United States District Court, N.D. Illinois
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. Guzmán United States District Judge.
reasons stated below, Defendant's motion for summary
judgment  is granted. All pending motions are denied as
moot. Civil case terminated.
Sara Sampra sues the Department of Transportation for
interfering with her rights under the Family and Medical
Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”) after she took leave
to care for her newborn baby.
approximately October 2009 through April 2014, Sampra was
employed as an engineer by the Federal Aviation
Administration (“FAA”), an agency within the
United States Department of Transportation
(“DOT”). (Pl.'s Resp. Def.'s Stmt. Facts,
Dkt. # 30, ¶ 1.) Sampra remains employed by the FAA at
the time of this suit. FAA engineers who are assigned to
field work (“field engineers”) typically do not
work in an office; rather, they travel full time to the
field, and are assigned to airports across the central
portion of the U.S., including places like Minnesota, South
Dakota, and Louisiana. (Id. ¶ 2.) The
assignments for field engineers can last between one week and
one year. (Id.) Sampra originally applied to work as
a field engineer given that there were no office work
engineering positions open at the time, and she was assigned
field work at the time she was first hired to October 2010.
(Id. ¶¶ 1, 3.)
July 2010 until about January 13, 2014, Jenny Ross was
Sampra's immediate supervisor. (Id. ¶ 4.)
In October 2010, Ross assigned Sampra to do almost
exclusively office work, managing the Technical Support
Services Contract (“TSSC”) work releases and
providing oversight for the work completed under the TSSC.
(Id. ¶¶ 1, 5.) This assignment involved
monitoring work that was being performed by TSSC contractors
in the field as well as performing work in the office.
(Id. ¶ 5.) Ross's supervisor, John Smith,
was not aware of the type of work Ross had assigned Sampra to
do. (Id.) Though she was assigned projects that
largely could be completed in the office, Sampra was still
classified as a field engineer, and her job description
continued to require up to 100% travel and fieldwork.
(Id. ¶ 6.) Sampra contends, however, that there
is not technically a position at the FAA entitled
“field engineer, ” and that despite
Defendant's contention that she was a field engineer, she
was assigned to duties for three and half years that required
little to no field work. (Id. ¶ 7.)
attests in an affidavit that Sampra avoided traveling to
complete on-site checks of projects, and failed to attend
in-person meetings even at O-Hare Airport, which is near the
FAA office in Des Plaines. (Ross Decl., Def.'s Ex. 8,
Dkt. # 29-2, ¶ 5.)
approximately December 23, 2013, through approximately
January 3, 2014, Sampra worked from home after her doctor
ordered bed rest because of a complication with her
pregnancy. (Id. ¶ 9.) Ross approved her
temporary request to telework while on bed rest.
(Id.) On January 6, 2014, Sampra began FMLA leave in
order for care for her newborn baby. (Id. ¶
10.) Prior to going on FMLA leave, Sampra did not submit a
written transition plan and did not make any written request
to transition back to work through the use of telework.
(Id. ¶ 11.)
about January 13, 2014, while Sampra was on FMLA leave, Ross
moved to a new position and Matt Sibert took over as
Sampra's direct supervisor. (Id. ¶ 12.) In
January 2014, Sibert, who was located in Kansas City and was
the Manager of the NAVIDS Construction/Installation Center
became the Acting Manager of the Chicago
Construction/Installation Center. (Id. ¶ 12.)
On January 24, 2014, Sibert reassigned the task of overseeing
the TSSC work releases to himself. (Id. ¶ 13.)
Sibert oversaw the TSSC work releases in Kansas City and was
able to perform the same task in Chicago in about an hour a
week. (Id. ¶ 15.)
February 7, 2014, Sampra emailed Sibert that she would be
returning to work on March 10th. In the same email, she
indicated that she “would like to take three months off
to take care of [her] newborn but since [she was] not being
allowed to work from home [she could not] afford to.”
(Id. ¶ 16.) Prior to going on FMLA leave,
Sampra had planned on taking eight weeks of leave and then
teleworking for four weeks. (Id. ¶ 17.) On her
planned return date of March 10, 2014, Sampra would have been
on FMLA leave for nine weeks. (Id.) Pursuant to FAA
policies, employees are not entitled to telework; an employee
must request and be granted supervisory approval for
teleworking, and telework is official duty time and is not to
be used for any purpose other than official duties.
(Id. ¶¶ 19-21.)
responded to Sampra's February 7, 2014 email by stating
that telework was not authorized for Sampra to care for her
baby. (Id. ¶ 18.) On February 18, 2014, Sampra
emailed Sibert and told him she would not be caring for her
child while on official time (i.e., teleworking).
(Id. ¶ 22.) If allowed to telework, Sampra did
not plan on working full days, but rather to work “on
and off” as she had availability. (Id. ¶
23.) Sampra's FAA Telework Agreement stated that she was
“not permitted to telework for partial days, unless the
remainder of the day is accounted for by approved leave or
approved duty status.” (Id. ¶ 24.) If
given permission to telework, Sampra was required to continue
to work the same schedule she had previously worked.
(Id.) Field employees are only permitted to telework
on an ad hoc basis, meaning that they cannot be scheduled to
telework. (Id. ¶ 25.)
February 19, 2014, Sibert denied Sampra's request to
telework, stating that he had no work to assign Sampra that
could be performed while teleworking. (Id. ¶
26.) Sampra returned to work on March 10, 2014. (Id.
¶ 27.) While Defendant asserts she still held a position
as a field engineer, Sampra contends, for the reasons already
stated, that she was never assigned to work as a “field
engineer” between October 2010 and March 10, 2014.
Sampra was set to return to work, Sibert believed that
overseeing the TSSC work releases was not appropriate work
for a field engineer nor was it a full-time job.
(Id. ¶ 28.) Sibert believed that because Sampra
was a field engineer, she should be assigned to complete
engineering work in the field, ...