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Strohl v. Brite Adventure Center

August 28, 2009

Y. STROHL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BRITE ADVENTURE CENTER, INC., A/K/A BRIGHT BEGINNINGS PRE-SCHOOL, AND ADVENTURELAND CHILD CARE CENTER, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Levy, United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendants Brite Adventure Center, Inc. a/k/a Bright Beginnings Pre-School ("Brite") and Adventureland Child Care Center, Inc. ("Adventureland") (collectively, "defendants") move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. By stipulation dated May 28, 2008 the parties consented to the jurisdiction of a Magistrate Judge for all purposes including the entry of judgment, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted with respect to plaintiff's claim under New York Labor Law section 193 and denied in all other respects.

BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case arises out of the termination of Yajaira Strohl ("plaintiff") from her job as a teacher's assistant at Brite. Plaintiff requested permission to miss work on January 23, 2007 to attend medical and other appointments. (See Affidavit of Yajaira Strohl in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Strohl Aff."), dated Jan. 4, 2009, ¶¶ 13-15; see also Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant Brite Adventure Center, Inc. a/k/a Bright Beginnings Pre-School's Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissing Plaintiff's Amended Complaint ("Brite's Mem."), dated Dec. 17, 2008, at 5-7) Brite initially approved her request, but on January 22, 2007 it withdrew its permission and informed her that by missing work the next day she would risk termination. (See Strohl Aff. ¶¶ 15, 17; see also Brite's Mem. at 7.) Plaintiff declared she would nevertheless miss work the next day, and Brite terminated her employment. (See Strohl Aff. ¶¶ 18-19; see also Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Mem."), dated Jan. 5, 2009, at 7.)

Plaintiff commenced this action in January 2008 (see Complaint, filed Jan. 17, 2008) and filed an amended complaint in July 2008 (see Amended Complaint, filed July 23, 2008 ("Am. Compl.")). She asserts that she "suffers from chronic migraine headaches" (Am. Compl. ¶ 10), that "[t]his condition was known to" defendants (Am. Compl. ¶ 10), and that her medical appointments on January 23, 2007 were for treatment of her migraines (Am. Compl. ¶ 11). Her Amended Complaint states three causes of action: (1) that her termination was in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA") (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 13-17), (2) that defendants violated the New York City Human Rights Law by not reasonably accommodating her disability (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 18-20), and (3) that defendants failed to pay her promptly for all hours worked, in violation of New York Labor Law sections 191 and 193 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 21-23).

Defendants advance several arguments for summary judgment under the FMLA. First, they argue that Brite but not Adventureland employed plaintiff, and that because Brite had fewer than fifty employees at all relevant times, it was never a "covered employer" under the FMLA. (See Brite's Mem. at 19-25; Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant Adventureland Child Care Center, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment Dismissing Plaintiff's Amended Complaint ("Adventureland's Mem."), dated Dec. 17, 2008, at 7-13.) Second, defendants argue that plaintiff's request for a day off for treatment for migraine headaches would not entitle her to leave under the FMLA. (See Brite's Mem. at 25-28; Adventureland's Mem. at 13-16.) Third, Brite argues that plaintiff does not satisfy the 1250-hour requirement for FMLA jurisdiction. (See Brite's Mem. at 18-19.)

Defendants also seek summary judgment on the Human Rights Law and Labor Law claims. As for the former, Brite contends that plaintiff never gave it notice that she needed the day off for migraine care. (See Brite's Mem. at 28-29.) As for the latter, Brite argues that the facts alleged by plaintiff do not support a finding that it violated either state statute at issue. (See Brite's Mem. at 29-31.) Adventureland argues that it never employed plaintiff and thus cannot have violated any of her rights protected by those laws. (See Adventureland's Mem. at 16.)

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In deciding a summary-judgment motion, the court must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion" and "determine [only] whether there is a genuine factual issue to be tried." Eastman Mach. Co. v. United States, 841 F.2d 469, 473 (2d Cir. 1988). "The burden of showing that no genuine factual dispute exists rests on the party seeking summary judgment . . . ." Atl. Mut. Ins. Co. v. CSX Lines, L.L.C., 432 F.3d 428, 433 (2d Cir. 2005) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

B. Whether the FMLA Covered Plaintiff's Employer

To be a "covered employer" under the FMLA, a business must "employ[] 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year." 29 U.S.C. § 2611(4)(A)(I). The parties agree that at the relevant times neither Brite nor Adventureland had enough employees to be covered on its own, but that if their payrolls were aggregated, the total number of employees would exceed fifty. (See Pl.'s Mem. at 8-9; Defendant's [Brite's] Second Response to Plaintiff's First Request for Admissions, dated Aug. 29, 2008, attached as Ex. 3 to the Certification of David Abrams in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Abrams Cert."), dated Jan. 5, 200[9]; Defendant's [Adventureland's] Second Response to Plaintiff's First Request for Admissions, dated Aug. 29, 2008, attached as Ex. 3 to the Abrams Cert.)

Under the controlling regulations,

Separate entities will be deemed to be parts of a single employer for purposes of FMLA if they meet the "integrated employer" test. Where this test is met, the employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage and employee eligibility. A determination of whether or not separate entities are an integrated employer is not determined by the application of any single criterion, but rather the entire relationship is to be reviewed in its totality. Factors considered in determining whether two or more entities are an integrated employer include:

(i) Common management;

(ii) Interrelation between ...


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