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Jadwin v. County of Kern

August 5, 2009

DAVID F. JADWIN, D.O., PLAINTIFF,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Oliver W. Wanger United States District Judge

CONCLUSIONS OF LAW FINDINGS OF FACT AND

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court pursuant to the parties' stipulation to submit certain claims asserted by Plaintiff David F. Jadwin, D.O. ("Plaintiff") to the court for decision, each party having voluntarily waived trial by jury. The other claims asserted by Plaintiff were tried to and decided by a jury.

The jury returned verdicts, entered on June 8, 2009, in favor of Plaintiff. (Doc. 384) The jury found that Defendant County of Kern ("County"): (1) retaliated against Plaintiff for engaging in certain activities in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act ("FEHA"); (2) retaliated against Plaintiff for taking medical leave under the FMLA and the California Family Rights Act ("CFRA"); (3) discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of his mental disability in violation of the FEHA; (4) failed to reasonably accommodate Plaintiff's mental disability in violation of the FEHA; and (5) failed to engage in an interactive process with Plaintiff in violation of the FEHA. The jury found against the County on its defense that Plaintiff's employment contract was not renewed by reason of his conduct and alleged violation of the employer's rules and contract requirements and/or that Plaintiff's behavior was the cause of the non-renewal of his contract.

The jury awarded damages as follows:

Mental and emotional distress and suffering.$0.00 Reasonable value of necessary medical care, treatment, and service received to the present time.$30,192.00 Reasonable value of necessary medical care, treatment and services which with reasonable probability will be required in the future.$0.00 Reasonable value of earnings and professional fees lost to the present time.$321,285.00 Reasonable value of earnings and professional fees with which reasonable probability will be lost in the future.$154,080.00 Total damages.$505,457.00

Certain claims were not submitted to the jury. The parties stipulated that these claims shall be tried by the court sitting without a jury, and each party, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38(d), voluntarily and knowingly waived on the record in open court any right they had to try these claims to a jury. The stipulation was accepted on the twelfth day of jury trial, June 6, 2009, and an order entered thereon.

On the final day of jury trial, the parties were instructed to submit briefing on the claims submitted for trial by court; namely, their legal positions, proposed findings of fact and proposed conclusions of law by June 19, 2006. The parties timely made their submissions.

II. THE CLAIMS SUBJECT TO BENCH TRIAL DETERMINATION

The claims to be decided by the court without a jury included Plaintiff's claim for interference with his rights under the FMLA/CFRA and a deprivation of Plaintiff's due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (made actionable via 42 U.S.C. § 1983). The parties submitted the testimony of witnesses and exhibits from the jury trial, and legal briefing. In some respects, Plaintiff's bench trial briefing exceeds the scope of the claims, and attendant issues, jointly submitted for bench trial determination.

A. "Miscellaneous Relief"

In a section entitled "Miscellaneous Relief" Plaintiff requests when a final judgment is entered in this case that: (1) the amount of economic damages awarded by the jury be doubled on the ground that the jury found that Defendant's violations of the FMLA were "willful"; (2) Plaintiff be awarded pre-judgment and post-judgment interest; (3) Plaintiff be awarded the costs of litigation as the prevailing party according to proof per Plaintiff's Bill of Costs; (4) Plaintiff be awarded attorney's fees pursuant to the FEHA/CFRA/FMLA, and, if Plaintiff prevails on his due process claim, attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, all according to proof per Plaintiff's forthcoming application for attorney's fees.

Plaintiff's items of "Miscellaneous Relief" exceed the scope of the issues reserved for the bench trial portion of the case and have not been briefed. They are not properly before the court for decision at this time and will not be addressed herein. The issues of enhanced damages, interest, costs, and attorney's fees must be addressed in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and other applicable law. These findings of fact and conclusions of law deal exclusively with Plaintiff's remaining claims for relief submitted for decision as agreed at the close of the jury trial.

B. The Claims

With respect to his FMLA/CFRA claim, Plaintiff contends that the County interfered with (or violated) his rights under the FMLA/CFRA by: (i) requiring him to take more FMLA/CFRA leave than medically necessary to address the circumstance that precipitated his need for leave (i.e., that the County required Plaintiff to take full-time leave instead of extending Plaintiff's reduced work schedule leave); and (ii) mislabeling some of his medical leave as "personal necessity leave" instead of properly designating it FMLA/CFRA leave.*fn1 With respect to the Fourteenth Amendment,

Plaintiff claims that his placement on administrative leave with pay deprived him of property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff has requested injunctive relief with respect to his FMLA/CFRA claim and damages ($116,501) with respect to his due process claim. All of these claims are encompassed in the Final Pretrial Order.

The Court has considered all the submissions of the parties and enters the following Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. To the extent that any finding of fact may be interpreted as a conclusion of law, or the converse, the finding is so intended.

III. Findings Of Fact

1. Pursuant to contract, Defendant County employed Plaintiff from October 24, 2000, to October 4, 2007. Plaintiff worked for the County as a core physician, specifically a pathologist, at Kern Medical Center.

2. Kern Medical Center ("KMC") is a hospital owned and operated by the County.

3. On October 24, 2000, Plaintiff and the County executed a term employment contract. (Pl. Ex. 120.) Attached to this term employment contract is Exhibit "A" which is part of the agreement. Exhibit A provides that Plaintiff "shall not bill or retain proceeds for any professional services performed by Core Physician [Plaintiff] at [Kern] Medical Center until such time as this Agreement is amended...." The agreement further provides that "KMC shall bill and retain all professional fees for professional services performed at [Kern] Medical Center."

