Nicholas Malfitano Apr. 13, 2016, 8:48am


ALLENTOWN -- A federal judge ruled Thursday that a plaintiff who suffered an eye injury while working at a farmers market has had his Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claims precluded by a Workers’ Compensation release agreement.

Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania decided the FMLA claims brought by plaintiff Craig Zuber against Boscov’s would not proceed due to the presence of the signed release.

Zuber was working as a manager for the Fairgrounds Farmers Market in Reading on Aug. 12, 2014 when he suffered an eye injury that required medical attention. Zuber returned to work two days later, but the following day began to suffer complications due to the eye injury and was given a doctor’s note for a leave of absence from Aug. 17, 2014 to Aug. 24, 2014.

Zuber returned to work once again on Aug. 26, 2014, but was fired on Sept. 10, 2014 for an alleged security breach. At the same time, Zuber had filed a Workers’ Compensation claim for his eye injury, which was resolved on April 8, 2015 for $10,000 -- per the terms of a compromise and release agreement between Zuber and Boscov’s Workers’ Compensation carrier.

The language of the release stated: “The settlement calls for a one-time payment of $10,000.00… In exchange for employee forever relinquishing any and all rights to seek any and all past, present and/or future benefits, including, but not limited to, wage loss benefits, specific loss benefits, disfigurement benefits, and/or medical benefits for or in connection with the alleged 8/12/2014 work injury claim...”

The release further stated: “Employer and employee intend for the herein compromise and release agreement to be a full and final resolution of all aspects of the 8/12/2014 alleged work injury claim and its sequela whether known or unknown at this time.”

The conflict between the plaintiff and defendant is over whether the agreement pertained to Zuber’s FMLA claims brought in this action. In Schmehl’s opinion, they were precluded by the agreement.

“I find that plaintiff waived his FMLA claims against defendant by the execution of the C&R in his Workers’ Compensation matter. The release in this case contains broad, all-encompassing language much like the release in [Hoggard v. Catch, Inc.],” the judge wrote.

Schmehl said with the placement of that same “broad, all-encompassing” language, it makes the release agreement even stronger than the one in Hoggard, whose respective language terminated the plaintiff’s claims in that case.

“Accordingly, I find that plaintiff’s execution of a compromise and release agreement in relation with his Workers’ Compensation claim served as a waiver of any FMLA claims or retaliation claims that plaintiff may have against defendant. Therefore, defendant’s motion to dismiss is granted, and this matter is dismissed,” the judge ruled.

The plaintiff is represented by Manali Arora of Swartz Swidler in Cherry Hill, N.J.

The defendant is represented by Alexander W. Ross Jr. of Rakoski & Ross in Marlton, N.J.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:15-cv-03874

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com.

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