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Featherston v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 17, 2012

Apryl N. FEATHERSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

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Donald T. Stepka, Allyson Himelfarb, Andrew Tanner Karron, Paige Sharpe, Robert Reeves Anderson, Arnold & Porter LLP, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Michael K. Addo, Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

OPINION

PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, District Judge.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Apryl N. Featherston, a former employee of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, claims that after being diagnosed with bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome, defendant the District of Columbia discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (" ADA" ) (Count I) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq. (Count II); failed to provide, or to timely respond to claims for, workers' compensation to which she is entitled (Count III); and discharged her in violation of public policy (Count IV). Defendant has moved to dismiss this case under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or, alternatively, for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff purports to have subsequently withdrawn Count III but otherwise opposes defendant's motion.

The Court will grant defendant's motion in part and deny it in part. The Court will grant summary judgment for defendant on Count I only to the extent that plaintiff alleges discrete acts of discrimination that occurred beyond the applicable limitations period; it will deny summary judgment as to acts that allegedly occurred within the limitations period. The Court will neither dismiss Count II nor grant summary judgment for defendant on that Count, because defendant's argument that the claims comprising Count II are untimely has been considered and rejected earlier in this litigation. Defendant offers no reason why that decision should be reconsidered. The Court will construe plaintiff's withdrawal of Count III as a motion to amend her complaint to remove Count III or to voluntarily dismiss Count III and will grant such motion in part and deny it in part. The complaint will be amended to remove Count III. Defendant's motion then will be denied as moot as to Count III. Finally, the Court will dismiss Count IV because plaintiff has failed to plead that she was engaged in any protected act for which she was allegedly fired in violation of public policy.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)

Rule 12(b)(6) allows dismissal of a complaint if a plaintiff fails " to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). " Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only ‘ a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,’ in order to ‘ give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests' ...."

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Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Although " detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, the complaint " must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘ state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.’ " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citation omitted).

On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court " must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197; see also Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955; Phillips v. Fulwood, 616 F.3d 577, 581 (D.C.Cir.2010). The complaint " is construed liberally in the [plaintiff's] favor, and [the Court should] grant [the plaintiff] the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C.Cir.1994). Nevertheless, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions. See id. at 1276; Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C.Cir.2002).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment Under Rule 56

The Court will grant a motion for summary judgment if the pleadings and other materials in the record " including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ..., admissions, [or] interrogatory answers" show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). " [A] material fact is ‘ genuine’ ... if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party" on a particular claim. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits or declarations may be accepted as true and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in her favor unless the opposing party submits its own affidavits, declarations, or documentary evidence setting forth specific facts that would permit a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Neal v. Kelly, 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C.Cir.1992); Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C.Cir.1987).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Will Be Granted in Part and Denied in Part on Count I

In 1998, while plaintiff was an employee of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, she was diagnosed with bilateral carpel tunnel syndrome, which " limits her fine motor skills and her ability to lift heavy objects." Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute (" Def.'s Facts" ) ¶¶ 1-2 [Dkt. # 34]; Plaintiff's Statement of Genuine Issues (" Pl.'s Facts" ) ¶¶ 1-2 [Dkt. # 35]. Plaintiff requested accommodation of this disability, which defendant provided by placing her on restricted duty. Def.'s Facts ¶ 3; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 3. Although her condition remained the same, plaintiff returned to regular duty in 2001, but was unable to work for an extended period in early 2004, later returning to work on restricted

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duty. First Amended Complaint (" Compl." ) ¶¶ 16, 18, 20 [Dkt. # 19]. By a letter dated December 14, 2004, however, defendant informed plaintiff that " effective close of business December 24, 2004," it would " no longer accommodate the medical restriction" recommended by her physician. Declaration of Michael R. Hartman in Support of Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (" Hartman Decl." ) Ex. A (Letter from Evelyn H. Stevens, ...


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