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Geiser v. Goshen Health Systems Inc

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division

July 30, 2018

LISA GEISER, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant,
v.
GOSHEN HEALTH SYSTEM INC, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          JON E. DEGUILIO JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Lisa Geiser brought this action against her former employer, Defendant Goshen Health System Inc, alleging interference with her legal rights under the Family Medical Leave Act (the “FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., unlawful retaliation under the same, and retaliatory discharge under Indiana common law (sometimes referred to as a “McClanahan” claim). [DE 1] Goshen Health answered the complaint and filed a counterclaim for breach of contract, alleging that Geiser violated her agreement to pay back the outstanding portion of a “sign-on” bonus upon her termination. [DE 10] Geiser now moves to dismiss the counterclaim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of supplemental jurisdiction. [DE 13] For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant the motion to dismiss.

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

         Geiser is a registered nurse who started working for Goshen Health in 2015. She executed a “sign-on” bonus agreement and related bonus repayment authorization, whereby Goshen Health paid her a $2, 000 bonus in February 2016. The term “bonus, ” however, is somewhat of a misnomer. The arrangement appears to be more like an advance; after paying the lump sum, Goshen Health would then deduct $100 from Geiser's paychecks over twenty total pay periods in order to satisfy repayment of the bonus. By entering into this arrangement, Geiser promised to abide by the following relevant terms:

         Bonus Repayment Authorization:

I further agree that if my employment should terminate prior to my full repayment of this amount, I will owe the remaining balance amount within 30 days of separation.
RN Sign-On Bonus Agreement:
If I leave prior to the agreed upon timeframe, for any bonus payment I have received, I will owe back the full amount to be deducted from the remaining paychecks upon giving notice of leaving.

[DE 10-1 (emphasis in the original); DE 10-2] None of this language makes repayment of the outstanding bonus contingent on the manner or circumstances of an employee's termination.

         Geiser missed four days of work in February 2017 to care for her sick child. According to Geiser, Goshen Health approved this leave pursuant to the FMLA, yet Geiser alleges she was nonetheless disciplined for these absences and placed on a performance improvement plan. In March 2017, Geiser further maintains that personnel at Goshen Health ordered her to perform pulmonary function tests on patients. On March 23, 2017, Geiser informed her supervisor that she could not perform these tests because she believed them to be outside the scope of her practice. She also told her supervisor that she planned to contact state nursing authorities for further information. Goshen Health terminated Geiser's employment the next day, March 24, 2017. At that time, Geiser still owed $1, 000 under the bonus repayment authorization, but refused to pay, despite demands from Goshen Health.

         STANDARD

         Rule 12(b)(1) authorizes dismissal of claims over which the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. In analyzing a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept as true all well-pled factual allegations and must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Long v. Shorebank Dev. Corp., 182 F.3d 548, 554 (7th Cir. 1999). Further, “[t]he district court may properly look beyond the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint and view whatever evidence has been submitted on the issue to determine whether in fact subject matter jurisdiction exists.” Id. (citations omitted). The burden of establishing proper federal subject matter jurisdiction rests on the party asserting it, which for the purposes of this motion is the counter-plaintiff, Goshen Health. Muscarello v. Ogle Cnty. Bd. of Comm'rs, 610 F.3d 416, 425 (7th Cir. 2010).

         DISCUSSION

         Goshen Health asserts that the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over its breach of contract counterclaim under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).[1] The ...


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