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Karanja v. BKB Data Systems, LLC

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 4, 2015

ANNE KARANJA,
v.
BKB DATA SYSTEMS, LLC d/b/a EDAPTIVE SYSTEMS.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this pregnancy discrimination case is Defendant Edaptive Systems, LLC's motion to dismiss. (ECF No. 21). The issues have been fully briefed, and the court now rules, no hearing being deemed necessary. Local Rule 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be denied.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

Defendant BKB Data Systems, LLC, which now does business as Edaptive Systems, LLC ("Defendant" or "Edaptive Systems"), [1] is a for-profit business which offers a variety of business consulting services to the general public and the federal government. (ECF No. 20 ¶ 6). Plaintiff Anne Karanja was hired by Defendant on May 14, 2012 as a business analyst to work on a federal contract project. ( Id. ¶ 8). In late 2012, Plaintiff requested to participate in Defendant's telework program, and was approved for two days of telework per week for a three month period starting December 10, 2012 and ending March 10, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 9).

On Friday, February 15, 2013, Plaintiff informed her immediate supervisor, Melissa Fieldhouse, that she was five months pregnant and that her due date was around June 19, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 10). She reported her condition in advance in order to give her supervisor sufficient time to plan for her absence during her intended six weeks of maternity leave. ( Id. ¶ 10). According to Plaintiff, "Mrs. Fieldhouse expressed irritation over the fact that [Plaintiff's] maternity leave would fall at the busiest time of the year' and she would probably have to hire and train another business analyst soon to be ready to fill in for Plaintiff during her absence." ( Id. ¶ 11). Mrs. Fieldhouse asked Plaintiff if she could inform Edaptive System's Human Resources Director, Julie Blair, about Plaintiff's pregnancy so that they could discuss making plans for her maternity leave. Plaintiff permitted Mrs. Fieldhouse to tell Ms. Blair. ( Id. ).

Several days later, on Tuesday, February 19, 2013, Ms. Blair sent Plaintiff an email informing her that her telework privileges had been revoked effective immediately, and directed Plaintiff to take the next three days off to attend the doctor's appointments she had scheduled. ( Id. ¶ 11). Plaintiff had previously discussed these appointments with Mrs. Fieldhouse on February 15, 2013. Plaintiff made clear to Ms. Blair that she was available to work on those days despite having the appointments, but Ms. Blair did not give her any choice but to take paid time off and return to Defendant's worksite on Monday, February 25, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 12). Ms. Blair informed Plaintiff that she was to work on site every day thereafter, which was a forty-seven mile commute from Plaintiff's home. ( Id. ). Plaintiff returned to work on Monday, February 25, 2013 at Edaptive System's Owings Mills worksite and worked the entire day. ( Id. ¶ 13). She gave Mrs. Fieldhouse a list of her upcoming doctor's appointments, including those for her son, who had a serious health condition at the time. ( Id. ). On Tuesday, February 26, 2013, Plaintiff returned to work and was informed by Mrs. Fieldhouse that Ms. Blair had not yet approved Plaintiff's medical appointments schedule. Mrs. Fieldhouse also informed Plaintiff that she currently had fourteen hours of paid time off remaining, but that she would need to have such time pre-approved before taking it. ( Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff proposed to make up the time she used to attend doctor's appointments by working later into the evening. Mrs. Fieldhouse informed Plaintiff that Ms. Blair approved of this proposal, and that Plaintiff could work longer hours to make up for her appointments rather than taking paid time off. ( Id. ).

Around 12:30 p.m. on February 26, 2013, Plaintiff received a call informing her that her son had been hospitalized due to a severe infection that he had been suffering from for several days. Plaintiff immediately emailed Mrs. Fieldhouse, who had left the office, and her coworkers informing them that she had a family emergency and needed to go to the hospital to attend to her son. Later that afternoon, Plaintiff also called Mrs. Fieldhouse and left a voicemail with more details explaining why she needed to leave work promptly. Mrs. Fieldhouse never returned her call. On the morning of February 27, 2013, prior to the start of the workday, Plaintiff attempted to call Mrs. Fieldhouse again to request the day off because her son required emergency surgery. Mrs. Fieldhouse again did not answer. Plaintiff left Mrs. Fieldhouse another voicemail and followed up with an email seeking approval to use paid time off. Later that afternoon, while Plaintiff was at the hospital with her son, she received a call from Ms. Blair around 3:45 p.m. notifying her that she had been terminated by Edaptive Systems effective that day. Ms. Blair indicated that Plaintiff's termination was due to her failure to fulfill her agreement to return to Defendant's worksite on a full-time basis. ( Id. ¶¶ 15-16).

Plaintiff alleges that she never received a final paycheck for her last two weeks of work at Edaptive Systems - the pay period of February 15-28, 2013 - nor did she receive payment for her paid time off that had accrued as of her termination date. ( Id. ¶ 17). Plaintiff's health insurance was terminated as of her termination and according to Plaintiff, she "suffered greatly from the anxiety of no longer having either income or health insurance to cover her extensive costs for OBGYN appointments related to her pregnancy, living expenses, the delivery of her child, or care for her seriously ill son." ( Id. ¶ 20).

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on May 22, 2013 and on August 7, 2013. ( Id. ¶ 21). On February 26, 2014, Plaintiff Anne Karanja filed an initial complaint in this court. (ECF No. 1). Defendant Edaptive Systems moved to dismiss the initial complaint on April 4, 2014. (ECF No. 8). Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on June 10, 2014 (ECF No. 20), and Defendant's motion to dismiss was denied as moot (ECF No. 19). The amended complaint alleges multiple counts arising from Plaintiff's employment and termination, including: (1) violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (count I); (2) violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act (count II); and (3) violation of the Maryland Wage Payment and Collection Act (count III).

Defendant filed a second motion to dismiss on June 17, 2014, moving to dismiss counts II and III of Plaintiff's complaint, or in the alternative, for summary judgment on count III. (ECF No. 21). The motion is fully briefed. (ECF Nos. 27, 28, 29, and 31).[2]

II. Family and Medical Leave Act ...


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