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Jones v. Quintana

September 30, 2009

ALEXANDRIA JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JANICE QUINTANA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Alexandria Jones, a former employee of the District of Columbia Office of Unified Communications ("OUC"), brings the above-captioned lawsuit against the District of Columbia ("D.C." or the "District") and Janice Quintana, Director of the OUC (collectively, with D.C., "the Defendants"). She alleges retaliation in violation of the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act, D.C. Code § 1-615.51 et seq. ("WPA") (Count I); retaliation in violation of the D.C. Workers' Compensation statute, D.C. Code § 32-1501 et seq. (Count II); deprivation of her First Amendment Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III); failure to provide a reasonable accommodation in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. ("ADA") (Count IV); and retaliation in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a) (Count V). Currently pending before the Court is Defendants' [20] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. After a searching review of the parties' briefing, the relevant statutory provisions and case law, and the record of this case as a whole, the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART and DENY-IN-PART Defendants' [20] Motion to Dismiss. Specifically, and for the reasons that follow:

(1) With respect to Count I, Defendants' motion is GRANTED insofar as Defendants contend that Count I must be dismissed as against Defendant Quintana, but is DENIED insofar as Defendants contend that Count I must be dismissed as against the District;

(2) With respect to Count II, Defendants' motion is GRANTED, and Count II is dismissed in its entirety;

(3) With respect to Count III, Defendants' motion is

(a) DENIED insofar as Defendants assert that Plaintiff has failed to sufficiently allege that she spoke out as a private citizen;

(b) GRANTED insofar as Defendants contend that Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim against Defendant Quintana in her official capacity should be dismissed as redundant;

(c) DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE insofar as Defendants assert that Defendant Quintana is entitled to qualified immunity;

(D) GRANTED insofar as Defendants seek to dismiss Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim against the District;

(4) With respect to Count IV, Defendants' motion is GRANTED, and Count IV is dismissed in its entirety; and

(5) With respect to Count V, Defendants' motion is DENIED.

Accordingly, at this time, the following two claims survive Defendants' [20] Motion to Dismiss: Count I (D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act, D.C. Code § 1-615.51 et seq.) as against the District, and Count V (retaliation in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12203(a)) as against the District. With respect to Plaintiff's Section 1983 claim, to the extent Plaintiff asserts that she intended to allege her Section 1983 claim against Defendant Quintana in her individual capacity as well as in her official capacity, Plaintiff must amend her complaint, by no later than October 16, 2009, to specify that Defendant Quintana is being sued in her individual capacity and to allege facts sufficient to support her claim that Defendant Quintana should be held personally liable. If Plaintiff declines to do so, the Court shall treat her failure to timely amend as a concession that she does not seek to assert her Section 1983 claim against Defendant Quintana in her individual capacity.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Employment at the OUC and Defendant Quintana's Proposed Changes to the Emergency 911 System

As set forth in the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff first became employed by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department in August 1998. Amended Complaint, Docket No. [19], ¶ 2 ("Am. Compl.").*fn1 Six months later, Plaintiff was promoted to a dispatcher position in the OUC , which provides centralized management of both emergency and non-emergency calls within the District. Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff's primary duties at the OUC involved handling emergency 911 calls and transmitting information to the necessary response teams. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Quintana, in her role as Director of the OUC, proposed various changes to the manner in which emergency and non-emergency calls would be routed to OUC dispatchers.*fn2 Id. ¶ 5. According to Plaintiff, she was concerned that these changes, which allegedly involved the transferring of 311 calls back onto the 911 line, "would jeopardize the safety of residents of the District of Columbia." Id. ¶ 7. In particular, Plaintiff believed that the changes would result in "putting more calls in que [sic] and it was going to cause emergency calls a delay in service." Id. ¶ 6. Plaintiff further asserts that Defendant Quintana misrepresented to the D.C. Council that "she had enough personnel to cover all of the phones." Id.

B. Plaintiff's Alleged Communications Regarding the Proposed OUC Changes

Between December 14, 2007 and January 24, 2008, Plaintiff repeatedly attempted to bring her concerns regarding the OUC proposed changes to the attention of the D.C. Council, Mayor Adrian Fenty and the public in general. Id. ¶¶ 7-10, 15, 23. According to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, on December 14, 2007, Plaintiff sent an e-mail to members of the D.C. Council "complaining that the proposed change in the use of the 911 telephone number would jeopardize the safety of residents of the District of Columbia." Id. ¶ 7. Shortly thereafter, on December 17, 2007, Plaintiff sent another e-mail to members of the D.C. Council again "expressing her concerns about the proposed changes in the use of the 911 emergency telephone number." Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff also sent an e-mail to Mayor Fenty on December 28, 2007, similarly "expressing her concerns about the proposed change," and again on January 1, 2008, "asking to meet with him to discuss her concerns regarding the proposed change." Id. ¶¶ 9-10. Approximately a week later, Plaintiff attempted to have an in-person conversation with Mayor Fenty when he visited the OUC on January 7, 2008.*fn3 Id. ¶ 11. A few days later, on January 11, 2008, Plaintiff interviewed with a local television station "to voice her concerns about the proposed change in the 911 emergency number." Id. ¶ 15. Finally, on January 24, 2008, Plaintiff testified before the D.C. Council.*fn4 Id. ¶ 25.

C. Alleged Actions Taken By Defendants Against Plaintiff as a Result of Plaintiff's Communications Regarding the OUC Proposed Changes

On January 10, 2008, Plaintiff was placed on administrative leave with pay by Defendant Quintana. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff alleges that the only reason given for the decision to place her on administrative leave was that "'the Mayor was not pleased with Ms. Jones' and indicated she was a disgruntle [sic] and disrespectful employee." Id. According to Plaintiff, however, she was neither rude or disrespectful to Mayor Fenty during their discussion on January 10, 2008, as Defendant Quintana claimed. Id. ¶ 11.

