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Jordan v. Marsh USA, Inc.

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

November 1, 2019

JUANDA LYNN JORDAN, Plaintiff,
v.
MARSH USA, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Juanda Lynn Jordan has sued her former employer, Marsh USA, Inc., for interfering with her exercise of rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and terminating her in retaliation for exercising her FMLA rights. Marsh has moved for summary judgment on Jordan's claims. For the reasons stated below, the Court denies Marsh's motion.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise indicated. Marsh is an insurance brokering and risk management company. Jordan worked for Marsh as an insurance specialist. On August 15, 2017, Jordan's physician, Dr. Sachin Dixit, diagnosed her with anxiety, stress, and hypertension. That day, Jordan sent a text message and phoned her supervisor at Marsh to inform him that she would need to miss work until August 28, 2017 for medical reasons.

         The Leave Management team of Marsh's parent company administers leaves of absence for Marsh's employees. Leave Management works with a third-party administrator, The Hartford, on the leave process. The Hartford reviews and approves leaves of absence on behalf of Marsh. Leave Management is responsible for notifying Marsh's employees about The Hartford's decisions.

         On August 16, 2017, Leave Management sent Jordan a letter with information about the company's benefits and how to access them. The letter discussed the availability of FMLA leave and the procedures for obtaining it. After receiving the letter, Jordan understood that the company's policy required her to submit a certification from her physician regarding her medical leave.

         At a medical appointment on August 28, 2017, Jordan learned from her doctor that she would need to continue to stay out on leave. She testified during her deposition that she contacted her supervisor and Leave Management, which advised that it would send her documentation for her doctor to complete. Leave Management also told her to check in with her supervisor weekly, which Jordan did.

         Leave Management provided Jordan with a certification form, which Dr. Dixit completed and signed on August 28, 2017.[1] On the form, Dr. Dixit indicated that Jordan would be incapacitated for a single, continuous period due to her medical condition. Part of the fifth question asked him to "estimate the beginning and ending dates for the periods of [the employee's] incapacity." Ex. 2 to Pl.'s Stat. of Add'l Facts, dkt. no. 61-1, at 44. In response, Dr. Dixit listed the dates of August 15, 2017 to September 30, 2017.

         At The Hartford's request, Dr. Dixit also completed attending physician statements relating to Jordan's medical conditions and her need for continuous leave. The parties dispute, and it is unclear from the record, whether Jordan or a member of Dr. Dixit's staff submitted these statements to The Hartford, how that person submitted them, and when The Hartford received them.[2] On August 16, 2017, Dr. Dixit completed an attending physician statement in which he indicated that Jordan's expected "[r]eturn to [w]ork" date was October 1, 2017. Id. at 48. On September 25, 2017, Dr. Dixit completed another attending physician statement in which he indicated that her expected return date was "unknown." Id. at 53.

         On September 29, 2017, The Hartford sent Jordan a letter stating that it had not received "necessary medical information" from Jordan's doctor and thus was "unable to completely evaluate" her claim for benefits. Ex. 3 to Def.'s Stat. of Undisputed Material Facts (SUMF), dkt. no. 46-1, at 108. As a result, the letter indicated, The Hartford had closed Jordan's file. The letter did not state whether The Hartford had received any medical documentation relating to Jordan's leave or, if it had received documentation, what more it needed. On several occasions before sending the September 29 letter, The Hartford had orally advised Jordan either that it was missing her medical records (as Jordan contends) or that it needed additional medical records (as Marsh contends).

         In September and October, Jordan called The Hartford and Leave Management multiple times to discuss the status of her leave. On a call to Leave Management on September 26, 2017, she stated that she expected to need leave until at least October 9, 2017. Jordan spoke to Leave Management about her need for leave as late as October 30, 2017; she testified that an employee of Leave Management told her that day that she had not received a paycheck because she was on FMLA leave. Marsh does not dispute that Jordan spoke to someone from Leave Management that day but contends that no one from Leave Management told Jordan she was approved for FMLA leave extending through October.

         The parties also dispute whether Jordan or her doctor submitted all necessary documentation to The Hartford and/or Leave Management. The parties agree that Leave Management and The Hartford repeatedly told Jordan that The Hartford was missing some required documentation, but it is unclear from the record what documentation it was missing. Jordan contends that she tried to provide the documentation needed to support her FMLA leave. She testified that went to Dr. Dixit's office more than fifteen times to inform him that Leave Management and/or The Hartford had not received the necessary documentation; the doctor's staff faxed to The Hartford copies of the documentation it requested, including her medical records; she personally faxed some of the requested information to The Hartford; and she placed several phone calls to Leave Management and/or The Hartford to confirm its receipt of the faxes.

         Valerie Bautista, a management analyst on the Leave Management team, testified that on October 20, 2017 she sent a letter to Jordan via Federal Express. This letter is a point of contention between the parties. It stated that The Hartford was "unable to obtain appropriate medical documentation" from Jordan's health care provider regarding her leave. Ex. 3 to Def.'s SUMF, dkt. no. 46-1, at 110. Like the September 29 letter, this letter did not state whether Leave Management or The Hartford had received any medical documentation relating to Jordan's leave or, if they had received such documentation, what more they needed. The letter said that if Jordan did not provide medical documentation by October 27, 2017 or return to work on or before the next day on which she was scheduled to work, her employment would be terminated, and she would be considered to have voluntarily resigned from her position, pursuant to Marsh's short-term disability policy. The letter contained no reference to the FMLA.

         Jordan contends that she did not receive the October 20, 2017 letter until after her termination. She testified that she received a Federal Express package on October 23, 2017 but that it contained another copy of the September 29, 2017 letter from the Hartford, not the October 20, 2017 letter from Leave Management. Marsh disputes this and asserts that its records show that the package should have contained the October 20, 2017 letter.

         On October 31, 2017, Marsh decided to terminate Jordan on the ground that she had failed to provide the necessary medical documentation and had not returned to work, as required by Marsh's internal policy and as described in the October 20, 2017 letter. Dr. Dixit had never cleared Jordan to return to work. According to testimony from a member of the human resources team, the managers who made the termination decision understood, based on e-mails from Leave Management, that The Hartford had not received the requisite medical information from Jordan or her doctor.[3]

         On the same day as Jordan's termination, The Hartford sent her a letter indicating that her FMLA leave was approved from August 15, 2017 to September 30, 2017. The letter stated that The Hartford had "reviewed the medical information submitted on October 31, 2017," although it is not clear what this meant. Ex. 8 to Def.'s SUMF, dkt. no. 46-1, at ...


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