United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR
RICHARD G. STEARNS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
December of 2015, JetBlue Airways terminated flight attendant
Lauren Miceli for absenteeism. Miceli alleges that the discharge
was motivated by animus for her disability (post-traumatic
stress disorder) and in retaliation for a claim that she
filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against
Discrimination (MCAD). Discovery having been completed,
defendants move for summary judgment.
is a major airline operating at Boston's Logan Airport.
In March of 2006, JetBlue hired Miceli as a full-time
Inflight Crewmember (flight attendant) based out of Logan. On
her first day of work, Miceli signed an Acknowledgement of
Receipt of the Crewmember Blue Book. See Defs.'
Ex. V (Dkt # 36-22). The Blue Book sets out JetBlue's
employment rules and policies. The Blue Book states that
employment with JetBlue is at will, Defs.' Ex. G (Dkt #
36-7) § 4.1, and includes, inter alia, an attendance
policy. “While safety is our first value, JetBlue
strives to be an ‘On-Time Airline.' Therefore,
Crewmember attendance and punctuality is essential to ensure
that JetBlue lives up to this commitment to benefit our
Customers. Crewmembers are expected to arrive for work on
time, fit and ready for duty.” Id. § 6.1.
“Crewmembers should follow their Department's
dependability guidelines when they cannot report to work. . .
. Unacceptable reasons for absences, a persistent pattern of
absences or an excessive amount of absences for any reasons,
except for a substantiated FMLA [(Family and Medical Leave
Act)] leave or other substantiated leave protected by law,
may result in Progressive Guidance, up to and including
termination.” Id. § 6.1.1.
specific dependability policy applicable to Miceli is
outlined in the Inflight Blue Book Supplement. Crewmember
attendance is recorded over a rolling 12-month period.
Defs.' Ex. H (Dkt # 36-8) § 7.2.1. Dependability
lapses - for example tardiness or an unscheduled absence -
are assigned a category code and a point value. Id.
§§ 7.2.3-7.2.4. A crewmember who accumulates 12
points within a 12-month period is subject to employment
review (any point level greater than 4 is subject to
Progressive Guidance, JetBlue's terminology for employee
disciplinary action.) Id. § 7.2.5.
February of 2015, Miceli had accrued 7.5 dependability points
and had received an Initial Progressive Guidance review from
her supervisor, Tara McCarthy. In or about March of 2015,
Miceli was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) and depression/anxiety induced by a work-related ear
injury suffered in 2014. Acting on the recommendation of
Miceli's doctor, to accommodate Miceli's
“flare-ups” and treatment, Pl.'s Ex. X (Dkt #
48-27), Metropolitan Life Insurance Company (MetLife),
JetBlue's leave administrator, approved Miceli for
intermittent FMLA leave of one absence of one day's
duration beginning on or about March 16. Again, at the
recommendation of Miceli's doctor, MetLife expanded her
FMLA leave authorization to cover one five-day absence each
month beginning June 18, 2015. See id.
March and May of 2015, Miceli was absent from work on
multiple occasions. MetLife recorded Miceli as taking
approved voluntary short-term disability leave from March 3
to March 13. Defs.' Ex. D (Dkt # 36-4) at ¶ 000183.
March 14 was coded as “UNA” (unavailable for
assignment). Id. On March 16, Miceli was out on
approved FMLA leave. She was again out between March 23 and
24 and on April 4, and these two absences were recorded as
“FMLA denied - outside of parameters.”
Id. The next absence, on May 18, was recorded as
“FMLA denied - did not meet notification
requirements.” Id. Miceli missed work again on
approved FMLA leave on May 22.
27 or May 28, 2015, Miceli received a Continued Progressive
Guidance and met with McCarthy and Tenekka Hilliard,
JetBlue's Leave Coordinator, to discuss her work
attendance record. At the meeting, Miceli stated her belief
that some of the absences had been miscoded, and should have
been excused as FMLA leave. According to Miceli, McCarthy
took an inappropriate “motherly” tone with her,
Defs.' Ex. C (Dkt # 36-3) at 106-107, stating that
“it [was] hard to believe” that Miceli had
submitted the appropriate paperwork to MetLife, id.
at 103. Hilliard advised Miceli that her absences could be
retroactively recoded if she were to submit the appropriate
documentation to MetLife.
following day, Miceli met with Bourgeois (McCarthy's
superior) to discuss her difficulty in obtaining approved
FMLA leave. She also complained that McCarthy gossiped about
her personal issues with her coworkers. Miceli states that
she told Bourgeois that she suffered from PTSD, and that she
had a panic attack during the meeting. Bourgeois concluded
the meeting abruptly and asked Miceli to send him an email
documenting her concerns, which she did on July 1. The email
read, in part, as follows.
It is widely known at JetBlue that MetLife has been less then
[sic] fair or on task with their end of the Fmla proceedings.
JetBlue has had massive issues with them, and you yourself
told me that they are contemplating other providers. I find
it to go against the values of JetBlue with regards to how I
have been treated. Caring is one of the core values of
JetBlue and as an employee with a disability I feel that I
have been treated poorly with regards to my situation. I
accomplished each task with regards to my disability claim as
well as Fmla. When I called to confirm my acceptance MetLife
told me that I have been approved since March. It is not my
issue that they and JetBlue have some sort of
miscommunication or technology disruption whereas it causes
it to look denied or incomplete. I am a flight attendant with
no access to your or their system. That is out of my hands.
However the behavior exhibited by my team leader and those
who chose to be involved was unprofessional and I find it
disheartening when all are aware that we are dealing with a
disability and when the caring value is needed most. I now
feel uncomfortable, my character compromised as well as my
privacy and this is very challenging for me to deal with.
Defs.' Ex O (Dkt # 36-15).
10, 2015, Noreen Dowd, a member of JetBlue's People
Resources Team, sent Miceli an email, explaining
MetLife's reason for denying her certain absences.
We spoke with MetLife in regards to the dates that were
showing as "denied" in the system. You advised that
your doctor was sending in additional certification paperwork
to MetLife in order to change your parameters (frequency and
duration) which were 1 per month for 1 day. MetLife has
received the updated paperwork and your new parameters
(frequency and duration) are 1 per month for up to 5 days.
However, the dates on the paperwork are from 6/18/15 to
12/17/15. Therefore, the dates prior to that (3/23, 3/24,
4/4, & 5/18) are still "denied" by MetLife and
will remain coded as UNA.
Defs.' Ex K (Dkt # 36-11). In June and July of 2015,
MetLife recorded Miceli as having been absent on June 11
(“FMLA Approved”), June 26 to June 28
(“FMLA Approved”), July 8 to July 10
(“UNA”), July 17 (“FMLA Approved”),
July 29 to July 30 (“FMLA Approved”). Defs.'
Ex. D at ¶ 000183. On July 17, having reviewed