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Lee v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 1, 2013

Joseph LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant. Civil Action 09-cv-1832 (RC).

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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James Charles Bailey, Michael A. Tilghman, Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, District Judge.

After he was fired from his job as a corrections officer with the District of Columbia Department of Corrections, Joseph Lee brought this suit alleging a failure to accommodate his diabetes, which required him to eat healthy meals at regular times, and intentional discrimination on the basis of disability. The District of Columbia has moved for summary judgment on both counts. Because a reasonable jury could find in favor of Mr. Lee, the court will deny the motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the facts of this case are as follows. In 2008, Joseph Lee, a corrections officer assigned to guard inmates receiving treatment at Howard University

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Hospital, was fired by the District of Columbia Department of Corrections. The stated reason was neglect of duty. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (" Def.'s Mot." ), Ex. G (Letter from Devon Brown, Director, District of Columbia Department of Corrections, to Joseph Lee (June 26, 2008)) (" Brown Termination Letter" ) at 2-3.

At that time, Joseph Lee had Type II diabetes. Def.'s Mot., Ex. A (Dep. of Joseph Lee (May 17, 2011)) (" Lee Dep. (Def.)" ) at 110. He took oral medication to manage his disease, and was required to monitor his blood sugar, exercise, and eat healthy meals at regular times. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ), Ex. A (Dep. of Joseph Lee (May 17, 2011)) (" Lee Dep. (Pl.)" ) at 110-14. If he did not manage his diabetes properly, he could get dizzy and faint or fall asleep. Id. at 115-16, 123. Mr. Lee [1] told several superiors within the Department of Corrections about his diabetes, including Kenneth Graham and Yvonne Perry. Id. at 58. He did not speak with the Department's disability coordinator— indeed, he did not know that the Department had a disability coordinator. Id. at 60.

In March 2008, Mr. Lee was assigned to work an overnight shift at Howard University Hospital; he went on duty at 11:30 p.m. and completed his shift at 8:00 a.m. According to the recollection of his supervisors, he was found asleep on the job three times in a little more than two weeks. Mr. Lee denies that he was ever asleep on the job.

Ms. Perry recalls that she found Mr. Lee sleeping at his post on March 12, 2008 and counseled him to be more attentive to his duties. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. G (Dep. of Yvonne Perry (Mar. 2, 2011)) (" Perry Dep." ) at 62-65. Mr. Lee denies that Ms. Perry found him asleep. Lee Dep. (Pl.) at 117. Mr. Graham recalls that— on the following day, as Ms. Perry recalls, Perry Dep. at 66— a nurse called to say that a corrections officer was asleep on the job and could not be awoken, Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. D (Dep. of Kenneth Graham (Aug. 12, 2011)) (" Graham Dep. (Pl.)" ) at 43, 119; Def.'s Mot., Ex. D (Dep. of Kenneth Graham (Aug. 12, 2011)) (" Graham Dep. (Def.)" ) at 119-20. When Mr. Graham arrived at the hospital, he heard snoring and found Mr. Lee, who did not respond to his name, asleep in a chair. Graham Dep. (Def.) at 119. Mr. Graham has testified that he took a photograph of Mr. Lee,[2]

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then woke him up and told him that he was violating Department rules and regulations. Id. at 119-20. Mr. Graham recalls that, at the time, Mr. Lee denied being asleep, id. at 119; Mr. Lee continues to deny that he was asleep, Lee Dep. (Pl.) at 118.

Mr. Lee did not receive a lunch break on March 27, 2008, id., as Ms. Perry admits could sometimes happen, Perry Dep. at 34. He called Mr. Graham at about 2:15 a.m. to ask for a lunch break. Lee Dep. (Pl.) at 119. As Mr. Lee recalls, he sad to Mr. Graham, " Sarg, you know I'm a diabetic. I need my lunch break." Mr. Lee says that Mr. Graham replied, " All right, Lee. ...


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