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Alston v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

August 12, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge


Plaintiff Donna J. Alston has brought suit alleging that her employer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701, et seq., by failing to reasonably accommodate her disability by reassigning her to the positions of Job Access Information Assistant or Receptionist. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment and, for the reasons stated herein, both motions will be denied.


Plaintiff was hired by WMATA on August 16, 1999, as a bus operator trainee. (Def.'s Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ["Def.'s Facts"] ¶ 2; Pl.'s Stmt. of Undisputed Facts ["Pl.'s Facts"] ¶ 1.) Plaintiff's employment was terminated on August 23, 1999, because of unsatisfactory job performance. (Def.'s Ex. 2 [Memorandum on Dismissal].) She was then rehired on June 26, 2000, for the position of Bus Cleaner Shifter. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 4; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 2.) Because she was unable to obtain her Commercial Driver's License, a prerequisite for the Bus Cleaner Shifter position, plaintiff accepted a voluntary demotion to the position of Bus Cleaner on August 2, 2000. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 6; Def.'s Ex. 4b [Memorandum on Voluntary Demotion].) Plaintiff worked as a Bus Cleaner until April 25, 2006, when she was declared medically ineligible due to a respiratory impairment. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 8; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 8.)

The position of Bus Cleaner is in the Local 689, Amalgamated Transit Union, AFL-CIO, Collective Bargaining Unit, Maintenance and Construction District. (Def.'s Facts ¶ 7.) As a medically-ineligible, employee of Local 689, plaintiff was entitled to the protections and benefits of Section 124 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which permitted her to remain an employee for three years from the date she was declared medically ineligible while seeking reassignment to another position within WMATA. (Id. ¶ 9.)

On May 15, 2006, Roslyn Rikard, an Employment Program Specialist in Workforce Services, sent a letter to plaintiff stating that she had been referred for assistance with a job change. (Def.'s Ex. 24 [Letter to Donna Alston from Roslyn Rikard].) Ms. Rikard met with plaintiff on at least three occasions to answer questions and provide information. (Rikard Aff. ¶ 6.) Initially, Workforce Services mailed job vacancy announcements to plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 7.) After defendant switched to an online posting and application system, Ms. Rikard notified all Section 124 employees of the change, explained how to access the system and provided the addresses of all WMATA locations where employees could use a computer to access the system. (Id. ¶ 8.)

From July 16, 2007 through September 14, 2007, and from October 1, 2007 through December 6, 2007, WMATA offered a training program for the position of Station Manager within the Rail Service. (Id. ¶ 12.) The training was limited to Section 124 employees. (Id.) Plaintiff was referred to the WMATA Health Services for medical clearance for the Station Manager position, but failed to keep either of two appointments that were made for her and thus, was not cleared. (Id.)

Plaintiff applied for over 70 jobs, before and after being declared medically ineligible for the Bus Cleaner position. (Pl.'s Facts ¶ 12.) Only two of these positions are presently at issue in this case. (See Pl.'s Mot. 18.) In the fall of 2005, plaintiff applied for the position of Job Access Information Assistant, but on January 30, 2006, it was given to an applicant who both parties agree was more qualified than plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 10.) In 2006, defendant posted a notice of vacancy for the position of Receptionist. Plaintiff did not apply and the position was not filled. (See Pl.'s Mot. 19; Def.'s Opp'n 11.) In May 2007, the Receptionist position was reposted. Plaintiff did not receive the job vacancy announcement and did not apply. (Id. ¶ 11.) However, she alleges that had she known of the vacancy, she would have applied, and according to her vocational rehabilitation expert, plaintiff would have been qualified to work as a receptionist. (Id.)

On January 17, 2007, plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging that defendant discriminated against her based on her disability and failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation. Both parties have now moved for summary judgment.



A. Summary Judgment

Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56, a motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences drawn in his favor." Id. at 255; see also Wash. Post. Co. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

The non-moving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). If the non-movant fails to point to "affirmative evidence" showing a genuine issue for trial, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257, "summary judgment, if appropriate, shall be entered against the adverse party." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). When addressing cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court "consider[s] the record evidence with respect to each motion separately to determine whether either of the parties ...

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