. ¶ 8.) Majocha and Blase told Watson that Trane would be consolidating the North American FP&A department in Davidson and eliminating non-Davidson positions. (Watson Decl. ¶ 8.) Watson testified that, as soon as he accepted his promotion in August 2011, Majocha told Watson to centralize responsibilities in Davidson as much as possible. (Watson Dep. 69.) Trane already had "a critical mass in La Crosse, Wisconsin. And we want to try to build slowly a critical mass in Davidson. [Majocha] began that process because Kim Boettcher was already hired in to the FP&A lead and relocated to Davidson in that capacity. She was going to support Kevin R[oe]der and the integrated supply chain. So she was already the first piece of that. So then the next piece was to relocate those, the two positions, from St. Paul into Davidson as well so that the team could be fully assembled in Davidson." ( Id. 69-70.)

Trane moved the Director of FP&A for Trane North America position to Davidson when Watson accepted the position. (Blase Decl. ¶ 14; Watson Dep. 8-9.) Watson supervised Boettcher. (Watson Decl. ¶ 9.)

As Director of FP&A, Watson was responsible for four business units: ISC, distribution, equipment, and parts. (Watson Dep. 44.) As of July 2012, Watson directly supervised the four heads of these units and indirectly supervised the approximately nine members of their teams. ( Id. 9-13.) FP&A employees from these units were located in St. Paul, Minnesota; La Crosse, Wisconsin; Clarksville, Tennessee; and Davidson, North Carolina. (Watson Decl. ¶ 7.) According to Boettcher, the other financial analysts indirectly supervised by Watson in FP&A held positions that were interchangeable with one another in that an employee could go from one division to another. (Boettcher Dep. 131-32.) According to Watson, each business stream is "very siloed." (Watson Dep. 15.) He also testified that it would not be extraordinary for a financial analyst to move from one business stream to another. ( Id. 45-46, 48.)

In August 2011, Majocha and Watson decided to begin the consolidation process by eliminating the two St. Paul-based financial analyst positions on Boettcher's team because Boettcher and both of her supervisors, Watson and Kevin Roeder, were located in Davidson. (Blase Decl. ¶¶ 16-17; Watson Decl. ¶ 13.) The duties associated with those positions would be absorbed by existing employees in Davidson. (Watson Decl. ¶ 15.) During the August 2011 time period, Blase personally asked Watson to move forward on consolidation by eliminating the St. Paul financial analyst positions. (Blase Decl. ¶ 17.) At the time, in 2011, neither Watson nor Blase were aware that either Schaaf or Collier had been, were, or would be taking Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") leave. (Watson Dep. 83; Blase Decl. ¶ 18.)

6. Schaaf's Diagnosis and Medical Leave

In November 2010, Schaaf discovered a lump in her breast. (Schaaf Dep. 83.) She had a follow up in February 2011; on June 29, 2011, Schaaf learned that she had breast cancer; and a mastectomy was scheduled for July 27, 2011. (Schaaf Dep. 81-83, 170; Stadheim Decl., Ex. 7.) On June 29, 2011, Schaaf did not have a direct supervisor, so she reported her diagnosis to Susan Thomas. (Schaaf Dep. 170.) On July 15, 2011, shortly after Schaaf learned that Boettcher would be her ISC FP&A supervisor, Schaaf informed Boettcher that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to take leave for surgery. (Schaaf Dep. 81-82; Boettcher Dep. 61.)

Schaaf talked to Trane St. Paul human resources representative Claudia Anderson, who told her to contact Trane's third-party administrator, Aon Hewitt ("Hewitt"), to request FMLA and/or short-term disability ("STD") leave paperwork. (Schaaf Dep. 84-86.) Anderson told Schaaf to document every interaction that she had with Hewitt because most Trane employees have had a "very bad experience" with Hewitt. ( Id. 86.)

