Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Thomas v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 18, 2016

Tyrita Thomas, Plaintiff,
v.
District of Columbia, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Tyrita Thomas filed this lawsuit against her former employer, Defendant District of Columbia, alleging that she was unlawfully denied leave under the Family Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") and the District of Columbia Family Medical Leave Act ("DCFMLA"). Plaintiff worked most recently as a fingerprint specialist in the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department. She asserts that she was illegally denied leave under the FMLA and DCFMLA beginning in late 2011, when she began to suffer from a serious health condition, through February 2012, when she was terminated from her position. Plaintiff also alleges that she was retaliated against both for seeking FMLA leave and for filing an internal complaint alleging sex discrimination in mid-2011.

         This matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. Defendant asserts that Plaintiff was not entitled to leave under the FMLA or DCFLMA because (1) she did not suffer from a serious medical condition and (2) she did not provide the Police Department with the requisite notice in order to request FMLA leave. Defendant further contends that Plaintiff was not retaliated against, but instead was disciplined and then terminated due to her own insubordination, neglect of duty, and AWOL status.

         Having reviewed the evidence, the court finds that a reasonable jury could conclude that Plaintiff was improperly denied leave under the FMLA and the DCFMLA. The court also finds that a reasonable jury could conclude that Plaintiff was retaliated against for seeking such leave. However, the court finds that no reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff because she previously had filed a sex discrimination complaint. The court therefore grants in part and denies in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         1. Plaintiff's Workplace Discipline

         Plaintiff Tyrita Thomas worked at the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") from 1995 to 2008, and returned in 2010 as a supervisory fingerprint specialist. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 23, Statement of Undisputed Material Facts, ECF No. 23-2 [hereinafter Def.'s Stmt.], ¶ 1; Pl.'s Opp'n to the District of Columbia's R.56 Motion for Summ. J., ECF No. 24 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n], Plaintiff's Statement of Material Facts in Dispute, ECF No. 24-1 [hereinafter Pl.'s Stmt.], ¶ 1. Gregory Hudson was Plaintiff's direct supervisor after she returned to the MPD. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A, Dep. of Gregory Hudson, ECF No. 24-2 [hereinafter Hudson Dep.], at 11. Hudson's direct supervisor, in turn, was Captain Samuel Snyder. Hudson Dep. at 14.

         Beginning in or around May 2011, Plaintiff claims that Hudson began scrutinizing her time sheets more carefully than the time sheets of her male colleague, Ralph Vinson. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. E, Aff. of Tyrita Thomas, ECF No. 24-6 [hereinafter Thomas Aff.], at 2. Then, on or around July 26, 2011, "for reasons unknown, " Hudson "got close to [Plaintiff's] face" and began "berating [her] and yelling to [her] face." Id. Hudson characterized the incident as a "loud discussion" following Plaintiff's refusal to do work assigned to her. Hudson Dep. at 41-42. As a result of this argument, Defendant contends that Plaintiff "took sick leave without prior approval." Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 2.

         At some point after the argument, Plaintiff complained to her supervisors about the incident. Ultimately, in September 2011, she filed a complaint with the MPD's Equal Employment Opportunity office, alleging sex discrimination by Hudson. Thomas Aff. ¶ 12; see also Pl's Opp'n, Ex. L, Dep. of Tyrita Thomas, ECF No. 24-13 [hereinafter Thomas Dep.], at 61-65. MPD eventually resolved the matter by issuing Plaintiff a Letter of Admonition for leaving work without approval in September 2011, which she refused to sign out of protest. Thomas Aff. ¶ 13; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 2. Hudson also was issued a Letter of Admonition as a result of the incident. Hudson Dep. at 42-44.

         On December 2, 2011, Plaintiff missed the deadline for submitting evaluations for her approximately 13 subordinates and then, ignoring the requests of her supervisors, left work before completing them. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 18, Final Investigative Report with Recommendations Regarding Allegations of Insubordination and Neglect of Duty on the Part of Civilian Tyrita Thomas of the Fingerprint Analysis Branch, ECF No. 23-18 [hereinafter Dec. 19 Investigative Report], at 5; Thomas Dep. at 113. An internal MPD review found Plaintiff to have been (1) neglectful of her duties because she had failed to complete the evaluations and (2) insubordinate because she had left work before the evaluations were complete, despite the directives of her supervisors to remain on duty. Dec. 19 Investigative Report at 6. According to Plaintiff, a computer error-rather than her own neglect-caused her to be unable to finish her evaluations. Thomas Aff. ¶¶ 17-23.

         On December 14, 2011, Plaintiff was asked to submit a signed statement regarding her inability to complete the evaluations. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 4. Plaintiff left work instead. Hudson Dep. at 90-94. A second MPD review found that Plaintiff was "AWOL" when she left work without permission on that date. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 15, Final Investigative Report with Recommendations Regarding Allegations of Insubordination and Neglect of Duty on the Part of Civilian Tyrita Thomas of the Fingerprint Analysis Branch, ECF No. 23-15 [hereinafter Jan. 10 Investigative Report], at 9. Unknown to all at the time, December 14 would be the last day Plaintiff would report for work. From December 15 through December 19, 2011, Plaintiff was out on approved annual leave, Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 2. And then, on December 20, 2011, Plaintiff left a voicemail for Hudson requesting eight hours of sick leave and was out sick. See Thomas Aff. ¶ 28.

