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Demar v. PA Consulting Group

June 30, 2006

MONIQUE DEMAR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PA CONSULTING GROUP, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Signed by Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the defendants PA Consulting Group, Inc., PA Government Services, Inc., and Hagler Bailly, Inc. (collectively, "Defendants") Motion [35] for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of this motion, the opposition thereto, the reply brief, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes that the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED. The Court is persuaded that plaintiff presents no genuine issue of material fact in her claim brought under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 2601-2654 (West 1993 & Supp. 2006).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Monique DeMar was hired as a Junior Financial Administrator in December 2000 by defendants PA Consulting Group, Inc. ("PACG"), and performed administrative work in the accounting department. (Compl. ¶¶ 3, 11.) Prior to the termination of her position, plaintiff worked for PACG and subsidiary PA Government Services ("PAGS") for at least twelve months. (Id. ¶ 12.) In February 2002, plaintiff requested sixteen weeks of leave to give birth to and care for her newborn child. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 20.) The leave request and the company's policy are documented in a memorandum from PACG benefits manager Janice Kantner to plaintiff dated February 19, 2002. (Mem. Supp. Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2.) The PACG leave policy comports with the federally required minimum of twelve weeks of FMLA leave. (Id.) Plaintiff's FMLA leave began on or about February 22, 2002. (Compl. ¶ 22.)

Nothing in the record indicates defendants granted plaintiff additional leave time beyond the FMLA required twelve week period. Plaintiff, however, did not return to work after twelve weeks: she remained on leave for sixteen weeks, and did not return to work before her position was ultimately terminated in July 2002. (Id. ¶ 26.) On or about June 10, 2002, plaintiff was informed that her position was being eliminated and was provided with a severance package. (Id. ¶ 26.) On July 5, 2002, defendants posted a job advertisement in the Washington Post that the plaintiff believes was extremely similar, if not identical to, her previous position. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 30.) Plaintiff's complaint alleges "defendants interfered with her right to take reasonable leave to give birth and care for her newborn child as provided under the FMLA," and that her termination violates the FMLA. (Id. ¶ 16.) Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment followed.

DISCUSSION

Legal Standard

I. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment shall be granted "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that 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. In determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court views the facts and all reasonable inferences to be drawn from them, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, as the non-movant. Sherwood v. Wash. Post, 871 F.2d 1144, 1145 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Plaintiff must respond to the summary judgment motion by going "beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, and designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). It is not enough for the plaintiff to point to any alleged factual dispute; rather, she must point to a genuine issue of material fact that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986). The court must not weigh the evidence. Rather, the court must determine whether enough evidence exists to enable a reasonable fact finder to find in favor of the plaintiff. Id. at 252.

II. FMLA Claims

The FMLA allows an eligible employee to take up to twelve weeks of leave "because of the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and in order to care for such son or daughter" without fear of termination. 29 U.S.C. §§ 2612(a)(1)(A), 2614 (a)(1)(A). At its core, the FMLA protects eligible employees who take FMLA leave from being terminated or otherwise discriminated against for taking the leave. An employee becomes eligible for leave by working "for at least twelve months by the employer with respect to whom leave is requested and . . . for at least 1,250 hours of service with such employer during the previous twelve month period." 29 U.S.C. § 2611(2)(A)(i-ii). A concomitant right is that of an employee who has taken FMLA leave "to be restored by the employer to the position of employment held by the employee when the leave commenced or to be restored to an equivalent position with equivalent employment benefits, pay, and other terms and conditions of employment." Id. The rights guaranteed under the FMLA, however, are not absolute. Pharakhone v. Nissan N. Am. Inc., 324 F.3d 405, 407-08 (6th Cir. 2003). An employer need not reinstate an employee who would have lost his job even if he had not taken FMLA leave. 29 U.S.C. § 2614(a)(3)(B); 29 C.F.R. §§ 825.216(a)(1), 825.216(d) (1993). Furthermore, if "after twelve weeks of FMLA leave the employee is unable to return to work the employee no longer has the protections of FMLA" and must look elsewhere for relief. Id.

The burden shifting analysis set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 798 (1973), determines whether an employer discriminated against an employee for taking FMLA leave. The plaintiff has the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination under the FMLA. St. Mary's Honor Ctr. v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 515 (1993). To establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must show she: (1) availed herself of protected rights under FMLA; (2) was adversely affected by the employment decision; and (3) there is causal connection between the two actions. 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a). If this burden is satisfied, the burden shifts to the defendant "to articulate some legitimate nondiscriminatory reason" for the adverse action. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. To satisfy this intermediate burden, "the employer need only produce admissible evidence which would allow the trier of fact rationally to conclude that the employment decision had not been motivated by discriminatory animus." Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 257 (1981). If the employer meets its burden of production, the inference of discrimination raised by the prima facie case then drops out, and the plaintiff must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the employer's proffered reason is merely a pretext for discrimination. St. Mary's, 509 U.S. at 507-08. As explained below, the Court is not persuaded by the plaintiff's arguments claiming discrimination in violation of the FMLA.

Analysis

I. Joinder of ...


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