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Young v. Brennan

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 8, 2017

PAULA L. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS

          F. Dennis Saylor IV United States District Judge.

         This is a workplace discrimination action. Plaintiff Paula Young was formerly employed with the United States Postal Service. In the fall of 2010, Young was involved in a minor automobile accident, after which she took leave from work for almost eight weeks. The Postal Service did not approve that period of leave, and subsequently declined to renew her temporary appointment. She has brought this action against the Postmaster General alleging that the Postal Service violated the Family Medical Leave Act, unlawfully retaliated against her for engaging in protected conduct, and discriminated against her on the basis of race, sex, and disability.

         Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         I. Background

         Unless otherwise noted, the facts are set forth as alleged in the complaint.[1]

         Paula Young is an African-American woman and a former Postal Service employee. (Compl. at 1). Megan Brennan is the Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service. (Id.).

         Young began working for the Postal Service in 2008. (Id. at 2). She was employed as a “Transitional Employee, ” which was a temporary appointment subject to periodic renewal. (Id. ¶ 49; EEOC Decision, Compl. App. at 37). In March 2010, she was transferred to the Waltham Annex Post Office (“the Post Office”). (Compl. at 2).

         On October 8, 2010, while Young was driving a postal vehicle in the course of her employment, a third party struck her vehicle from behind. (Id. ¶ 1). Neither vehicle was damaged in the accident. (Id. ¶ 2). She called her manager, Chris Porfert, who arrived at the scene with a mechanic. (Id.). Porfert asked Young if she was okay, to which she responded that she “had a slight headache” and “it was likely that [she] would not feel any real pain until the next day.” (Id.).

         Later that day, Young visited Salem Hospital and received a note from a clinician stating that she should be out of work for three days, until October 11. (Id. ¶ 3). The hospital faxed that note to the Post Office. (Id.). On October 9, Young called her weekend supervisor to request the day off work due to pain resulting from the accident. (Id. ¶ 4).

         On October 11, Young returned to work. (Id. ¶ 5). When she inquired about the accident, Porfert told her that he had not filed an accident claim because neither vehicle had been damaged. (Id.).

         On October 17 and 18, Young again called in sick to work due to pain from the accident. (Id. ¶ 8). On October 19, she visited Beth Israel Hospital and was prescribed medication and physical therapy. (Id. ¶ 9). A hospital clinician wrote a letter stating that Young should be out of work until November 2. That letter was faxed to the Post Office. (Id.). On November 1, Young visited North Shore Rehabilitation, which provided her a note stating that she should be out of work for an additional four weeks. (Id. ¶ 11). That note was also faxed to the Post Office. (Id.).

         On November 2, Young had a telephone conversation with Porfert and two other employees concerning her absences. (Id. ¶ 12). The complaint alleges that Porfert stated that Young's injuries were not serious, and that her pain may in fact be “due to childbirth.” (Id.). Young disagreed, stating that her youngest child is twelve years old and it was therefore impossible for her pain to be attributable to child birth. (Id.). Porfert further stated that he would permit Young to take leave to “deal with some persona[l] matters.” (Id.). She responded that she was on leave due to pain, and not to deal with personal problems. (Id.). According to the complaint, Porfert then stated that if Young reported the accident, she “would not like the outcome of it.” (Id.).

         Young was scheduled to visit the Post Office on November 5, to fill out an accident report. (Id. ¶¶ 13-14). She called Porfert to reschedule the meeting and to request that a union representative be present. (Id. ¶ 14). According to the complaint, Porfert “got furious” and asked whether she was in the union, to which she responded “no”; however, Porfert agreed to allow a union representative to attend. (Id.).

         Young eventually went to the Post Office on November 23. (Id. ¶ 15). When she arrived, Porfert allegedly told her to resign from her position so that her resume would not reflect that she had been terminated. (Id.). He also allegedly told her that he did not believe that her injuries were caused by the accident, and were due to a different, unspecified injury. (Id.). Following that conversation, she was given paperwork to file an accident report concerning the October 8 incident. (Id.). She later submitted the paperwork with an application for workers' compensation. (Id. ¶ 27; U.S. Dep't of Labor Letter, Compl. App. at 1).

         On November 29, Young again visited North Shore Rehabilitation. (Id. ¶ 16). She was given a note clearing her to return to work on December 8, subject to a light-duty restriction, which was faxed to the Post Office. (Id.). On December 6 and 7, Young called her supervisors to ask when they would place her on the schedule, but she was not provided with an answer. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18). On December 13, a clinician advised her that she could return to work with no restrictions. (Id. ¶ 20).

         On December 23, Young received a letter from a Postal Service Human Resources Manager stating that she had been terminated on October 18, 2010. (Id. ¶ 22). Upon receiving that letter, she called a union representative who, in turn, called Porfert. (Id.). Porfert informed the union representative that the termination letter had been sent by mistake and that she would be reinstated. (Id.).

         On December 29, Young received a letter from Porfert stating that she had failed to provide accurate documentation concerning her absences, and therefore had been placed on “absent without official leave” or “AWOL” status. (Id. ¶ 23). Porfert asked her to contact him by telephone on January 3, 2011, for a pre-disciplinary conference. Young, however, failed to do so. (Id.). One week later, on January 10, she mailed him a letter explaining that she had missed the ...


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