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Stewart v. White

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

July 31, 2015

Vernette E. Stewart, Plaintiff,
v.
Mary Jo White, Defendant

Page 322

VERNETTE E. STEWART, Plaintiff, Pro se, Laurel, MD.

For MARY JO WHITE, Chair of Securities and Exchange Commission, Defendant: Marian L. Borum, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 323

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge.

The parties in this employment discrimination case were ordered to address plaintiff's claim arising from her request for reasonable accommodations for her upper respiratory condition. See Stewart v. White, 61 F.Supp.3d 118, 133-34 (D.D.C. 2014). Defendant has supplemented the record, see Def.'s Suppl. to Its Mot. to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summ. J., ECF No. 26 (Def.'s Suppl." ), and plaintiff has responded, see Pl.'s Response to Def.'s Suppl., ECF No. 28 (" Pl.'s Suppl. Opp'n" ). Upon consideration of the supplemental record, and for the reasons explained below, the Court will grant summary judgment to the defendant on the remaining issue and enter judgment accordingly.

I. BACKGROUND

The initial decision sets out the events forming basis of this action, most of which will not be repeated here. The relevant facts are as follows. Plaintiff worked as a secretary at the Securities and Exchange Commission for a little over 10 years. Stewart, 61 F.Supp.3d at 123 . She suffered from an upper respiratory condition that restricted her breathing. See id. at 124. Plaintiff's health care provider recommended a well-ventilated work environment and the use of a HEAP filter purifier. Id.

In May 2011, plaintiff requested reasonable accommodations in the form of teleworking, liberal leave, and an air purifier and humidifier. Pl.'s Suppl. Opp'n, Ex. H at ECF pp. 57-58 (Laura Stomski April 9, 2012 letter summarizing history of plaintiff's accommodation requests) (hereafter " Apr. 9, 2012 letter" ). In September 2011, plaintiff was approved for a period of six months to take unscheduled leave in the form of accrued leave or leave without pay when she needed to recuperate from " flare-ups" that left her ill or severely congested. Stewart, 61 F.Supp.3d at 124; Apr. 9, 2012 letter. In approving the " alternative" accommodation, the agency's Program Disability Officer (DPO), Laura Stomski, denied plaintiff's request to telework, reasoning that " a significant portion of your essential duties cannot be performed remotely." Def.'s Summ. J. Mot., Ex. O, ECF No. 9-14 (Laura Stomski Sept. 22, 2011 letter at 2 (hereafter " Sept. 22, 2011 letter" ). Stomski also informed

Page 324

plaintiff that " [w]hile your physician recommended that you work in an environment that is well ventilated, the documentation does not specify that you need an air purifier/humidifier at work to manage your condition. Nevertheless, the DPO will contact Facilities and ask that air quality of your work area be checked and that any problems be addressed." Id.

" [P]laintiff had an air purifier for at least five years." Pl.'s Suppl. Opp'n at 1. In January 2012, however, plaintiff requested and was granted an upgraded air purifier. Def.'s Suppl. at 11 (citing Exs. D, E, F, January 2012 e-mail exchange). In April 2012, defendant denied plaintiff's request to extend and modify the September 2011 leave accommodation upon questioning her medical documentation. See Apr. 9, 2012 letter. Plaintiff submitted additional medical documentation dated May 10, 2012, and tendered her resignation by letter dated May 17, 2012, stating her last day of duty as June 1, 2012. Stewart, 61 F.Supp.3d at 126.

The remaining claim to be resolved stems from evidence in the record that plaintiff requested and was denied the accommodation of relocation of her work space from an assigned cubicle to a private office. Based on such evidence, the Court determined that plaintiff had presented a plausible reasonable accommodation claim under the Rehabilitation Act that neither party had addressed. Id. at 133-34. Consequently, the Court denied defendant's motion ...


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