You are on page 1of 10
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA FORT MYERS DIVISION KELLY HOPPER, an individual, CIVIL ACTION Plaintiff, Case No. 2:17-ev- v. | Judge: ‘THE MANNHEIMER FOUNDATION, INC., ‘New Jersey not-for-profit corporation, ‘Mag. Judge: Defendant. COMPLAINT AND DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL NOW COMES the Plaintiff, KELLY HOPPER (“HOPPER”), by and through undersigned counsel, and state the following for her Complaint: CAUSES OF ACTION 1. This is an action brought under the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Florida’s Private Whistleblower Statute § 448.102 (PWA). PARTIES 2. The Plaintiff, KELLY HOPPER (“HOPPER”) is an individual and a resident of Florida who at all material times resided in Hendry County, Florida and was employed by THE MANNHEIMER FOUNDATION, INC. (“MANNHEIMER”). 3. Defendant, THE MANNHEIMER FOUNDATION, INC. is a New Jersey not- for-profit corporation with a principal place of business located at 20255 S.W. 360" Street, Homestead, Florida 33034. MANNHEIMER employed HOPPER in Hendry County, Florida. JURISDICTION AND VENUE, 4, This Court has jurisdiction of this matter under 28 U.S.C. §1331. 3. This Court has supplemental jurisdiction over HOPPER’s state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. 6. Venue is proper in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida because the Plaintiff resides in, and the Defendant conducts business in, and some or all of the events giving rise to Plaintiffs’ claims occurred in Hendry County, Florida, which is within the Middle District of Florida, Venue is proper in the Fort Myers Division under Local Rule 1.02(b)(5) since Hendry County is within the Fort Myers Division. GENERAL ALLEGATIONS 7. HOPPER was employed by MANNHEIMER as a Veterinarian, Site Director. 8 HOPPER began her employment in May 1, 2015. 9. HOPPER always performed her duties in a professional matter and was very well qualified for her position, 10. Prior to engaging in statutorily protected conduct as described herein, HOPPER always received excellent performance reviews. Private Whistleblower Act 11. MANNHEIMER has a policy of allowing and encouraging its members of staff to represent themselves as “veterinarians” when those employees are not licensed to practice veterinary medicine in the State of Florida. 12, Specifically, MANNHEIMER advertised these unlicensed veterinarians in publicly disseminated advertisements and contract bids, the fees for which were often paid through federal grant monies. 13. On or about November 30, 2016, HOPPER filed a written complaint with the State of Florida regarding this illegal activity of MANNHEIMER, which complaint included references to and information that could only be from HOPPER. 14, The written complaint identified HOPPER as the complainant by clear reference. 15. Shortly after MANNHEIMER received notice of the complaint from the State of Florida, which notices included an instruction to cease and desist from making illegal representations, MANNHEIMER demanded HOPPER be present for a meeting wherein MANNHEIMER berated her for filing a complaint with the State on December 30, 2016. 16. MANNHEIMER terminated HOPPER on or about January 2, 2017. Other Retaliation 17. Also in December 2016, HOPPER complained to MANNHEIMER regarding several of the company’s other practices. 18. HOPPER objected to MANNHEIMER’s demand that she force a pregnant employee to quit in order to avoid having to provide the employee with FMLA leave, 19. HOPPER also objected to MANNHEIMER’s practice of automatically docking its hourly employees for an unpaid lunch, even though the employees worked through or did not take any lunch break at all. 20. | MANNHEIMER terminated HOPPER on or about January 2, 2017. UNT. |OLATION OF FLORIDA STATUTE 448.102: FLORID, [VATE WHISTLEBLOWER ACT 21. Plaintiff incorporates by reference Paragraphs 1-16 of this Complaint as though fully set forth below. 22, HOPPER was an employee of MANNHEIMER, a private company. 23. At all material times, HOPPER was to be protected from negative employment action by Florida Statute 448.102(1)-(3), commonly known as Florida’s “whistleblower statute,” which in relevant part provides: “An employer may not take any retaliatory personnel action against an employee because the employee has: (1) Disclosed, or threatened to disclose, to any appropriate governmental agency, under oath, in writing, an activity, policy, or practice of the employer that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation. However, this subsection does not apply unless the employee has, in writing, brought the activity, policy, or practice to the attention of a supervisor or the employer and has afforded the employer a reasonable opportunity to correct the activity, policy, or practice; (@) Provided information to, or testified before, any appropriate governmental agency. person, or entity conducting an investigation, hearing, or inquiry into an alleged violation of a law, mule, or regulation by the employer, and; @) Objected to, or refused to participate in, any activity, policy, or practice of the employer which is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.” 