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Reaux v. Infohealth Management Corp.

March 10, 2009

DEBORAH REAUX, PLAINTIFF,
v.
INFOHEALTH MANAGEMENT CORP., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blanche M. Manning United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendant Infohealth Management Corp. provided its employees with a handbook which, among other things, listed the prerequisites necessary for an employee to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 101, et seq. Pursuant to the handbook, and after receiving written and verbal assurances from Infohealth that her leave was approved, plaintiff Deborah Reaux began what she believed was an approved maternity leave that was consistent with the FMLA. Reaux gave birth to her child on August 1, 2006, and was scheduled to return to work on September 11, 2006. On September 7, 2006, however, Infohealth terminated Reaux's employment.

Reaux alleges that Infohealth violated the FMLA by terminating her during her protected leave period. She also alleges state law claims of breach of contract and promissory estoppel. Infohealth seeks to dismiss Reaux's complaint, contending that the court lacks jurisdiction over Reaux's FMLA claim and that the remainder of her complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. For the following reasons, Infohealth's motion to dismiss is denied.

I. Background

The following facts are drawn from the plaintiff's complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of Infohealth's motion to dismiss. Reaux was employed by Infohealth as an Administrative Assistant, and was fired while she was taking leave, purportedly pursuant to the FMLA, that had been approved by Infohealth.

Infohealth provided its employees with a handbook that contained a disclaimer on the first page of the handbook on a page titled "About this Handbook." The disclaimer states that "the policies, procedures, and programs outlined in this handbook are designed to serve as guidelines to keep you informed of relevant facts about your employment. They are not intended to create any kind of contractual relationship and are subject to change at the Company's discretion, with or without notice . . . Your employment at INFOHEALTH is at will. This means you may terminate your employment with the Company at any time for any reason. INFOHEALTH retains the same right to terminate your employment." Complaint, Ex. A at 1 (emphasis in original).

The handbook also contained a section entitled "Leaves of Absence." The handbook provided for two different types of leave: leave under the FMLA and personal leave. The FMLA section of the handbook states:

Family and Medical Leave

INFOHEALTH has adopted the following family and medical leave act policy which is applicable to all of its employees. The purpose of this policy is to provide a leave of absence without pay ("FMLA Leave") to eligible employees in compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"). Eligible Employees Employees who satisfy all of the following requirements are eligible for FMLA leave: # The employee has actively worked for the Company for at least 12 months as of the first day of FMLA Leave. The 12 months need not be consecutive; # The employee has worked at least 1250 hours . . . during the 12 month period immediately preceding the first day of FMLA leave; and Qualifying Reasons for FMLA Leave Eligible employees shall be entitled to a FMLA leave for the following reasons: # The birth of the employee's child . . . .

Id., Ex. A at 22 (emphasis in original).

Infohealth approved Reaux's 12-week maternity leave "pursuant to the policy and the FMLA." Complaint at ¶ 13*fn1 . In addition, Reaux's direct supervisor told her that she would be entitled to leave if she filled out the FMLA paperwork. Id. at 14.

In Reaux's complaint, she acknowledges that Infohealth employed fewer than fifty employees within a seventy-five mile radius of her worksite. Nevertheless, she alleges that Infohealth is equitably estopped from arguing that she was ineligible to take leave under the FMLA because it told her, through its FMLA policy and written and verbal assurances, that she was an eligible employee and was approved for FMLA leave. She also asserts that she relied on those representations by taking leave that was styled as FMLA leave and was harmed when the defendant terminated her four days before her scheduled return date. Based on these allegations, Reaux seeks relief under the FMLA (Count I), and asserts state law claims of breach of contract (Count II) and promissory estoppel (Count III).

II. Discussion

Infohealth seeks to dismiss Reaux's FMLA claim (Count I) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), contending that it did not employ more than fifty people within a seventy-five mile radius of Reaux's worksite so the court lacks jurisdiction. It also seeks to dismiss Reaux's state law breach of contract and promissory estoppel claims (Counts II and III, respectively) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) based on ...


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