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Bennett v. Capitol BC Rests., LLC

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 23, 2014

CARYN BENNETT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAPITOL BC RESTAURANTS, LLC, d/b/a Bugaboo Steakhouse, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Caryn Bennett, Plaintiff: Daniel W Rice, LEAD ATTORNEY, Glynn, Landry & Rice, LLP, Braintree, MA.

For Capitol BC Restaurants, LLC, doing business as Bugaboo Steakhouse, Defendant: Ira Saxe, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Crowell & Moring LLP, New York, NY; Arthur N. Lerner, Crowell & Moring LLP, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

F. Dennis Saylor IV, United States District Judge

This is an action for sex discrimination arising out of a pregnancy and maternity leave. Plaintiff Caryn Bennett was employed as the general manager of the Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse in Braintree, Massachusetts. She became pregnant and took a leave of absence. While she was on leave, the corporate owner of the restaurant filed for bankruptcy and was bought by defendant Capitol BC Restaurants, LLC. Capitol fired all of the restaurant's employees. It then rehired many of them, but did not rehire Bennett. Bennett brought suit against Capitol, alleging that she was fired and not rehired because of her pregnancy in violation of state and federal anti-discrimination law.

Capitol has moved for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The facts summarized below are undisputed unless otherwise noted.

1. Caryn Bennett's Pregnancy

In December 2000, Caryn Bennett was hired by Charles Brown's Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse (" BCS" ). (Pl. SMF ¶ 1; Def. SMF ¶ 1). On October 9, 2009, she became the general manager of the Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse in Braintree, Massachusetts, earning an annual salary of $62,500. (Def. SMF ¶ ¶ 29, 36).[1] During her tenure with BCS, Bennett worked as a kitchen manager, manager, regional training captain, bartender, server, and trainer. (Pl. SMF ¶ 1).

In September 2010, Bennett informed her managers that she was pregnant and that her due date was April 3, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 2). In December 2010, due to complications with her pregnancy, she was prescribed bed rest until the birth of her child. ( Id. ¶ 2-3). Her leave during that period was approved by her managers. ( Id.). While she was on leave, Michael Evans, the restaurant's kitchen manager, filled in for her as general manager. ( Id. ¶ 5).

Bennett gave birth on March 24, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 4). She requested and received eight weeks of maternity leave from BCS's regional manager, Brian Libby. ( Id.

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ΒΆ 2, 4). She was scheduled to return to work on May 19, 2011. ( Id. ¶ 4).

2. BCS's Bankruptcy and Sale

In 2010, the corporate owner of BCS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware. ( Id. ¶ 6; Def. SMF ¶ 1). On March 11, 2011, the sale of BCS's twelve restaurants to Capitol BC Restaurants, LLC, was approved by the bankruptcy court. (Pl. SMF ¶ 6; Def. SMF ¶ 4). The sale was finalized on April 21, 2011. (Pl. SMF ¶ 7). Under the sale, Capitol bought BCS's restaurants free of any claims or liabilities relating to the employment or termination of employees. (Def. SMF ¶ ¶ 13-15). Capitol laid off all of BCS's employees effective April 21. ( Id. ¶ 18).

3. End of Bennett's Employment

Between March 11 and April 21, Capitol's president, Scott Bocek, and Christopher Campbell, president of Capitol's Bugaboo Creek operations, visited the Bugaboo Creek Steakhouses in Massachusetts. (Def. SMF ¶ ¶ 19-21, 58; Pl. SMF ¶ 7). Bocek and Campbell decided that the Braintree restaurant's management team should be reduced from four to three employees. (Bocek Dep. at 11). They planned on rehiring three of the four managers currently working at the restaurant. ( See id. at 9-12).

To determine what managers would be rehired, Bocek and Campbell asked Libby to rank the managers in his region. (Libby Aff. ¶ 4).[2] Libby sent them his rankings on March 22. ( Id.). Evans was ranked last out of all the managers in the region. ( Id. ¶ 6). Bennett was not ranked because she was on leave. ( Id.).

Libby then met with Bocek and Campbell to discuss the rankings. ( Id. ¶ 7). Libby told them that Bennett was on maternity leave, but that she should not lose the opportunity to keep her job because of her maternity leave. ( Id.). He " praised Bennett as well-liked, respected, and full of energy," and told Bocek and Campbell that Bennett could interview at any time. ( Id.).

Bocek and Campbell told Libby that they would not interview Bennett because they had met and liked Evans. ( Id. ¶ 8). Libby told them it was unfair for them to exclude Bennett because she was on maternity leave. ( Id.). He also told them that Bennett was " a better candidate" than Evans and ...


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