United States District Court, District of Columbia
LETICIA E. LONG, Plaintiff,
ENDOCRINE SOCIETY, Defendant.
P. Mehta United States District Judge.
Leticia E. Long alleges that her former employer, Defendant
Endocrine Society, improperly terminated her emplo yment
while she was out on approved leave to care for her mother.
Plaintiff claims Defendant interfered with and retaliated
against her for taking leave, in violation of the federal
Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.,
and the D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act, D.C. Code §
32–501, et seq. Plaintiff further alleges that
Defendant failed to pay her overtime compensation, in
violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. §
201, et seq., the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act, D.C. Code
§ 32–1001, et seq., and the D.C. Wage Payment and
Collection Law, D.C. Code § 32–1301, et seq.
Defendant moves for summary judgment on the grounds that it
terminated Plaintiff because Plaintiff performed poorly over
an extended period of time and misused company time and
resources by operating two outside businesses during work
hours. Additionally, Defendant contends that Plaintiff was an
exempt administrative employee and, therefore, not entitled
to overtime compensation. See Def.’s Mot. for
Summ. J. & Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF No. 20, at
1–40 [hereinafter Def.’s Mot.].
on the record evidence, the court concludes that no
reasonable jury could find that Defendant retaliated against
Plaintiff for taking FMLA leave or that Defendant interfered
with Plaintiff’s right to take leave. The court also
finds that Defendant properly classified Plaintiff as an
exempt employee, making her ineligible for overtime
compensation. Accordingly, the court grants summary judgment
in favor of Defendant on all counts.
worked as a publications marketing manager for Defendant from
July 2011 to January 2015. Pl.’s Opp’n to
Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 23, Pl.’s Mem.
in Supp., ECF No. 23-1 [hereinafter Pl.’s Opp’n],
Pl.’s Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF No. 23-2, at
5–14 [hereinafter Pl.’s Stmt.], ¶¶ 73,
96; Def.’s Mot. for Summ. J. & Stmt. of Material
Facts, ECF No. 20, at 41–54 [hereinafter Def.’s
Stmt.], ¶ 68; Pl.’s Resp. to Def.’s Stmt.,
ECF No. 23-2, at 1–5 [hereinafter Pl.’s Resp.],
¶ 68. The Endocrine Society is a professional membership
organization dedicated to the research, study, and clinical
practice of endocrinology-the branch of physiology and
medicine related to glands and hormones. Pl.’s Stmt.
¶ 71; Def.’s Reply in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J.,
ECF No. 24 [hereinafter Def.’s Reply], at 32–40
[hereinafter Def.’s Resp.], ¶ 71; Def.’s
Mot., Def.’s Exs., ECF 20-1 [hereinafter Def.’s
Exs.], at 45–99 [hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 7], at
1.The organization’s members consist
primarily of medical doctors, scientists, clinical
researchers, and educators. Def.’s Ex. 7 at 1. The
Endocrine Society publishes peer-reviewed journals, hosts
conferences and meetings, and develops clinical practice
guidelines, in addition to other work. Id. at
1–2. Plaintiff’s responsibilities at the
Endocrine Society included securing subscriptions and
renewals to the organization’s journals, preparing
profit and loss statements for new publications and
educational products, creating and implementing marketing
plans, and managing the marketing department’s budget.
Def.’s Stmt. ¶ 2; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 2;
Def.’s Exs. at 20–23 [hereinafter Def.’s
Ex. 3]; Pl.’s Opp’n, ECF No. 23-12 [hereinafter
Pl.’s Ex. 10], at 85–93.
Plaintiff’s Performance Issues
2013, Plaintiff’s work performance began to decline. As
early as mid-2013, Plaintiff’s immediate supervisor,
marketing director Meredith Jannsen, observed that
Plaintiff’s work quality was sub-par: Plaintiff was not
completing marketing plans, her writings contained numerous
errors, and she needed guidance from managers to do basic
projects. Def.’s Exs. at 33–44 [hereinafter
Def.’s Ex. 6], at 52–53; Def.’s Exs.
153–62 [hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 13]. According to
Jannsen, Plaintiff’s work quality continued to
deteriorate in early 2014, causing other employees to
complain about Plaintiff’s failure to follow through on
various tasks and forcing Jannsen to shoulder many of
Plaintiff’s responsibilities. Def.’s Ex. 6 at
56–57; Def.’s Exs. at 140–46 [hereinafter
Def.’s Ex. 10]; Def.’s Ex. 12; Def.’s Exs.
at 193–95 [hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 18];
Def.’s Exs. at 207–26 [hereinafter Def.’s
Ex. 24]. In May 2014, Jannsen met with Plaintiff to discuss
these performance issues and, thereafter, Jannsen began
documenting her concerns and working with Human Resources
(“HR”) to address them. Def.’s Stmt. ¶
18; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 18; Def.’s Ex. 6 at
57–59; Def.’s Ex. 10.
job performance did not improve. Throughout the fall of 2014,
Jannsen and Wendy Sturley, Defendant’s senior marketing
director, met multiple times to discuss Plaintiff’s
performance and raised the possibility of termination.
