The opinion of the court was delivered by: June L. Green, District Judge.
This is a wrongful termination and employment benefits
discrimination action brought pursuant to the Employee Retirement
Income Security Act ("ERISA"), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 et seq.
(1994), the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101
et seq. (1994), and the Federal Family and Medical Leave
Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.*fn1 The ERISA claims
are directed against the Disability Plans, while the ADA and FMLA
claims are directed against Citibank.
The following are material facts as to which there are no
genuine disputes. Plaintiff Carlotta Sampson worked for Defendant
Citibank (or its predecessor) beginning in 1984 until June of
1995. She was an Assistant Branch Manager whose duties typically
required her to be present every weekday and occasionally on
Saturdays. Decl. of Andre F. Shaw, Citibank Ex. M.
Plaintiff was covered by two disability plans: a short-term
plan and a long-term plan. Each provides for benefit payments
(covering different time periods) when a covered employee is
unable to work because of a disability.
On April 26, 1995, Plaintiff began an extended sick leave for
what she alleges was severe asthma complicated by
gastrointestinal reflux. On May 2, 1995, Plaintiff notified Aetna
that she had seen her physician, Doctor Frank Finnerty, and was
unable to return to work. She sought and was approved for
short-term disability benefits from April 26 through May 30,
1995. On May 30, 1995, Plaintiff successfully sought to extend
her disability leave and was approved to June 7, 1995. Aetna Life
Insurance Co., responsible for administering the Disability
Plans, recommended that Plaintiff see a pulmonary specialist in
mid-May to determine her condition and whether she was, in fact,
disabled. As a result, Plaintiff was examined by Dr. Carl
Schoenberger on May 25, 1995. Among other things, Dr.
Schoenberger concluded that Plaintiff had "a well documented
history of asthmatic bronchitis which appear[ed] to be under
excellent control at the moment." (Ltr. by Dr. Schoenberger to
Dr. Finnerty dated 5/30/95.)
Following the examination by Dr. Schoenberger, a nurse
(employed by a company hired by Aetna to assist in disability
evaluations) completed a form describing the physical
requirements of Plaintiff's job at Citibank, which was then given
to Plaintiff's personal physician, Dr. Finnerty. On a second
form, Dr. Finnerty answered "yes" to the question: "Can the
client work an 8-hour day?" (See Forms from Comprehensive
Rehabilitative Associates, June 6, 1995, Disability Plans'
Attachments 5 & 6, to Ex. E.) The purpose of these forms was to
assist in evaluating whether Plaintiff was capable of performing
her duties given her condition.
On June 26, 1995, the Medical Director, responsible for the
Disability Plans, reviewed Plaintiff's file and upheld the June 7
return to work date.*fn2 Plaintiff had no further contact with
Aetna after she was notified by letter dated June 29, 1995 of the
final decision. (Letter of Joanne Hollinger, R.N., June 29,
1995.) By letter dated September 1, 1995, Plaintiff was
terminated from Citibank for failure to return to work following
an approved absence, effective June 7, 1995 (June 6 being the
last day of her approved leave). (Letter of Milagros Santiago
Plaintiff never expressly requested uncompensated leave under
the FMLA, despite being advised in writing of that option on at
least three occasions. (Letters from Joan Huff, 5/11/95, 6/12/95
and 6/29/95, which included a separate notice concerning FMLA
leave, see Decl. of David Charrier, ¶ 9, Def.Ex. E.)
A motion for summary judgment is appropriate when "the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show
that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The Court must
view the material presented in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, Adickes v. S.H. Kress and Co., 398 U.S. 144,
157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970), and resolve all doubts
as to facts or the existence of facts against the moving party.
United States v. Diebold, 369 ...