Court denies care center's motion to dismiss former employee's lawsuit

By Tomas Kassahun | Nov 13, 2018

PHILADELPHIA - The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania has denied a motion to dismiss filed by The Maternal Child Consortium LLC, and Associates Home Care Inc. 

Judge Wendy J. Beetlestone made the ruling on Oct. 31, denying to dismiss any of the plaintiffs’ claims. 

According to the opinion, plaintiff Susan Everett worked as a scheduler for the defendants. She alleges that The Maternal Child Consortium and Associates Home Care paid her below the legally required minimum, refused to accommodate her disabilities, and fired her because of those disabilities.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act. the court said a plaintiff is generally required to exhaust administrative remedies with the EEOC, with part of that requirement stating that the plaintiff must name the defendant in a charge before the EEOC. 

“The naming aspect of exhaustion exists to ‘give notice to the charged party’ and to ‘enable the EEOC to investigate’  and to allow the EEOC ‘the opportunity to settle disputes through conference, conciliation and persuasion, avoiding unnecessary action in court,’” the opinion stated. 

According to the opinion, defendants argue that the claim is inadequate because it only lists MCC as a pseudonym under which AHC was doing business.

“Although Plaintiff did not list MCC as a separate party, explicitly naming MCC in the Charge sufficiently put the EEOC and the parties on notice of the entities involved and gave the EEOC the opportunity to investigate and attempt conciliation for all parties,” the opinion stated. 

The district court added that AHC and MCC are registered with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State at the same address, and have overlapping officers and employees of the organizations who hold themselves out as affiliated with both organizations. 

“Taking these allegations as true, plaintiff has adequately pled both notice and commonality of interest,” the lawsuit stated.  

According to the opinion, a plaintiff must file an ADA suit within 90 days of receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC.

“More than 90 days after receiving the letter, the plaintiff filed the Amended Complaint, which included — for the first time — defendant AHC in the lawsuit,” the opinion stated. “Defendants argue that because AHC was not added until more than ninety days after plaintiff received the letter, the ADA claim against AHC is time-barred.”  

The district court, however, denied to dismiss the ADA claim against AHC on timeliness. 

“Defendants have not offered any reason to believe that plaintiff ‘made a deliberate choice to sue one party instead of another while fully understanding the factual and legal differences between the two parties,’” the opinion stated. “Nor have Defendants offered any reason why they would be prejudiced by plaintiff’s failure to name AHC in the original Complaint.”

The opinion added that plaintiff was entitled to overtime and she had told defendants of that belief, but the defendants were unwilling to investigate whether they were required to pay overtime. 

“Therefore, plaintiff’s allegations adequately plead a 'willful' violation of the FLSA, and defendants’ motion to dismiss claims accruing prior to Feb. 18, 2016 will be denied,” the opinion stated.

The court also declined to dismiss Everett’s claim for payment of on-call work. According to the opinion, Everett spent some time on call, where she was permitted to leave her home, but required to carry her work phone and schedule and to answer up to three or four work calls per on-call period. 

The court said the on-call time can be compensable if the on-call policies are onerous and if there is significant interference with the employee’s personal life.

Defendants argued that Everett has not proven the policy was “onerous.” 

“Whether the interference was onerous is a question of fact that must be proven at trial,” the opinion stated. “Hence, the motion to dismiss will be denied as to the on-call time.” 

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