Schaaf contacted Hewitt to request FMLA leave and STD benefits on July 5, 2011. (Stadheim Decl., Exs. 3-4.) Schaaf had a difficult time getting Hewitt to approve her requests. (Id.) Around August 9, 2011, Schaaf received a letter from Hewitt stating that it did not to have her medical records and requesting that she provide them within 10 days from the date of the letter, August 2, 2011. (Schaaf Decl. ¶ 3; Stadheim Decl., Exs. 3, 6.) Schaaf obtained her medical records and tried to fax them to Hewitt on August 11, but the fax would not go through, and, after the fax did go through, Hewitt claimed it could not find the records. (Stadheim Decl., Ex. 3.) On August 15, Hewitt denied her STD and FMLA leaves because it claimed not to have received her medical records and claimed that it had been unable to contact Schaaf or her medical providers despite multiple attempts. (Stadheim Decl., Exs. 3, 8-10; Schaaf Decl. ¶ 3.) Schaaf asserts that she did provide the records and that Hewitt had failed to contact her or her medical providers. (Schaaf Decl. ¶ 3; Schaaf Dep. 103-04; Stadheim Decl., Ex. 3.) On August 24, Schaaf appealed the denial, and eventually, Hewitt approved her FMLA leave as requested. (Stadheim Decl., Ex. 11; Schaaf Dep. 118-19.) Schaaf returned to work on August 24, 2011. (Schaaf Dep. 105.) On September 1, 2011, Schaaf's STD was approved through August 23, 2011, and she received all of the STD to which she believed that she was entitled. (Ex. 12; Schaaf Dep. 116.)

After Schaaf returned to work, she still had follow-up procedures to treat her cancer. (Schaaf Dep. 117-18.) She attended all of her appointments without any problem being absent from work. (Schaaf Dep. 118-22.) According to Schaaf, she understood that intermittent FMLA leave had been granted for these absences because Hewitt told her that she was "set" and "didn't need to do anything else." (Schaaf Dep. 117-18, 134-35.) Boettcher knew that Schaaf continued to attend follow-up treatments but did not know whether Schaaf was recording the absences as FMLA leave. (Boettcher Dep. 139, 153-54.) Boettcher testified that Schaaf's performance was never in question, and Schaaf and Collier always did their jobs well. (Boettcher Dep. 74.)

7. J.P. Rossi

In late 2011, Trane posted a financial analyst position based in North Carolina for Boettcher's team. (Boettcher Dep. 27-28, 113-14.)

In December 2011, J.P Rossi applied for this financial analyst position. (Boettcher Dep. 44, 114.) Rossi was 24 years old at the time that he applied. (Watson Decl. ¶ 21.) He lived in Davidson and was already working for Ingersoll Rand. (Boettcher Dep. 50.)

Boettcher interviewed Rossi for the position. (Boettcher Dep. 44.) Rossi had been selected for Ingersoll Rand's Accelerated Development Program ("ADP"), a competitive development program that allows high caliber employees the opportunity to rotate through different positions within Ingersoll Rand. (Boettcher Dep. 50; Watson Dep. 53-54.) While Rossi was in the ADP program, he had worked as a cost accountant at a plant in Bridgeton, Missouri, and had then moved to Davidson to work in both Ingersoll Rand's corporate FP&A and internal audit departments. (Boettcher Dep. 51; Watson Dep. 54.) Boettcher was interested in Rossi because he was one of the top five graduates of his ADP class and was highly recommended by another finance leader, Dusty Muckenthaler, who had worked with Rossi at the Bridgeton plant. (Boettcher Dep. 53, 75.) She also got positive feedback from other Ingersoll Rand employees who had previously worked with Rossi. ( Id. 53-54.)

Boettcher's supervisor, Watson, did not interview Rossi but supported his hire. (Watson Dep. 65.) Watson had met Rossi during a finance integration training program that Rossi had attended and Watson had helped to develop. ( Id. 53.) Watson also knew that Rossi had completed ADP training as "one of the stars of [his] class" and came very highly referred from high level employees. ( Id. 55, 67-68.)

Boettcher and Watson decided to hire Rossi, although he did not have the five-to-seven years of related financial experience required in the job description. (Boettcher Dep. 40-42, 75.) Boettcher testified that experience requirements in Trane job descriptions are discretionary across the board. ( Id. 42-43.) Rossi was hired in January 2012, and began working on Boettcher's team in late January or early February 2012. ( Id. 28, 72; Schaaf Dep. 159-60; Collier Dep. 91.) During his first year of employment, Rossi received an "exceeds expectation" rating. (Boettcher Dep. 34-35.) Watson was not aware of Rossi having any disability or taking FMLA leave. (Watson Dep. 69.)

