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Hetu v. Charter Communications, LLC

United States District Court, D. Montana, Billings Division

April 6, 2015

LAURA HETU, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS, LLC, and AMY LANE, and John Does 1-10, Defendants.

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

CAROLYN S. OSTBY, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Laura Hetu's ("Hetu") Amended Complaint asserts the following claims against the Defendants, Charter Communications ("Charter"), Amy Lane ("Lane"), and John Does 1-10:

Count One-Breach of Express and Implied Contract & Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
Count Two-Deceit
Count Three-Fraud
Count Four- Wrongful Denial of Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") Leave
Count Five- Negligence

See ECF 14 .[1] Count Four is based on federal law; the remaining counts are based on state law.

Now pending is Charter's Renewed Motion for Partial Dismissal ( ECF 15 ). Lane joins in the motion ( ECF 27 ). Having reviewed the parties' arguments and the applicable law, the Court recommends as follows.

II. BACKGROUND

Hetu first brought this action in state court, alleging defamation and wrongful termination in addition to claims identified above. See Complaint, ECF 1-1. After the action was removed to this Court, Hetu was allowed to file an Amended Complaint. See ECF 13, 14. The Amended Complaint dropped the defamation and wrongful discharge claims. The following facts are alleged in Hetu's Amended Complaint and are, for purposes of considering the pending motion to dismiss, assumed to be true.

Hetu was employed in Charter's sales department and had completed the company's probationary employment period. Toward the end of June 2013, she suffered severe and debilitating anxiety and panic attacks. The attacks arose after Hetu had been scolded, belittled, unfairly singled out, verbally abused, and humiliated at work. ECF 14 at ¶ 9. As a result, Hetu became physically ill and informed Defendants she "would be off work because of her anxiety related illness." Id. at ¶¶ 11, 12.

Hetu contacted Charter's employee assistance program for help with her ongoing anxiety and panic attacks. Charter informed her that she was eligible for FMLA leave, and provided her with an application for such leave. Id. at ¶¶ 12-13. Hetu remained in regular contact with Lane, her human resource department contact, during the end of June and beginning of July while she was absent from work. She submitted her FMLA leave application on July 17, 2013.

On July 18, Lane informed Hetu that her application for FMLA leave was denied, and Hetu later learned it was denied because her paperwork did not indicate a serious health condition under FMLA requirements. Id. at ¶¶ 24-27. Lane explained that she did not qualify for FMLA leave because Hetu's counselor "indicated she had never treated [Hetu] prior to 7/17, that she wouldn't be treating [Hetu] again, she did not prescribe medication and she stated [Hetu] could perform [her] job duties." Id. at ¶ 27.

On July 26, Hetu filed an amended FMLA leave, along with an updated medical diagnosis from her mental health professional. Charter denied the amended application on July 31, because it erroneously determined that "Ms. Hetu's therapist was not qualified as a health care provider' according to the provisions of the FMLA and/or Charter's employee health network." Id. at ¶ 36. The same day, July 31, 2013, Charter terminated Hetu's employment, informing her that she had "abandoned" her job. Id. at ¶¶ 38-39. Hetu tried to appeal ...


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