United States District Court, District of Columbia
G. Sullivan United States District Judge.
Yvette Williams brings this action alleging that defendant
Sean Donovan, in his official capacity as Secretary, U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (the Department),
violated the Rehabilitation Act (Act), 29 U.S.C. § 791,
et seq., by discriminating against her based on her
disabilities. In Count 1 of her Amended Complaint, Ms.
Williams alleges that the Department discriminated against
her because of her disabilities based on a series of events
that culminated in her termination. Am. Compl., ECF No. 18
¶ 43. In Count 2, Ms. Williams alleges that the
Department denied her a reasonable accommodation for her
disability. Id. ¶¶ 44-45. In Count 3, Ms.
Williams alleges that the Department terminated her in
retaliation for engaging in protected Equal Employment
Opportunity (EEO) activity. Id. ¶¶ 46-47.
the Court is the Department's Motion to Dismiss Counts 1
and 3 of the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in
the alternative for Summary Judgment on Counts 1, 2 and 3
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56.
consideration of the motion, the response thereto, the
applicable law, and the entire record, the Department's
Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
PART, and the Department's Motion for Summary
Judgment is DENIED without prejudice.
matter is before the Court on the Department's Motion to
Dismiss, the Court assumes the following facts alleged in the
Amended Complaint to be true and grants Ms. Williams the
benefit of all reasonable inferences deriving from the
Williams began working for the Department in August 2008 as a
Federal Career Intern. Am. Compl., ECF No 18 ¶ 6. In
this capacity, she performed rotational assignments until she
was permanently assigned to the Office of Executive
Secretariat (OES) in July 2010 as a correspondence specialist
performing mail room duties. Id. ¶ 6. Ms.
Williams was in this position until February 4, 2012, the
effective date of her removal from her position. Id.
Williams has a number of physical disabilities - Adenomyosis,
Psoas Syndrome and Lumbar Scoliosis - which substantially
limit her ability to sit, stand, walk, and sleep.
Id. ¶ 7. Ms. Williams also experiences episodes
of severe pain - including pain in her back, hip, leg, and
foot, that are exacerbated by sitting, standing, and by
stress. Id. This pain affects her ability to sleep
and also her ability to function after she is unable to
sleep. Id. Finally, the pain causes Ms. Williams to
vomit, resulting in her need to be close to a restroom.
Id. Despite these disabilities, Ms. Williams was
able to perform the essential functions of her job with
reasonable accommodations. Id. ¶ 8.
Williams successfully completed her internship on August 18,
2010. Id. ¶ 9. On December 6, 2010, Ms.
Williams met with her supervisors and was informed that she
would not receive a promotion to GS-12 due to her absences.
Id. ¶ 10. Ms. Williams alleges that all of her
absences were approved as either Family Medical Leave Act
(FMLA) or annual leave. Id. Ms. Williams further
alleges that her performance throughout her internship had
consistently been rated “outstanding.”
December 14, 2010, Ms. Williams received an official
reprimand as a result of allegedly rude and discourteous
behavior during the December 6, 2010 meeting. Id.
¶ 11. Ms. Williams states that at that meeting she
“respectfully questioned her supervisor's decision
not to promote her by pointing out her performance rating and
the fact that all of her absences had been approved.”
Id. Ms. Williams alleges that this official
reprimand was used to support the ultimate decision to remove
her from her position. Id.
December 14, 2010, Ms. Williams' supervisor ceased
allowing her to work an alternative work schedule, requiring
her to work on a fixed schedule Monday through Friday.
Id. ¶ 12. Ms. Williams alleges that her
supervisor knew that she had an alternative work schedule
based on the recommendation of her doctor that she telework
at least two days per week. Id. Ms. Williams states
that she needed a flexible schedule so that she could seek
medical treatment and alleges that “similarly-situated
non-disabled co-workers were permitted to continue working on
an alternative work schedule.” Id.
January 13, 2011, Ms. Williams received a performance
appraisal of “excellent.” Id. ¶ 15.
Ms. Williams states that she had received an
“outstanding” rating the previous year.
Id. Ms. Williams alleges that the “[d]efendant
considered this performance rating in her decision to remove
[her] from her position and federal service.”
February 11, 2011, Ms. Williams' supervisor informed her
that as of February 14, 2011, she would perform filing duties
rather than mail room duties. Id. ¶ 17.
March 2011, Ms. Williams “took leave under the Family
and Medical Leave Act to care for her father who was
suffering from end stage renal failure.” Id.
¶ 19. At that time, she also submitted a request to
telework to her supervisor. Id. ¶ 20. In April
2011, Ms. Williams provided a letter from her doctor
supporting her request to telework. Id. ¶ 21.
Ms. Williams' FMLA leave expired on April 18, 2011.
Id. ¶ 22. On April 20, 2011, Ms. Williams'
“request to telework was denied, her request for leave
without pay (LWOP) was denied, and she was placed on absent
without [official] leave [AWOL].” Id. ¶
27, 2011, a memorandum was issued instructing Ms. Williams to
return to work by July 11, 2011. Id. ¶ 26. On
July 12, 2011, Ms. Williams submitted a request for
reasonable accommodation - that she be allowed to telework -
to the Employee Assistance Program office. Id.
¶ 27. On July 22, 2011, Ms. Williams
“received a notice of proposed removal based on AWOL,
failure to follow directive, and failure to follow
instruction.” Id. ¶ 28. Ms. Williams
returned to work on August 1, 2011. Id. ¶ 29.
regard to her EEO activity, Ms. Williams contacted an EEO
counselor on January 18, 2011 “regarding her
non-promotion, official reprimand, removal of alternative
work schedule, and performance appraisal.” Id.
¶ 16. Thereafter, on March 3, 2011, Ms. Williams filed a
formal complaint in which she alleged “disability
discrimination and retaliation for requesting reasonable
accommodations based on her non-promotion, official
reprimand, removal of alternative work schedule, and
performance appraisal.” Id. ¶ 18. On May
13, 2011, Ms. Williams “amended her formal complaint to
include the February 11, 2011 reassignment of job duties,
April 20, 2011 denial of reasonable accommodation to
telework, and the April 20, 2011 denial of LWOP.”
Id. ¶ 24.
February 6, 2012, Ms. Williams “contacted an EEO
officer regarding the December 23, 2011 denial of reasonable
accommodation to telework and the February 4, 2012
removal” and on April 9, 2012, she “filed a
formal complaint alleging disability discrimination and
retaliation based on the December 23, 2011 denial of
reasonable accommodation and her February 4, 2012
removal.” Id. ¶¶ 40-41.
Williams alleges that she exhausted her administrative
remedies by filing these two complaints of discrimination
with the Department. Id. ¶¶ 2-3.
January 31, 2012, Ms. Williams was removed from her position
effective February 4, 2012. Id. ¶ 6.
Standards of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss “tests the legal sufficiency
of a complaint.” Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d
235, 242 (D.C.Cir.2002). 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 Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial
plausibility requires that “the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. Detailed factual allegations are
not required, but the plaintiff is required to provide
“more than an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation, ”
id., and must plead enough facts “to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. “Determining whether
a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be
a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to
draw on its ...