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Sheils v. Gatehouse Media, Inc.

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

March 26, 2015

DARLENE SHEILS, Plaintiff,
v.
GATEHOUSE MEDIA, INC., GATEHOUSE MEDIA SUBURBAN NEWSPAPERS, INC., and SHAW SUBURBAN MEDIA GROUP, INC., Defendants.

MICHAEL A. PAULL, BRIAN S. SCHWARTZ, KLEIN DUB & HOLLEB, LTD., Highland Park, Illinois, Attorneys for GateHouse.

DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW

MANISH S. SHAH, District Judge.

Defendants (collectively "GateHouse"), by their attorneys, submit their Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. P. 50 and state as follows:

I. INTRODUCTION

This a five count action, alleging: (1) FMLA interference related to Plaintiff's return from medical leave in January 2010; (2) FMLA retaliation related to Plaintiff's return from medical leave in January 2010; (3) FMLA retaliation related to Plaintiff's discharge in February 2011 while she was on medical leave; (4) Defendants' failure to pay overtime for time worked in excess of 40 hours in a given workweek; and (5) Illinois common law retaliatory discharge related to Plaintiff's exercise of rights under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act.

In addition, Plaintiff contends that GateHouse Media, Inc. was her employer under principles of joint employer liability.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 50(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows a district court to enter judgment against a party who has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial if "a reasonable jury would have legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue." In examining the evidence to rule on a motion for judgment as a matter of law, the court does not make credibility determinations or weigh evidence. Waite v. Board of Trustees of Illinois Community College Dist. No. 508, 408 F.3d 339, 343 (7th Cir. 2005), citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

III. ELEMENTS OF THE CLAIMS BROUGHT BY PLAINTIFF

A. FMLA Interference

To establish a claim for FMLA interference, an employee must show that: (1) she was eligible for the FMLA's protections; (2) her employer was covered by the FMLA; (3) she was entitled to take leave under the FMLA; (4) she provided sufficient notice of her intent to take leave; and (5) her employer denied her FMLA benefits to which she is entitled. Burnett v. LFW, Inc., 472 F.3d 471, 472 (7th Cir. 2006).

An employee's right to reinstatement is not absolute. The FMLA allows an employer to refuse to restore an employee to the "former position when restoration would confer a right, benefit, or position of employment' that the employee would not have been entitled to if the employee had never left the workplace." Kohls v. Beverly Enters. Wisc., Inc., 259 F.3d 799, 805 (7th Cir. 2001) (citing 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(3)(B)); see also 29 C.F.R. § 825.216(a) ("An employee has no greater right to reinstatement or to other benefits and conditions of employment than if the employee has been continuously employed during the FMLA leave period.").

B. FMLA Retaliation

FMLA retaliation claims are evaluated under the same standard used in Title VII retaliation claims. See James v. Hyatt Regency, 707 F.3d 775, 781 (7th Cir. 2013). Hence, a plaintiff must show: (1) she engaged in a protected activity; (2) her employer took an adverse employment action against her; and (3) there is a causal connection between the protected activity and ...


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