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Maya Brewer v. Hr Policy Association

August 28, 2012

MAYA BREWER PLAINTIFF,
v.
HR POLICY ASSOCIATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Maya Brewer brings this action against HR Policy Association, McGuiness & Yager, LLP, and Jeffrey McGuiness (collectively, "Defendants"). Plaintiff asserts causes of action for discrimination in violation of D.C. Code §§ 32-501 -517 et seq., and D.C. Code § 2-1401.05 et seq., under the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act; for sex and pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. ("Title VII"); and for negligent infliction of emotional distress.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 8]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition [Dkt. No. 9], Reply [Dkt. No. 11], and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Factual Background*fn1

Plaintiff Maya Brewer is a resident of Virginia. Defendant, HR Policy Association ("HR POLICY") is a non-profit whose principal place of business is in the District of Columbia. Defendant McGuiness & Yager ("M&Y"), is a limited liability partnership, whose principal place of business is in the District of Columbia. Defendant Jeffrey McGuiness ("McGuiness"), a resident of the District of Columbia, is the president and CEO of HR POLICY, a senior partner with M&Y, and was, during the relevant time period, Brewer's direct supervisor.

In August 2009, M&Y hired Brewer as a full-time employee in the District of Columbia. In July 2010, Brewer informed McGuiness that she was pregnant and inquired about maternity leave policies. According to Brewer, she was led to believe that she was the first employee at HR POLICY or M&Y to ever become pregnant and that Defendants had not yet formulated a maternity leave policy to accommodate employees who become pregnant. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 13. Brewer claims that McGuiness informed her that he would have to "get back to her" on the specifics of Defendants' maternity leave policy and their ability to accommodate pregnant employees. Id.

According to Brewer, in preparation for her maternity leave, she undertook efforts to arrange for a temporary fill-in employee for her position and informed McGuiness of these efforts. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. Brewer claims that, "[d]espite these efforts, on or about October 5, 2010, McGuiness informed [her] that her employment would end following the expiration of any maternity leave taken by [her]." Id. ¶ 15. According to Brewer, the next day, on October 6, 2010, Tim Bartl, a partner with M&Y, told her "that he wanted to 'clear the air' and informed her that she was 'not necessarily being terminated per se' but that she would have to re-apply for her job when she wished to return to work after the birth of her child." Id. ¶ 16. Brewer claims that she was "distraught and confused as to the status of her employment," but continued to carry out her work duties. Id.

In October 2010, M&Y permitted Brewer to work from home due to her pregnancy. While working from home, Brewer continued to receive her full salary.

According to Brewer, on November 5, 2010, HR POLICY publicly announced in an email blast the hiring of Vicky Mitchell to fill her position. Id. ¶ 17. Brewer states that on November 9, 2010, McGuiness emailed her to ask where she would like her personal belongings sent. Id. ¶ 18. Shortly thereafter, Brewer claims that her name was removed from HR POLICY'S website. Id. ¶ 19. Finally, Brewer contends that her voicemail greeting was deleted in November 2010 and her telephone extension was assigned to Vicky Mitchell. Id. ¶ 20.

On or about November 13, 2010, Brewer gave birth to her child. On November 15, 2010, as part of M&Y's short term disability plan, Brewer began to receive 60% of her salary for three weeks following the birth of her child. Brewer received holiday pay as follows: two and one-half days in November 2010 for Thanksgiving; three days in December 2010 for Christmas and New Years; one day in January 2011 for Martin Luther King Day; and one day in March 2011 for a firm holiday.

On or about December 21, 2010, Brewer emailed Marisa Milton, then a partner with M&Y and an officer with HR POLICY, informing Ms. Milton that she was ready to return to work. Brewer's email was not answered.

In early January 2011, McGuiness received a demand letter on behalf of Brewer from Scott Lovernick of Jeffrey Scott, LLP, a law firm in San Francisco. The letter was dated December 27, 2010, six days after Brewer sent her email to Ms. Milton. In that letter, Mr. Lovernick stated that his firm had been retained by Brewer to pursue her claims related to "the company's decision to terminate her employment." The letter also stated that Brewer was an employee of HR POLICY.

On January 13, 2011, M&Y, through one of its partners, Michael Peterson, responded to Mr. Lovernick's December 27, 2010 letter, stating that Brewer was M&Y's employee and that Brewer had not been terminated, but was on leave. The letter further explained that Brewer was still on M&Y's health plan and that it continued to pay her benefits. In closing, the letter stated, "[w]e anticipate hearing from Maya [Brewer] regarding her post-leave plans and discussing with her the opportunities going forward with the firm." Brewer did not contact M&Y in response to that letter.

On February 4, 2011, M&Y received a second letter from Mr. Lovernick, dated January 31, 2011, in which he repeated his position that Brewer had been terminated. Mr. Lovernick also noted that Brewer had sent an email to Ms. Milton on December 21, 2010, but that Ms. Milton had not responded.

According to Defendants, no one at M&Y, including Ms. Milton, received or was aware of the email Brewer sent on December 21, 2010. Defs.' SOMF ¶ 38. Defendants contend that upon receipt of the January 31, 2011 letter from Mr. Lovernick, M&Y's information technology consultant found that the email never reached Ms. Milton, as it went directly into "spam mail." Id.

On February 7, 2011, M&Y sent another letter to Mr. Lovernick, reiterating that Brewer was still an employee; that she continued to be on M&Y's health plan; that she continued to have her health benefit premiums paid by M&Y; and that she had been paid for the Martin Luther King Day holiday in January 2011. M&Y concluded the letter with an invitation to hear "directly from ...


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