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ROBBINS v. BUREAU OF NATL. AFFAIRS

August 15, 1995

EILEEN ROBBINS, Plaintiff,
v.
THE BUREAU OF NATIONAL AFFAIRS, INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOYCE HENS GREEN

 Following the termination of her employment while on maternity leave, plaintiff, Eileen Robbins, initiated this action against defendant, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. ("BNA"), pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), codified at 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. Plaintiff asserts that defendant violated the FMLA when it willfully denied plaintiff her right to be restored to her previous position or an equivalent one upon her return from leave.

 Presently pending is defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), 56. For the reasons expressed below, defendant's motion will be treated as one for summary judgment and granted.

 I. Background

 In July 1990, Ms. Robbins began employment with ENA, a company that publishes treatises and journals on employment law. Her first position was in the Telecom Department, and two years later she moved to a division called BNA Plus. On June 13, 1993, plaintiff was granted and commenced maternity leave. She returned to BNA six months later. At this point, plaintiff held a Grade 9 position.

 Toward the end of February 1994, plaintiff was pregnant and wished to take another six-month maternity leave commencing July 1, 1994. She advised her supervisor, Deborah Kramer, of this fact shortly thereafter. Ms. Robbins never indicated that she intended to take this leave pursuant to the FMLA. *fn1" According to the regulations promulgated pursuant to the FMLA, however, she was not required to do so. *fn2" Plaintiff now contends that she took FMLA leave. Robbins Aff. PP 7, 8. Neither Ms. Kramer, nor any other BNA employee, made further inquiries regarding the source of plaintiff's leave. It is BNA's position that the leave was granted pursuant to corporate policy due to Ms. Robbins ineligibility for FMLA leave. Defendant's Motion To Dismiss, or, In the Alternative, For Summary Judgment ("Motion") at 2-3.

 Whatever its source, plaintiff's six-month leave commenced on July 1, 1994. On October 13, Ms. Kramer telephoned plaintiff at home and requested her presence at a meeting the following day. At this meeting, Mary Kelly, a BNA executive, informed plaintiff that she was being terminated. Ms. Kelly discussed alternative positions at BNA with Ms. Robbins. These alternative positions--all with lower grades and lower salaries--failed to materialize and the positions were never offered to plaintiff.

 On April 10, 1995, Ms. Robbins filed a one-count complaint in this Court. She alleges that BNA violated the FMLA by denying her right to be restored to the same or an equivalent position upon return from leave. She seeks back pay, front pay, and all benefits with interest, punitive and compensatory damages and reinstatement to her former position or an equivalent position at BNA.

 II. Discussion

 A. The Standard of Review

 Summary judgment *fn3" is appropriate when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed R.Civ. P. 56(c). "The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial--whether, in other words, there are any genuine issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id. at 255. At the same time; however, Rule 56 places a burden on the nonmoving party to "go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986).

 B. Defendant's Motion

 BNA argues that Ms. Robbins cannot sustain her claim under the FMLA because she was not eligible for FMLA leave. Ms. Robbins, in contrast, avers that she was eligible for FMLA leave, but even if she was not, BNA is estopped from challenging her ...


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