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LIGHTFOOT v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

January 10, 2006.

JAMES LIGHTFOOT, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REGGIE WALTON, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On July 30, 2004, the plaintiff, an employee of the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS"), filed this action against the defendants, Robert Graves and the DCPS. The plaintiff alleges the following claims: (1) a violation of the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. (2000); (2) a violation of the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act ("DCFMLA"), D.C. Code § 32-501, et seq. (2003); (3) breach of contract; and (4) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Currently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings (Defs.' Mot.).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion is granted.*fn2 I. Factual Background

The DCPS hired the plaintiff, James Lightfoot, as an Assistant Principal at Spingarn Senior High School ("Spingarn") in the District of Columbia in August 2001. Complaint ("Compl.") at ¶ 4. On March 12, 2003, the plaintiff submitted an "Application of Leave," which requested twenty-four days off commencing on March 13, 2003, and concluding on April 15, 2003, due to "severe job related anxiety and stress." Id. ¶ 5. This application included a medical certification from his physician, Dr. Thomas Gay, recommending that the plaintiff not work for at least one month. Id. In response to the plaintiff's request, Robert Graves, the Principal at Spingarn, wrote to the plaintiff informing him that the proper procedure for requesting such leave was to complete an "Application for Leave of Absence Re: Extended Leave of Absence and the Family Leave Act." Id. ¶ 6. Graves included a copy of the application with his response. Id. In addition to completing the application, the plaintiff was required to submit all necessary supporting documentation and comply with the requirements of both the "Family Leave Act and the Board Rules." Id. Moreover, the letter from Graves noted that until the plaintiff completed the enclosed application and his request was approved, he would be placed in an absent without leave status, which could lead to discplinary actions. Id. After receiving Graves's response, one of the school's employees, a time keeper, notified the plaintiff that "she had not received his medical certification and could not process [her] payroll." Id. ¶ 7. To address this deficiency, the plaintiff allegedly delivered the medical certification to the school. Id. Nonetheless, on April 3, 2003, the plaintiff received a letter from Graves stating that he was "no longer privileged to enter the premises or grounds of Spingarn. . . ." Id. ¶¶ 7-8. The letter notified the plaintiff that all further communications should be directed to the Assistant Superintendent of the DCPS. Id. ¶ 8.

  Following receipt of this letter, the plaintiff initiated a grievance procedure. Id. ¶¶ 9-13. However, before the grievance process commenced, the plaintiff was notified that he should return to work on May 5, 2003. Id. ¶ 15. However, on May 4, 2003, the plaintiff sent a letter to Graves stating:
This letter is to notify you that pursuant to D.C. Code [§] 32-506 and District of Columbia Municipal Regulations Title 1600 — The Family Medical Leave Act — I will be away from my job as Assistant Principal at Spingarn High School for a period of sixteen (16) weeks or less depending upon the advise of my medical doctor. This is also to notify you that the original "Application for Leave" I submitted on March 14, 2003 is now being converted to absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Therefore, my Medical Leave remedies are retroactive to March 14, 2003. In accordance with the Act, I will be submitting to you a medical certificate issued by my health care provider as soon as practicable. I have an appointment with my doctor scheduled for Monday, May 5, 2003.
Id. ¶ 16. The plaintiff notes that he received a "Certificate of Disability" from his physician on May 20, 2003, which stated that he should not return to work until June 15, 2003. Id. ¶ 17. However, the plaintiff never submitted the certificate to his employer. Id. And, in a letter dated May, 7, 2003, the plaintiff was informed that he had been terminated. Id. ¶ 18. In a separate letter, the plaintiff was informed that he could continue to pursue his grievance through the Council of School Officers ("CSO"), as it is the exclusive representative of assistant principals. Id.

  Dissatisfied with the processing of his grievance, and believing that it had not been fully resolved, the plaintiff resubmitted his grievance to the Superintendent of the DCPS. Id. ¶ 19. The plaintiff did not receive a response from the Superintendent, and subsequently filed an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Counsel ("EEOC") for the DCPS. Id. The EEOC failed to timely investigate the plaintiff's allegations within the required statutory time period, and thus, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCOHR"). Id. ¶¶ 21-22. The parties attempted to resolve the dispute, but failed. Id. ¶¶ 23-34. Thus, the plaintiff withdrew the complaint he had filed with the DCOHR, and filed this action. Id. ¶ 35.

