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Stevens v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

June 2, 2006

DAVID B. STEVENS AND MAE WHITLEY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court based on defendant's Motion to Dismiss plaintiff Mae Whitley's Claims or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment [7, 9] pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendant also filed a Motion to Dismiss plaintiff David Stevens' Claims, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment [8] pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Plaintiffs have made three claims against National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak") in their Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff David Stevens makes a claim of unlawful retaliation in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. (D.C. Code Ann. § 2-1402.61 (2006)); (Pls. Second Am. Compl. 7-8.) Plaintiff Mae Whitley makes claims of unlawful retaliation and sex discrimination in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act. (Pls. Second Am. Compl. 7-8.)

Plaintiffs originally filed their Complaint in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. On September 29, 2005, defendant removed the action to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. For relief, plaintiffs request that this Court issue a declaratory judgment that the conduct of Amtrak violated their rights under District of Columbia law. Plaintiffs also seek compensatory damages for emotional, non-pecuniary harm and for consequential financial harm for lost wages, retirement and other benefits; punitive damages; prejudgment and post-judgment interest; reasonable attorneys' fees, expenses and costs incurred in this matter and a trial by jury on all issues of fact and damages raised in this case. Additionally, Mr. Stevens requests that he be reinstated to employment if he elects to return. Id. Also before this Court are plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Surreplies [19].

Upon consideration of the parties' filings, the applicable law and the facts of this case, this Court finds that the plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File Surreplies [19] shall be GRANTED and the defendant's Motions to Dismiss, or, in the Alternative Summary Judgment [7, 9] and [8] shall be DENIED.

I. Background

A. David Stevens

Plaintiff David Stevens began working for Amtrak on February 28, 1990 as a mechanical cleaner. (Stevens' Opp'n 1.) In 1988, Mr. Stevens was diagnosed as HIV-positive. Id. at 1-2. In February 2004, one of Mr. Stevens' co-workers, Shirley Snider, told other Amtrak employees that he had AIDS. Id. On March 10, 2004 Ms. Snider sent Mr. Stevens a letter apologizing for disclosing his medical condition. Id.

Mr. Stevens alleges that because Ms. Snider told others that he had AIDS, his co-workers and superiors began treating him differently. Id. Specifically, he alleges that Cindy Williams Hemphill and Donna Blake gave him more cleaning assignments than the other cleaners. Id. As a result, in March 2004, Mr. "Stevens filed a complaint with Amtrak's Dispute Resolution Office . . . alleging that due to the rumors that he had AIDS, he was being subjected to a hostile work environment based on a perceived or actual disability." Id. at 2-3.

After filing his complaint, Mr. Stevens alleges that the hostile work environment continued and reached an "intolerable level." Id. at 3. On April 7, 2004, Mr. Stevens was assigned to clean a very dirty train car. He asked Ms. Blake to assign someone to help him, but she refused. Id. After cleaning the car and taking a short break, Mr. Stevens waited for another train to arrive to see if it needed to be cleaned. Id. The general foreman, Joseph Savoy, saw Mr. Stevens waiting and threatened him with suspension if he did not leave the area. Id. Mr. Stevens believed that this threat was further evidence of the hostile work environment and left work two hours early. Id. at 4. He then called Maya Theodore Dalton to discuss the situation. Id. at 3. Ms. Dalton instructed him to contact his mental health professional. Id. at 3-4. Mr. Stevens also called the Assistant Superintendent, Bernard Campbell, and told him about the incident with Mr. Savoy. Id. Mr. Campbell "told him not to worry and that he would take care of it." Id.

On April 9, 2004, Mr. Stevens' mental health professional, Eric LeHot, recommended in a letter to the Amtrak Medical Department that Mr. Stevens "remain out of work temporarily due to a hostile work environment." Id. On April 12, 2004, Mr. Stevens gave a copy of Mr. LeHot's letter to the Master Superintendent, Michael Kapela. Id. Mr. Kapela approved Mr. Stevens' temporary leave. Id. One week later, on April 19, 2004, Mr. Stevens learned that Mr. Savoy, Mr. Campbell, and Lisa Coleman had all seen a copy of Mr. LeHot's letter. Id.

In May 2004, Mr. Stevens obtained legal advice on his hostile work environment claim from Richard McKewen, a staff attorney at the Georgetown University Law Center's Institute for Public Representation. Id. On May 21, 2004, Mr. McKewan sent a letter to the Amtrak Law Department describing Mr. Stevens' allegations and accusing Mr. Campbell of disseminating Mr. LeHot's letter. Id. at 4-5. Mr. McKewan's letter also stated that Mr. "Stevens was willing to pursue his discrimination and hostile environment charges before the EEOC and in court." Id. at 5.

