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Lovely-Coley v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 8, 2016

CYNTHIA LOVELY-COLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REGGIE B. WALTON United States District Judge

         The plaintiff, Cynthia Lovely-Coley, brings this civil action against the defendant, the District of Columbia, asserting claims of interference and retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2611-2619 (2012), arising out of delays in granting her applications for FMLA leave in 2010. See Civil Complaint for Equitable and Monetary Relief and Demand for Jury Trial ("Compl.") ¶¶ 1-34. Currently pending before the Court is the District of Columbia’s Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.’s Mot."). Upon careful consideration of the parties’ submissions, [1] the Court concludes that the motion must be denied, and this case must advance to trial.[2]

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff "is a detective in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department."[3] Pl.’s Facts ¶ 1. She requested FMLA leave on three occasions in 2010, see id. ¶¶ 2, 3, 4, so that she could "tend to her daughter, who was battling, and would eventually die from[] cancer, " Def.’s Mem. at 1 (citing Compl. ¶¶ 9, 19).

         A. The Defendant’s Alleged Interference

         The plaintiff first applied on May 25, 2010 for FMLA leave, see Pl.’s Facts ¶ 2, seeking 640 hours of sick leave to be taken between May 23, 2010 and September 4, 2010, [4] see Def.’s Mem., Exhibit ("Ex.") 3 (May 2010 FMLA Leave Application ("First FMLA Leave Appl.")) at 41;[5] see also Def.’s Mem., Ex. 4 (July 27, 2010 Email From Defendant to Plaintiff ("July 27, 2010 Email")) at 45. According to the plaintiff, her "immediate supervisor" rejected her application the following day because of "insufficient manpower." Def.’s Facts II ¶ 5 (quoting Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 1 (Affidavit of Cynthia Lovely-Coley ("Lovely-Coley Aff.") ¶ 6); Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 2 (Excerpts of the Deposition of Lovely-Coley ("Lovely-Coley Dep.")) at 46:9-20, 61:4-20). Nevertheless, at or about that same time, the Human Resource Management Division of the D.C. Police Department ("Human Resources") approved the plaintiff’s FMLA leave application because it was "under the impression that the application had been submitted through the chain-of[-]command." Def.’s Mem., Ex. 4 (July 27, 2010 Email) at 45; see also Def.’s Facts II ¶ 6; Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 8 (May 26, 2010 Email From Plaintiff’s Supervisor to Human Resources ("May 26, 2016 Email")) at 2. On May 27, 2010, in an email, the defendant informed the plaintiff that Human Resources "granted [her FMLA leave application] in error" and was "immediately rescinding the approval" because "no one within [her] chain-of[-]command had any knowledge of the [FMLA] application being filed[.]" Def.’s Mem., Ex. 4 (July 27, 2010 Email) at 45. Instead, the email "urge[d]" the plaintiff to "resubmit the [FMLA leave] application through the proper channels." Id.

         On July 28, 2010, the plaintiff again applied for FMLA leave to be used "[i]ntermittently as medically necessary." Def.’s Mem., Ex. 5 (July 2010 FMLA Leave Application ("Second FMLA Leave Appl. I")) at 49; see also Pl.’s Facts ¶ 3. The FMLA leave application was apparently denied, see Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 5 (July 2010 FMLA Leave Application ("Second FMLA Leave Appl. II")) at 5 ("FMLA disapproved-annual leave approved"), but the defendant claims that "what happened to this application" is "unclear, " Def.’s Mem. at 2.

         On or about August 18, 2010, the plaintiff submitted a third FMLA leave application "to be used intermittently from August 22, 2010 [through] December 11, 2010." See Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 5 (August 2010 FMLA Leave Application ("Third FMLA Leave Appl.")) at 10; see also Pl.’s Facts ¶ 4. The following day, the application was approved. See Def.’s Facts II ¶ 11; Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 9 (August 19, 2010 Internal Defendant Email ("Aug. 19, 2010 Email")) at 2. The plaintiff asserts that nobody told her that the FMLA request had been approved. See Def.’s Facts II ¶ 12. Instead, on August 24, 2010, the plaintiff received a note informing her that her third application was denied and advising her that if her "situation" continued, she needed to consider taking a leave of absence to afford the defendant an opportunity to hire a replacement. Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 5 (August 24, 2010 Note From Defendant to Plaintiff ("Aug. 24, 2010 Note")) at 10-11. Ultimately, this third application was approved on or about October 1, 2010. See Def.’s Facts II ¶ 18; see also Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 5 (Third FMLA Leave Appl.) at 13 (handwritten notations indicating that third FMLA application was approved).

         As a result of the FMLA leave denials, the plaintiff notes that she "was forced to use 112 [sick and annual] leave hours" between May 25, 2010, and October 1, 2010. Pl.’s Surreply at 2.

         B. The Defendant’s Alleged Retaliation

         On or about September 9, 2010, the plaintiff complained to the D.C. Police Department’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office ("EEO") about the denial of her requests for FMLA leave. Def.’s Facts II ¶ 15; see also Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 10 (September 9, 2010 Email From D.C. Police Department EEO to Plaintiff ("Sept. 9, 2010 Email")) at 2. Thereafter, she alleges that the Department took "a series of retaliatory actions" against her, including the issuance of "two low performance reviews that made her ineligible for promotion" in 2010 and 2011. Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 1 (Lovely-Coley Aff.) ¶ 15; see also id. ¶ 16; Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 2 (Lovely-Coley Dep.) at 116:14-120:8. The plaintiff eventually appealed these performance evaluations internally, and they "were upgraded." Def.’s Mem. at 7; see also Pl.’s Surreply at 3 ("[T]he [low] reviews were only overturned after a lengthy appeal process." (citing Pl.’s Opp’n, Ex. 2 (Lovely-Coley Dep.) at 92:5-93:6)).

         C. Damages

         Following these events, the plaintiff commenced this litigation, asserting interference and retaliation claims pursuant to the FMLA. See Compl. ¶¶ 1-34. She seeks damages of $4, 118.00, which is the alleged monetary value of the 112 hours of sick and annual leave she used between May 25, 2010, and October 1, 2010, as well as $557, 370.00 in compensation from lost promotion potential. Pl.’s Surreply at 6; see also Compl. at 9. The defendant has moved for summary judgment, which the plaintiff opposes.

         II. ...


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