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Evelyn Lyles v. District of Columbia

April 14, 2011

EVELYN LYLES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Evelyn Lyles, a sixty year old female, has sued her former employer, the District of Columbia Department of Mental Health ("DMH"). Plaintiff claims that DMH discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, age, and disability, and retaliated against her for engaging in protected activity in violation of the DC Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq., the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Before the Court is defendant‟s motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendant‟s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

I. FACTUAL HISTORY

Plaintiff was an employee of DMH from 1979 until 2009. (Second Amended Complaint with Jury Demand ("Complaint") ["Compl."] ¶ 1; Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss ["Def.‟s Mot."] at Ex. B.) Plaintiff served as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist from 1994 until October 2008. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 16.) In August 2009, her position was terminated due to a reduction in force ("RIF"). (Compl. ¶ 1.)

A. Sexual Harassment

From March 2007 until October 2008, plaintiff alleges that Steven Miller, her subordinate, sexually harassed her on a weekly basis by propositioning her, making lewd gestures, and touching her buttocks and breasts. (Compl. ¶ 10.) Plaintiff requested several times from June to November 2007 that her first-level supervisor, Carroll Parks, either (1) terminate or transfer Miller or (2) transfer plaintiff. (Compl. ¶ 11.) Plaintiff eventually contacted DMH Human Resources when Parks failed to act. (Id.) In November 2007, Parks transferred Miller to a different position in the same department where plaintiff still encountered Miller on a daily basis. (Id.) From that point through October 2008, plaintiff repeatedly asked Parks to transfer her or Miller, but Parks allegedly told her that he did not care how she felt or what she wanted. (Id.)

As a result of Miller‟s harassment and Parks‟ refusal to remedy the situation, plaintiff alleges that she suffered "severe emotional pain and distress," triggering post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). (Compl. ¶¶ 10, 12.) Plaintiff‟s PTSD and resulting depression "required significant treatment by her psychiatrist and primary care physician" and substantially limited her life activities, including "eating, sleeping, driving, parenting, and social interaction." (Compl. ¶¶ 12, 13.)

B. Disability

In January 2008, plaintiff contacted DMH Director Stephen Baron to again request to be transferred out of her office based on her disabilities caused by the hostile work environment created by Miller. (Comp. ¶ 14.) On February 15, 2008, plaintiff initiated contact with DMH EEO liaison Al Boone which led to the filing of a formal EEO charge on June 4, 2008. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 14; Def.‟s Mot. at Ex. B.) On or about June 27, 2008, plaintiff‟s primary care physician contacted Baron to request a nonhostile, non-threatening work environment for plaintiff based on her medical conditions. (Compl. ¶ 14.) On July 2, 2008, Baron referred plaintiff to Juanita Price, the CEO of the Community Services Agency within DMH, for reassignment. (Id.) On October 28, 2008, DMH detailed plaintiff to the position of Community Services Worker at the Day Services Program. (Compl. ¶ 16.) The reassignment was designed to last at least 120 days and was extended to March 2009 when plaintiff took sick leave. (Id.; Plaintiff‟s Opposition to Defendant‟s Motion to Dismiss ["Pl.‟s Opp."] at Ex. 2.) As a Community Services Worker, plaintiff alleges that her "duties and responsibilities were significantly diminished" from her previous position as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist because, in part, she was now subordinate to staff members. (Compl. ¶ 16.)

C. Age

In December 2008 and January 2009, plaintiff applied for two positions, both which would have been promotions from her position as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist. (Compl. ¶ 17.) The first position was Quality Improvement Coordinator ("QIC"). (Id.) Plaintiff argues that she was qualified for this position because her previous experience included the evaluation and assessment of DMH personnel from 1994 to 2000, which matched the duties of the new position. (Id.) The second position was Home and Community Based Services Coordinator ("HCBSC"). (Id.) Plaintiff argues that she was qualified for this position because her previous experience included evaluation of community-based sites and provision of clinical services to the mentally ill, both duties required by the new position. (Id.) Plaintiff did not receive either promotion. (Id.) Instead, plaintiff alleges that each position was filled by a younger person who "had inferior qualifications and experience." (Compl. ¶ 18.)

D. Retaliation

In April 2008, plaintiff‟s supervisor Parks charged her thirty-two hours absent without leave ("AWOL") while plaintiff was sick from work. (Compl. ¶ 15.) Plaintiff argues that she was out due to PTSD and that her doctors submitted paperwork to that effect. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that this action was in retaliation for her contact with DMH EEO liaison Boone in February 2008. (Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15.)

On August 1, 2009, DMH eliminated plaintiff‟s position as a Vocational Rehabilitation Specialist through a RIF. (Compl. ¶ 1, 19; Pl.‟s Opp. at Ex. 3.) Plaintiff argues that her position was eliminated in retaliation for filing an EEO claim and that DMH also failed to give her $37,069.50 in severance pay. (Compl. ¶¶ 19, 20.)

Based on the above facts, plaintiff asserts that defendant retaliated against her in six ways: (1) defendant charged her thirty-two hours AWOL; (2) defendant detailed her to the Day Treatment Program, which had significantly diminished duties and responsibilities from her previous position; (3) defendant failed to place her back in her previous position; (4) defendant failed to promote her to either QIC or HCBSC; (5) defendant terminated her job through a RIF; and (6) defendant failed and refused to pay severance after her termination. (Compl. at ¶ 34.)

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 4, 2008, plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") Charge of Discrimination alleging that she had been discriminated against based on her sex, disability, age, and personal appearance, and that she had suffered retaliation. (Def.‟s Mot. at Ex. B.) The sex charge alleged that the "Acting Leader" had used inappropriate language, patted her on the buttocks, and made lewd gestures with his hands. (Id.) In addition, plaintiff noted that she had complained to her superiors but that no action had been taken. (Id.) The disability charge alleged that plaintiff had notified supervisors of her disability in 2005 but contains no further details on the specific disability or subsequent actions in response to the disability. (Id.) The disability charge also alleges that plaintiff suffered an ankle injury on December 6, 2007, while moving a desk, and that plaintiff‟s superior held up her workman‟s compensation paperwork. (Id.) The age charge alleges that employees over forty were informed at a staff meeting that they would need to look for another job. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that the CEO told plaintiff that, "You look really good for your age," and that plaintiff‟s supervisor asked her how old she was on several occasions. (Id.) The personal appearance charge alleges that several employees told plaintiff that she was small for someone her age. (Id.) The retaliation charge alleges that plaintiff‟s supervisor threatened to place plaintiff on AWOL without checking her leave balance. (Id.)

On January 16, 2009, plaintiff filed an amended charge with the EEOC. (Pl.‟s Opp. at Ex. 2.) That charge alleges that plaintiff suffers from a mental impairment and that defendant both failed to accommodate that disability and placed plaintiff in a position outside of her medical restrictions. (Id.) It also alleges that plaintiff was denied promotions because of her age and in retaliation for filing an EEO charge. (Id.) Finally, it alleges that plaintiff‟s transfer to the Day Treatment Program was in retaliation for filing an EEO charge. (Id.)

Plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on July 26, 2010, and filed the present civil claim on August 24, 2010. Before the Court are plaintiff‟s original EEO charge, plaintiff‟s amended EEO charge, and several documents generated during the EEO‟s subsequent investigation.

ANALYSIS

I. LEGAL ...


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