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Alexandria Jones v. Janice Quintana

December 19, 2011

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 ("Jones"), a former employee of the District of Columbia's Office of Unified Communications, brings this action against the District of Columbia (the "District") and Janice Quintana ("Quintana"), the former Director of the Office of Unified Communications, who is now sued in this action solely in her personal capacity. Currently before the Court is Quintana's [58] Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Third Amended Complaint ("Motion to Dismiss"), through which Quintana seeks the dismissal of Jones' claim against her under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), contending that she is entitled to qualified immunity. Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, the relevant authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall DENY Quintana's [58] Motion to Dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court assumes familiarity with its prior opinions in this action, which set forth in detail the history of the case. See, e.g., Jones v. Quintana ("Jones1"), 658 F. Supp. 2d 183 (D.D.C. 2009); Jones v. Quintana ("Jones2"), 665 F. Supp. 2d 1 (D.D.C. 2009).

A. Factual Background

Jones began her employment with the District in August 1998. Third Am. Compl., ECF No. [57], ¶ 2.*fn1 Six months later, she was promoted to a dispatcher position in the District's Office of Unified Communications, where her duties involved handling emergency "911 calls" and transmitting information to the necessary response teams. Id. ¶ 3.

At some unidentified point prior to December 14, 2007, Jones learned that Quintana, who was then the Director of the Office of Unified Communications, was proposing changes to the manner in which emergency "911 calls" and non-emergency "311 calls" would be routed to dispatchers. Id. ¶ 5. When Jones first started her work as a dispatcher with the Office of Unified Communications, non-emergency "311 calls" were handled by untrained and uncertified operators, allowing trained and certified dispatchers like Jones to focus their attention on emergency "911 calls." Id. ¶ 4. Quintana's proposed changes, however, would adopt a new practice of routing non-emergency "311 calls" to the emergency "911 line," something that Jones believed would have the effect of delaying emergency response times. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. According to Jones, the Office of Unified Communications did not have a sufficient number of trained and certified dispatchers to cover the universe of combined phone calls. Id. ¶ 6.

Beginning in late 2007 and continuing into early 2008, Jones attempted to raise her concerns regarding the proposed changes with members of the District of Columbia Council, then-Mayor Adrian Fenty, and the public. Id. ¶¶ 7-10, 14, 20. On December 14 and 17, 2007, she sent e-mails to members of the District of Columbia Council contending that Quintana's proposed changes would "jeopardize the safety of residents of the District of Columbia." Id. ¶¶ 7-8. On December 28, 2007 and January 1, 2008, Jones sent e-mails to then-Mayor Fenty raising the same concerns and requesting a meeting with him to discuss those concerns further. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.

On January 7, 2008, Jones attempted to have an in-person conversation with then-Mayor Fenty when he visited the District's Office of Unified Communications. Id. ¶ 11. The encounter did not go well. Although Jones claims she was neither rude nor disrespectful, she alleges that then-Mayor Fenty raised his voice at her and "screamed" that she should "do whatever Ms. Quintana wanted her to do." Id.

On January 10, 2008, Quintana placed Jones on administrative leave with pay. Id. ¶ 12. By that point in time, Quintana was aware of Jones' efforts to "speak out" about the changes Quintana was proposing to the routing of emergency and non-emergency calls in the Office of Unified Communications. Id. Nonetheless, Quintana justified the decision to place Jones on administrative leave by stating that then-Mayor Fenty was "not pleased" with Jones and by characterizing Jones as a "disgruntled and disrespectful employee." Id.

On January 11, 2008, Jones participated in an interview with a local television station, voicing her concerns about Quintana's proposed changes to the routing of emergency and non-emergency calls. Id. ¶ 14. It is unclear whether the interview was ever aired.

On January 18, 2008, Quintana proposed that Jones be suspended for thirty days. Id. ¶ 18. While it is never made clear, it appears that the contemporaneous justification for the proposed suspension coincided with Quintana's stated reasons for placing Jones on administrative leave approximately one week prior-namely, that then-Mayor Fenty was "not pleased" with Jones and that Jones was a "disgruntled and disrespectful employee." Id. ¶ 12.

On January 24, 2008, Jones testified before the District of Columbia Council. Id. ¶ 20. In her testimony, Jones addressed what she believed was the "lowered safety level" for District of Columbia residents that would purportedly result from Quintana's proposed changes to the routing of emergency and non-emergency calls in the Office of Unified Communications. Id. ¶ 20.

On February 11, 2008, for reasons that are left unstated, Jones' proposed thirty-day suspension was overruled and the "charges" against her were "dismissed without prejudice." Id. ¶ 23. It appears that Jones subsequently took leave from work for an unspecified period of time in connection with what she claims was job-related anxiety. Id. ¶¶ 36, 39.

On July 22, 2008, Jones filed a formal complaint with the District's Office of Human Rights challenging her treatment at the Office of Unified Communications. Id. ¶ 40. Shortly thereafter, her employment was terminated. Id. ¶ 43.

B. Procedural Background

When Jones first brought this action on April 10, 2008, prior to the termination of her employment, she asserted three overarching claims against the District and Quintana:

* Count I: Retaliation in violation of the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act (the "DC-WPA"), D.C. CODE § 1-615.51 et seq.;

* Count II: Retaliation in violation of the District of Columbia Workers' Compensation Statute (the "DC-WCS"), D.C. CODE § 31-1501 et seq.; and

* Count III: Deprivation of rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution in ...


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