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Boadi v. Center For Human Development, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 21, 2017

GRACE BOADI, Plaintiff



         I. Introduction

         Grace Boadi ("Plaintiff") sued her former employer, the Center for Human Development ("CHD"), and her former supervisor, Candy Pennington (collectively "Defendants"), for interfering with her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA" or "Act"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654, and for violating other statutory rights by terminating her employment on April 21, 2013 while she was hospitalized due to the sudden onset of a mental impairment. After the parties consented to this court's jurisdiction, see 28 U.S.C. § 636(c); Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, Defendants' summary judgment motion was allowed, in part, and denied as to Plaintiff's FMLA interference claim (Dkt. No. 84). On June 23, 2017, after a three day trial on the FMLA claim, the jury found in Plaintiff's favor on liability and awarded her $112, 592.34 for lost wages and $29, 448.90 for lost benefits from April 21, 2013 through the date of the verdict, for a total of $142.041.24 (Dkt. No. 129).

         The case now comes before the court for a determination of whether Plaintiff is entitled to liquidated damages and front pay. See 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(1)(A)(iii) and (a)(1)(B). After trial, the parties presented the court with testimony on the question of front pay, but did not proffer additional evidence regarding liquidated damages. For the reasons that follow, the court awards Plaintiff $142, 041.24 plus interest in liquidated damages and denies her request for front pay.

         II. Factual Background

         Because the jury found that Plaintiff had a "serious health condition, " as defined by the Act, that she or her spokesperson provided adequate notice of her need for FMLA leave, and that Defendants interfered with Plaintiff's FMLA rights, the court recites the trial evidence in the light most favorable to her (Dkt. No. 129). See Perdoni Bros., Inc. v. Concrete Sys., Inc., 35 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 1994) ("'[W]hen a party has a right to a jury trial on an issue involved in a legal claim, the judge is of course bound by the jury's determination of that issue as it affects his disposition of an accompanying equitable claim.'") (quoting Lincoln v. Bd. of Regents, 697 F.2d 928, 934 (11th Cir.)). See also Curtis v. Loether, 415 U.S. 189, 196 n.11 (1974). In 2003, Plaintiff began employment as a direct care worker at CHD's Bonnyview program, a group home where she provided support to the four male residents with mental impairments. Darlean Thomas was Plaintiff's direct supervisor. Pennington was Bonnyview's program manager and Thomas' supervisor. Both Thomas and Pennington were familiar with the FMLA, but had not received FMLA training. The Bonnyview program supervisor, Jeffrey Trant, supervised Pennington. Trant had received FMLA training.

         During the seven day period beginning on Sunday, April 14, 2013, Plaintiff was scheduled to work on Wednesday, April 17, Thursday, April 18, Friday, April 19, Saturday April 20, and Sunday, April 21, 2013. She was hospitalized from April 15 through April 24, 2013.

         Plaintiff's son, James Takyi, transported her to the Mercy Medical Center ("Mercy") emergency room on Monday, April 15, 2013, due to mental health issues that arose suddenly on April 14. Because Plaintiff wanted Takyi to inform CHD of her status, Takyi called his friend, Raymond Frimpong, who worked at CHD, told him that Plaintiff was at the Mercy emergency room because she was very sick, and asked who he should contact at CHD to report his mother's hospitalization. Frimpong gave Takyi the number of the on-call supervisor for Bonnyview, who Takyi called and notified that his mother was very ill, was in the emergency room, and was not able to work.

         Plaintiff was transported to Pembroke Hospital ("Pembroke"), a psychiatric facility, the next day, April 16, 2013. Pennington called Takyi on that date and inquired about Plaintiff's status. Takyi reported that Plaintiff was hospitalized and was very sick. He advised Pennington that he was uncertain when Plaintiff would return to work. Pennington told him to have Plaintiff call when she was able to do so.

         When Takyi spoke to Thomas on the telephone the following day, April 17, 2013, he reported that Plaintiff was very sick, was in the Mercy hospital, [1] and was not able to work. Takyi was unsure when his mother would be capable of returning to work. Thomas spoke to Takyi a second time on that date and directed him to call CHD's human resources ("HR") department regarding short term disability benefits ("STDB") if Plaintiff expected to be absent from work for more than five days.

         Heeding Thomas' advice, Takyi contacted Louise Ochrymowicz in the HR department and reported that his mother was hospitalized. Ochrymowicz, who had limited FMLA training, prepared a STDB packet and FMLA paperwork, including FMLA guidelines, which she signed and dated on April 17, 2013. The STDB packet, dated April 17, 2013, acknowledged that CHD had been informed that Plaintiff was on a medical leave of absence due to a non-work related illness.

         Plaintiff was transported from Pembroke to South Shore Hospital ("South Shore") due to injuries she sustained when she fell while speaking to Takyi on the telephone on Thursday, April 18, 2013. Pennington called Takyi as he drove to South Shore. She was angry and asked whether Plaintiff could speak. When Takyi responded that she was able to speak, Pennington told Takyi that it was not acceptable for him to call CHD instead of his mother and told him not to call again. Pennington also directed Takyi to have Plaintiff obtain a medical certificate from the hospital. Pennington did not ask further questions about Plaintiff's condition.

         According to Takyi, Plaintiff could speak, but she was unintelligible. Plaintiff told the jury that she was not able to call CHD during her hospital stay. After reviewing Plaintiff's treatment records, Dr. Kadushin, Plaintiff's expert witness, opined that Plaintiff was not capable of making decisions and following CHD's policies and procedures while she was hospitalized.

         On April 19, 2013, Carol Fitzgerald, the vice president of HR, made contemporaneous notes of her telephone conversation with Pennington, who reported to Fitzgerald that ...

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