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Carter v. Washington Post

May 15, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Jerome Carter is an African American who worked as a pressroom general worker for The Washington Post ("the Post") from June 28, 1989 to January 27, 2005, when he was terminated for insubordination and failure to comply with the Post's attendance policies. He has filed suit alleging violations of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), Pub. L. 103-3, 107 Stat. 6; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.; and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. The Post moves to dismiss Mr. Carter's Title VII and ADA claims. Finding that Mr. Carter never filed a charge of discrimination under Title VII with the D.C. Office of Human Rights ("OHR") or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), the Court concludes that it has no jurisdiction over his claims of race discrimination. Further, because Mr. Carter never filed a charge alleging that the Post failed to accommodate his disability, the Court is without jurisdiction over his ADA claim, as presented in the Amended Complaint. These two counts will be dismissed.


As a general worker in the pressroom, Mr. Carter's duties involved keeping the pressroom clean, keeping the presses and machinery clean, and handling the newspaper waste by moving unmechanized waste carts. Am. Compl. ¶ 19.*fn1 His direct supervisor was Bruce Wilson, his second line supervisor was Bernard Mornot, and his third line supervisor was Melinda Ford, the pressroom superintendent.

The relevant events began on or about October 29, 2000, when Mr. Mornot -- Mr. Carter's then-first line supervisor -- screamed and cursed at Mr. Carter for going to the payroll office to verify the time for "compassion leave" to which Mr. Carter was entitled as a result of his brother's death. Mr. Mornot appears to have taken umbrage at Mr. Carter's challenge to Mr. Mornot's calculation of his compassion leave. It did not help that Mr. Mornot was allegedly intoxicated by alcohol at the time. Mr. Mornot emphasized his displeasure by physically pushing and shoving Mr. Carter. This incident caused embarrassment to Mr. Carter, who had several meetings with people from the Post's Human Resources ("HR") office to complain about it and to demand an apology. At a meeting on March 27, 2001, Mr. Mornot admitted his conduct and offered a verbal apology.*fn2 This was not satisfactory to Mr. Carter, who wanted a written apology that could be placed in Mr. Carter's personnel file. Mr. Carter followed up the March 27 meeting with a letter demanding greater satisfaction.

The Post conducted a further investigation and met again with Mr. Carter on May 31, 2001. According to a June 7, 2001, letter from Pressroom Superintendent Eric Brinkman to Mr. Carter concerning this meeting, Mr. Carter became agitated upon learning that Mr. Mornot would not be required to take any further action. Mr. Carter walked out of the meeting and was followed by Mr. Brinkman, who told him he should return to the meeting to avoid discipline for insubordination involved with walking out on supervisors. Mr. Carter thought better of it, returned to the meeting, and it was concluded. Upset after the meeting, he asked to leave work early, but Mr. Brinkman denied the request because it was too late to obtain a replacement. Mr. Carter left work anyway and was suspended on June 1, 2, and 5, 2001.*fn3 Shortly thereafter, on June 7, 2001, Mr. Carter injured his shoulder and neck, pushing a heavy cart of newspaper waste.

On or about April 2004, Mr. Carter complained to Mr. Mornot about Mr. Wilson and another co-worker regularly leaving before the end of the shift. On or about October 15, 2004, Mr. Wilson assigned an inordinate amount of work to Mr. Carter to cover for an idle co-worker.

From June through August 2004, Mr. Carter met with Ms. Ford and other management personnel on several instances "regarding the hostile work environment and [his] work schedule." Am. Compl. ¶ 26. "This extra-heavy workload aggravated [Mr. Carter's] existing shoulder condition." Id. ¶ 27. When Mr. Carter asked to leave work early due to his shoulder, Mr. Wilson denied his request. Id. Mr. Carter left work early despite Mr. Wilson's denial of his request and was suspended from work as a result. Id. ¶ 28.

On or about October 18, 2004, as conditions for his return to work, the Post placed Mr. Carter on medical leave and required him to see their psychiatrist, Dr. Richard Restak, for a medical and psychiatric evaluation. Id. ¶ 29. Dr. Restak recommended that Mr. Carter be required to enroll in anger management classes before returning to work. Am. Compl., Ex. 11 (Nov. 10, 2004, Letter from Dr. Restak to Ms. Ann Griffin, Health Center Supervisor at the Post). Mr. Carter met with management representatives on November 19, 2004, at 1:30 p.m. Mr. Carter was scheduled to return to work on a shift beginning at 2:30 p.m. Mr. Carter did not report to work because he had a doctor's appointment with Dr. Sharon Schieth regarding his shoulder and neck problems. Mr. Carter did not follow normal policy and inform his supervisor that he would not be at work; as a result, he was suspended for ten days. In response, he wrote a letter to Ms. Ford, Pressroom Superintendent, explaining,

Because my communications were now only with management, I truly understood my predicament was being handled by you as Pressroom Superintendent and Ann Griffin as the Health Center Supervisor so that is who I gave notification as I was advised to do from the beginning. I was not aware that I needed to notify my department manager or supervisor. I sincerely believed that they were being notified by management of when I would be able to return to work.

Am. Compl., Ex. 9 (Dec. 28, 2004, Letter from Mr. Carter to Ms. Ford). This explanation was insufficient to cause the Post to rescind the 10-day suspension.

Mr. Carter was scheduled to return to work on January 22, 2005, but on that date he provided a note from his doctor indicating that he could not work for another week for "confidential" reasons. Am. Compl., Ex. 10 (January 26, 2005, Letter to Mr. Carter from Ms. Ford). This reason being unacceptable to the Post, Ms. Ford called Mr Carter and told him that he needed to provide a release to the Post so that his employer could verify the medical reasons for his absence. Mr. Carter refused to do so and angrily hung up the telephone during the conversation. Id. Consequently, on January 26, 2005, Ms. Ford issued a termination letter to Mr. Carter "for a continued pattern of insubordinate conduct, for continued violation of [the Post's] attendance policies, and for failing to cooperate in [the Post's] investigation into [Mr. Carter's] absences." Id.

Mr. Carter filed a charge with the EEOC on May 18, 2005. He charged the Post with discrimination on account of disability. In full, his charge alleged:

I began to work for the Washington Post in 1989. In November 2004, I presented a doctor's notice letting my employer know that I needed leave for my disability and requested leave from November 22, 2004, through January 22, 2005. On January 25, 2005, the pressroom Superintendent called me at home to request a release for sensitive medical information. During this conversation, I let her know that I could not provide this release outright and that other procedures needed to be followed per the Washington's Post's own policy. On January 26, 2005, I was ...

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