United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge.
Federal Bureau of Investigation hired Plaintiff Holly
Senatore as an Intelligence Analyst. As a condition of
employment, the FBI requires all new analysts to successfully
complete a three-month training course. Senatore, who was
diagnosed with a neurological condition at birth, requested
various accommodations for her disability before beginning
the course. The FBI agreed to nearly all of Senatore's
requests, but denied her requests for an in-class note taker
and to use notes on course exams. The FBI denied the former
request because it did not have a note taker on staff, but
instead allowed Senatore to audiotape the class sessions. It
categorically denied the latter request, citing a need to
assess the competency of its new recruits. Not content with
the FBI's response, Senatore chose not to report to the
training course and requested, among other things,
reassignment to a position that did not require her to
complete the course. The FBI declined these requests and,
after Senatore again refused to attend the training course,
terminated her employment. Senatore filed suit under the
Rehabilitation Act, alleging that the FBI discriminated
against her because of her disability. Before the Court is
the FBI's Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons
below, the Court will grant the motion with respect to all
claims and dismiss the case.
Senatore's Medical Condition
Senatore was diagnosed with hydrocephalus as an infant.
Def.'s Statement of Facts (“SOF”) ¶ 2.
Hydrocephalus is a condition marked by a “permanent,
excessive accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid” in the
brain. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for
Summary Judgment (“MSJ”), Ex. 6, (Physician's
Letter to FBI). This accumulation results in increased
pressure inside the skull, which in turn impacts the
brain's structure. Id. Symptoms of hydrocephalus
vary, but generally include motor problems, headaches, and
disorientation. Id. In addition to these symptoms,
Senatore also suffers from seizures and learning disabilities
that may have been caused by the surgeries she has undergone
to treat her condition. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s MSJ
(“Pl.'s Opp'n”), Ex. 1 (Dep. of Steven
Rider), at 28, 44. These learning disabilities include
“situational memory loss, occasional inattention to
detail and retrieval of information, [and a] different
pattern of learning.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 6.
Senatore's Employment with the FBI
hired Senatore as an Intelligence Analyst (“IA”)
in September 2010. Def.'s SOF ¶¶ 3-4. The FBI
requires all newly hired IA's to complete an eleven-week
Intelligence Basic Course (“IBC”). Id.
at ¶ 7. The IBC ensures that new recruits like Senatore
“have acquired the core competencies associated with
the IA job.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 5 (Decl. of Lisa
Crowder), at 3. In a letter to Senatore offering her the IA
position, the FBI noted that “[f]ailure to successfully
complete the IBC training may result in dismissal from the
FBI.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 4, at 2.
began working at the FBI training academy near Washington,
D.C. in October 2010, but was not scheduled to undergo IBC
training until January 2011. Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 5, at 4.
During this interim period, the FBI gave Senatore a temporary
work assignment. Def.'s SOF ¶ 6. In November 2010,
Senatore informed her temporary supervisor, Floyd Wiltz, of
her condition and told him that she would need accommodations
during IBC training. Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 3 (Decl. of Floyd
Wiltz), at 4. Wiltz then contacted Lisa Crowder, the chief of
the unit in charge of IBC training, to discuss accommodations
for Senatore. Def.'s SOF ¶ 17. Crowder suggested
that Senatore first visit the IBC facility prior to the
beginning of the course in order to familiarize herself with
the program. Id. ¶ 18. Senatore did so on
December 16 and observed several classes. Id. ¶
19. According to Senatore, Crowder introduced her to one
class as a “college student, ” and told the
students there that she gets “lost and confused
easily.” Pl.'s Opp'n MSJ, Ex. 4 (Decl. of Holly
Senatore), at ¶¶ 3-4. During a subsequent
conversation, Crowder purportedly told Senatore: “If
you are bad at verbal direction and if that is the type of
accommodation that you need, then maybe the FBI isn't the
place for you.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 28.
December 20, 2010, Senatore formally requested the following
nine accommodations for the upcoming course:
(1) Written, rather than verbal, directions and instructions;
(2) Special consideration for meeting deadlines for
(3) An “alternative test format” that excludes
“multiple choice, ” “True/False, ”
“Fill in the blank, ” and “matching”
(4) A note taker during class;
(5) The ability to use notes during the exam;
(6) The ability to take the exam on a computer;
(7) Extra time on the exam;
(8) A separate, quiet area to work for exams; and
(9) Preferential seating in the front of the class.
