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Hodges v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 12, 2013

RONALD W. HODGES, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge

Plaintiff Ronald Hodges brings this action against defendant the District of Columbia, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq., as amended, the District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977 (“DCHRA”), D.C. Code §§ 2-1401 et seq., as amended, and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq.[1] Now before the Court is the District’s motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, alternatively, for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the District’s motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

FACTS

For purposes of the District’s motion, the allegations of Hodges’s complaint are accepted as true. Hodges was hired as a Supervisory Auditor in the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General in August 2008. See Compl. ¶ 9. He claims to have had the requisite skill, education, and experience for the position at all times relevant to this action. See id. ¶ 10.

In early 2010, Hodges began experiencing “significant lumbar pain.” See id. ¶ 11. On June 8, 2010, an MRI revealed that he had “a disc herniation, a disc osteophyte with facet degenerative changes, and a lumbar disc bulge.” Id. ¶ 12. Hodges alleges that these physical impairments limited his ability to sit, work, sleep, walk, and concentrate. See Id . ¶¶ 42, 53. He began treatment for the condition on July 22, with his doctor requiring a complete work restriction until July 27. Id. ¶ 13. Hodges alleges that he “experienced constant pain” and that his physician “advised additional medical care to treat the condition.” See id. ¶ 15.

On July 30, Hodges informed Ronald King, the Assistant Inspector General for Audits, that he would need to undergo continued treatment and would be unable to work. See id. ¶ 17. Hodges requested leave without pay and short term disability. Id. ¶ 16. In an August 6 letter, King acknowledged receipt of Hodges’s notice and requested that Hodges have his doctor complete a Medical Certification by Health Care Provider form. See id. ¶ 19.

Hodges’s chiropractor, Dr. Nguyen, completed the medical certification form, which Hodges submitted on August 13. See id. ¶ 20. Dr. Nguyen described Hodges’s condition as a lumbar disc bulge, decreased range of motion, muscle spasms, and sciatica radiculopathy. Id. ¶ 21. Dr. Nguyen stated that Hodges’s condition would last three to six months and that Hodges would experience a six- to eight-week “incapacity duration” beginning July 22, 2010. See id. ¶ 22. Dr. Nguyen called for Hodges to receive treatment three times a week for four to six weeks, after which he would receive treatment once or twice per week for one month. See id. ¶ 24. Dr. Nguyen stated that it was “necessary” for Hodges to “work intermittently or a less than full schedule for approximately three months, ” and that Hodges could not perform work that required prolonged sitting. See id. ¶¶ 23, 26. Dr. Nguyen also stated that it was “necessary” for Hodges to “be absent from work due to the distance and recovery time needed for treatment.” See id. ¶ 27.

In an August 16 letter, King denied Hodges’s request for leave without pay. Id. ¶ 28. King instead offered the following accommodations: that Hodges should stand, stretch, and walk around to avoid prolonged sitting, and that he would not be required to lift objects weighing more than five pounds. See id. ¶ 29. King also advised Hodges that he was being placed on absent without leave (AWOL) status effective August 16, as he was able to work but failed to report for duty. See id. ¶¶ 30-31.

Nine days later, on August 25, 2010, Inspector General Willoughby notified Hodges that he was being terminated as Supervisory Auditor, effective September 10, 2010. See id. ¶¶ 36-37. Willoughby specified that the termination occurred for disciplinary reasons, “specifically because Mr. Hodges had been absent without leave since August 16, 2010.” See id. ¶ 37.

After filing a discrimination complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, which was cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hodges filed suit against the District in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleging violations of the ADA, the DCHRA, and the FMLA. See id. ¶¶ 2, 38. The District removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). See Notice of Removal [Docket Entry 1] ¶ 2 (Oct. 11, 2012).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a complaint must 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). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary, to provide the “grounds” of “entitle[ment] to relief, ” plaintiffs must furnish “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal quotation marks omitted). “To survive a 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, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570); accord Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009).

“[I]n passing on a motion to dismiss . . . the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader.” Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see also Leatherman v. Tarrant Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993). Therefore, the factual allegations must be presumed true, and plaintiffs must be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. See Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236; Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). However, the Court need not accept as true “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” nor inferences that are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)) (internal quotations marks omitted).

When, on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). “The decision to convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment . . . is committed to the sound discretion of ...


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