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Bradley v. DC Public Schools

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 3, 2015

Cheryl Bradley, Plaintiff,
v.
DC Public Schools, et al., Defendants

For CHERYL BRADLEY, Plaintiff: Sameera Ali, LEAD ATTORNEY, ALI, WHITE & COLEMAN, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For DC PUBLIC SCHOOLS, ERIN PITTS, CRYSTAL JEFFERSON, NORMA VILLANEUVA, REGINA YOUNGBLOOD, Defendants: Sarah L. Knapp, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Amit P. Mehta, United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Cheryl Bradley sued Defendant District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ) and four of its officials[1] based on events that began with an alleged workplace injury and ended with the alleged wrongful termination of her employment. Plaintiff asserts six causes of action against DCPS and the individual defendants: (1) deprivation of her federal constitutional and statutory rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (2) employment discrimination based on her disability in violation of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ); (3) retaliation in violation of Title IV of the ADA; (4) employment discrimination based on her disability in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (" DCHRA" ); (5) retaliation in violation of the DCHRA; and (6) constructive discharge in violation of the District of Columbia Administrative Procedure Act (" DCAPA" ). Before the court is Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. Defendants seek to dismiss the section 1983 (Count I) and the DCAPA (Count VI) counts for failure to state a claim. Additionally, the four individual defendants, each of whom is sued only in her " official capacity," request dismissal of the complaint in its entirety on the ground that all counts against them are duplicative of the counts against DCPS. In her opposition brief, Plaintiff concedes her claims against the individual defendants, but seeks leave to amend her complaint to sue them in their individual capacities.

After considering the parties' arguments and the applicable law, the court grants Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss, and denies Plaintiff's request for leave to amend her complaint.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts Alleged in the Complaint

Ms. Bradley began working for DCPS in August 2004. Am. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 4. She later was promoted in the Office of Special Education to the position of Teacher of Special Education Specialists, a position that does not involve directly supervising or interacting with special education students. Id. ¶ ¶ 7, 15. Though not part of her job description, in April 2009, DCPS asked Ms. Bradley to supervise a special education classroom. Id. ¶ 15. During the class, an emotionally disturbed student elbowed Ms. Bradley in the chest, causing her to be rushed to the emergency room where she was diagnosed with a chest wall injury and contusion. Id. ¶ ¶ 15-18. An orthopedist subsequently diagnosed Ms. Bradley as suffering from a " right chest wall contusion as well as costochondritis, rib fracture, and intercostal neuralgia." Id. ¶ 19. Following doctors' orders, Ms. Bradley took a leave of absence until January 19, 2010, after which she returned to work at DCPS. Id. ¶ ¶ 20-22.

A year later, in February 2011, DCPS again asked Ms. Bradley to teach in a special education classroom. Id. ¶ 23. On February 24, 2011, because of a colleague's absence, Ms. Bradley taught two classrooms full of special education children. Id. ¶ 24. Exposed to their " restless and aggressive nature," Ms. Bradley experienced " extreme anxiety and flashbacks from her assault in 2009." Id. ¶ 25. Doctors diagnosed her with Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety, Depressed Mood, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Id. ¶ 26.

In March 2011, Ms. Bradley filled out a series of forms addressed to the District of Columbia Office of Risk Management (" Office of Risk Management" ), reporting the re-aggravation of her injury and requesting disability compensation as well as advanced sick leave. Id. ¶ ¶ 31-35; Compl., Ex. K, ECF No. 2-1 at 125-29. After receiving conflicting responses from the Office of Risk Management about the receipt and processing of her claims, Ms. Bradley filed additional forms with the Office of Risk Management in May 2011 and submitted a request in early June 2011 for a hearing with the District of Columbia Department of Employee Services (" DOES" ). Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 37-46. When her claims went unaddressed, in July 2011, Ms. Bradley filed a formal charge of discrimination against DCPS and the Office of Risk Management with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ), citing discriminatory practices with respect to her disability. Id. ¶ ¶ 48. Through the fall of 2011, with the assistance of counsel, Ms. Bradley continued to try to secure a hearing before DOES. Id. ¶ ¶ 49-56. She was unable to secure a hearing, however, because she lacked a Notice of Determination from the Office of Risk Management. Id.

In late November 2011, Ms. Bradley received a termination notice from DCPS. Id. ¶ 57. Yet, only days later, on December 6, 2011, she received a Notice of Personal Action approving her request for extended leave through March 4, 2012. Id. ¶ 58. The next spring, in April 2012, Ms. Bradley received a notice to report for fingerprinting to obtain a background clearance to return to work. Id. ¶ ¶ 62-63. The notice stated: " Failure to report for fingerprinting during this time period will be taken as your voluntary resignation as an employee of DC Public Schools." Compl., Ex. LL. Also in April 2012, Ms. Bradley's treating psychiatrist sent notices to Defendant Erin Pitts, the Director of Labor Management and Employee Relations, stating that Ms. Bradley would be able to return to work but would have to be reintegrated gradually over four to six months. Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 61, 64. When Ms. Bradley did not report for fingerprinting, Ms. Pitts treated her non-appearance as a " voluntary resignation." Id. ¶ ¶ 66-67. According to Ms. Bradley, she had no intention of resigning from her position; she only sought accommodation from DCPS and instead was wrongfully terminated. Id. ¶ 66-69.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

Following the Supreme Court's decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), a complaint must contain " sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (emphasis added) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570) (internal quotation marks omitted). The pleaded factual content must " allow[] the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). On the other hand, a complaint that pleads factual allegations that are " merely consistent with a defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief." Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotation marks omitted). While the factual allegations need not be " detailed," the Federal Rules demand more than " an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me ...


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