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Lonergan v. Cargo Tech

September 28, 2009

KIMBERLY LONERGAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CARGO TECH, INC., AND KEVIN BISCHOFFER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Court

Wayne R. Andersen District Judge

MEMORANDUM, OPINION AND ORDER

This case is before the Court on the motion of Defendants Cargo Tech, Inc. and Kevin Bischoffer to dismiss Count III of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, the motion to dismiss is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a four count Complaint alleging claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Section 510 of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and state law against Defendant Cargo Tech. Plaintiff later amended her complaint to add Cargo Tech's President Kevin Bischoffer as an individual Defendant. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss Count III of the Amended Complaint solely on the grounds that Plaintiff does not meet the statutory definition of an "eligible employee" under the Family Medical Leave Act, 26 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq. ("FMLA").

Count III alleges that Defendants interfered with Plaintiff's exercise of rights under the FMLA. The Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was employed by Defendants as a receptionist from January 2007 to September 2007. During the job interview, Plaintiff allegedly was told that she would be eligible for employee benefits. After hiring Plaintiff, Defendants learned that she was pregnant. Defendants allegedly interfered with Plaintiff's attempts to enroll in benefits programs, for example, by claiming that Plaintiff was considered a part-time employee "on paper" and, therefore, ineligible for benefits. Shortly before Plaintiff's delivery due date, Plaintiff was prescribed bed rest due to pregnancy complications. Plaintiff allegedly informed Defendants that she planned to return to work on September 24, 2007. At the time, Defendants allegedly did not object to her leave or planned return date.

Around that time, Plaintiff was applying for government subsidized childcare so she could continue to work after her baby was born. Plaintiff was required to submit employment verification. Defendant Bischoffer signed a letter stating: "We will be keeping her job for her when she is ready to come back after maternity leave. Our policy for maternity leave is we give 12 weeks off which is unpaid. If an employee has accrued vacation time or still has sick days left the employee can elect to use that time and get paid for any paid days that have accrued."

During her maternity leave, Plaintiff allegedly visited the workplace and also emailed Defendants to confirm her return date. At that time, Defendants allegedly never told Plaintiff that she would not be reinstated following her leave. Plaintiff's employment was terminated the day she returned from maternity leave. Plaintiff alleges that she relied to her detriment on Defendants' representations at the time of her hire, when she applied for child care assistance and when she took maternity leave. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that, because she relied on Defendants' representation that she would be reinstated after her maternity leave, she did not seek other employment prior to her baby's birth.

DISCUSSION

In order to survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1940 (2009)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct at 1940 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint must be construed in a light favorable to the plaintiff and the court must accept all material facts alleged in the complaint as true. Jackson v. E.J. Branch Corp., 176 F.3d 971, 978 (7th Cir. 1999). However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct at 1940 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Additionally, a complaint must first describe the claim with sufficient detail as to "give the defendants fair notice of what the.claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). However, a complaint does not need to set forth all relevant facts or recite the law. Rather, all that is required is a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a); see also Doherty v. City of Chicago, 75 F.3d 318 (7th Cir. 1996).

Count III of the Amended Complaint purports to state a claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 26 U.S.C. 2601 et.seq. ("FMLA"). Section 101 of the FMLA defines who is an "eligible employee" entitled to the benefits and protections of the FMLA.

Section 101 states in ...


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