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United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
January 26, 2001, Argued ; November 7, 2001, Decided
[*627] TRAXLER, Circuit Judge:
Howard Kevin Knussman, a trooper in the Maryland State Police, brought an action alleging that the State of Maryland and [**2] several individual employees of the Maryland State Police (collectively "the defendants") unlawfully discriminated against him on the basis of his gender, for which he sought recourse under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West Supp. 2000); and that the defendants violated his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), see 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 2601 - 2654 (West 1999), for which he sought recourse under § 1983 and directly under the FMLA. Following a jury trial and various post-trial motions, judgment in the amount of $ 375,000 was entered against only one of the defendants -- Jill Mullineaux, a civilian employee of the Maryland State Police.
On appeal, Mullineaux contends that she was entitled to qualified immunity. Alternatively, she challenges the verdict on several grounds. We conclude that Mullineaux was not entitled to qualified immunity; however, we find that the award of damages was excessive. Accordingly, we set aside the jury's award of damages and remand for further proceedings on that issue.
In 1994, Knussman learned that his wife Kimberly was pregnant. At the time, Knussman held the rank of trooper first class and [**3] served as a paramedic on medevac helicopters in the Aviation Division of the Maryland State Police ("MSP"). Unfortunately, Kim's pregnancy was difficult and ultimately resulted in her confinement to bed rest in the latter stages prior to delivery. In October 1994, Knussman submitted a written request to his supervisor asking that Knussman be permitted to take four to eight weeks of paid "family sick leave" to care for his wife and spend time with his family following the birth of his child. 1 J.A. 121. Eventually, Knussman was informed by the MSP Director of Flight Operations, First Sergeant Ronnie P. Creel, that there was "no way" that he would be allowed more than two weeks. Creel testified that, at the time of Knussman's request, the Aviation Division was understaffed. According to Knussman, Creel misinformed him that if he wanted more leave, he would be forced to take unpaid leave because the FMLA did not entitle him to further paid leave. Knussman testified that he was unfamiliar with the FMLA because the MSP had failed to provide proper notice to its employees about their rights under the FMLA.
[**4] In early December, shortly before the Knussmans' daughter was born, Jill Mullineaux, manager of the medical leave and benefit section of the MSP Personnel Management Division, notified all MSP employees of a new Maryland statutory provision that allowed the use of paid sick leave by a state employee to care for a newborn. See Md. Code Ann., State Pers. & Pens. §§ 7-502(b)(3), 7-508 (1994). The statute permitted "primary care givers" to "use, without certification of illness or disability, up to 30 days of accrued sick leave to care for a child . . . immediately following: . . . the birth of the employee's child." Md. Code Ann., State Pers. & Pens. § 7-508(a)(1). A "primary care giver" was defined as "an employee who is primarily responsible for the care and nurturing of a child." Md. Code Ann., State Pers. & Pens. § 7-508(a)(1). By contrast, a "secondary care giver," i.e., "an employee who is secondarily responsible for the care and nurturing of a child," might use up to 10 days of accrued sick leave without providing proof of illness or disability. Md. Code Ann., State Pers. & Pens. § 7-508(b)(1). 2 In contrast to "family sick leave," which required an [**5] employee to provide verification of a family member's illness, the new "nurturing leave" provision permitted an employee to use paid sick leave without providing any medical documentation, since this type of leave was not actually related to the illness or disability of the employee or the employee's family. 3
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272 F.3d 625 *; 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 24037 **; 81 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P40,804; 7 Wage & Hour Cas. 2d (BNA) 710
HOWARD KEVIN KNUSSMAN, Plaintiff-Appellee, and KIMBERLY ANN KNUSSMAN, on behalf of themselves and their infant daughter, a/k/a Riley Paige Knussman, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF MARYLAND; DAVID B. MITCHELL, Colonel, individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent; DAVID CZORAPINSKI, Captain, individually and in his official capacity as Assistant Commander of Aviation; RONNIE P. CREEL, First Sergeant, individually and in his official capacity as Director of Flight Operations; JILL D. MULLINEAUX, Defendants-Appellants, and MARYLAND STATE POLICE, Defendant.
Subsequent History: Costs and fees proceeding at, Remanded by Knussman v. Maryland, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 17916 (4th Cir. Md., Aug. 27, 2003)
Prior History: [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Baltimore. Walter E. Black, Jr., Senior District Judge. (CA-95-1255-B).
Knussman v. Maryland, 65 F. Supp. 2d 353, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13576 (D. Md. 1999)
Knussman v. Maryland, 65 F. Supp. 2d 353, 1999 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13576 (D. Md., 1999)
Disposition: Judgment as to liability was affirmed, but jury's award was vacated and case was remanded for a new trial on damages with respect to plaintiff's equal protection claim.
gender, primary care, emotional distress, giver, damages, qualified immunity, constitutional violation, benefits, district court, sick leave, nurturing, classification, distress, weight of the evidence, secondary, compensatory damages, disability, newborn, qualify, birth, constitutional right, jury's verdict, experienced, constitutional injury, new trial, emotional, symptoms, fathers, caregiver, depression
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