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Ultimus Paralegal Can Pursue Retaliation Suit Over Leave for Son

Aug. 13, 2021, 7:59 PM

Ultimus Fund Solutions LLC must face a former paralegal’s claim that it retaliated against her for taking leave to care for her son after he was diagnosed with brain cancer, the Eastern District of New York ruled.

Dawn Marie Dennis’ June 2020 lawsuit against the fund administration, accounting, and investor solutions provider included enough detail to state a plausible claim for retaliation for exercising her job rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, the court said.

The suit alleges that Dennis’ boss began constantly criticizing her after she began using FMLA leave in late 2018 for her son, and he refused to answer her work-related questions and yelled at her in front of other paralegals, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York said Thursday.

Up until that point, Dennis had received good reviews, recognition for her work, and bonuses following her hiring in July 2011, the court said.

Dennis’ boss also allegedly refused to clock her in and out when she was away from the office performing off-site job duties, the court said.

And she was no longer allowed to work from home or take advantage of flexible schedule options, benefits she had previously enjoyed and that helped her care for her son, according to Dennis.

Ultimus also allegedly denied Dennis sabbatical leave to take her son on a Make-A-Wish Foundation trip to Disney World, the court said. She allegedly received no explanation for the denial and was disciplined when she sought one, the court said.

All of those alleged actions and Dennis’ termination could be adverse employment decisions under the FMLA, Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis said.

Dennis further alleged that similarly situated employees who didn’t use FMLA leave were granted sabbaticals and weren’t fired for making the same mistake in an SEC filing she allegedly was fired for, the judge said.

That could show Ultimus acted with a retaliatory intent, he said.

The court dismissed Dennis’ FMLA interference claim.

She pleaded that as one count together with her retaliation claim but failed to allege she was ever denied the FMLA leave to which she was entitled, the court said.

It also dismissed her claims for punitive damages and emotional distress damages as unavailable under the FMLA.

Ross & Asmar LLC represents Dennis. Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani LLP and Paduano & Weintraub LLP represent Ultimus.

The case is Dennis v. Ultimus Fund Sols., LLC, 2021 BL 304874, E.D.N.Y., No. 2:20-cv-02813, 8/12/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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