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Janice L. Hollabaugh, Capitol v. Office of the Architect of the

March 9, 2012

JANICE L. HOLLABAUGH, CAPITOL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT OF THE
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara J. Rothstein United States District Judge

ORDER AND MEMORANDUM OPINION ON MOTION TO DISMISS

This matter comes before the court on a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment [dkt. #12] (hereinafter "Def.'s Mot.") by defendant, the Office of the Architect of the Capitol (hereinafter "OAC" or "the OAC"). Plaintiff Janice L. Hollabaugh asserts claims under the Congressional Accountability Act for gender discrimination, disability discrimination, violation of the Family Medical Leave Act, retaliation, and creation of a hostile work environment.

As a preliminary matter, the court will be treating OAC's motion as a Motion to Dismiss. See Gordon v. Office of the Architect of the Capitol, 750 F. Supp. 2d 82, 94 (D.D.C. 2010). There having been no discovery in this case, it is premature to resolve this matter on summary judgment. Id. (citing Ciralsky v. CIA, 689 F. Supp. 2d 141, 147 (D.D.C. 2010) ("Essentially, 56(f) allows the Court to delay or deny a motion for summary judgment as premature on the grounds that [some] discovery is necessary to rule on th[e] motion.")). OAC's Motion to Dismiss is granted in part and denied in part.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the allegations within the four corners of the complaint after taking those allegations as true. In re Interbank Fund Corp. Sec. Litig., 668 F. Supp. 2d 44, 47-48 (D.D.C. 2009) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)). The court "must construe the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must grant the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Bailey v. Verizon Commc'ns, Inc., 544 F. Supp. 2d 33, 36 (D.D.C. 2008).

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the complaint must plead sufficient facts, taken as true, to provide "plausible grounds" that discovery will reveal evidence to support the plaintiff's allegations. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct." Aschroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, ___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). A complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, but a plaintiff must provide "more than labels and conclusions" to provide the grounds of her entitlement. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. On a motion to dismiss, courts are not bound to accept as true legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Id. (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

Because the court's review of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion is based upon consideration of the allegations contained in the operative complaint, the court will not consider extraneous documents attached or referenced by any party, or additional factual assertions contained therein, except under limited circumstances. See generally Hinton v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 624 F. Supp. 2d 45, 46 (D.D.C. 2009); Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F. Supp. 2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002).

II. STATUTORY BACKGROUND

Hollabaugh brings claims against the OAC under the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 ("CAA"). The CAA extends to certain legislative branch employees the protections of a number of federal remedial statutes, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12112-12114. See 2 U.S.C. § 1311(a). The CAA also incorporates the rights and protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 101-105.

2 U.S.C. § 1312(a). In addition, the CAA contains an anti-retaliation provision prohibiting intimidation, reprisal, or discrimination against a covered employee because that employee has initiated proceedings or participated in any manner in a proceeding under the CAA. 2 U.S.C. § 1317(a). The CAA applies to, inter alia, any employee of the OAC. 2 U.S.C. § 1301(3).

Section 1404(2) of the CAA creates a cause of action for covered employees to sue in federal court for violations of the Act. 2 U.S.C. § 1404(2). Section 1408(a) vests the district courts of the United States with jurisdiction over any civil action commenced under section 1404. 2 U.S.C. § 1408(a). Before initiating such an action, the employee must seek counseling by, and mediation with, the Office of Compliance. Id. Thereafter, the employee may bring an action against "the employing office alleged to have committed the violation, or in which the violation is alleged to have occurred." 2 U.S.C. § 1408(b).

III. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Taken in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the facts are as follows: Plaintiff Janice Hollabaugh was employed as an elevator mechanic in the Elevator Shop of the Senate Office Buildings from October 27, 2008 to October 23, 2009. Complaint [dkt. #1] ¶¶ 14,47; Def.'s Mot. at 4.*fn1 Hollabaugh was the first woman employed in the Elevator Shop. Complaint ¶ 15. Hollabaugh's position was that of a probationary employee for one year. Complaint ¶ 16.

Hollabaugh was diagnosed with narcolepsy in 1996. Complaint ¶ 11. Hollabaugh states that she advised two of her supervisors of her narcolepsy in either late June or early July 2009, around the same time she received a verbal warning from one of her supervisors for failure to report to work on time. Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

Hollabaugh received written warnings for failing to report to work on time on August 17, 2009 and September 23, 2009. Id. ¶¶ 26-27. She was placed in AWOL status for fifteen minutes of tardiness on September 14, 2009. She was placed in AWOL status for one day of unscheduled absence on September 18, 2009, subject to her presenting medical documentation explaining her absence; the AWOL status was removed after she provided documentation. She was placed in AWOL status for thirty minutes of tardiness on September 22, 2009, and for fifteen minutes of tardiness on September 23, 2009. She was placed in AWOL status for fifteen minutes of tardiness on September 24, 2009, although she contends that she was two minutes late. Finally, she was placed in AWOL status for one day of unscheduled absence on October 6, 2009, subject to her presenting medical documentation explaining her absence; the AWOL status was removed after she provided documentation. Id. ¶¶ 60-67.

On September 25, 2009, Hollabaugh was reassigned from her duties as an elevator mechanic to work in the Elevator Shop performing duties related to inventory control. Id. ¶ 28. Hollabaugh states that her second-level supervisor, Steve Adler, told her that he was concerned that she was not well, and that she might endanger the health and safety of the other elevator mechanics and the public. He explained that he would return her to her duties as an elevator mechanic when he determined that she was well enough not to be a danger. Hollabaugh told him that she was capable of working on the elevators without endangering her fellow mechanics or the public. Id. ¶¶ 17, 29-32. During the week of October 5, 2009, Adler returned Hollabaugh to her duties as an elevator mechanic. Id. ¶ 40.

During the week of September 28, 2009, her fourth-level supervisor, Trent Wolfensburger, met with Hollabaugh and provided her with official forms outlining procedures for requesting reasonable accommodation under the ADA, although she had never spoken to him previously of her narcolepsy. Id. ¶¶ 17, 33-35. During the same conversation, Hollabaugh asked him for accommodation under the ADA by way of a flexible time and work schedule that would allow her to make up lost time at the end of her shift if she were late, which Wolfensburger denied. Id. ¶¶ 36-37. ...


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