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Arango v. Work & Well, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 15, 2013

LUIS ARANGO, Plaintiff,
v.
WORK & WELL, INC., Defendant

For Luis Arango, on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated persons, known and unknown, Plaintiff: Alejandro Caffarelli, LEAD ATTORNEY, Bradley S Manewith, Lorraine Teraldico Peeters, Madeline Kate Engel, Marc J. Siegel, Caffarelli & Siegel Ltd, Chicago, IL.

For Work & Well, Inc., Defendant: David M. Holmes, LEAD ATTORNEY, Lisa Handler Ackerman, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, Chicago, IL.

OPINION

Page 941

HON. RONALD A. GUZMAN, United States District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In 2010, when plaintiff was working for Sysco, he requested a twelve-week leave pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ). Defendant Work & Well, Inc. was Sysco's FMLA leave administrator. Plaintiff alleges that defendant wrongly told Sysco that he was not entitled to the last six weeks of leave he requested, and Sysco terminated him as a result. In the sole remaining claim in this suit, plaintiff alleges that defendant is liable for tortious interference with his contractual relationship with Sysco. Both parties have filed motions for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies the motions.

Discussion

To prevail on a summary judgment motion, " the movant [must] show[] that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). At this stage, we do not weigh evidence or determine the truth of the matters asserted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). We view all evidence and draw all inferences in favor of the non-moving party. Michas v. Health Cost Controls of Ill., Inc., 209 F.3d 687, 692 (7th Cir. 2000). Summary judgment is appropriate only when the record as a whole establishes that no reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. Id.

Preemption

Defendant contends that plaintiff's claim for tortious interference is preempted by the FMLA. That is true only if: (1) the FMLA expressly states that it preempts state law; (2) the FMLA " so thoroughly occupies a legislative field [that] it [is] reasonable to infer that Congress left no room for the states to act" ; or (3) recognition of the state claim would hinder " the accomplishment and execution of the [FMLA's] purposes and objectives." Aux Sable Liquid Prods. v. Murphy, 526 F.3d 1028, 1033 (7th Cir. 2008) (quotations omitted). The text of the statute itself, which states that it " [does not] supersede any provision of any State or local law that provides greater family or medical leave rights than the rights established under [the FMLA]" scotches any express or field preemption argument. 29 U.S.C. § 2651(b). Thus, conflict preemption is the only possible option.

Page 942

To determine whether the state claim is an obstacle to the Congressional objectives of the FMLA, the Court " examin[es] the . . . statute as a whole and identif[ies] its purpose and intended effects." Crosby v. Nat'l Foreign Trade Council, 530 U.S. 363, 373, 120 S.Ct. 2288, 147 L.Ed.2d 352 (2000). " [T]he crucial inquiry" is whether the state law " frustrate[s]" " achievement of the [FMLA's] objective." MITE Corp. v. Dixon, 633 F.2d 486, 493 (7th Cir. 1980). A state law is not subject to conflict preemption unless that was Congress' " clear and manifest" intent. Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230, 67 S.Ct. 1146, 91 L.Ed. 1447 (1947).

The stated purposes of the FMLA are:

(1) to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, to promote the stability and economic security of families, and to promote national interests in preserving family integrity; (2) to entitle employees to take reasonable leave for medical reasons, for the birth or adoption of a child, and for the care of a child, spouse, or parent who has a serious health condition; (3) to accomplish the purposes described in paragraphs (1) and (2) in a manner that accommodates the legitimate interests of employers; (4) to accomplish the purposes described in paragraphs (1) and (2) in a manner that, consistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, minimizes the potential for employment discrimination on the basis of sex by ensuring generally that leave is available for eligible medical ...

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