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Lampkins v. Mitra QSR, LLC

United States District Court, D. Delaware

November 28, 2018

AUTUMN LAMPKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
MITRA QSR, LLC, and MITRA QSR KNE, LLC, Defendants.

          Patrick C. Gallagher, Raeann Warner, JACOBS & CRUMPLAR, P.A., Wilmington, Delaware Counsel for Plaintiff.

          Richard A. Barkasy, Daniel M. Pereira, SCHNADER, HARRISON, SEGAL & LEWIS LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Jo Bennett, Samantha Banks, SCHNADER, HARRISON, SEGAL & LEWIS LLP, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Counsel for Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CONNOLLY, JUDGE.

         Before me in this employment discrimination case is a motion for partial summary judgment (D.I. 81) filed by Defendants Mitra QSR KNE, LLC and Mitra QSR, LLC (collectively, "Mitra"). For the reasons discussed below, I will grant in part and deny in part the motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Autumn Lampkins alleges three counts in her Amended Complaint against Mitra: gender discrimination (Count I) and creating and/or allowing a hostile work environment (Count II)[1] in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. and parallel state law, and failure to provide accommodations and opportunities to express breast milk (Count III) in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 207(r). All three counts arise out of the undisputed allegation that Lampkins needed to use a pump to express breast milk at work following the birth of her son.

         In Count I, Lampkins alleges that she suffered adverse employment actions and was ultimately constructively discharged because of her need to express milk during her work hours. D.I. 15 at 21-22. In Count II, Lampkins alleges that she "endure[d] pervasive and regular harassment from her managers and co-workers" because of her need to express milk. D.I. 15 at 23-24. In Count III, Lampkins alleges that Mitra failed to provide her with sufficient opportunities to express milk, initially forced her to express milk in a bathroom, and then required her to express milk in an office which had operating video cameras and windows that allowed other employees to observe her express her milk.

         Viewing the record evidence in the light most favorable to Lampkins, as I must for summary judgment purposes, the relevant facts are as follows. Lampkins began working for Mitra as an assistant-restaurant-manager trainee at a KFC franchise in Camden, Delaware, where she was initially required to pump her milk in a bathroom, and then was required to pump in an office which had a camera that could not be turned off and a window through which her coworkers could and did observe her pumping. D.I. 85, Ex. C at 94:21-95:08. One male employee was caught observing Lampkins on two occasions when she pumped. Id. at 96:23-97:9, 102:25-103:16. On multiple occasions, another male employee used his keys to enter the office while Lampkins was pumping. Id. at 96:10-11, 103:19-22, 269:20-22; D.L 85, Ex. E at 43:23-53:14. Lampkins' supervisor did paperwork in the office while Lampkins pumped. D.I. 85, Ex. F at ¶ 6.

         Lampkins wanted to pump every two hours but was permitted by her supervisor to pump only once during her ten-hour shift at Camden. D.I. 85, Ex. G at 86:12-16. After Lampkins' coworkers complained when she took breaks from work to pump, D.I. 85, Ex. D at 24:10-12; D.I. 85, Ex. F at ¶ 9, Lampkins was demoted and transferred to a store in Dover "so [that] it would be easier for [her] to get the time to express [her] breast milk," D.I. 85, Ex. C at 65:12-66:13. Her pay was also cut. Id.

         In Dover, Lampkins was again forced to pump in an office with a camera and a window. Id. at 139:10-18. Other employees saw her pumping through the window and occasionally entered the office while she was pumping. E.g., Id. at 146:4-25; D.I. 85, Ex. J at 47:14-19. Lampkins' supervisor cut Lampkins' hours for the stated reason that Lampkins would have more time to pump. See Id. at 70:14-23; D.I. 85, Ex. I at 157:14-158:6, 217:5-218:1. Because Lampkins could not pump a sufficient number of times during her shift, her breast milk would leak through her shirt, causing her embarrassment. See D.I. 85, Ex. L. Eventually, Lampkins' milk supply dried up, preventing her from breastfeeding her son. D.L 85, Ex. C at 270:6-15, 305:6-14; D.L 85, Ex. L.

         Lampkins' coworkers at Dover complained about her pumping, and employees under her supervision were insubordinate to her because they were upset that she would pump rather than "be[] on the floor." See, e.g., D.I. 85, Ex. I at 207:2-22. This insubordination frustrated Lampkins' ability to do her job. See, e.g., Id. at 207:2-7. Lampkins' supervisor discouraged Lampkins from pumping, see, e.g., Id. at 230:16-22, and characterized Lampkins' pumping as "obviously ... a huge issue," see Id. at 156:21-22. Lampkins' supervisor testified that her own supervisor "didn't even want to hear about [Lampkins' pumping] anymore, really, because she didn't know what to do [about it] either[.]" See Id. at 156:24-157:2.

         Lampkins' employment with Mitra culminated in a factually-disputed incident involving a customer's jacket. Mitra claims that Lampkins stole the jacket, but Lampkins claims to have brought the jacket home accidentally. See D.I. 85, Ex. C at 156:9-157:9. Shortly after the jacket incident, Lampkins heard from a coworker that Lampkins' supervisor planned on firing Lampkins. See Id. at 157:16-158:5. Lampkins quit instead. See D.I. 85, Ex. L. Lampkins' supervisor testified that she was "probably" about to fire Lampkins because of the jacket incident. See D.I. 85, Ex. I at 192:9-20.

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         "The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "[T]he party moving for summary judgment... bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). If the burden of persuasion at trial would be on the non-moving party, then the moving party may satisfy its burden of production by pointing to an absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's case, after which the burden of production then shifts to the non-movant to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989). "In ...


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