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Amber Mullins v. Bondib Hotels

December 22, 2011

AMBER MULLINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BONDIB HOTELS, INC., INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A
POUGHKEEPSIE GRAND HOTEL DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Paul A. Crotty, United States District Judge:

USDC SDNY

DOCUMENT ELECTRONICALLY FILED DOC #:

OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiff Amber Mullins ("Mullins") claims that Defendant Bondib Hotels, Inc., doing business as Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel (the "Hotel"), violated her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. ("FMLA"), by terminating her employment in retaliation for taking maternity leave.*fn1

Both parties move for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the Court DENIES both motions for summary judgment.

FACTS

On November 8, 2005, the Hotel hired Mullins as a front desk clerk. (Def 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 1.) On November 9, 2008, the Hotel conducted a performance evaluation of Mullins and found her "job knowledge" to be "excellent"; her "quality of work", "attendance and punctuality", and "communication and listening" to be "good"; and her "productivity and efficiency" to be "average." (Mullins June 10, 2011 Aff. Ex. A.)

In early 2009, Mullins's co-workers reported that Mullins developed an attitude and was often rude to guests. (Jones Aff. ¶¶ 3-6; Paganelli Aff. ¶ 5; Taylor Aff. 1; Valdovinos Aff. ¶ 5; Ronkese May 12, 2011 Aff. ¶ 4.) Guests and tourism board representatives complained about Mullins to the Hotel. (Jones Aff. ¶¶ 4-5; Valdovinos Aff. ¶ 6; Kangas Decl. ¶ 5; Ronkese May 12, 2011 Aff. ¶ 6; Aug. 15, 2009 Guest Comment Card ¶ 9.) Mullin's managers-Ms. Ronkese and Mr. Valdovinos-spoke to her about her attitude and poor performance, and Ms. Ronkese threatened to terminate Mullins if her treatment of the guests and potential customers did not improve. (Ronkese May 12, 2011 Aff. ¶¶ 4, 5; Valdovinos Aff. ¶ 6; May 19, 2009 Coach and Counsel Document.)

In the spring of 2009, Mullins told Ms. Kangas, the Hotel's General Manager, that she was expecting a baby. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 11.) Ms. Kangas stated that she told Mullins:

I was worried for her because of the situation with her and her ex-husband and she had a child and I was concerned how she was living. I tried my best to help this young lady. I used to drive her home. I used to bring her clothes because of her situation that she did bring into the hotel. There was a lot of drama with Amber, but in no way -- I said we would be there to support her. . . (Mullins June 10, 2011 Aff. Ex. E, at 10.) Ms. Kangas was worried because Mullins "was supporting this little boy on her own," her "husband was in prison," and when he got out of prison he "was involved with another female and Amber did not want to end their relationship." (Id.)

On June 20, 2009, the Hotel reduced Mullins's hours from full-time to part-time. (Mullins July 13, 2011 Aff. ¶ 3.)

The Hotel granted Mullins's request for maternity leave without pay, starting on October 2, 2009. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 12, 13.) Mullins's baby was born on October 16, 2009. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 14.) On or about December 16, 2009-11 weeks after her maternity leave began-Mullins received clearance from her physician to return to work. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 15.)

She contacted the Hotel about returning to work, but Ms. Ronkese, the Front Desk Manager, told Mullins that her employment was terminated. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 16.) Ms. Ronkese testified that Mullins was terminated for lack of work; the Hotel was entering its slow season-which runs from January to March. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶¶ 10, 20.) Mullins's employment status form states that she was fired for "lack of work" and that she was not eligible for rehire. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 25.) Mullins applied for unemployment benefits. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.) The Hotel did not challenge her unemployment claim on the basis of misconduct. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ¶ 19.)

In 2009, the Hotel fired fifty-four employees. (Pl. 56.1 Stmt. ΒΆ 22.) Only three of these fifty-four employees-all in the housekeeping department-were fired for "lack of work," and each of the three was listed as ...


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