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Wages v. Stuart Management Corp.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 8, 2014

Ena Wages, Plaintiff,
Stuart Management Corporation, d/b/a StuartCo, Defendant

Page 986

For Ena J. Wages, Plaintiff: Jill R Gaulding, Lisa C Stratton, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Christy L Hall, Gender Justice, St. Paul, MN.

For Stuart Management Corporation, doing business as StuartCo, Defendant: James R Behrenbrinker, LEAD ATTORNEY, Behrenbrinker Law Firm, Mpls, MN.


Page 987


Paul A. Magnuson, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is granted and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.


Defendant Stuart Management Corp. is a property management company that manages more than thirty large apartment complexes and has more than 350 employees. Plaintiff Ena Wages began working for Defendant on November 17, 2008, as a caretaker at one of Defendant's apartment complexes. Wages worked 30 hours per week. (Wages Dep. (Docket No. 47) at 101.) Wages was a good employee with an unblemished record.

In the summer of 2009, Wages was pregnant with her third child, who was due in February. Wages's doctor deemed her pregnancy to be high risk because of a previous ectopic pregnancy. In June or July, Wages called and left a message for Defendant's HR Director Deb Stachowski to inquire about post-birth benefits and leave. (Wages Dep. (Docket No. 48) at 218.) Wages called again about a week later and left another message specifically stating that she wanted information about FMLA leave and other forms of leave. (Id. at 219.) According to Wages, Stachowski never returned her calls. Stachowski does not recall receiving any messages from Wages. (Stachowski Dep. (Docket No. 68) at 307.)

In October 2009, Wages experienced abdominal pain and cramping. Her doctor, James Shold, determined that she should not vacuum or mop and wrote a note to that effect, which Wages gave to Defendant. (Gaulding Decl. (Docket No. 67) Ex. H.) Stachowski contacted Wages's doctor to verify that there were no other restrictions in place. (Behrenbrinker Aff. (Docket No. 46-2) Ex. J.) Defendant accommodated Wages's restrictions without incident and redistributed the vacuuming and mopping duties to other employees.

In early November, Dr. Shold wrote another note stating that Wages could perform all duties except snow removal. (Gaulding Decl. Ex. M.) Stachowski contacted the doctor's office to see if the previous restrictions were also still in place. (Id.; Stachowski Dep. at 298-99.) An assistant in the doctor's office told her

Page 988

that Wages could not vacuum, mop, or shovel snow. (Stachowski Dep. at 298-99.) Dr. Shold told Wages, however, that she could resume vacuuming and mopping, and Wages represents that she did so. (Wages Dep. at 102-05; Wages Decl. (Docket No. 83) ¶ ¶ 22-23.)

Then, the week ending November 13, Wages experienced more abdominal pain and cramping and missed work on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. (Gaulding Decl. Exs. N, O.) Dr. Shold concluded that she should work no more than 20 hours per week and gave her a note to that effect to give to Defendant. (Id. Ex. P.) The parties agree that the restriction was effective immediately. Wages worked 4.25 hours on November 13.[1] (Id. Ex. O.) That same day, Wages gave the note to her supervisor, Robin Fulton, who emailed it to Stachowski. (Behrenbrinker Aff. (Docket No. 80) Ex A.)

Fulton, Stachowski, and Dave Beddoe, a StuartCo manager, had one or more conversations on November 13 during the course of which they decided to terminate Wages's employment. Fulton testified that although Defendant was " getting by" despite the other restrictions [2] the time restriction was untenable. (Fulton Dep. (Docket No. 67) at 300.) There is no evidence that Defendant planned to terminate Wages's employment based on the earlier restrictions alone.

Wages was not scheduled to work on Saturday or Sunday, but she reported for work on Monday, November 16. Soon after she arrived, Fulton and Stachowski called her to a meeting and fired her effective immediately. Defendant gave Wages a letter stating that it was " unable to accommodate the work restrictions provided by your physician." (Gaulding Decl. Ex. R.)

Wages filed this suit alleging pregnancy discrimination under Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, retaliation under the Minnesota Parenting Leave Act, and interference and retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act. Wages moves for partial summary judgment on her FMLA ...

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