Croy v. Blue Ridge Bread, Inc., d/b/a/ Panera Bread, 2013 WL 3776802 (W.D. Va. July 15, 2013)

Court and Agency Decisions and Orders (including case law)

Plaintiff Mark Croy sued his former employer, Blue Ridge Bread, Inc., d/b/a Panera Bread (“BRB”), alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”). The United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia denied BRB’s motion to dismiss the ADA claims and one of the three FMLA claims, but granted it as to the ERISA claim and remaining FMLA claim. The court allowed the case to proceed to trial, but this decision is particularly important in that it helps underscore certain protections afforded to people with HIV under the ADA and FMLA.

Croy worked for BRB from June 2006 until he was terminated on April 13, 2011. One month prior to his termination, he was diagnosed with HIV. While Croy maintained that he was fired because of his illness, BRB claimed that his termination was due to poor job performance.

The court found that Croy offered sufficient evidence to establish a genuine question of fact as to whether his job performance was meeting BRB’s expectations when he was terminated, and to show that BRB was aware of Croy’s illness, contrary to BRB’s argument. The court noted that BRB failed to formally discipline Croy until close in time to his diagnosis, which would have provided Croy notice that his job was in danger. The court further found that BRB did not accommodate Croy’s reasonable request for accommodation when he fell ill. Based on these findings, the court denied BRB’s motion for summary judgment with regard to the ADA claim.

Croy alleged FLMA violations on three grounds: (1) BRB’s failure to properly designate leave as FMLA leave; (2) BRB’s failure to inform him of his right to take leave; (3) BRB’s termination of his employment in retaliation for his exercise of this right. The court granted BRB’s motion for summary judgment on the first two interference claims, but found in favor of Croy on his retaliation claim, since Croy’s termination following so shortly after his request for intermittent FMLA leave was suspect.