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Sando v. Wood River Pharmacy, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

May 25, 2018

DENISE SANDO, Plaintiff,

          OPINION & ORDER


         Plaintiff Denise Sando is suing defendants Wood River Pharmacy, Inc., Chris Witzany, and Bellicose International, Inc. for violating her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and state law. She says that she was a “clerk pharmacy technician” and “unit dose department manager” and that the three defendants were her joint employer. (For simplicity, the court will refer to the defendants collectively as “Wood River.”)

         According to Sando, Wood River discriminated against her in various ways because she needed to work a reduced schedule as a result of multiple medical conditions. She says that they continued to discriminate against her after she needed to take medical leave and complained about the discriminatory treatment. Ultimately, Wood River fired Sando. Sando also says that Wood River prevented her from getting another job. Sando's amended complaint includes five claims: (1) discrimination, in violation of the ADA; (2) retaliation, in violation of the ADA; (3) interference with medical leave, in violation of the FMLA; (4) tortious interference with a prospective contract, in violation of Wisconsin common law; and (5) promissory estoppel under Wisconsin law.

         Wood River moves to dismiss claims (3) and (4) for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Dkt. 20. Wood River says that Sando's allegations are insufficient to show that she qualifies for FMLA protections or that Wood River tortiously interfered with a prospective contract. The court disagrees with both contentions and will deny the motion to dismiss.


         When evaluating a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the “court must accept the complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations as true and draw reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor.” Transit Express, Inc. v. Ettinger, 246 F.3d 1018, 1023 (7th Cir. 2001). The court takes the following facts from Sando's amended complaint. Dkt. 11.

         Denise Sando worked at Wood River Pharmacy for 17 years. Bellicose International “operat[es]” the pharmacy. Over the course of her employment, Sando suffered from a variety of illnesses and conditions that made it difficult to complete work tasks when aggravated by stress and a lack of medication: “Frozen Shoulder Syndrome, ” anxiety, depression, Sjogren's Disease, and Lupus. Wood River's family leave policy states that employees are granted up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons provided that the employee works at least 1, 250 hours in the previous twelve months.

         Under this policy, Sando was qualified to take leave for her medical conditions and did so several times between 2012 and 2014. Defendant Chris Witzany was the managing pharmacist at Wood River, and whenever Sando needed to take leave, she presented Witzany with a doctor's note and coordinated her schedule with the pharmacy team. In response to these requests, Witzany “expressed retaliatory intent, ” reduced her vacation time, reduced her pay, and held her to different performance standards. Despite this, Witzany told Sando that her job was safe.

         Sando spoke to Sam Venigalla, Wood River's owner, about these events, but Venigalla told her that Witzany was “free to run the pharmacy as its manager however he wants.” Dkt. 11, ¶ 49. Upon receiving Sando's final request for leave on October 17, 2014, Witzany terminated her.

         After, she filed a discrimination and retaliation complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and applied for other jobs. She had trouble finding one because Witzany provided malicious employment references to potential employers. On June 9, 2017, the EEOC issue a right-to-sue letter, and this suit was commenced.


         When evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the question is “simply whether the complaint includes factual allegations that state a plausible claim for relief.” BBL, Inc. v. City of Angola, 809 F.3d 317, 325 (7th Cir. 2015); accord Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The plausibility requirement calls for “enough details about the subject-matter of the case to present a story that holds together.” Runnion ex rel. Runnion v. Girl Scouts of Greater Chi. & Nw. Ind., 786 F.3d 510, 526 (7th Cir. 2015) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         A. Family and Medical Leave Act

         Wood River challenges Sando's claim under the FMLA on the ground that Sando has not adequately alleged that she meets the requirements for FMLA eligibility. An employee is eligible for FMLA protections if: (1) she has been employed by the employer for at least 12 months; (2) she has at least 1, 250 hours of service during the 12 months before she requested leave; and (3) the employer has more than 50 employees who work within 75 miles of ...

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