4. Plaintiff and the County executed another term employment contract effective October 5, 2002 (Pl. Ex. 139), which terminated the prior contract. This new contract provided for a term of October 5, 2002, to October 4, 2007. Unlike the prior agreement, this agreement granted Plaintiff the right to earn and receive professional fees.

5. The employment contract contains no provision about renewal.

6. At all relevant times, the FMLA/CFRA applied to the County.

7. The County provided Plaintiff with a reduced work schedule medical leave under the FMLA/CFRA from December 16, 2005, to April 16, 2006.

8. In April 2006, Plaintiff submitted a request to extend his medical leave. (Pl. Ex. 250). In connection with his request, Plaintiff submitted a form entitled Certification of Health Care Provider, Medical Leave Of Absence. (Pl. Ex. 249). This form is signed by Paul Riskin, M.D., a psychiatrist, and dated April 26, 2006. On the form, there is a question which asks whether "it is medically necessary for employee/patient to be off work on an intermittent basis or to work less than the employee's normal work schedule in order to be treated for [a] serious health condition." This question is answered "yes" followed by the statement: "[t]his employee is unable to work full time and requires part-time or less to avoid worsening of his serious medical condition." Another part of the form asks Dr. Riskin to provide the estimated number of hours per day the employee (Plaintiff) is able to work and the written response indicates "1-2" days per week.

9. On April 28, 2006, Plaintiff attended a meeting regarding his medical leave situation. Those present at the meeting included Plaintiff and three other individuals: Peter Bryan, then CEO of KMC, Karen Barnes, the County Counsel, and Steve O'Connor from Human Resources.

10. After the April 28 meeting, Plaintiff went on full-time medical leave under the FMLA/CFRA until June 16, 2006. As the parties stipulated, Plaintiff took medical leave from December 16, 2005, to June 16, 2006.

11. In connection with the April 28 meeting, Bryan composed a memorandum (Pl. Ex. 251) summarizing the meeting in his words. In the memorandum, Bryan states: "I also mentioned that after Monday [May 1, 2006], it would be preferable for you not to have an intermittent work schedule and it would be easier on the department to just have you on leave until your status is resolved." Bryan testified that it was Plaintiff's idea to go on full-time medical leave. This trial testimony conflicts with Bryan's deposition testimony, which counsel read in open court, that Bryan did not recollect Plaintiff saying, either way, whether he (Plaintiff) wanted to go on full-time leave or not.

12. Plaintiff testified that he requested an extension of his modified work schedule and that, during the meeting, Bryan conveyed a desire to have a full-time department chair. Plaintiff described Bryan's communication as one-way. Plaintiff testified that he really had no choice to refuse full-time leave and he did not believe raising an objection to the full-time leave would do any good.

13. Bryan required Plaintiff to inform him (Bryan) by June 16, 2006, whether Plaintiff would resign or return to work full-time. Prior to that date, Plaintiff sent a correspondence to Bryan (Pl. Ex. 256) in which Plaintiff explained that he underwent nasal surgery in May and subsequently fractured his foot. In the correspondence, Plaintiff asked for an extension on the June 16 deadline. Bryan responded to Plaintiff's correspondence in an e-mail dated June 13 (Pl. Ex. 267 at 0001526) followed up by a letter dated June 14 (Pl. Ex. 267 at 0001525). Bryan informed Plaintiff that he would grant Plaintiff a Personal Necessity Leave for ninety (90) days. Plaintiff took that Personal Necessity Leave. As Bryan testified, the Personal Necessity Leave started June 16, 2006.

14. After going on Personal Necessity Leave, Plaintiff and the County executed an amendment to Plaintiff's employment agreement effective October 3, 2006. (Pl. Ex. 283.) The amendment reduced Plaintiff's base salary and altered his job duties. The amendment changed Section 1 of Article II (Compensation) in the employment agreement and also replaced Exhibit "A" to the employment agreement with Exhibit "A" of the amendment. The amendment did not change the other terms of the employment agreement, which remained in full force and effect.

15. Plaintiff resumed working for the County at KMC under the employment agreement as amended.

16. Defendant County subsequently placed Plaintiff on paid administrative leave on December 7, 2006.

17. David Culberson, the Interim Chief Executive Officer, decided to place Plaintiff on paid administrative leave. He made the decision with the input and participation of Steve O'Connor from Human Resources, Dr. Dutt (Chair of the Pathology Department), Karen Barnes (County Counsel), and Margo Raison (Labor Counsel).

18. The County placed Plaintiff on paid administrative leave via letter dated December 7, 2006, signed by Steve O'Connor on behalf of Culberson. (Pl. Ex. 317.) The letter reads:

This is to notify you that you are being placed on administrative leave with pay effective immediately. You will remain in this status pending resolution of a personnel matter. Pursuant to Kern County Policy and Administrative Procedures Manual section 124.3, during this period of paid remain at home and available by telephone during normal administrative leave, you are to business hours, specifically, Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Further, during this leave period, you are not to come to Kern Medical than seeking medical attention. In accordance with KMC employee Center (KMC) or its ...


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