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Vangas v. Montefiore Med. Ctr.

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

May 19, 2016

MIRELLE VANGAS, ALFREDO VANGAS, JR., Plaintiffs - Appellees - Cross-Appellants,
v.
MONTEFIORE MEDICAL CENTER, ELIZABETH BURNS, PATRICIA QUINN, Defendants - Appellants - Cross-Appellees, and WAGEWORKS INC, Defendant

         Argued March 21, 2016

Page 175

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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          Appeal from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Ramos, Judge) denying Defendants - Appellants - Cross-Appellees Montefiore Medical Center, Elizabeth Burns, and Patricia Quinn, judgment as a matter of law, a new trial, and relief from a final judgment, and dismissing certain claims of Plaintiffs - Appellees - Cross-Appellants Mirelle Vangas and Alfredo Vangas, Jr. We find that the district court erred in refusing to grant judgment as a matter of law on the New York State Human Rights Law claim, but did not err in dismissing the New York City Human Rights Law claim or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act claims. Accordingly, the order of the district court is AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part.

         ORIT GOLDRING, The Goldring Firm, New York, New York, for Plaintiffs - Appellees - Cross-Appellants.

         RICHARD M. REICE (Ira J. Lipton and Marc A. Melzer, on the brief), Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenny, LLP, New York, New York, for Defendants - Appellants - Cross-Appellees.

         Before: JACOBS and HALL, Circuit Judges, and RESTANI, Judge.[*]

          OPINION

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          Jane A. Restani, Judge

         Montefiore Medical Center (" MMC" ), Elizabeth Burns (" Burns" ), and Patricia Quinn (" Quinn" ) (collectively, " Defendants" ) appeal the district court's denial of their motion for judgment as a matter of law (" JMOL" ) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50, or alternatively for a new trial under Rule 59, or relief from the judgment under Rule 60(b)(6) on Mirelle Vangas's (" Vangas" ) New York State Human Rights Law (" NYSHRL" ) claim. Vangas cross-appeals the district court's dismissal of her New York City Human Rights Law (" NYCHRL" ) claim and she and her husband, Alfredo Vangas Jr. (collectively, " Mr. and Mrs. Vangas" ), cross-appeal the district court's dismissal of their Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (" COBRA" ) claims. The district court held that Defendants were not entitled to JMOL on the NYSHRL claim because Vangas had presented sufficient evidence to put MMC's refusal to accommodate Vangas's disability before the jury. The district court further held that alleged errors in the jury instructions and summation did not warrant a new trial. We hold that because Vangas did not request a reasonable accommodation prior to her termination, the district court erred in denying Defendants' Rule 50 motion; accordingly, we reverse that decision and vacate the jury award on the NYSHRL claim. The district court separately dismissed Vangas's NYCHRL claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and denied Mr. and Mrs. Vangas's COBRA claims on the merits. Those decisions are affirmed.

         BACKGROUND

         MMC terminated Vangas when she was unable to work after exhausting her leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" ). Vangas brought claims against MMC, Quinn (her immediate supervisor), and Burns (the head of human resources for the Care Management Organization). Vangas alleged that Defendants violated the NYSHRL and NYCHRL by failing to accommodate her disability. Mr. and Mrs. Vangas also brought claims under COBRA alleging that MMC failed to properly send notification of their right to continued coverage under MMC's medical insurance plan.[1]

         MMC hired Vangas in 1989, and at the time of her termination in 2010, Vangas worked as a utilization management analyst

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(" UMA" ) in Yonkers. During all relevant times of her employment, Vangas lived in Cornwall on Hudson, New York. As a UMA, Vangas performed patient " assessments" by speaking with them over the phone. Vangas accessed patient contact information and authorizations through databases on her work computer, including the Care-Enhanced Clinical Management Software (" CCMS" ) and Carecast.

         On March 25, 2010, Vangas was diagnosed with cancer. After meeting with Quinn and Quinn's supervisor, Kathleen Byrne (" Byrne" ), that same day, Vangas went on immediate leave. Vangas subsequently filled out FMLA forms, which informed her that during her leave she was to stay in contact with MMC and inform MMC if she would not be able to return to work as scheduled, and Vangas indicated on those forms that her three-month leave period would end in June 2010. The FMLA forms also indicated that Vangas would need to be medically cleared prior to returning to work. In June 2010, Vangas was hospitalized briefly after a complication due to her treatment. On June 14, 2010, Vangas's doctor filled out paperwork, setting a new expected return to work date of July 19, 2010. Thereafter, Vangas did not return to work as scheduled, but MMC unilaterally extended her leave. In July 2010, after Vangas did not return to work, Quinn and Byrne spoke with Burns. Thereafter, on or around July 22, 2010, they mailed Vangas a certified mail letter regarding her FMLA leave. Vangas testified that she received two notices that she had a certified mail letter, but did not retrieve the letter, which was returned unclaimed.

         On August 3, 2010, Vangas's doctor indicated that she could return to work on August 30, 2010. The same day, Vangas spoke with Burns's assistant who informed her of the need to complete more FMLA paperwork.[2] In late August 2010, Vangas began experiencing new symptoms including blurred vision, headaches, dizziness, and facial swelling. On August 23, 2010, just one week prior to her revised return to work date, Vangas visited her doctor for an MRI and ultrasound. At that appointment, Vangas's doctor filled out additional FMLA paperwork stating that the duration of her condition was " unknown." J.A. 1128.

         Vangas spoke with Quinn about her new symptoms on August 26, 2010. On August 29, 2010, the day before she was supposed to return to work, Vangas called, left a voicemail message, and texted Quinn, telling her that she was not feeling well, would not be returning the next day, and was following up with doctors. Quinn did not respond. Vangas did not return to work August 30, 2010, and was terminated that same day. On August 31, ...


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