24, HOPPER did engage in statutorily protected activity under F.S. §448(1) and (2). 25, Immediately after engaging in statutorily protected activity, HOPPER suffered negative employment action, her termination, which is a direct result of her statutorily protected activity. 26. HOPPER’s termination and her engaging in statutorily protected activity are causally related, 27. MANNHEIMER knew that HOPPER was engaged in protected conduct as referenced herein. 28. MANNHEIMER discharged, terminated, demoted, suspended, threatened, disciplined and harassed HOPPER from her employment and after her employment, and otherwise retaliated against her because of her protected conduct. 29. Asa direct and proximate result of the violations of F.S. § 448.102, as referenced and cited herein, HOPPER has lost all of the benefits and privileges of her employment and has ‘been substantially and significantly injured in her career path that was anticipated from her employment, 30. As adirect and proximate resuit of the violations of F.S. § 448.102, as referenced and cited herein, and as a direct and proximate result of the prohibited acts perpetrated against her, HOPPER is entitled to all relief necessary to make her whole. 31. MANNHEIMER’s negative employment actions against HOPPER continued until her termination and this count is timely filed. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands damages against Defendant for violation of Florida's Private Sector Whistle-blower’s Act (Section 448.102, Fla. Stat.) including but not limited to all relief available under Section 448.103, Fla. Stat,, such as: @ an injunction restraining continued violation of this act, (®) reinstatement of the employee to the same position held before the retaliatory personnel action, or to an equivalent position, (©) reinstatement of full fringe benefits and seniority rights, (@ compensation for lost wages, benefits, and other remuneration, (©) any other compensatory damages allowable at law, (P)attomey’s fees, court costs and expenses, and (g) such other relief this Court deems just and proper. VIOLATIO! F THE FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (“FML. RETALIATION 32. Plaintiff incorporates by reference Paragraphs 1-10 and 17-20 of this Complaint as though fully set forth below. 33. tall material times, HOPPER was an employee and MANNHEIMER was her employer covered by and within the meaning of the FMLA. 34. HOPPER was qualified for the positions that she held with MANNHEIMER, 35. Following HOPPER’s opposition to violation of the FMLA, MANNHEIMER retaliated by altering the terms and conditions of her employment by terminating HOPPER’s employment because she engaged in the statutorily protected activity of opposing violation of the FMLA. MANNHEIMER terminated HOPPER after she engaged in this statutorily protected activity. * 36. HOPPER communicated to MANNHEIMER that firing a person because they may need FMLA leave was illegal and MANNHEIMER clearly observed HOPPER’s growing discomfort conceming the same, 37. HOPPER’s complaints constitute a protected activity because her complaints were concerning an unlawful activity of MANNHEIMER. 38. Said protected activity was the proximate cause of MANNHEIMER’s negative employment actions against HOPPER including changed working conditions, harsh performance reviews, discipline and ultimately termination. 39. MANNHEIMER retaliated against HOPPER via changed working conditions, harsh performance reviews, discipline, and termination. 40. The acts, failures to act, practices and policies of MANNHEIMER set forth above constitute retaliation in violation of the FMLA. 41. Asa direct and proximate result of the violations of the FMLA, as referenced and cited herein, HOPPER has lost all of the benefits and privileges of her employment and has been substantially and significantly injured in her career path. 42. Asa direct and proximate result of the violations of the FMLA, as referenced and cited herein, and as a direct and proximate result of the prohibited acts perpetrated against her, HOPPER is entitled to all relief necessary to make her whole as provided for under the FMLA. 43. As a direct and proximate result of MANNHEIMER’s actions, HOPPER has suffered damages, including but not limited to, a loss of employment opportunities, loss of past and future employment income and fringe benefits, humiliation, and non-economic damages for physical injuries, mental and emotional distress. WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests trial by jury of all issues so triable as of right, an award of damages for lost wages and benefits, prejudgment interest, and liquidated damages under 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(1)(A), reinstatement or such other legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate, and an award of reasonable attomey's fees and costs as authorized under 29 U.S.C. § 2617(3), and any other such damages as this honorable Court deems just. COUNT Il -VIOLATION OF THE FLSA- RETALIATION 44, Plaintiff incorporates by reference Paragraphs 1-10 and 17-20 of this Complaint as though fully set forth below. 