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Chimes Dist. of Columbia, Inc. v. King

March 5, 2009

CHIMES DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, INC., PETITIONER,
v.
PATRICIA O. KING, RESPONDENT.



Petition for Review of a Decision of the Office of Administrative Hearings (ESP-104789-06).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Washington, Chief Judge

Argued November 19, 2008

Before WASHINGTON, Chief Judge, FISHER, Associate Judge, and KING, Senior Judge.

Dissenting opinion by Senior Judge KING at p. 11.

Appellant Chimes District of Columbia, Inc. ("Chimes") appeals the District of Columbia Office of Administrative Hearings' award of unemployment benefits to Chimes's former employee, Patricia O. King. We reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

Chimes, a not-for-profit corporation that employs the disabled, hired King in June 2002, as a custodian pursuant to a federal contract in the District of Columbia. King worked for Chimes until January 20, 2006.

In May 2005, King became pregnant. In July 2005, during her eighth week of pregnancy, she submitted a written request for a one-month leave of absence starting on July 25, 2005, and ending on August 26, 2005. Karen Holcomb, Chimes's Benefit Coordinator, determined that King was eligible for sixteen weeks of leave under the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Holcomb notified King of the FMLA and informed King that she may qualify for the sixteen weeks of leave if she submitted the proper paperwork from her medical provider. Holcomb also mailed King a copy of Chimes's policy under the FMLA. Despite King's request for only one month of leave, she used all sixteen weeks (4 months), thereby exhausting her FMLA leave.

While on leave, King submitted letters from her doctor, Susanne Bathgate, M.D., attesting to the high-risk nature of her pregnancy and discussing the duties King could handle in her condition.

The first letter, dated October 11, 2005, stated: "I certify that on October 11, 2005, Patricia King is able to resume performing the functions of [ ] her position [ ] without reasonable accommodation -- please give light duty." Holcomb responded to Dr. Bathgate with a letter on October 17, seeking clarification on the doctor's definition of "light duty" and asking whether restrictions should be imposed on King's work. In response, Dr. Bathgate's office faxed a Patient Work Profile dated October 16, 2005, noting that "Ms. King may return to work now." But on October 19, Dr. Bathgate sent a typewritten letter to Holcomb, which read:

Patricia King is under my obstetrical care. Some modifications of her duties should be made to improve her obstetrical outcome. Please limit her duties to lifting no more than 10 pounds. She should also refrain from climbing more than two flights of stairs, pulling and pushing any heavy objects.

On October 21, Holcomb mailed a letter to King explaining that Chimes had received King's doctor's restrictions and it determined that, given the nature of King's work as a custodian, King could not return to work to perform her duties until the restrictions were lifted. Holcomb further explained in the letter that King could continue to use her FMLA leave until November 14, and she should await her doctor's release.

On November 8, 2005, King sent Chimes a second Return to Work Medical Certification, which stated that King could return to work and lift up to 30 pounds and climb more than 2 flights of stairs, on occasion. It further stated that "[King would] be unable to work entirely for 6-8 weeks following delivery."

King did not return to work on November 8, 2005. Holcomb sent her a letter acknowledging that she had exhausted her FMLA leave and Chimes could no longer hold the position open for her. King then contacted Holcomb stating that she wanted to return to work and would seek clarification from her doctor on her restrictions. Holcomb told King that she would need ...


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