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Media Alerts - Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges Inc. - Third Circuit
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August 7, 2014
  Lupyan v. Corinthian Colleges Inc. - Third Circuit
Headline: Employee testimony is enough to rebut presumption for mailbox rule

Area of Law: Family Medical Leave Act/ evidence

Issues Presented: Whether the District Court erred in granting summary judgment on retaliation and interference claims under the FMLA

Brief Summary: Lupyan was terminated from her job after exceeding her twelve week leave under the FMLA. Under the FMLA, employers must provide general and personal notice of the FMLA. The Court found that Lupyan's testimony that she did not receive personal notice in the mail was enough to rebut the presumption of receipt provided by the mailbox rule and create a material issue of fact to be determined by the fact finder. The Court also determined that the employee's credibility as to whether she would have conducted her leave differently, within the restrictions of the FMLA, if she had been properly notified was an issue to be determined by the fact finder. Finally, the Court found that the employer's reasons for termination could be dismissed as pretextual and that this created a material issue of fact in dispute. The Court vacated the District Court's grant of summary judgment and remanded.

Significance (if any):

Extended Summary: This case centered on whether Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCI) properly notified Lupyan that her leave fell under the FMLA and whether she was terminated in retaliation for taking FMLA leave. Lupyan was an instructor at CCI. She took leave after her supervisor noticed she seemed depressed. She originally applied for personal leave but her supervisor suggested she apply for short-term disability coverage. She saw her doctor and received certification of a mental health condition which made the leave time eligible to be covered under the Family Medical Leave Act. Lupyan met with CCI's Supervisor of Administration who changed the leave to FMLA instead of personal leave and changed the return date to April 1, 2008. Lupyan notified CCI on March 13, 2008 that she was eligible to return to work. She obtained the release requested by her supervisor on April 1, 2008 but, before returning to work, was notified on April 9 that she was being terminated from her position because of low enrollment and because she had not returned to work within twelve weeks allotted by FMLA.
The FMLA requires employers to provide general and individual notice about the FMLA. While CCI did provide general notice of the FMLA in the employee handbook, the Court rejected the District Court's finding that there were no material issues of fact in dispute regarding the personal notification. The Court looked to the "mailbox rule" to determine if the letter sent by CCI to Lupyan was sufficient to provide personal notice. Under the mailbox rule there is a rebuttable presumption of receipt. The Court determined that Lupyan's contention that she had not received the letter was enough to rebut the presumption, especially because CCI could provide no corroborating evidence that Lupyan actually received the letter. Proof that the letter was sent was not enough. The Court determined that the denial of receipt of the letter is enough to create a genuine issue of material fact that should be resolved by the fact finder and thus summary judgment should not have been granted.
The Court next turned to the prejudice claim. Under the FMLA it is not enough that the employer did not provide personal knowledge of the FMLA leave. The employee must show that knowledge of the FMLA would have caused her to structure her leave differently. The Court finds that, while Luypan's testimony to this fact would be enough to establish prejudice, there is also corroborating evidence that she was able to return to work on March 13, 2008. While this date is past the twelve weeks available under the FMLA there was nothing in the record to establish that she was not able to return to work before the twelve weeks were up. The Court holds that Luypan's credibility that she could return to work needs to be determined by the factfinder.
Finally, the Court turned to the retaliation claim. The Court found that the District Court correctly analyzed this issue under a burden-shifting framework. The fact that the termination came after the FMLA leave expired does not preclude a retaliation claim under the FMLA. The Court found that after the burden shifted to CCI, it failed to establish reasons for Luypan's termination that could not be dismissed as pretextual. The Court vacated the District Court's grant of summary judgment and remanded.
To read the full opinion, please visit http://www2.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/131843p.pdf

Panel (if known): McKee, Chief Judge, Fuentes, Circuit Judge, and Schiller, District Judge

Argument Date: December 17, 2013

Argument Location:

Date of Issued Opinion: August 5, 2014

Docket Number: 13-1843

Decided: Remanded

Case Alert Author: Cheri Snook

Counsel: Jeffrey B. Balicki, Esq., for appellee; Adam R. Gorzelsky, Esq., Susan N. Williams, for appellant

Author of Opinion: Chief Judge McKee

Circuit: 3rd Circuit

Case Alert Circuit Supervisor: Prof. Susan L. DeJarnatt

    Posted By: Susan DeJarnatt @ 08/07/2014 02:22 PM     3rd Circuit  

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