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Penelope Minter v. District of Columbia

March 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert L. Wilkins United States District Judge



According to the plaintiff, the District of Columbia failed to make reasonable accommodations for her disability and terminated her employment in violation of Titles I and II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), see 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., the Rehabilitation Act, see 29 U.S.C. §§ 791 et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), see D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01 et seq. This matter is before the Court on the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be denied without prejudice.


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain "'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.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam). Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. See Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). "To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A complaint must be dismissed if it consists only of "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949.

On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court treats the factual allegations of a plaintiff's complaint as if they were true, and draws all reasonable inferences stemming from such factual allegations in the plaintiff's favor. See Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. While the complaint is to be "construed liberally in the [plaintiff's] favor," the Court "need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff[] if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994); see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (stating that a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation").

Summary judgment is appropriate when the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Moore v. Hartman, 571 F.3d 62, 66 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c) and Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence "is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A party, however, must provide more than "a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position; the quantum of evidence must be such that a jury could reasonably find for the moving party. Id. at 252.


The plaintiff "suffers from sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis, both of which are chronic, systemic inflammatory diseases that cause pain in the joints, lungs, lymph nodes and other tissue." Am. Compl. ¶ 10. In addition, the plaintiff has "fibromyalgia, a medical disorder characterized by chronic widespread pain, debilitation fatigue, sleep disturbance and joint stiffness." Id. ¶ 10.

The plaintiff was employed by the District of Columbia as a social worker for approximately 19 years. Id. ¶ 9. During those years, she "was promoted several times, managed independent programs and staff, and had excellent recommendations." Id. ¶ 11.

In August 2001, the plaintiff was detailed to the Child Fatality Review Committee ("CFRC") as a Program Specialist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner ("OCME"). Id. ¶ 12. When a new Child Fatality Review ("CFR") Coordinator position was advertised, the plaintiff applied and interviewed for the position, but was not selected. Id. ¶ 13. On the belief that a less qualified person with no prior experience in fatality review had been chosen, the plaintiff filed a grievance. Id. ¶ 14. Although the position was withdrawn after she filed her grievance, according to the plaintiff, the position later was awarded to the same, less qualified individual. Id. The plaintiff was informed by her supervisor, Sharan James, that she was not selected because she had previously made "requests . . . for accommodation of her disabilities." Id. ¶ 15.

In late 2004 or early 2005, Ms. James "was promoted to Fatality Review Coordinator, leaving the CFR Coordinator position vacant." Id. ¶ 18. In early 2006, the District advertised two positions: Child Fatality Review Coordinator and Domestic Violence Fatality Review ("DVFR") Coordinator. Id. ¶ 20. Upon the belief that the latter position had a "less burdensome case load," id. ¶ 22, which "would best accommodate [her] health conditions," id. ¶ 20, the plaintiff expressed a preference to Ms. James for the DVFR Coordinator position, id. ¶ 22. After discussing both positions with Ms. James, as well as "specific accommodations for her disability as . . . related to each position," id., the plaintiff applied for both positions. Id. ¶ 24. The accommodations she sought "included a flexible work schedule, reduced hours, or the ability to work from home one or two days per week." Id. ¶ 22. With Ms. James' coaxing, however, and in light of the plaintiff's experience with child fatality review, the plaintiff withdrew her application for the DVFR Coordinator position. Id. The plaintiff was offered the CFR Coordinator position, and she accepted the position on or about May 1, 2006. Id. ¶ 25. The CFR Coordinator's duties included the day-to-day management of the CFRC, supervision and training of CFRC staff, development of grant applications, selection and assignment of cases for review, development of reports from case reviews, and attendance at review team meetings. See id.

In June 2006, id. ¶ 27, and on two other occasions, id. ¶ 28, the plaintiff sought permission to work from home one to two days per week to accommodate her disabilities. Id. ¶

26. Although "Ms. James allowed staff to have flexible schedules upon request," id. ¶ 23, the plaintiff's requests were denied, id. ¶ 27, in part because of "confidentiality concerns" about taking "medical records home to review," id. ¶ 29, notwithstanding Ms. James' acknowledgement that she and the plaintiff "already brought work home on a regular basis, as did numerous co-workers," id. ¶ 30. Instead, Ms. James "recommended that [the plaintiff] convert the position to [a] part-time" position. Id. ¶ 27.

On September 26, 2006, the plaintiff "slipped on the wet, newly-waxed hallway floor in the OCME building" resulting in injuries to her back and left knee, and aggravating prior injuries to her left ankle and foot sustained in a 2005 fall, id. ¶ 32, when she "tripped over office equipment power cords," fell, and "injured her left ankle and foot." Id. ¶ 19. She sought disability compensation for her injuries. See id. ¶ 34.

The plaintiff requested clerical or administrative assistance with her non-essential duties; Ms. James allegedly "refused the accommodation and indicated that she would only consider [it if the plaintiff] converted her full-time position to part-time." Id. ¶ 36. After having met with an EEO Coordinator, see id. ¶¶ 36, 38, the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination based on disability with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Id. ¶ 39.

As her condition worsened in early 2007, and as she was pursuing "overlapping Workers' Compensation and ADA claims" without assistance, id. ¶ 42, the plaintiff "began staying up late to work to keep up with her work load and her frequent doctor and physical therapy appointments," id. ¶ 43. Ms. James allegedly warned the plaintiff "that she was prohibited from staying late and that the administrative staff was 'watching her.'" Id. By February's end, the plaintiff experienced "pain and fatigue from the injuries and disability [which] required significant periods of rest and inactivity for less and less exertion." Id. ¶ 44. The stress and "medical duress" she experienced prompted the plaintiff to take medical leave on February 27, 2007. Id. Her status was recorded as "absent without leave" instead of "leave without pay." Id.

ΒΆ 45. The plaintiff was instructed "not to return to work until she was 'fit for duty,' and that she should apply for Social ...

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