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Dalton v. Manor Care of West Des Moines IA, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Central Division

January 29, 2013


Page 1045

For Lucinda Dalton, Plaintiff: Mark D Sherinian, Melissa C Hasso, SHERINIAN & WALKER PC, WEST DES MOINES, IA.

For Manor Care of West Des Moines IA, LLC, Heartland Employment Services LLC, Defendants: George R Wood, Rhiannon C. Beckendorf, LITTLER MENDELSON PC (MN), MINNEAPOLIS, MN.

For ManorCare Health Services, LLC, HCR ManorCare, Inc., Holly Benedict, Dean Hagen, Scott Keefer, Defendants: George R Wood, Rhiannon C. Beckendorf, PRO HAC VICE, LITTLER MENDELSON PC (MN), MINNEAPOLIS, MN.


Page 1046



This matter is before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), filed by Defendants ManorCare Health Services, LLC (MHS) and HCR ManorCare, Inc. (HCR). Plaintiff Lucinda Dalton (Dalton) resists. A hearing was not requested, and the Court finds a hearing is unnecessary. Accordingly, the matter is fully submitted and ready for disposition.


Dalton was hired to work as a Floor Nurse at a Manor Care [2] facility in West Des Moines, Iowa, in March of 2010. [3] She was promoted to a position as a Director of Care Delivery, effective in September of 2010. During the 2010-2011 winter, Dalton began to suffer from fatigue, shortness of breath, and swelling in her legs and feet as a result of a medical condition. On the morning of February 28, 2011, Dalton experienced severe chest pain and went to

Page 1047

the emergency room for treatment, at which time she called her supervisor, Holly Benedict (Benedict), to inform Benedict she would not be at work that day due to her medical condition and would instead be receiving emergency treatment. Upon discharge from the hospital that day, Dalton was instructed to refrain from working until March 2, 2011, and she informed Benedict about this work restriction.

The following day, Benedict called Dalton at home and informed her she was to come in to work at 1:00 p.m. on March 2, 2011, rather than her normal start time of 8:00 a.m. When Dalton arrived on March 2, Benedict called her in for a meeting and informed Dalton that she was being placed on an indefinite suspension and that she was not to work unless instructed accordingly by Benedict. On March 3, 2011, Benedict called Dalton at home and requested she come into work to meet with Benedict at 1:00 p.m. Dalton met with Benedict, at which time Dalton was informed that she was immediately terminated from her position at Manor Care. Dalton asserts she was terminated due to her medical condition and its corresponding disabling effects in violation of federal and state law.


Dalton filed a Complaint alleging disability discrimination under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Iowa Civil Rights Act (ICRA) against MHS, HCR, Benedict, Dean Hagen (Hagen), and Scott Keefer (Keefer) on April 12, 2012. Dalton filed an Amended Complaint on July 20, 2012, adding Manor Care of West Des Moines, IA, LLC (WDM) as a Defendant and including a new count of disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act, As Amended (ADAAA), against all named Defendants. Defendants MHS and HCR (Defendants) filed a Motion to Dismiss Dalton's Amended Complaint on July 16, 2012, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Dalton resisted the motion on August 10, 2012. [4] Dalton moved for leave to file a second amended complaint on August 17, 2012, which was granted by Magistrate Judge Bremer on September 4, 2012. Dalton filed her Second Amended Complaint on September 14, 2012, adding Heartland Employment Services, LLC, (HES) as a defendant, following Defendants' reply in support of their Motion to Dismiss.


A. Statutory Framework

1. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA provides that " [s]ubject to section 2613 of this title, an eligible employee shall be entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period" for one of five listed situations. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1). In order to protect this statutory right, another section of the FMLA provides that " [i]t shall be unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any right provided under this subchapter." 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(1). Further, " [i]t shall be unlawful for any employer to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any individual for opposing any practice made unlawful by this subchapter." 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a)(2).

For purposes of the FMLA, an " employer" is " any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce who employs 50 or more employees

Page 1048

for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year," including " any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer," as well as " any successor in interest of an employer." 29 U.S.C. § 2611(4)(A)(i)-(ii).

The enforcement section of the FMLA states that " any employer who violates section 2615 of this title shall be liable to any eligible employee affected." 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(1). The juris-dictional section of the FMLA provides " [a]n action to recover the damages or equitable relief prescribed in paragraph (1) may be maintained against any employer (including a public agency) in any Federal or State court of competent jurisdiction by any one or more employees for and in behalf of -- (A) the employees; or (B) the employees and other employees similarly situated." 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(2).

In order to more fully illustrate what persons and entities are considered " employers" for purposes of the FMLA, federal regulations provide an " integrated employer" test as well as a " joint employer" test. The " integrated employer" test looks at the following factors to determine whether multiple entities should be considered as one all-encompassing employer for purposes of the FMLA: " (i) Common management; (ii) Interrelation between operations; (iii) Centralized control of labor relations; and (iv) Degree of common ownership/financial control." 29 C.F.R. § 825.104(c)(2). The " joint employer" test applies " [w]here two or more businesses exercise some control over the work or working conditions of the employee," and the common situations where such a relationship is found to exist include:

(1) Where there is an arrangement between employers to share an employee's services or to interchange employees; (2) Where one employer acts directly or indirectly in the interest of the other employer in relation to the employee; or, (3) Where the employers are not completely disassociated with respect to the employee's employment and may be deemed to share control of the employee, directly or indirectly, because one employer controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with the other employer.

29 C.F.R. § 825.106(a). The regulation also sets forth that:

A determination of whether or not a joint employment relationship exists is not determined by the application of any single criterion, but rather the entire relationship is to be viewed in its totality. For example, joint employment will ordinarily be found to exist when a temporary placement agency supplies employees to a second employer.

29 C.F.R. § 825.106(b)(1).

2. Americans With Disabilities Act As Amended (ADAAA)

The ADAAA sets forth the general rule that " [n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employment compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). For purposes of the ADAAA, " [t]he term 'covered entity' means an employer, employment agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(2). An " employer" includes:

A person engaged in an industry affecting commerce who has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year, ...

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