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Cheeks v. Dynamics

United States District Court, D. Arizona

March 23, 2015

Loretta H. Cheeks, Plaintiff,
v.
General Dynamics, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEILBORG, Senior District Judge.

Before the Court is Plaintiff's Rule 59 Motion for New Trial. (Doc. 179). The Court now rules on the motion.

I. Background

A six-day trial for Plaintiff's FMLA claim began on November 18, 2014, and concluded on November 25, 2014. The trial revolved around the leave Plaintiff took pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and her subsequent termination of employment by Defendant. Plaintiff presented evidence that during weeks when she took eight hours of approved, FMLA-eligible leave, she was nonetheless required to complete a forty-hour workload. She further presented evidence that she was taken off of a project, called the MUOS program, which directly led to her termination as a part of a reduction in force. Defendant, on the other hand, offered evidence that the assignments Plaintiff was given would take no more than thirty hours a week to complete and that she was not taken off the MUOS program because she was unable to complete forty hours of work.

Before trial, Plaintiff requested, and the Court rejected, the following jury instructions:

11. Plaintiff's Proposed Instruction-Performance Expectations

I instruct you that, when evaluating the performance of an employee with intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave, the employer is required to adjust the employee's performance expectations to account for the employee's reduced working time.
An employee with intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave is not required to complete the duties of a full-time position. An employer cannot penalize an employee that has intermittent or reduced schedule leave because that employee cannot satisfactorily complete the workload of a full-time position during their period of leave.
15. Plaintiff's Proposed Instruction-Exempt Employees:
I instruct you that employees known as "exempt" employees are usually paid a salary and are required to work as many hours as is necessary to complete their job responsibilities. However, exempt employees with approved intermittent or reduced schedule FMLA leave may have their pay reduced and may not receive their normal full-time salary.
Therefore, if an exempt employee with approved FMLA leave is not paid her normal fulltime salary, then the employee is not required to work the same hours, or complete the same workload, as a full-time employee without such leave.

At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Defendant. Plaintiff now moves for a new trial, arguing that the Court prejudicially erred by failing to give the above jury instructions.

II. Discussion

Rule 59 states, "The court may, on motion, grant a new trial on all or some of the issues... for any reason for which a new trial has heretofore been granted in an action at law in federal court." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(a)(1)(a). Recognizing that the rule "does not specify the grounds on which a motion for a new trial may be granted, " Zhang v. Am. Gem Seafoods, Inc., 339 F.3d 1020, ...


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