Def.'s SOF ¶ 22. The FBI agreed to all but two of
these requests: It refused to provide Senatore with a note
taker, or to allow her to use notes on examinations. The use
of notes, according to Crowder, “would have prevented
an objective evaluation of Ms. Senatore's competency to
perform IA work.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 5, at 7. Notably,
the FBI provided Senatore with every accommodation that
Senatore's physician recommended at the time.
See Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 6, at 1-2.
content with the FBI's response, Senatore e-mailed
Crowder and other FBI officials, writing that she was
“being set up for failure” without having a note
taker or the ability to use notes during examinations.
Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 12. She further stated that she would
“appreciate” a job within the FBI that did not
require her to attend IBC training. Id. Several
hours later, Senatore sent Crowder another e-mail stating
that she would not be attending the IBC training at all.
Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 13.
failing to attend IBC training as scheduled in January 2011,
Senatore asked the FBI to reconsider its refusal to provide
her with a note taker and to allow her to use notes on exams.
Def.'s SOF ¶ 36. Senatore submitted a supplemental
letter from her physician, who recommended that “[she]
have a note-taker . . . [which] will free [her] from having
to write quickly and play catch-up and miss something
important.” Def's MSJ, Ex. 16, at 2. As an
alternative to this recommendation, the FBI informed Senatore
that it was seeking a security waiver to allow her to
audiotape her IBC classes. Id. Senatore's
physician also noted that “the best and most successful
method of testing for [her] . . . [includes] the use of
personal and/or class notes to enhance her recall.”
Id. at 1. The FBI, however, reiterated its position
that allowing Senatore to use notes on her exam would
“fundamentally alter the ability of the FBI to measure
her understanding and proficiency level in performing
critical job-related skills.” Def.'s SOF
¶¶ 38-40. The FBI then rescheduled Senatore to
begin IBC training on February 28, 2011.
course of her correspondence with the agency regarding her
requested accommodations, Senatore also requested both a
medical hardship transfer to Knoxville, Tennessee and to be
placed on “leave-without-pay”
(“LWOP”) status. Id. ¶ 45-48.
Senatore had lived in Knoxville before joining the FBI.
Id. She supported these requests with a letter from
a different physician, Dr. Steven Rider of the Knoxville
Neurology Clinic, who had been treating Senatore “for
her history of epilepsy.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 21. Dr.
Rider wrote that granting Senatore's transfer and LWOP
requests was “a medical necessity, ” and that
failing to do so “would be hazardous to her health and
would put her at risk for seizures becoming further
exacerbated or problematic.” Id. He later
acknowledged in his deposition, however, that Senatore could
have gotten the treatment she needed elsewhere, and that he
even offered to help her transfer her care to Washington,
D.C. See Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 37, at 20:14, 25:8. The
FBI granted Senatore's LWOP request for the period of
January 16 to February 26, two days before her rescheduled
IBC training was set to begin. Def.'s SOF ¶ 48. The
FBI later denied her request for a medical hardship transfer
on March 10, 2011, citing the availability of appropriate
specialty physicians in the Washington, D.C. area.
Id. at ¶ 55; Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 34.
time during her LWOP did Senatore attempt to transfer her
medical care from Knoxville to Washington, D.C. Def.'s
SOF ¶ 57; Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 1 (“Dep. of Holly
Senatore”), 75-76. She did, however, request an additional
three months of LWOP on February 17, 2011. Def.'s SOF
¶ 56. The FBI denied this request a week later, on
February 24, and informed Senatore that she was expected to
attend IBC training beginning on February 28. Id. at
¶ 58; Def.'s MSJ, Ex. 23. Senatore did not do so,
Def.'s SOF ¶ 54, claiming that she was being treated
by her neurologist in Tennessee, Pl.'s SOF ¶ 54.
placed Senatore on absent-without-leave (“AWOL”)
status after she failed to report to IBC training. Def.'s
SOF ¶ 60. It then terminated her on March 21, 2011
“due to Senatore not reporting to attend [IBC training]
at the FBI Academy on 2/28/2011.” Def.'s MSJ, Ex.
32 (FBI Performance Based Recommendation and Action ...