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January 2015

Gordon & Rees Denver Office Wins Summary Judgment in FMLA Case

Gordon & Rees Denver senior counsel Laurie J. Rust secured summary judgment in an FMLA failure to reinstate case on behalf of our clients, a doctors’ office and its chief executive officer, in the U.S. District Court for Colorado. 

The plaintiff, a medical assistant at the doctors' office, also worked a second job as a paramedic for an ambulance company. She often reported to work at the doctors’ office after working all night at her second job. In the fall of 2013, the plaintiff began to suffer from significant mental health issues and had several breakdowns at work after her shifts at the ambulance company.  The doctors’ office required her to take time off work, but classified it as FMLA leave.  She was told that the doctors’ office would determine if she could return to work at the end of leave and that she had to stop working all-nighters at the ambulance company prior to reporting to work.  At the end of her FMLA leave, she presented a fitness for duty certificate, but refused to stop working at the ambulance company.  The doctors’ office terminated her employment.  She filed suit, originally claiming FMLA interference in connection with forced FMLA leave, improper second opinion, failure to reinstate, and tortious interference with her at-will employment contract.  

At the close of discovery, the only claim remaining was failure to reinstate under the FMLA.  Rust filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff was not terminated due to taking FMLA leave, but because of her numerous documented performance issues and failure to stop working all night at the ambulance company prior to reporting to work.  She argued that the lack of any evidence regarding causation required summary judgment in the defendants’ favor.  This summer, the court denied the motion in a one-line order.  Rust filed a motion for reconsideration, noting that there were no disputed issues of material fact and that the only issue for the court to decide was whether the claim requires a causal connection.  She cited to the parties’ recently-filed jury instructions, in which they disagreed on the elements of the claim and the affirmative defenses available.  

In an opinion issued December 23, 2014, the court granted the motion for reconsideration, vacated its previous denial of the motion for summary judgment, and entered summary judgment in favor of the defendants.

Laurie J. Rust


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