The opinion of the court was delivered by: DEBORAH ROBINSON, Magistrate Judge
Plaintiff, in this action against her former employer, Defendant
Washington Hospital Center, alleges unlawful termination in violation of
the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA" or "Act"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq.
(Count I) and the District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Act
("DCFMLA"), D.C. Code §§ 32-501 et seq. (Count II), and unlawful
discrimination based on disability in violation of the District of
Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code §§ 2-1402.11 et seq. (Count
III). Pending for determination by the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge is Washington Hospital Center's Motion for Summary
Judgment (Docket No. 19) and Plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary
Judgment (Docket No. 20). Upon consideration of the motions, the
memoranda in support thereof and in opposition thereto and the entire
record herein, Defendant's motion will be granted in part and denied in
part, and Plaintiff's motion will be denied.
Plaintiff Linda Price was employed by Defendant Washington Hospital
Center from August, 1998 to May, 2000, as an Administrative Coordinator in the
Materials and Biomedical Technology Management Department, and from May,
2000 to March, 2002, as an Administrative Coordinator in the Biomedical
Engineering Department ("the Department"). Complaint for Compensatory and
Punitive Damages ("Complaint") ¶¶ 2, 6. Plaintiff suffers from
"hypertension, diabetes, congestive heart failure, anemia, diabetic eye
disease, and end-stage renal disease[,]" and as a result is "on
peritoneal dialysis every six hours, four times per day" and "several
prescription medications[.]" Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff asserts that "[d]uring
the course of her employment with [Washington Hospital Center], Plaintiff
occasionally had doctor's appointments or other medial appointments[,]"
but that she "routinely scheduled her medical appointments in the early
morning or else at the end of the day to minimize any disruption to her
work schedule" and that she would often work late or through her lunch
period to compensate. Id. ¶ 8.
Beginning in May, 2000, Caroline Campbell, the Director of the
Department, became Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. Id. ¶ 9. On June
29, 2001, Plaintiff was treated in an emergency room after she "became
very sick, with chest pains, nausea, swollen legs, and blood pressure of
210/160." Id. ¶ 11. During Plaintiff's July, 2001 performance review,
Ms. Campbell informed her "that the medical appointments were causing
hardship to the office." Id. ¶ 10. In August, 2001, Plaintiff informed
Ms. Campbell of her hypertension and that her doctor wanted her to have
weekly appointments to have her blood pressure checked. Id. ¶ 12.
Plaintiff asserts that "Ms. Campbell disapproved of these weekly
appointments, telling Plaintiff that Plaintiff did not `need to see the
doctor every week' because a lab technician at [Washington Hospital
Center] could check Plaintiff's blood pressure for her." Id. Plaintiff
claims that she "made every reasonable effort to schedule her medical treatment and medical
supervision in a manner that did not unduly disrupt the operations of the
department[,]" and that she was "forced to cancel and reschedule numerous
medical appointments because of work." Id.
In December, 2001, Plaintiff went to the emergency room after
"experiencing chest pain, leg pain, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness" and
was hospitalized for uncontrolled hypertension and renal failure. Id. ¶
14. Plaintiff asserts that she informed Ms. Campbell of "her health
condition and that she would likely need to go on dialysis." Id. ¶ 15.
In January, 2002, Ms. Campbell informed the Department at a staff meeting
that "Plaintiff had hypertension and renal problems that her kidneys
were `shutting down' and that Plaintiff would be on sick leave from
work." Id. ¶ 16. On January 5, 2002, Plaintiff was released from the
hospital and put on bed rest. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff's doctor informed her
that she would probably be ready to return to work on January 22, 2002.
On January 22, 2002, Plaintiff, reported to work and appeared at the
Defendant's Occupational Health Office ("OHO") for a medical
examination. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff was informed that she was ineligible to
return to work because her blood pressure was too high. Id. On January
29, 2002, Plaintiff's doctor, Dr. Mathur, informed her that she could not
return to work until February 6, 2002. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff contends that
she faxed Dr. Mathur's report to the OHO and remained on bed rest. Id. On
February 6, 2002, Ms. Campbell informed Plaintiff "over the phone that
her position was being eliminated and that Plaintiff was terminated
effective March 8, 2002." Id. ¶ 21.
In Count I of her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant
violated her rights under the FMLA by terminating her employment "while
[she] was out on approved medical leave under the [FMLA]." Id. ¶¶ 30-31. In Count II, Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant violated her rights under DCFMLA by terminating her employment
"while [she] was out on approved medical leaved under [DCFMLA]." Id. ¶¶
34-36. In Count III, Plaintiff alleges that "Defendant intentionally
discriminated on the basis of disability" in violation of the DCHRA. Id.
II. CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES
Defendant moves for summary judgment with respect to all of Plaintiff's
claims. Plaintiff cross-moves for summary judgment with respect to the
issue that she "has made out a prima facie case that defendant violated
the federal and DC FMLA." Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for
Partial Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Memorandum") at 10.
A. Federal Family Medical Leave Act (Count I) and District of Columbia
Family Medical Leave Act (Count II)
Defendant maintains that Plaintiff cannot carry her burden of
establishing a prima facie case under either the FMLA or the DCFMLA,
because she cannot show that she was protected under the statute, treated
less favorably than a similarly situated employee or was discharged
because of her request for leave. Memorandum in Support of Defendant
Washington Hospital Center's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defendant's
Memorandum") at 37. Defendant asserts that "Plaintiff has not alleged nor
offered any proof that she worked the requisite number of hours during
the year prior to taking medical leave" to be an "eligible employee"
under either the FMLA or the DCFMLA. Id. at 38. Defendant contends that
Plaintiff cannot sustain a FMLA or a DCFMLA claim because there is no
evidence that the decision-maker, Michael Ugwueke, had knowledge of her medical leave. Id. at 39. Further, Defendant asserts
that there is no evidence that Plaintiff was treated less favorably than
a similarly-situated employee who did not request medical leave. Id. at
39-40. Defendant submits that even if the Court were to find that
Plaintiff had established a prima facie case under FMLA, Defendant would
still be entitled to summary judgment, since "Plaintiff was terminated as
part of a legitimate [reduction-in-force] and she was unable to perform
the essential functions of her position as a result of her continuing
medical conditions." Id. at 43.
Plaintiff opposes Defendant's motion, and cross-moves for summary
judgment with respect to her prima facie case that Defendant violated the
FMLA and the DCFMLA. Memorandum in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Opposition") (Docket No. 21) at 15;
Plaintiff's Memorandum at 7-10. With respect to her FMLA and DCFMLA
claims, Plaintiff contends that she has established a prima facie case
that she suffered from a "serious health condition" as defined by both
statutes; that at the time she requested medical leave, her health was
such that she unable to perform the functions of her job; and that
Defendant was notified of her need for medical leave under the FMLA and
DCFMLA. Plaintiff's Memorandum at 7-10.
In her opposition to Defendant's motion, Plaintiff submits that she has
demonstrated that she has "worked far more than the minimum hours
required to qualify under both laws." Plaintiff's Opposition at 16.
Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's contention that Mr. Ugwueke was
unaware of Plaintiff's health status is "simply false[,]" and that "he
signed off on Price's first FMLA leave request form." Id. at 22.
Plaintiff further submits that in any event, there is evidence that the
official responsible for her termination, Caroline Campbell, made the recommendation to Mr. Ugwueke, who served only as "the `cats paw' of
Campbell's animus[,]" that Plaintiff be terminated. Id. at 23 (citations