BRENEISEN v. MOTOROLA (September 2, 2011)
Motorola employed James Breneisen in several different positions between 1994 2003. In early 2001, he took 12 weeks FMLA leave for gastroesophageal reflux treatment. Upon his return, although he retained his prior salary, he was assigned to a different position, which he considered a demotion. Just a few weeks later, he took another four months leave for esophageal surgery. He took his third and final leave in early 2002, from which he never returned. Motorola terminated his employment in 2003. Breneisen brought an FMLA claim against Motorola, alleging that his supervisor's conduct exacerbated his medical condition. The district court granted summary judgment against him. On appeal, the Seventh Circuit reversed and remanded. The only claims that remained on remand were Breneisen's discrimination and retaliation claims during the five months between his second and third leaves. At Motorola's request, Magistrate Judge Mahoney (N.D. Ill.) barred evidence of any causal relationship between Motorola's conduct and Breneisen's medical condition. The court then dismissed the case, finding that Breneisen’s requested relief was unavailable during the time when he was unable to perform his job, given that he had exhausted his FMLA leave during his first leave. Breneisen appeals. Anna Lineweaver also worked at Motorola. She also claimed that Motorola violated her FMLA rights when it denied her tuition reimbursement and retaliated against her for taking a leave. The Seventh Circuit also reversed and remanded the district court’s summary judgment ruling against her. On remand, Motorola tendered her twice the amount she claimed she was owed. Magistrate Judge Mahoney denied her request to convert Motorola’s tender to a judgment and dismissed the case as moot. Lineweaver appeals.
In their opinion, Seventh Circuit Judges Bauer, Kanne, and Evans (who, as a result of his death, took no part in the decision) affirmed. The Court first addressed Breneisen's claim and concurred with the lower court that the cause of one's injury is irrelevant under the FMLA. The Court added that, even if such was not the case, it would be irrelevant to Breneisen because his second leave was not pursuant to the FMLA. He was no longer protected by the statute when the alleged retaliation occurred. The Court turned to Lineweaver's claim. It noted that the only interest she has left is her claim for attorney's fees. It is well settled that a claim for attorney's fees, in and out itself, is not enough to constitute a case or controversy. The district court properly dismissed the case as moot.