DeMeo v. The Vanguard Grp., Inc., PICS Case No. 14-0171 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 21, 2014) Rufe, J. (13 pages).


The Legal Intelligencer


Disability Discrimination • Family and Medical Leave Act • Retaliation

DeMeo v. The Vanguard Grp., Inc., PICS Case No. 14-0171 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 21, 2014) Rufe, J. (13 pages).

Where plaintiff alleged suffering adverse treatment and near-violent confrontations with supervisors subsequent to FMLA leave taken for mental health issues, such evidence was sufficient to establish a genuine issue of material fact as to whether plaintiff suffered retaliation for FMLA leave and harassment for his disability; however, such evidence was not sufficient to support retaliation solely for his disability. Granted in part and denied in part.

Plaintiff Christopher DeMeo took FMLA leave from his employment with defendant The Vanguard Group, Inc. due to mental health and family issues. Prior to his leave, DeMeo alleged that his relationship with his supervisor, Walt Schultz had begun to deteriorate. However, upon his return from FMLA leave, DeMeo alleged that the relationship began to worsen significantly, due to Schultz's increasing his workload, providing harshly negative performance reviews, failing to engage in mandatory coaching sessions, drafting (but not submitting) a "Written Alert" that contradicted praise from DeMeo's co-workers, ultimately culminating in an aggressive confrontation by Schultz that led to DeMeo's immediate departure from Vanguard after he declined a transfer that would have demoted him.

DeMeo brought suit, claiming retaliation in violation of the FMLA, ADA, and PHRA, and harassment in violation of the FMLA. Vanguard moved for summary judgment on all claims.

The court declined to grant summary judgment for Vanguard on DeMeo's FMLA retaliation and ADA harassment claims. The court found that DeMeo had established a case for FMLA retaliation, as he was able to point to the series of actions taken by Schultz after DeMeo's FMLA leave, as well as negate Vanguard's reasonable justification of said actions by pointing to Schultz's near-violent outburst directed at DeMeo that the court concluded could give rise to the inference that DeMeo would have feared making a claim of retaliation. The court also found that a fact-finder could reasonably conclude that the primary change in the relationship between DeMeo and Schultz that led to the deterioration was DeMeo's FMLA leave.

The court also found that a fact-finder could reasonably conclude that DeMeo had suffered harassment for his symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder, and that Schultz's behavior could rise to the level of severe and pervasive conduct, and that DeMeo's exercise of his FMLA rights could have put Vanguard and Schultz on notice that DeMeo might have had a disability.

However, the court found that summary judgment in favor of Vanguard was proper as to the disability retaliation claim, as DeMeo failed to provide evidence to establish a issue of material fact as to his claim of retaliation for his disability. DeMeo only pointed to the adverse treatment he received after returning from his FMLA; however, the court noted that DeMeo failed to provide any evidence that retaliation occurred because of his disability, and not for his use of FMLA leave.