On May 30, 2004, while on leave, Mr. Stevens returned to work to retrieve some medication he had left in his friend, Darryl Hollis' car. Id. Another friend, Terrell Williams, drove Mr. Stevens to the Amtrak facility. Id. While there, Mr. Campbell saw Mr. Stevens and told him he was not allowed on the premises. Id. According to Mr. Williams' sworn statement, Mr. Campbell yelled at Mr. Stevens: "You know you're wrong. You are going to put my name in that shit, but you are better off fucking with those goddamn white people than fucking with me. I will fucking destroy your ass." (Williams Decl. ¶ 3.) Mr. Stevens also added in his declaration that Mr. Campbell stated that "if you ever put my name in anything else, you would wish you didn't." (Stevens' Opp'n 5.)

On June 21, 2004, Mr. McKewan sent another letter to the Amtrak Law Department that stated Mr. Stevens would like to return to work but requested a transfer to a different department. Id. Mr. Stevens requested the transfer because of the harassment allegations, the allegations that Mr. Campbell disseminated Mr. LeHot's letter to other employees, and Mr. Campbell's May 30, 2004 statements. Id.

On June 23, 2004, Mr. Stevens filed a Charge of Discrimination with the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the EEOC. In that complaint, Mr. Stevens charged that he was discriminated against because of his disability. He again alleged that Ms. Snider told co-workers about his medical condition and that behavior led to the hostile work environment. He also alleged that his work assignments changed after he filed his complaint with the Dispute Resolution Office. He further alleged that his "work assignments changed, and Joseph Savo[y] began to constantly monitor and scrutinize my work." (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 6.) He also made the allegations that Mr. LeHot's letter was disseminated to other employees. Id.

On July 1, 2004, Mr. Campbell sent Mr. Stevens a letter requesting that further medical documentation be sent to the Amtrak Medical Department to support Mr. Stevens' absence from work. (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 7.) That letter further issued Mr. Stevens a direct order to provide the medical documentation by July 16, 2004 or he would be "considered as having resigned from the service and will be removed from the seniority roster." Id. On July 8, 2004, Mr. LeHot completed and returned the Amtrak "Treating Physician Medical Status Report, Statement of Disability" to the Amtrak Health Services office. (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 8.) This form asks the question: "Does the individual currently have any physical or mental limitations that interfere with the patient's ability to travel to and from work, be at work, or perform assigned duties at work? Please explain the objective medical basis for your answer." Id. In response, Mr. LeHot wrote: "pending litigation, hostile wk environment," followed by some unintelligible words and then "high risk of cocaine relapse." Id.

On July 23, 2004, Mr. Campbell sent Mr. Stevens a similar letter that stated: "Dr. Pinsky, in the Amtrak Medical department states, your absent [sic] is declined '[p]ending [l]instigation, hostile work environment' are not legitimate medical reasons for this absence. You must provide current objective medical information to support your [l]eave of [a]bsent [sic]." (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 9.) This letter also issued Mr. Stevens a direct order to provide the medical documentation on or before August 6, 2004 or he would be "considered as having resigned from the service and will be removed from the seniority roster." Id. Mr. Stevens claims that on August 11, 2004, he "had his attorney submit a detailed medical status report from Stevens' health care provider." (Stevens' Opp'n 6-7.) A copy of this status report was not included with the plaintiffs' brief.

On August 20, 2004, Mr. Campbell sent Mr. Stevens another identical letter but extended the deadline for submitting additional documentation to August 31, 2004. (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 10.) On August 23, 2004, Mr. McKewan sent a letter to Theresa B. Kerns, Federal Investigator, U.S. EEOC, requesting that Mr. Stevens' EEOC charge against Amtrak be amended to include a charge of retaliation. The letter states that Mr. Stevens had "submitted similar medical documentation in the past, and prior to July 2004, no one at Amtrak had ever questioned the sufficiency of this documentation." (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 11.) Mr. Stevens alleges that "Campbell's rejection of his medical documentation to be retaliation for Stevens' prior complaints." (Stevens' Opp'n 7.)

On November 10, 2004, Mr. Stevens amended his discrimination charge with the EEOC. (Stevens' Decl. Ex. 13.) "Specifically, Bernard Campbell harassed me about providing additional information regarding my disability, and he threatened to terminate my employment if I did not provide sufficient information." Id. Mr. Stevens further states in his amendment that "I believe that the Respondent denied me a transfer, harassed, and ...


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