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Caffarelli & Siegel Ltd. Wins Summary Judgment in FMLA Case Cuff v. Trans States Holdings, Inc., et al.

On October 6, 2011, Judge Leinenweber of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted Plaintiff Darren Cuff’s cross-motion for summary judgment in the case of Cuff v. Trans States Holdings, Inc., et al., 10-C-1349. Mr. Cuff filed a two-count complaint alleging that the Defendants, his former employers, unlawfully denied his request for FMLA leave and retaliated against him, culminating in his termination. After Mr. Cuff successfully defeated the Defendants’ motion to dismiss in July of 2010, the parties engaged in extensive discovery. At the close of discovery, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

The Defendants, Trans States Holdings (“TSH”), Trans States Airlines (“TSA”) and GoJet Airlines (“GoJet”), sought summary judgment under the primary argument that TSA was the only entity that employed Mr. Cuff for purposes of assessing potential FMLA liability, and that TSA was not subject to the provisions of the FMLA because it did not employ at least 50 employees within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite. Mr. Cuff filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on his FMLA interference claim, asserting that the Defendants were liable as joint or integrated employers under the FMLA.

For a joint employer relationship to exist, each alleged employer must exercise control over the working conditions of the employees. Based on the evidence in the record, Judge Leinenweber agreed that the Defendants were joint employers under the FMLA. Specifically, among other factors, TSH, TSA and GoJet retained common ownership, operated under the same trade name, shared headquarters and administrative staff, employed supervisors to manage the employees of all three companies, collectively maintained personnel records, and utilized services from the same recruiting department. Most notably, the Defendants represented Mr. Cuff as their joint employee because they shared his services for their mutual benefit, and all three company logos were emblazoned on his business card. Accordingly, Judge Leinenweber granted Mr. Cuff’s motion for summary judgment, holding that TSH, TSA and GoJet were joint employers and subject to the provisions of the FMLA, and that the Defendants did violate Mr. Cuff’s FMLA rights. The Court denied the Defendants’ motion in its entirety.

With liability determined against the Defendants, the case will now proceed forward to determine the amount of Mr. Cuff’s damages.