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Roseboro v. Billington

March 31, 2009

SHELTON ROSEBORO PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES H. BILLINGTON, LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas F. Hogan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court are plaintiff Shelton Roseboro's Motion for Summary Judgment and a Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment by defendant James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress.Roseboro, a former employee of the Library of Congress ("Library"), claims that the Library violated his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654, by (1) wrongfully declining his request for FMLA leave to undergo treatment for substance abuse; (2) failing to notify him of the twelve-week limit on FMLA leave; and then (3) charging him Absent Without Official Leave ("AWOL"), suspending him, and finally firing him because he nonetheless took the FMLA leave to which he was entitled. The Library counters that, because Roseboro took leave anyway, he cannot show prejudice from the Library's denial of his FMLA request. Further, the Library contends that Roseboro did have notice of the twelve-week limit, and because he took leave for several months longer than the FMLA permits, the Library had a legitimate basis for terminating him. After careful consideration of the parties' motions and the entire record, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Roseboro's Motion for Summary Judgment, and grant in part and deny in part the Library's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment.

BACKGROUND

Roseboro worked for the Library from 1989 to September 24, 2004. Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts to Which There Is No Genuine Dispute ("PMF") ¶ 2; Def.'s Statement of Material Facts to Which There Is No Genuine Dispute ("DMF") ¶¶ 1, 15; Decl. of Shelton Roseboro Sept. 8, 2006 ("Roseboro Decl.") ¶ 1. At the time of his termination, Roseboro was a library technician. PMF ¶ 1; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 1.

Roseboro, who has a history of crack cocaine abuse, PMF ¶ 4; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 3; Pl.'s Ex. B at 3, suffered a near drug overdose on February 3, 2004. PMF ¶ 5; DMF ¶ 3; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 4. The following day, he checked himself into a twelve-month rehabilitation program at Gospel Rescue Ministries, a certified drug treatment facility. PMF ¶ 6; DMF ¶ 3; Roseboro Decl ¶ 4. Soon thereafter, Roseboro called a supervisor at the Library and left a message explaining his absence from work due to this drug treatment. PMF ¶ 7; Pl.'s Ex. B at 1. On February 11, Gospel Health Ministries sent the Library a notice of Roseboro's residency at the facility for the next twelve months. PMF ¶ 8; DMF ¶ 4; Pl.'s Ex. B at 2. Roseboro's doctor sent a letter to the Library on February 17 stating that Roseboro was "planning on entering a one-year program to regain control of his life" and that it was "important that [Roseboro] focus on his drug addiction to be able to return to work in one year drug-free." Pl.'s Ex. B at 3; PMF ¶ 9; DMF ¶ 5.

On March 1, the Library proposed suspending Roseboro from duty for ten days without pay for failure to properly request leave and absence without official leave. Pl.'s Ex. B at 17, 20. Two weeks later, Gospel Rescue Ministries sent the Library another notice regarding Roseboro's residency there. PMF ¶ 11; DMF ¶ 7; Pl.'s Ex. B at 5. Additionally, Roseboro's doctor sent the Library a Certification of Health Care Provider form attesting to Roseboro's serious health condition. PMF ¶ 12; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 4; Pl.'s Ex. B at 6-9. On March 22, Roseboro submitted a Request for Sick Leave Advance, in which he invoked the FMLA and requested approximately nine months of leave from February 3, 2004 to November 8, 2004. PMF ¶ 13; DMF ¶ 8; Pl.'s Ex. B at 10.

On April 2, the Library denied Roseboro's request for FMLA leave. PMF ¶ 16; DMF ¶ 12; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Ex. B at 10. Internal memoranda show that while Maureen Landry, Chief of the Library's Serial Record Division, was "prepared to allow [Roseboro] the twelve (12) weeks of leave to which he is entitled to under FMLA," Pl.'s Ex. B at 12, the Library's Director of Human Resource Services, Teresa Smith, disapproved FMLA leave because Roseboro had a history of leave abuse and she believed his condition was not covered by FMLA regulations. Pl.'s Ex. B at 16-17. Roseboro did not himself respond to the denial of his request for FMLA leave, but Gospel Rescue Ministries notified the Library of Roseboro's condition and treatment program once more on April 29. PMF ¶ 17; DMF ¶ 13; Pl.'s Ex. B at 19.

On June 2, the Library notified Roseboro that he had been suspended for ten days, effective June 21 to July 2. Pl.'s Ex. B at 20. The Library notified Roseboro on July 6 that it proposed to terminate his employment, PMF ¶ 18; DMF ¶ 14, and officially terminated his employment on September 24, 2004. PMF ¶ 18; DMF ¶ 15; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 17. Roseboro left Gospel Health Ministries in November 2004, after residing there for approximately nine months. PMF ¶ 18; DMF ¶ 16; Roseboro Decl. ¶ 17.

Roseboro filed this action on March 31, 2006, seeking reinstatement, damages for lost wages and benefits, damages for financial and emotional harm, and costs and attorney's fees.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record before the court demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A fact is material only if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. The moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law only if the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). When adjudicating a summary judgment motion, a court must draw "all justifiable inferences" in the nonmoving party's favor, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and refrain from making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

II. Roseboro's Claims under the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993

The FMLA entitles an eligible employee to twelve weeks of unpaid leave during any twelve-month period if a "serious health condition" prevents the employee from performing his or her job functions. 29 U.S.C. § 2612(a)(1)(D). FMLA coverage extends to Library of Congress employees. 29 U.S.C. §§ 2611(2), (4)(A)(iv). An eligible employee is one who (1) has been employed by the employer from whom leave is requested for at least twelve months, and (2) has worked at least 1250 hours in the previous twelve-month period. 29 U.S.C. § 2611(2)(A). A serious health condition entitling an eligible employee to FMLA leave includes an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves either inpatient care, 29 C.F.R. §§ 825.114(a)(1), or continuing treatment under the supervision of a health care provider ...


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