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Turner v. District of Columbia

June 16, 2003

ROSALIE L. TURNER, M.D., PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge.

Document No. 5

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO STAY THE PROCEEDINGS; GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AN ENLARGEMENT OF TIME TO FILE A RESPONSIVE PLEADING

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Rosalie Turner is a doctor and employee of the Southeast Sexually Transmitted Disease ("STD") Clinic ("the Southeast Clinic") at D.C. General Hospital. Defendant District of Columbia provides services through the D.C. Department of Health ("the Department") and D.C. General Hospital. The plaintiff sues the defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The defendant now moves this court to stay the proceedings until the disposition of a related case in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, or, in the alternative, for an enlargement of time to file a responsive pleading. Because there is no final judgment in the Superior Court case or in the instant case, the court denies the defendant's motion to stay these proceedings and grants the defendant's motion for an enlargement of time to file a responsive pleading.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

In 1972, the defendant hired the plaintiff as Chief of the Southeast Clinic. Compl. ¶ 7. In 1976, the defendant promoted the plaintiff to the position of Bureau Chief. Id. ¶ 20. As a result of understaffing, however, the plaintiff allegedly performed not only the full-time duties of Bureau Chief, but the full-time duties of Chief and Clinic Physician. Id. ¶ 23. In 1977, based on the taxing demands of these duties, the plaintiff requested and received permission to return to the position of Chief. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Due to continued understaffing, in 1989 the plaintiff began to perform various administrative, supervisory, and non-professional duties, including ordering supplies and medicines, maintaining stock and keeping time. Id. ¶ 31.

In 1995 the Southeast Clinic merged with another STD clinic ("the Northwest Clinic"), and several Northwest Clinic physicians, a nursing assistant, and a preventative-health technician transferred to the Southeast Clinic. Id. ¶¶ 35-36. Within one month, most of the Northwest Clinic physicians resigned or retired. Id. ¶ 37. In addition, although the nursing assistant had performed the duties of ordering supplies and medicines at the Northwest Clinic, the nursing assistant was directed not to perform those duties at the Southeast Clinic. Id. ¶¶ 38-40. Finding herself performing administrative duties in addition to the duties of Chief, while often serving as the only attending physician and clinician, the plaintiff repeatedly discussed the problem of understaffing with the Bureau Chief. Id. ¶¶ 41-43. In 1997, the plaintiff informed the Bureau Chief that her duties were taking a toll on her health and were preventing her from participating in management-training courses that could lead to increases in salary and benefits. Id. ¶¶ 45-46. In 1999, the plaintiff spoke to the Department's Acting Chief of STD Control about the effect of the Southeast Clinic's understaffing on patient care and the plaintiff's health.

Id. ¶ 51. By 2000, only one nurse-clinician and the plaintiff remained on staff at the Southeast Clinic. Id. ¶ 53.

The plaintiff alleges that in March 1999, as a direct result of the physical demands and stress caused by the understaffing of the Southeast Clinic, she became seriously ill with hypertension and diabetes. Id. ¶ 54. According to the plaintiff, the Department's Administrator of Preventative Health Services promised to hire a second physician for the Southeast Clinic but did not do so. Id. ¶¶ 57-58. Given the continued understaffing, the plaintiff left the position of Chief for the position of Medical Officer. Id. ¶ 59. The plaintiff alleges, however, that the District's Acting Director of the Office of Personnel conditioned her salary upon assuming additional responsibilities not required of male physicians with comparable specialties, credentials and years of service. Id. ¶¶ 60-64. Moreover, the plaintiff contends that in contrast to her duties as Chief, the male physician who subsequently assumed the Chief position enjoys fewer responsibilities, rarely attending to patients while receiving administrative support. Id. ¶¶ 65-70. In addition, the new Chief directed her to continue performing certain administrative and supervisory duties that she performed as Chief. Id. ¶ 71. In the plaintiff's view, the defendant's acts and omissions caused the terms and conditions of her employment to become so intolerable that the plaintiff had no alternative but to move to lesser positions with corresponding decreases in salary. Id. ¶¶ 26, 72, 86.

B. Procedural History

On July 31, 2002, the plaintiff filed suit in this court, alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the Equal Pay Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Compl. ¶¶ 95, 110, 128, 131-34. She seeks back- and front-pay, at least $3 million in compensatory damages and at least $2 million in punitive damages. Id. ¶¶ 19, 22-23, 26, 27.

On December 18, 2002, citing the extensive investigation required by the complaint's allegations, the defendant requested an extension of time to file a responsive pleading which the court granted. Def.'s Consent Mot. to Enlarge Time at 1-2; Order dated Jan. 3, 2003. On January 31, 2003, the defendant moved the court to stay the proceedings pending the disposition of a related lawsuit filed by the plaintiff in the Superior Court, or, in the alternative, for an enlargement of ...


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