45. HOPPER was an employee of MANNHEIMER, a private company. 46. At all material times, HOPPER was to be protected from negative employment action as the result of her engaging in statutorily protected activity by the FLSA 47. HOPPER did engage in statutorily protected activity under the FLSA. 48, Immediately after engaging in statutorily protected activity, HOPPER suffered negative employment action, her termination, which is a direct result of his statutorily protected activity. 49. HOPPER’s termination and her engaging in statutorily protected activity are causally related. 50. MANNHEIMER knew that HOPPER was engaged in protected conduct as referenced herein. 51. MANNHEIMER discharged, terminated, demoted, suspended, threatened, disciplined and harassed HOPPER from her employment and after her employment, and otherwise retaliated against him because of her protected conduct. "52, Asa direct and proximate result ofthe violations ofthe FLSA, as referenced and cited herein, HOPPER has lost all of the benefits and privileges of her employment and has been substantially and significantly injured in her career path that was anticipated from her employment, 53. Asa direct and proximate result of the violations of the FLSA, as referenced and cited herein, and as a direct and proximate result of the prohibited acts perpetrated against her, HOPPER is entitled to all relief necessary to make her whole. 54, MANNHEIMER’s negative employment actions against HOPPER continued until her termination and this count is timely filed. : WHEREFORE, Plaintiff requests trial by jury of all issues so triable as of right, an award of damages for lost wages and benefits, prejudgment interest, and liquidated damages, reinstatement or such other legal or equitable relief as may be appropriate, and an award of reasonable attomey's fees and costs, and any other such damages as this honorable Court deems just. DEMAND FOR JURY TRIAL NOW COMES the Plaintiff, by and through her undersigned attorney, and demands a jury trial under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 38 on all issues triable of right by a jury in this action. Dated: April __, 2017 Respectfully submitted, s/ Benjamin H. Yormak Benjamin H. Yormak Florida Bar Number 71272 Trial Counsel for Plaintiff Yormak Employment & Disability Law 9990 Coconut Road Bonita Springs, Florida 34135 Telephone: (239) 985-9691 Fax: (239) 288-2534 Email: byormak@yormaklaw.com 06 Fam 5108) CHARGE OF DISCRIMINATION Charge Presented To: Ageney(ies) Charge No(s) “This ernst by tho Privacy Act af 1874. See enclosed Pvay Act ik] FEPA ‘intent are other nfermaton store carseting hs be] ee0c FCHR ‘and EEOC. Sie eal agent Tay ‘Name nae Mr, WS, TS) ‘Wome Prone (hal Aree Gade) Date of Bre Ms, Kelly Hopper 239-985-9691 10/2/1961 ‘rest Adress ‘iy, Sate and ZP Gods clo Yormak Employment & Disability Law, 9990 Coconut Road, Bonita Springs, Florida 34135 ‘Named is the Employer, Labor Organization, Employment Agency, Apprenticeship Commitee, or State or Local Govemment Agency Thet | Believe Discrmninated Against Me or Others. (lf more than two, lis under PARTICULARS below.) — Te Eepayean anton] rane No lc es de) ‘The Mannheimer Foundation, Inc. 50+ (305) 245-1551 Sheet Aes iy ae anda Oe 20255 SW 360th St, Homestead, FL 33034 Name Te Eras tanons | Phone Na nce Area Code) ‘Breet iy, Sa and BP Cote DIEORWIINATION BASED ON (Grech appro Bonle)) DATEIS)SORRINATION TOOK PLAGE tariest ‘atest pace ccoLoR sex RELIGION NATIONAL ORIGN 11/30/2016 41247 X] Retauxtion ro isaeiury ‘GENETIC NFORMATION 1 omer spoon 2 conmnune action “THEPARTICULARS ARE (Tada papas nae, aah ona Sota Statement of Harm: |, Kelly Hopper, was employed by The Mannheimer Foundation, Inc., Respondent, as a Veterinarian, Site Director. in or about early December 2016, | objected to my supervisor instructing me to force @ pregnant employee to quit or to fire the pregnant employee and informed him that | believed doing so was illegal and that | would not participate in such a wrongful termination. The Respondent terminated me for purely pretextual reasons very shortly thereafter. Respondent's reason for Adverse Action: Respondent stated that | was terminated for my objections. Statement of Discrimination: | allege that the Respondent subjected me to retaliation when | objected to pregnancy discrimination. | further allege that | have suffered negative employment action in violation of + federal and state law. Specifically, the Respondent's actions violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992, both as amended. Tarts charge fled wh bah te EEOG and te Sal roel Agency. an, wl [ ROLARY — ho necssr fr Seon Aaoncy Reo sciae the agenaee change my aeeress or phone rae and wi operat fly ‘inn ne proeesing Sty chargein ackrdorc wih procedures . T acl underperahy of Boy Tat We above WOE an Co {swear of afi that ave read fe abpwe charge and that stu to Sia x 13 / subsCRiSED AND rent say 900 al ‘ata fary Sanaa 4-18 lE BEN OMNI BERROS 2 hag = wicoatssen ten SXPRES Dean 72019