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Coleman v. District of Columbia

February 25, 1999

DR. ROBERT B. COLEMAN, APPELLANT,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, APPELLEE.



Before Schwelb, Farrell, and Reid, Associate Judges.

Notice: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the Atlantic and Maryland Reporters. Users are requested to notify the Clerk of the Court of any formal errors so that corrections may be made before the bound volumes go to press.

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia

(Hon. Linda Turner Hamilton, Trial Judge)

Argued June 20, 199

OPINION FOLLOWING REMAND

Farrell, Associate Judge: In this appeal from the rejection of appellant's administrative complaint of unlawful discrimination in the decision to terminate his employment, we previously remanded the record to the Department of Human Rights (DHR) for specific findings as to when the federal grant and contract for the AIDS Demonstration Project under which appellant was employed expired. See Coleman v. District of Columbia, 700 A.2d 232, 235 (D.C. 1997). Unfortunately, we conclude that yet another remand is necessary.

A.

In our first opinion, we pointed to an unresolved conflict in the evidentiary record regarding when the funding grant for the AIDS Project expired. Resolution of that question, we concluded, was important to deciding whether -- as appellant claimed and DHR originally had found --appellant was terminated unlawfully by his employer, the Department of Human Services (DHS), on the basis of personal appearance (his shortness of height) and in reprisal for testimony he had given at a discrimination hearing. See id. at 233. DHS's contrary position, which had been sustained on administrative appeal, *fn1 was that appellant's term of employment expired with the lapse of the funding grant under which he had been hired.

On remand, DHR entered written findings of fact which traced the history of the grant for the AIDS Project as follows:

"The evidence now in the record shows that the Grant in issue was scheduled to end on April 30, 1990. On April 9, 1990, [DHS] submitted a request to the grantor, NIDA [the National Institute on Drug Abuse], to extend the grant for sixty (60) more days until June 30, 1990, to allow [DHS] to close down the project and prepare to submit a final report. NIDA granted the requested extension on April 27, 1990."

"Before the close down scheduled for June 30, 1990, NIDA advised [DHS] to consider applying for other grant funds to continue the project for another year even though NIDA stated that they did not have nor did they anticipate having sufficient funds to fund the project at the same level for another year. The record shows that on June 14, 1990, [DHS] requested that NIDA approve and fund the project for another year with a proposed ending date of July 31, 1991. [DHS] submitted a project budget with the extension request that did not include the Complainant's [appellant's] prior position, Research Director/Psychologist. NIDA approved the request for an additional year for the Grant directing [DHS] to use the unexpended funds from the prior year to cover the cost with a final termination date of July 31, 1991."

Based upon these facts, DHR found that appellant, a term employee, had been terminated simply because he "was not covered under a grant beyond June 30, 1990." Specifically,

"[t]he record shows that the project that provided funds for the Complainant's salary ended on June 30, 1990 based on [DHS's] requested three month extension from the initial ending date of April 30, 1990. The record shows that the additional three months were requested to provide [DHS] with the time needed to close down and prepare a final report. The subsequent extension of the project into 1991 contained a different scope of work and different funded personnel because [DHS] was limited by having only the unexpended funds from the original Grant to support the project after June 30, 1990. The Complainant's position was ...


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