  II. Standard of Review

  A Court will grant judgement on the pleadings "only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c); Longwood Village Rest., Ltd. v. Ashcroft, 157 F. Supp. 2d 61, 66 (D.D.C. 2001) (citing Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)). "If there are allegations in the complaint which, if proved, would provide a basis for recovery[,]" the Court cannot grant judgement on the pleadings. Haynesworth v. Miller, 820 F. 2d 1245, 1254 (D.C. Cir 1987) (citations omitted). Accordingly, all factual doubts must be resolved in favor of the plaintiff. Id. (citations omitted). The standard of review under Rule 12(c) is essentially the same as that for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Jung v. Ass'n of Am. Med. Colls., 339 F. Supp. 2d 26, 35 (D.D.C. 2004) (citations omitted); see generally 2 Moore's Federal Practice, § 12.38 (3d ed. 2005).

  On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), this Court must construe the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must grant the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the alleged facts. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citing Kowal v. MCI Comm'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). "[T]he complaint need only set forth `a short and plain statement of the claim,' Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), giving the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests." Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1040 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing Conley, 355 U.S. at 47). "Such simplified `notice pleading' is made possible by the liberal opportunity for discovery and the other pretrial procedures established by the Rules to disclose more precisely the basis of both claim and defense and to define more narrowly the disputed facts and issues." Conley, 355 U.S. at 47-48. While many well-plead complaints are conclusory, the Court need not accept inferences or conclusory allegations that are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276. Moreover, in deciding whether to dismiss a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court can only consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference into the complaint, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624-25 & n. 3. A court may dismiss a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) only if the defendant can demonstrate "beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley, 355 U.S. at 45-46.

  III. Legal Analysis

  The defendants have moved for judgment on the pleadings asserting that each of the claims raised by the plaintiff are deficient as a matter of law. Defs.' Mem. at 2. The Court will therefore address each of the plaintiff's claims below.

  (A) The Plaintiff's Federal Family and Medical Leave Act Claim

  The defendants contend that the plaintiff's federal FMLA claim should be dismissed as a matter of law because (1) the plaintiff failed provide a timely and complete medical certification required by the FMLA, and (2) he has not sufficiently alleged that he is suffering from a serious health condition. Defs.' Mem. at 4-7. The plaintiff, on the other hand, contends that his application for leave submitted on March 14, 2003, was timely and that he suffered from a serious health condition as defined by the FMLA. Pl.'s Opp'n at 3-4.

  The FMLA provides that "an eligible employee shall be entitled to a total of 12 workweeks of leave during any 12-month period . . . [b]ecause of a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the position of such employee." 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D) (2000); see also Price v. Wash. Hosp. Center, 321 F. Supp. 2d 38, 45 n. 1 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting Chang v. Inst. for Public-Private P'ships, Inc., No. 02-CV-1256, 2004 WL 742806, at *7 (D.D.C. 2004)). A "serious health condition" is defined by FMLA as "an illness, injury, impairment, or physical mental condition that involves [either] inpatient care in a hospital . . . or continuing treatment by a health care provider." 29 U.S.C. § 2611(11) (2000). Regulations promulgated under the FMLA further provide that a serious health condition that involves continuing treatment by a health care provider includes:
(i) a period of incapacity . . . of more than three consecutive calendar days, and any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition, that also involves[:]
(A) Treatment two or more times . . .; or
(B) Treatment by a health care provider on at least one occasion which results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of the health care provider.
29 C.F.R § 825.114(a) (2005).*fn3 Therefore, for a leave of absence to qualify under the FMLA, a plaintiff must allege that there was a period of incapacity of at least three days along with treatment for that condition by a health care provider either (1) on two or more occasions, or (2) at least once, as long as it results in a regimen of continuing treatment under that provider's supervision. Russell v. North Broward Hosp., 346 F.3d 1335, 1342 (11th Cir. 2003). The regulation further provides that "treatment . . . includes (but is not limited to) examinations to determine if a serious health condition exists and evaluations of the condition." 29 C.F.R. § 825.114(b).

  It is the plaintiff's burden to establish that the leave of absence was caused by a "serious health condition." Bauer v. Varity Dayton-Walther Corp., 118 F. 3d 1109, 1112 (6th Cir. 1997). Moreover, an employer can require that an employee's request for leave under the FMLA be supported by a medical certification issued by the employee's health care provider. 29 U.S.C. § 2613(a) (2000). A medical certification is sufficient if it states: "(1) the date on which the serious health condition commenced; (2) the probable duration of the condition; [and] (3) the appropriate medical facts within the knowledge of the health care provider regarding the condition." 29 U.S.C. § 2613(b). An employer's request for a medical certification must be accompanied by a notice indicating the consequence of failing to provide an adequate certification. 29 C.F.R. § 825.301(b)(1)(ii). However, if the ...


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