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Glymph v. District of Columbia

June 27, 2005

QUEEN E. GLYMPH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola United States Magistrate Judge

FINDINGS OF FACT AND MEMORANDUM OPINION

On May 1, 2003, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff. I have already determined, by my Order of May 7, 2003, that relief in this case will consist of $50,000 in compensatory damages, in accordance with the jury's verdict, and attorneys fees. I have also already determined that plaintiff is entitled to back pay and injunctive relief. Defining how to determine back pay and the precise nature of the injunctive relief to be awarded necessitated my holding an evidentiary hearing. I am now ready to issue my Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and accompanying Memorandum Opinion. I will begin, however, by stating those facts that are not in genuine dispute or, if in dispute, were resolved in plaintiff's favor by the jury's verdict. I will then indicate what the jury determined and the positions the parties took in the post-verdict proceedings. I will then provide the findings of fact and conclusions of law I am issuing based on the post-verdict evidentiary hearing. Finally, I will explain the injunctive relief I am awarding and my reasons for doing so.

FACTS ADMITTED TO BE TRUE OR RESOLVED IN PLAINTIFF'S FAVOR BY THE JURY'S VERDICT

1. Plaintiff first began working for the District of Columbia Department of Human Services Commission in June of 1987. In January of 1995,*fn1 plaintiff began working as a Program Analyst.

2. On May 17, 1995, while working as a Program Analyst, grade 12 step 9, plaintiff was in a car accident while on the job. As a result of her injuries, plaintiff began receiving Workers' Compensation.

3. On April 15, 1997, plaintiff received notice of a proposal to remove her from her Program Analyst position.

4. On May 13, 1997, plaintiff attempted to return to work on full-time basis but was unable to do so and therefore informed defendant that she would only be able to return to work on a part-time basis.

5. On June 9, 1997, defendant informed plaintiff that it would not be able to accommodate her by allowing her to work part-time.

6. On December 9, 1997 and October 1, 1998, plaintiff's physician, Dr. Moskovitz, developed return to work plans. According to the plans, plaintiff was cleared to return to work starting at four hours per day and to eventually assume a full eight hour day. In addition, Dr. Moskovitz indicated that it would be preferable if plaintiff were permitted to begin work at 10:00 a.m.

7. On July 29, 2000, plaintiff's employment with the Commission on Mental Health Services was terminated.

8. In December of 2001, Congress abolished the Commission on Mental Health Services and created the Department of Mental Health.

THE JURY'S FINDINGS

In her complaint, plaintiff stated that she was capable of returning to work pursuant to the work plans Dr. Moskovitz created but that the District of Columbia (hereafter "the District") failed to accommodate her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12111.*fn2 The jury agreed and found, in response to specific questions, that:

1. Plaintiff was a qualified individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

2. The accommodations she sought were reasonable and the defendant failed to provide them.

3. Plaintiff's disability was a substantial factor in the District of Columbia's decision to refuse to allow her to return to work under the terms of her return to work plans and in its decision to terminate her employment.

THE POST-VERDICT PROCEEDINGS

While the parties are agreed as to the back pay to be awarded and the District is content to leave the amount of the attorneys' fees to be awarded to my discretion, they differ as to my ordering plaintiff to be reinstated to the position from which she was discharged.

The District insists that in 2003 the Department of Health conducted a reduction in force that abolished the division where plaintiff worked and that, had she been in her position, she would have been separated from her employment on April 4, 2003. According to the District, "as of April 4, 2003, plaintiff's employment with the District of Columbia would have ended and she is not entitled to reinstatement." Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Motion for Equitable Relief at 2-3.

For her part, plaintiff asks the court "to reinstate her to a position equivalent to her Program Analysis position with the promotion she would have received had defendant accommodated her injury." Motion for Equitable Relief at 3-4.

POST-VERDICT FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

1. With the reduction in force that occurred after plaintiff was terminated, the Planning Division of the Department of Mental Health was abolished and with it, plaintiff's position. Several of the people with whom plaintiff worked before the reduction in force found other positions with the Department of Mental Health. At least one of them, Patricia Dunston, was competitively promoted from a GS-13 to a GS-14 after plaintiff was terminated and her position abolished as part of the reduction in force.

2. A person employed by the Department of Mental Health must hold the position of a GS-12 for one year before becoming eligible to become a GS-13.

3. Ivy Maria McKinley is the Director of Human Resources of the Department of Mental Health, an agency that employs 1,670 employees.

4. Ms. McKinley testified that persons, like plaintiff, who return to work after recovering from the illness or injury that rendered them disabled are not entitled to any priority consideration whatsoever. Instead, Ms. McKinley indicated that such persons must reapply for a position if the position they previously held was abolished or is otherwise no longer available.

5. In determining whether she could offer plaintiff a position, Ms. McKinley consulted with officials responsible for administering the Workmen's Compensation program in the District of Columbia. It was one of those officials who spoke to plaintiff about the duties and responsibilities attendant to any new position and then asked Ms. McKinley to offer the one position that was in fact offered.

6. Ms. McKinley offered plaintiff a position in Care Coordination. In this position, plaintiff would have answered hotline phone calls from emotionally distressed people in need of psychiatric services. Plaintiff was also offered training in the use of the computer system used to document the calls.

7. The hotline position description indicated the following: "Licensure is required for this position in accordance with MHRS regulations for an approving practitioner." Position Description attached to Plaintiff's Notice of Filing, Docket Number 51.

8. Plaintiff wrote a three page letter explaining why this position was not comparable to the position she had when she was terminated. Plaintiff explained that she did not have the required license, the position offered was temporary, her former position was permanent and in her former position, she had absolutely no contact with mentally ill persons.

9. Ms. McKinley indicated that she knew of no reason why plaintiff was unqualified to fill a position as a quality assurance officer, a position that had been open but not offered to plaintiff. The manager of the quality assurance office, however, wanted the ...


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