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Dallefeld v. The Clubs at River City, Inc.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Peoria Division

October 16, 2017

JASON DALLEFELD, Plaintiff,
v.
THE CLUBS AT RIVER CITY, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          James E. Shadid Chief United States District Judge.

         Now before the Court is the Plaintiff, Jason Dallefeld's, Motion for Back Pay, Employment Benefits, Interest, Liquidated Damages, and Front Pay (“Motion for Back Pay”). (D. 56).[1] The Defendant, The Clubs at River City, Inc. (“The Clubs”), filed a Response (D. 58), as well as a Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. (D. 59). The Plaintiff has filed a Reply to the Defendant's Response (D. 64) and a Response to the Defendant's Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law. (D. 66). In turn, the Plaintiff filed a Renewed Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (D. 62) and the Defendant filed a Response (D. 65). For the reasons set forth below, the parties' Renewed Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law are DENIED and the Plaintiff's Motion for Back Pay is DENIED in part and GRANTED in part.

         Background

         The Court and the parties have briefed the background in this case extensively. What follows, are portions of the relevant facts pertinent to the motions presently before the Court.

         The Plaintiff filed the instant suit in June 2015. (D. 1). He alleged violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et. seq.; Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1211 et. seq.; and retaliatory discharge under Illinois common law. (D. 1 at pg. 1). The Plaintiff's FMLA claim alleged two violations: interference with his rights under FMLA and retaliation for exercising those rights.

         The Plaintiff worked for the Defendant as its Director of Membership Sales. His annual salary was $46, 800. He aggravated a preexisting injury to his right knee while at work. The Plaintiff's medical treatment provider, Blair Rhode, declared the Plaintiff incapable of working for the Defendant on March 26, 2014 due to his injury. The Plaintiff did not explicitly request FMLA leave and the Defendant did not offer it to him at that time. Testimony later confirmed that a Defendant employee was trained in FMLA employee rights, all employees were informed of their FMLA rights at the time they were hired, and an FMLA summary was posted at the Defendant premises. The Defendant did give the Plaintiff time off of work and paid him as if he was working until April 13, 2014. During this time, the Plaintiff went to Florida and some of the Defendant's employees noticed pictures of him on the beach that were posted on Facebook.

         On May 21, 2014, Rhode issued a note stating that the Plaintiff could return to work for the Defendant on a modified light duty basis. The Plaintiff claims he immediately provided this note to the Defendant. The Defendant denies ever receiving it. The parties met on June 2, 2014 and The Clubs owner told the Plaintiff to get his knee surgery done. There was no mention of the Plaintiff being terminated.

         Rhode later issued another note stating that the Plaintiff could no longer work for the Defendant on June 4, 2014. On June 13, 2014, the Defendant mailed the Plaintiff a letter terminating his employment. The letter was dated June 1, 2014. Rhode successfully performed knee surgery on the Plaintiff on June 17, 2014. Rhode issued another modified light duty note for the Plaintiff on August 13, 2014.

         In August 2017, the Court presided over the jury trial. The parties stipulated that if the Plaintiff prevailed, the Court would determine his entitlement to “lost compensation, the amount of interest, whether liquidated damages should be reduced, front pay, and reasonable attorney fees and costs of litigation.” (D. 45 at pg. 8). At trial, the Plaintiff testified that he could not give tours of the Defendant's facility upon his release to light duty. While giving tours was not listed in his written job description, the Plaintiff stated that it was part of what made him good at his job, selling membership to prospective clients. After the Plaintiff rested, the Defendant orally moved for a directed verdict as a matter of law on all of the Plaintiff's counts. The Court dismissed the Plaintiff's FMLA retaliation claim but otherwise denied the Defendant's motion.

         Once the remaining evidence was presented, the Plaintiff moved for judgment as a matter of law on all remaining counts. The Court denied the Plaintiff's motion. Ultimately, the jury found for the Plaintiff on his FMLA interference claim, and for the Defendant on the rest of the counts. (D. 53).

         The Plaintiff filed his Motion for Back Pay shortly after the trial concluded. (D. 56). He asserts that he is entitled to a host of damages, in excess of $417, 000. (D. 57 at pg. 19). The Defendant responds that the Plaintiff cannot prevail on his FMLA claim as a matter of law, and is therefore entitled to no damages. (D. 58 at pg. 2). Alternatively, the Defendant argues the damages should be limited to the 10 days in which he was authorized to work light duty while still employed by the Defendant. Id. at pg. 4. Both parties further assert that they are entitled to a grant of their Renewed Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law. (D. 59; 62).

         As an initial matter, the Court addresses the parties' Renewed Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law. District courts may enter judgment against a party who has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial when “a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 50(a) (motion for judgment as a matter of law), (b) (renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law). In deciding a Rule 50 motion, the Court construes the evidence strictly in favor of the party who prevailed before the jury and examines the evidence only to determine whether the jury's verdict could have reasonably been based on that evidence. Passananti v. Cook County, 689 F.3d 655, 659 (7th Cir. 2012). The Court is obliged to leave such judgments undisturbed unless the moving party can show that no rational jury could have brought in a verdict against it. Hossack v. Floor Covering Associates of Joliet, Inc., 492 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 2007).

         Neither of the parties in this case have convinced the Court that the jury's verdicts were irrational. As such, both parties' Renewed Motions for Summary Judgment as a Matter of Law (D. 59; D. 62) are DENIED.

         Standard ...


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