         2. Plaintiff's Leave Request

         Whether Plaintiff was entitled to leave under the FMLA in the days following December 20, 2011, is the crux of the parties' dispute. Defendant's position is that Plaintiff did not return to work after her request for sick leave and did not answer multiple phone calls by Hudson inquiring as to her whereabouts and, as a result, "was essentially AWOL for weeks on end." Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Mem. of Points and Authorities in Support of District of Columbia's Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 23-1 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.], at 3, 13. Plaintiff, on the other hand, says that she visited her doctor on December 21, 2011, who directed her to stay home from work. Thomas Aff. ¶ 29. After she visited her doctor, she then called both Captain Snyder and Hudson, and left Hudson a voicemail alerting him that she was "going to be out on extended medical leave because of depression and my doctor's request. Call me if you need to speak to me about this." Id. ¶ 31. For his part, Hudson did not recall receiving such a voicemail from Thomas. Hudson Dep. at 104.

         With the help of some coworkers, Plaintiff acquired an application for FMLA leave on or after December 21, 2011. Thomas Aff. ¶ 34. On or around December 31, 2011, Plaintiff's father submitted the application to the MPD on her behalf. Thomas Aff. ¶ 35. Plaintiff sought "240 hours of medical leave because of a serious medical condition." Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. G, December 31, 2011 FMLA Leave Application, ECF No. 24-8 [hereinafter December 31 Application], at 3. The application did not, however, specify the nature of the condition. Plaintiff requested that the leave be in a "continuous block of time, " starting on December 20, 2011, nine days before she submitted the application, to "present." Id. Plaintiff also indicated that the leave requested was "[i]ntermittently as medically necessary." Id. She attached to the application a handwritten note from her treating physician, Dr. Robert Ball, dated December 21, 2011, which stated: "The above patient was seen today and is required and ordered to be away from her place of work until further notice!" Id. at 1; Thomas Aff. ¶ 35.

         The parties agree that Plaintiff's initial application for FMLA leave was incomplete. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 6. It did not contain the required medical certification from her doctor- the handwritten note was insufficient. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 17; see also Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex C., Dep. of Diana Haines Walton, ECF No. 24-4 [hereinafter Walton Dep.], at 20 (noting that a FMLA application packet includes both the application and "the doctor's certificate" that must be completed). The incomplete FMLA leave application was returned to Plaintiff on or about December 31, 2011, with instructions to resubmit it. Hudson Dep. at 99-100.

         The very next day, on January 1, 2012, MPD placed Plaintiff on AWOL status because she had not "return[ed] to work" after her absence beginning in mid-December 2011, despite numerous phone calls by MPD employees trying to find her. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 19; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 14, Personnel Action Request Form, ECF No. 23-14, at 1; see also Thomas Aff. ¶ 37. At a meeting on January 13, 2012, MPD officials decided to terminate Plaintiff. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 10, Affidavit of Gregory Hudson, ECF No. 23-10 [hereinafter Hudson Aff.], ¶ 9.

         Unaware of the termination decision, Plaintiff submitted a complete application for FMLA leave on January 19, 2012. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 22; Pl's Stmt. ¶ 9. The application included a medical certification from Dr. Ball, which stated that Plaintiff suffered from "Depression/Anxiety - Work Induced" that began on approximately November 9, 2011. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 16, Medical Certification by Health Care Provider, ECF No. 23-16 [hereinafter Medical Certification]. Dr. Ball estimated that the "probable duration of her condition" would continue until February 16, 2012. Id. Asked to certify whether it will "be necessary for the employee to take work only intermittently or to work on less than full schedule as a result of the condition, " Dr. Ball answered the question "Yes" and estimated the probable duration of such reduced work availability to last until February 16, 2012. Id. In response to another question, Dr. Ball answered that Plaintiff was "Presently Incapacitated [Duration] Approx. 3 [months]." As for Plaintiff's treatment needs, Dr. Ball certified that Plaintiff would have to be "absent from work" to attend "2 [psychotherapy] sessions per week until further notice." Id. He estimated that it would take Plaintiff four hours to recover from each session. Id. She also would be treated by a prescription drug regimen. Id. Asked to certify whether the employee is "unable to perform work, " Dr. Ball answered that Plaintiff would be able to "perform [her] job between treatments." Id.

         On January 31, 2012, Defendant sent a letter to Plaintiff informing her that she was terminated from her position as of February 15, 2012. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 17, Letter of Termination, ECF No. 23-17 [hereinafter Letter of Termination]. The letter stated that Plaintiff's termination was "based on cause (neglect of duty, inefficiency and abandonment)" and because she had "been in an Absence without Official Leave status (AWOL) since December 21, 2011." Id. at 1. Plaintiff first learned of her termination when she spoke to Hudson by phone on February 2, 2012. Thomas Aff. ¶ 43.

         B. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.