Early the next morning, on January 11, 2008, Plaintiff told her floor manager that she was suffering mental anguish "from being wrongfully placed on leave," and requested a claim number so that she could file a workers' compensation claim. Id. ¶ 13. According to Plaintiff, her floor manager refused to provide her with a claim number and advised Plaintiff's union representative that he had been ordered by Defendant Quintana that he was not to provide Plaintiff with a workers' compensation claim number. Id.¶¶ 14, 61. Plaintiff indicates that she was eventually issued a workers' compensation claim number on January 17, 2008, but only after a representative from Plaintiff's union contacted her floor manager on Plaintiff's behalf. Id. ¶¶ 16-19.

On January 18, 2009, Plaintiff was given a 30-day proposed suspension by Defendant Quintana. Id. ¶ 19. However, on February 11, 2008, the proposed suspension was found to be "not sustained and the charges were dismissed without prejudice." Id. ¶ 28.

Although the proposed suspension was overruled, Plaintiff's status at the OUC after January 18, 2008, is nonetheless unclear. In particular, it appears that Plaintiff may have taken leave from work for some unspecified period of time as a result of her alleged job-related anxiety. Plaintiff alleges that on February 28, 2008, she requested that she be allowed "to use her annual leave in lieu of sick leave to cover the time she would be away from work," thus suggesting that Plaintiff had taken leave at some point after January 18, 2008. See id. ¶ 36. According to Plaintiff, although her request to use annual leave was initially approved by her supervisor on February 29, 2008, Defendant Quintana subsequently denied the request on March 5, 2008, and required Plaintiff "to use her sick time to cover the time she has been away from work." Id. ¶¶ 43, 64-65.

D. Plaintiff's Alleged "Impairment/Disability for Anxiety"and Workers' Compensation Claim

Beginning January 17, 2008, Plaintiff visited multiple health care providers regarding her alleged job-related anxiety. Id. ¶¶ 18, 24, 46, 49. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was "diagnosed with an impairment/disability for anxiety," id. ¶ 24, and was placed on medication for "job related anxiety," id. ¶ 46. See also id. ¶ 49 (alleging that Plaintiff was found to "be suffering from anxiety depression"). According to Plaintiff, "[t]he suggested reasonable accommodation was that [Plaintiff] work 8 hour shifts instead of 10 hour shifts." Id. ¶ 24.

As stated previously, Plaintiff was issued a workers' compensation claim number on January 17, 2008. Id. ¶ 19. Upon receipt of the claim number, she spoke with a claim examiner at the D.C. Office of Risk Management ("ORM"), who advised Plaintiff that ORM would send her the appropriate forms and have an investigator meet with her to take her statement. Id. ¶ 22.

Plaintiff met with the investigator on February 8, 2008. Id. ¶ 28.

On or around February 20, 2008, ORM informed Plaintiff that it had not received her paperwork and therefore planned to deny her claim for workers' compensation benefits. Id. ¶ 30. Upon being so advised, Plaintiff contacted ORM to discuss the missing paperwork. Id. ¶ 31. According to Plaintiff, she then completed the paperwork as required, submitting the material to the ORM on February 28, 2008. Id. ¶¶ 32-34, 35. Nonetheless, on March 3, 2008, ORM sent Plaintiff a letter advising her that her disability claim had been denied due to abandonment. Id. ¶ 37.

Plaintiff further asserts that she visited the OUC on March 5, 7 and 12, 2008, in order to provide work with a leave slip from her doctor and to receive advice on the workers' compensation claims process. Id. ¶¶ 39, 41. Plaintiff was told during these visits that Defendant Quintana had ordered that Plaintiff could not go onto the operations floor. Id. ¶¶ 39, 41, 42. Plaintiff also contends that she requested a "continuation of pay," but that, as of the date this lawsuit was filed, she had not yet "received her statutory 21 days of continuing pay." Id. ¶¶ 42-43.*fn5

E. Plaintiff Files the Instant Lawsuit

Plaintiff filed this action on April 10, 2008. See Compl., Docket No. [1]. In her original Complaint, Plaintiff alleged retaliation in violation of the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act, D.C. Code § 1-615.51 et seq. (Count I); retaliation in violation of the D.C. Workers' Compensation statute, D.C. Code § 32-1501 et seq. (Count II); and deprivation of her First Amendment Rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count III). Plaintiff's claims were based on the events described above occurring from December of 2007 through the filing of the complaint.

F. Alleged Events Occurring After the Filing of this Lawsuit

Plaintiff alleges that she continued to be subject to illegal conduct by Defendants even after filing the above-captioned matter. In particular, Plaintiff alleges that on June 6, 2008, she was denied leave, although such leave had previously been approved. Am. Compl. ¶ 47. Plaintiff also asserts that on July 22, 2008, she filed a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights ("OHR"), alleging that OUC's failure to provide her with reasonable accommodations (i.e., an 8-hour shift) constituted a violation of the ADA. Id. ¶ 48. According to Plaintiff, after filing the complaint with the OHR, she received a letter from the OUC's human resources department "threatening to fire her." Id. ¶ 75. Shortly thereafter, at some unspecified time in August of 2008, Plaintiff was "placed on AWOL." Id. ¶ 76.

Plaintiff asserts that she was ultimately terminated from her position at the OUC approximately one month after she filed her complaint with the OHR. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 50, 77. According to Plaintiff, the OUC's human resource manager advised her that "they could not determine if [she] was suffering from a disability," despite the fact that Plaintiff had provided the OUC with a medical report from a doctor who had diagnosed Plaintiff to be suffering from "anxiety depression," and ...


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