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Lightfoot v. District of Columbia

May 16, 2008

JAMES LIGHTFOOT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On July 30, 2004, the plaintiff, an employee of the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS"), filed this action against defendants Robert Graves and the DCPS. The plaintiff asserted the following claims against them: (1) violation of the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §2601, et seq. (2000); (2) 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. Complaint ("Compl.") at 7-8. On August 5, 2005, the defendants requested judgment on the pleadings arguing that (1) the plaintiff failed to provide a timely and complete medical certification required by the FMLA, Defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Defs.' Mot. for Judgment") at 4-7, (2) the plaintiff had not alleged sufficiently that he is suffering from a serious health condition, id., (3) the plaintiff's DCFMLA claim is barred by the statute's one-year statute of limitations, id. at 7, (4) this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff's breach of contract claims, id. at 7-8, and (5) the defendants have absolute governmental immunity as to his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, and in any event, the plaintiff has alleged no facts in his complaint that satisfy the "outrageousness" requirement necessary to establish an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, id. at 8-12. On January 10, 2006, this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order granting the defendants' Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. See Memorandum Opinion and Order dated January 10, 2006. Currently before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment ("Pl.'s Mot. for Relief") pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59 and 60, and local rule 7, and his Motion for Leave to Amend Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment.*fn1 Although the Court will permit the plaintiff to amend his motion as requested, for the reasons set forth below, his request for relief from the judgment will be denied.

I. Factual Background

The DCPS hired the plaintiff as an Assistant Principal for Spingarn Senior High School ("Spingarn") in August 2001. Compl. at ¶ 4. On March 12, 2003, the plaintiff submitted an "Application of Leave," which requested medical leave for 24 days commencing on March 13, 2003 and concluding on April 15, 2003, due to alleged "severe job related anxiety and stress." Id. ¶ 5. The plaintiff's 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, sent a letter 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, and Mr. Graves included a copy of this document with his response. Id. In addition to being requested to complete the application, the plaintiff was also told by Mr. Graves that he was required to submit all necessary supporting documentation along with the application and comply with the requirements of both the "Family Leave Act and the Board [of Education] Rules." Id. Moreover, the letter from Mr. Graves noted that until the plaintiff completed the enclosed application and his request was approved, he would be placed on absent without leave status, which could lead to disciplinary actions. Id. After Mr. Grave's issued his response, one of the school's employees, a time keeper, notified the plaintiff that "she had not received his medical certification and [without it she] 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 Mr. Graves stating that he was "no longer privileged to enter the premises or grounds of Spingarn . . . ." Id. ¶¶ 7-8. This letter also notified the plaintiff that all further communications by him should be directed to the Assistant Superintendent for the DCPS. Id. ¶ 8.

Following receipt of the April 3 letter, the plaintiff initiated a formal grievance procedure by submitting a grievance statement to Assistant Superintendent Lynette Adams. 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. In response, on May 4, 2003, the plaintiff sent a letter to Mr. 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.

In a letter dated May 7, 2003, the plaintiff was informed that his employment had been terminated. Id. ¶ 18. In a separate letter, the plaintiff was informed that he could continue to pursue his informal grievance through the Council of School Officers ("CSO"), as it is the exclusive representative of assistant principals. Id. Dissatisfied with the processing of his informal grievance, and believing that it had not been fully resolved, the plaintiff resubmitted his grievance to the Superintendent for the DCPS. Id. ¶ 19. When the plaintiff did not receive a response from the Superintendent, he 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, the plaintiff then filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. ("DCOHR"). Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

The parties thereafter attempted to resolve the dispute without success. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Thus, the plaintiff withdrew the administrative complaint he had filed with the DCOHR and filed his judicial complaint with this Court. Id. ¶ 35. The plaintiff noted in his complaint filed with the Court that he received a "Certificate of Disability" from his physician on May 20, 2003, which stated that he could not return to work until June 15, 2003. Id. ¶ 17. However, the plaintiff acknowledged that he never submitted the certificate to his employer. Id.

As indicated, on January 10, 2006, this Court granted the Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. Lightfoot v. District of Columbia, No. 04-1280 (RBW) ("Jan. 10, 2006 Mem. Op."). Currently before the Court is the Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment.*fn2 Included with the plaintiff's motion are two physician disability certificates, one dated March 14, 2003, which was referenced in the plaintiff's complaint, Compl. ¶ 5, and one dated April 15, 2003, which was not referenced in the complaint. And submitted with his Motion for Leave to Amend Plaintiff's Motion for Relief from Judgment are two additional physician disability certificates, one dated May 5, 2003, which was not referenced in the complaint, and one dated May 20, 2003, which was referenced in the complaint. Id. ¶ 17. However, the only physician disability certificate the plaintiff stated in his complaint was submitted to the DCPS was the March 14, 2003 certificate. Id. ¶ 5. It appears that the plaintiff is now seeking to amend his complaint by making all of the physician disability certificates part of the complaint, which in this amended posture the plaintiff seemingly contends would have precluded this Court from entering judgment for the defendants on the pleadings and therefore he is entitled to relief from the judgment.

II. Standard of Review

Motions for reconsideration are governed by either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or 60(b). See Anyanwuaktu v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1057 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Rule 59(e) permits a party to file a motion to alter or amend a judgment within "10 days after entry of the judgment." Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e). SeeMashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council, Inc. v. Norton, 336 F.3d 1094, 1098 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (stating that a Rule 59(e ) motion "must be filed within 10 days of the challenged order, not including weekends, certain specified national holidays (including Christmas Day and New Year's Day), or 'any other day appointed as a holiday by the President'"). This language is mandatory, and District Courts do not have discretion to enlarge Rule 59(e)'s timing requirement. Derrington-Bey v. D.C. Dep't of Corrections, 39 F.3d 1224, 1225 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Rule 60(c), however, allows a party to seek relief from a final judgment pursuant to Rule 60(b) "within a reasonable time" after entry of the final judgment, but only for reasons specified in the Rule. Fed R. Civ. P. 60(c). And district judges "[are] vested with a large measure of discretion in deciding whether to grant a Rule 60(b) motion . . . ." Twelve John Does v. District of Columbia, 841 F.2d 1133, 1138 (D.C. Cir. 1988).

III. Legal Analysis

The plaintiff contends that this Court should reconsider its judgment entered on January 10, 2006, because he was treated twice by his healthcare provider during the original period of incapacitation and these treatments trigger the protection provided by the FMLA. Pl.'s Mot. at 1-2. Specifically, the plaintiff asserts that the additional medical certificates submitted with his motion for relief from the Court's judgment present "previously undisclosed fact[s] so central to the litigation that [they] show the initial judgment to have been manifestly unjust [and therefore] reconsideration under [R]ule 60(b) is proper even though the failure to present that information was inexcusable." Pl.'s Reply at 4-5. In opposition, the defendants respond that (1) the Court lacks jurisdiction to grant the relief requested by the plaintiff, Def.'s Opp'n at 2, (2) the Court should deny the motion because the plaintiff may not now amend his complaint, id. at 2-3, and (3) Rule 60(b) does not authorize relief ...


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