D.C. City Council approved the FMLA rulemaking which took effect upon the publication of the rules in the D.C. Register. While the rules do not address the issue of exhaustion of administrative remedies, they do offer support for the plaintiff's position in this case. Rule 1600.4 states that the FMLA "is remedial in nature and is to be construed liberally in favor of the employee." D.C. Register § 1600.4. Accordingly, Ms. Simmons' position in the present action should be viewed in a favorable light.
In addition, the rules provide an additional remedial alternative. Rule 1603.1 states that "an aggrieved person filing a complaint under the act with the Department may elect to have the complaint mediated as an alternative to the investigative process." Rule 1603.3 continues to explain that mediation is a voluntary process which at any time may be terminated if either of the parties so chooses. Thus, this court notes that in addition to an administrative track and a litigation course, an aggrieved person also has a mediation route provided by the regulations implementing the FMLA. Again, there is no mention that any one route is to be exhausted prior to taking another route.
Moreover, the language in Rule 1604.1 is also relevant to the present inquiry. That rule lies within the section entitled "Investigation", which refers to the course of the administrative process. Rule 1604.1 specifically states that an "aggrieved person shall file a written complaint with the Department alleging a violation of the act within one (1) year of the occurrence or the discovery thereof." D.C. Register § 1604.1. Similarly, both the § 1309 administrative process provision and the § 1310 civil action provision provide that an aggrieved party has one year to perfect a complaint. There is no indication that the administrative remedy must be exhausted prior to taking a claim to court. Therefore, the court concludes that the one year limitation within which to file a complaint frames the time for the aggrieved party to pursue either or both remedial avenues available. In other words, the aggrieved person has one year from the alleged wrongdoing or its discovery to lodge a complaint in an administrative or judicial forum. These referenced implementing regulations while not conclusive on the issue of exhaustion, further substantiate the statute's plain reading.
4. Statutory Provisions Should Not Be Rendered Superfluous
Defendant asks the court to interpret § 1309 as a prerequisite to the initiation of a civil action in that its subsection (e) directs that the entire administrative enforcement procedure "shall take no longer than 150 days to complete." D.C. Code § 36-1309(e). Subsection (e) states that "if the Mayor fails to make a reasonable effort to comply with the deadline requirements of the administrative enforcement provisions . . .," the complainant may file a civil action against the employer. Defendant relies on this language to assert that the exhaustion of this administrative process is a condition precedent to taking court action. As previously discussed, this position ignores § 1310, which allows for a complainant to file a civil action with a court of competent jurisdiction within the one year statute of limitations. In order to adopt the position of the defendant, this court would have to discard the broad empowerment for the bringing of a civil action provided in § 1310, ignore the one year statute of limitations indicated in this subsection and, require at the very least, that the "exhaustion", which may take 150 days or more, occur within what is left of the one year window for civil filing. In effect, such a reading would abrogate the clear language and intent of § 1310 rendering an outcome incompatible with the statute.
For the reasons stated above, the court concludes that the FMLA does not require exhaustion of administrative remedies prior to filing a civil action in court. Rather, the FMLA provides two alternative routes for an aggrieved party to seek redress for the alleged wrongdoing.
Accordingly, it is this 30 day of September, 1997,
ORDERED that defendant's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law be and is hereby DENIED.
Ricardo M. Urbina
United States District Judge
JUDGMENT ON THE VERDICT
This cause having been tried by the Court and a Jury, before The Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina, Judge presiding, and the issues having been duly tried and the Jury having duly rendered its verdict; now, therefore, pursuant to the verdict, it is this 30 day, September, 1997,
ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that plaintiff Yvonne Simmons have and recover of and from the defendant The District of Columbia the sum of THIRTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS ($ 38,000) together with costs, on her claim that she was subjected to quid pro quo sexual harassment, and her claim that she was subjected to hostile environment sexual harassment; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the plaintiff Yvonne Simmons take nothing against defendant The District of Columbia on her retaliation claim, and her claim under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Ricardo M. Urbina
United States District Judge