8. Collier's Medical Leave

On February 2, 2012, Collier was diagnosed with low iron or anemia, and her physician recommended iron infusions to treat her condition. (Collier Dep. 96-97.) Collier's medical providers recommended that Collier receive four iron infusions, each one week apart, which she did on February 10, February 17, February 24, and March 2, 2012. (Collier Dep. 99-100, 103-04.) Because the iron infusions needed to be completed during the work day, on February 2, 2012, or soon thereafter, Collier requested time off for her infusions. (Collier Dep. 105.) First, she asked Boettcher if she should take PTO for the time off for the treatments. ( Id. 106.) Boettcher eventually told Collier that Anderson instructed Collier to request FMLA leave from Hewitt. (Collier Dep. 107-08.) Collier requested FMLA leave from Hewitt in early February 2012. ( Id. 105, 110.) On February 28, Collier's medical provider indicated on the FMLA certification that she needed leave for four separate dates of three hours per week in February and March 2012. ( Id. 113; Stadheim Decl., Ex. 16.)

On March 5, 2012, Collier's request for intermittent FMLA leave was approved for February 1, 2012 to March 12, 2012, for three hours per week, as requested in the physician's certification. (Stadheim Decl., Ex. 16.) However, on March 28, Hewitt sent Collier a letter stating that her four absences on February 10, February 17, February 24, and March 2 had each exceeded three hours, so she needed to fill out a recertification form. (Id.) On April 16, Hewitt denied her FMLA on the grounds that Collier had not returned the FMLA certification form sent to her on March 28. (Id.) After multiple communications, on June 21, 2012, Hewitt approved Collier for intermittent FMLA leave from June 12, 2012 to March 3, 2013. (Id.)

After her last infusion on March 2, 2012, Collier did not need or request additional FMLA leave for any future date. (Collier Dep. 139-40.) Boettcher testified that she knew that Collier was taking time off in 2012 up to the time her position was eliminated in July 2012, but that she did not know anything about whether Collier was taking FMLA leave. (Boettcher Dep. 92.) Collier testified that, as of July 2012, she did not know if she would need more infusions or would simply continue taking oral iron supplements. (Collier Dep. 169-70.) After Collier was terminated in July 2012, her doctor decided that Collier did need more iron infusions. (Id.)

9. Timing of the Decision to Terminate Schaaf and Collier

Watson opined that Trane management made the decision as to when to terminate Collier and Schaaf during the first quarter of 2012. (Watson Dep. 85.) Watson testified that Blase gave the directive to consolidate and to eliminate the positions in St. Paul and, as far as how that was handled, he was the ultimate decisionmaker. ( Id. 90-91.)

After Watson made the decision to proceed in terminating Schaaf and Collier, he found out that Schaaf had been on FMLA, so he consulted with Dora Miller to find out how to proceed with the terminations. (Watson Dep. 86-87.) Miller was an Ingersoll Rand Global Human Resources Manager who supported the climate solutions finance and information technology departments. (Miller Dep. 10.) Miller may have seen Schaaf and Collier's names on a docket of names of employees in positions considered for reorganization in January 2012. ( Id. 23-24.) She first discussed the potential elimination of Schaaf and Collier's positions at a March 2012 meeting with Boettcher and Watson. ( Id. 22-24.) Miller recognized that it was a "tough situation" with Schaaf because she had recently had cancer. ( Id. 24-25.) They planned to move forward with the terminations by the end of March 2012. ( Id. 25.)

Also, Miller learned that Schaaf had taken or was taking FMLA leave and Collier might have a condition that might be "an FMLA condition, " although none of them knew the specifics. ( Id. 29-30.) Miller wanted to find out how many days were being used and how much time each employee had remaining under FMLA because she did not want to eliminate someone if she was still covered under the FMLA. ( Id. 26, 31-32.) She testified that Collier's and Schaaf's FMLA leave was the "determining factor" in deciding whether to move forward with their terminations in that, if they were on FMLA leave, they would not be terminated at that time but if they were not on FMLA leave they would be terminated at that time. (Miller Dep. 26, 93; Stadheim Decl., Ex. 17, April 30, 2012 Email Chain between Boettcher and Miller.) ...


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