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LEMPRES v. CBS INC.

February 9, 1996

CHRISTINA McHENRY LEMPRES, Plaintiff,
v.
CBS INC., Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: URBINA

 Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

 This matter comes before the court upon defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff's opposition thereto and defendant's reply therein. Plaintiff's action is premised on four claims: (1) that defendant violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by failing to provide plaintiff with assurances that her position would have some permanence to it and by offering her another position; (2) that defendant violated the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA) by engaging in discrimination based on race, gender and family responsibilities; (3) that defendant violated the DCHRA by constructively discharging her; and (4) that plaintiff was subjected to an unlawful termination in violation of public policy as expressed by statute or municipal regulation.

 I. Factual Background

 In 1988, plaintiff, Christina McHenry Lempres (Ms. Lempres), a Black woman, was hired by defendant CBS as an associate producer for the morning news show. Ms. Lempres' duties included identifying and booking guests to appear on the morning news program; preparing a description of guests' backgrounds and their roles in current events covered by CBS. In December of 1992, following the birth of her first child, Ms. Lempres began her first maternity leave. While on maternity leave, Ms. Lempres contacted her supervisor, Barbara Cochran (Ms. Cochran); they discussed plaintiff's return to work. Ms. Cochran offered Ms. Lempres a position as Futures Editor, which plaintiff described as one with "regular hours" and "intended for someone who was not going anywhere fast." *fn1" Ms. Lempres declined the offer; opting instead to apply for a position as a Capitol Hill producer (Hill Producer).

 Hill producers identify newsworthy events occurring on Capitol Hill and brief the Chief Correspondent on Capitol Hill, Bob Schieffer (Mr. Schieffer). This position would entail a promotion from her former position. *fn2" There were two Capitol Hill producer positions open at the time of plaintiff's application; one in the Senate (Senate Producer), covering news related to the Senate and one in the House of Representatives (House Producer), covering news items pertaining to the House of Representatives. Ms. Lempres was selected as the House producer and began working in that capacity on May 3, 1993. Ms. Lempres claims that her nonselection to the Senate producer position forms part of defendant's discriminatory treatment towards her.

 Mr. Schieffer oversaw the Hill positions and as a result, interacted with the Hill producers in order to develop the news stories Mr. Schieffer was to report. During her six month tenure as House producer, Ms. Lempres complained that she was ignored by Mr. Schieffer, who she alleges assigned her projects that were not as noteworthy as those given to her Senate counterpart. She further claims that Mr. Schieffer did not recognize her contributions and that he did not want to share an office with her. Ms. Lempres claims that these acts also constituted discriminatory treatment because she was accorded different treatment than white producers. *fn3"

 On December of 1993, Ms. Lempres began a second six-month maternity leave. On May 17, 1994, Ms. Lempres contacted her supervisor, Ms. Cochran, to discuss her return to CBS. Ms. Cochran informed plaintiff that a tape producer position was available on the Morning News. Plaintiff and Ms. Cochran also discussed other possibilities for employment, including part-time and per diem work at CBS. *fn4" On May 24 or 27, 1994, Ms. Cochran contacted Ms. Lempres to invite her unconditionally to her former position as House producer. *fn5" During the conversations, Ms. Lempres inquired as to the permanence of the position; Ms. Cochran responded by saying that it was as permanent as anything else in the news business. *fn6" On June 2, 1994, the day before Ms. Lempres was expected to resume employment, she submitted a letter of resignation, claiming that she had no choice but to resign because of the discriminatory treatment she had received during the six months she worked as the House producer; the offer of the Futures Editor position before returning from her first maternity leave and her nonselection to the Senate producer position.

 II Discussion

 A. Legal Standard

 Summary judgment is appropriate when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a 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 general, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating to the court the absence of any genuine dispute as to material facts. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). However, if the evidence offered by the opposing party is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment is still appropriate. Richardson v. National Rifle Ass'n, 871 F. Supp. 499, 501 (D.D.C. 1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-250)). It is the objective of the summary judgment procedure to "isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-324.

 Further, if a party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial, Rule 56 (c) mandates the entry of summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-323. "In such a situation there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. Summary judgment shall be granted in favor of defendant, because plaintiff in this case has failed to demonstrate the existence of elements essential to her claims and on ...


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