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FLORES v. BUY BUY BABY

October 25, 2000

ERIKA FLORES, PLAINTIFF,
V.
BUY BUY BABY, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMAHON, District Judge.

 
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STRIKE PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR REINSTATEMENT AND FRONT PAY.

Plaintiff Erika Flores was fired by defendant Buy Buy Baby, Inc. ("BBB") on December 31, 1998. Flores claims that BBB discriminated against her on the basis of pregnancy in violation of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 ("PDA"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e (k), contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the New York State Human Rights Law, N.Y.Exec. Law § 290 et seq. Defendant moves for summary judgment and dismissal of the claims, and moves in the alternative to strike plaintiff's request for equitable relief.

For the reasons discussed below, defendant's motion for summary judgement is denied, as is its motion to strike plaintiff's claim for relief.

BACKGROUND

Flores was hired as a sales associate at the Buy Buy Baby store in Scarsdale, New York on August 24, 1998. At the time of her hire, plaintiff was pregnant, though she neither informed defendant of this nor was she physically showing. After being hired, Flores was assigned to work in the Scarsdale store's "center island" under the direct supervision of department manager Marianne LaBella-Lajos ("LaBella"). Plaintiff's duties included assisting customers, stocking merchandise, and taking occasional turns as gift wrapper, cashier or personal shopper. Among her responsibilities, customer service was paramount.

Flores began as a full-time employee, working approximately forty hours per week. Her weekly work schedule varied according to the department-wide schedule, which LaBella usually prepared on the Wednesday of the preceding week.

Like all new BBB employees, Flores was a probationary employee for the first ninety days of her employment. The Buy Buy Baby Human Resources Policies and Procedures Manual says:

All new hires should be evaluated and reviewed after 90 days of continuous employment. This initial review should determine whether the employee has performedat[sic] an acceptable level and should move into regular employee status. Employees who have not performed at an acceptable level may be subject to termination.

(Bernbach Aff. at Exh. 4, at BBB0054.)

The decision whether a BBB employee successfully completes her probation rests with her department manager. It was thus up to LaBella to decide whether Flores should become a regular employee after 90 days. Plaintiff's probation period ended in late November, after which date she continued to work at BBB as a regular employee.

Sometime in November or December 1998, Flores informed LaBella that she was pregnant. She also told LaBella that she planned to work until January, or longer if possible, then take a leave to give birth, and eventually return to work.

Flores claims that LaBella's demeanor toward her changed after she revealed this information, becoming "very cold," not as "talkative as she used to be" and "very distant," causing plaintiff to believe "that there was something wrong." She says some of her co-workers noticed this shift in treatment. (Bernbach Aff. at Exh. 1, at 39-40) Flores also alleges that, after learning of the pregnancy, LaBella removed her stocking responsibilities. LaBella denies the change in her feelings toward plaintiff, and also denies unilaterally reducing Flores' duties at any time after learning of her pregnancy.

Sometime after this conversation, Flores requested a reduction in her hours, from full-time to part time. Flores says she made the request "[b]ecause I felt that's what I wanted to do." (Id.) After consulting with assistant store manager Attilio Capparelli ("Capparelli"), LaBella agreed to the request the next day.

In early December, plaintiff asked LaBella for a two-week unpaid vacation. LaBella agreed, and she and Flores discussed the dates the vacation would cover. LaBella claims to have made a note of the dates in writing, although she no longer has her note. As LaBella, in conformity with the store's general practice, would not be preparing the work schedule for the week of plaintiff's return until after plaintiff had left on vacation, plaintiff claims to have arranged with LaBella to call in to the store the week ...


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