Def.’s Ex. 6 at 74–75; Def.’s Stmt. ¶
35; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 35. Jannsen also continued to
coordinate with HR, documenting examples of Plaintiff’s
inferior work. Def.’s Exs. at 204–28 (Exs.
23–25). On October 8, 2014, Jannsen again met with
Plaintiff to discuss her ongoing performance issues, and two
days later, sent her an email recapping the meeting and
attaching a list of projects on which to focus. Def.’s
Stmt. ¶ 30; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 30; Pl.’s Ex.
10 at 105–06; Def.’s Exs. 163–72
[hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 14]. The email stated:
“As we discussed, we were hoping to start fresh on all
of these projects and get you to a place where you were able
to perform the duties required of the position including
taking ownership and initiative for the planning and
implementation of marketing efforts related to journals and
[publications].” Def.’s Ex. 14 at 2.
Plaintiff’s Leave Requests
throughout 2014, Plaintiff’s parents experienced
serious health problems, causing her to periodically seek
leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq.
Def.’s Ex. 6 at 67–68. Plaintiff’s father
passed away in late September 2014, and Plaintiff returned to
work in October. Pl.’s Ex. 10 at 103–04. That
same day she returned, October 10, 2014, Plaintiff requested
30 days of family leave to care for her mother. Defendant
approved the request, and Plaintiff took a 24-day leave from
October 14, 2014, through November 13, 2014. Def.’s
Stmt. ¶¶ 32–33; Pl’s Stmt. ¶¶
made two requests for FMLA leave in December 2014, the second
of which forms the basis of her claims here. Plaintiff sought
and received FMLA leave on December 15 and 16, 2014.
Def.’s Stmt. ¶ 48; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 48.
The following day, on December 17, 2014, Plaintiff requested
60 days of leave to care for her mother, from January 20,
2015, to March 17, 2015. Def.’s Stmt. ¶¶
49–50; Pl.’s Resp. ¶¶ 49–50;
Def.’s Exs. at 244–45 (Ex. 30). On December 19,
2014, Sturley reported that Plaintiff stormed into her office
in a confrontational manner. Def.’s Exs. at
248–51 (Ex. 32). In an e-mail to HR Director Julie
Boynton, Sturley described her interactions with Plaintiff as
growing “more and more frustrating” and sought
guidance on how to handle the situation. Id. A few
days later, on December 22, 2014, Plaintiff requested 12
weeks of leave to begin immediately, which was approved.
Def.’s Exs. at 252–62 (Ex. 33).
of Plaintiff’s Employment
Plaintiff was on leave in December 2014, Jannsen monitored
Plaintiff’s work e-mail account. Def.’s Stmt.
¶ 56; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 56; Def.’s Ex. 6 at
76–77. When Jannsen went out on vacation, Sturley, the
senior marketing director, took over that task. Def.’s
Exs. at 24–29 [hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 4], at
65–66. Sturley discovered multiple e-mails written to
and from Plaintiff’s work account relating to two
outside businesses-Wired Cycling, a cycling studio Plaintiff
founded in northeast Washington, D.C., and Long &
Associates, LLC, Plaintiff’s husband’s law firm.
Def.’s Stmt. ¶ 57; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 57;
Def.’s Ex. 4 at 67, 69–71; Def.’s Exs. at
100–11 [hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 8], at 120.
Sturley informed Boynton of her discovery; Boynton, in turn,
reported the issue to her supervisor; and Boynton’s
supervisor then reported it to Defendant’s Chief
Executive Officer (“CEO”). Def.’s Ex. 4 at
65–68. The CEO and Boynton’s supervisor then
directed Boynton to audit Plaintiff’s e-mail account.
Id. at 67.
audit revealed Plaintiff had been using her work e-mail
account for unauthorized activities, against
Defendant’s policy. The audit uncovered dozens of
e-mails and documents Plaintiff sent from her work e-mail
account, during work hours, related to Wired Cycling,
including architect’s drawings, floor plans, an
application for a building variance with the city,
information about bank loans, and letters of neighborhood
support for the studio. Def.’s Stmt. ¶ 61;
Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 61; Def.’s Ex. 4 at 71;
Def.’s Exs. at 263–505 (Exs. 34–46). The
audit’s results were reported to the CEO, who made the
decision to terminate Plaintiff’s employment.
Def.’s Stmt. ¶ 58; Pl.’s Resp. ¶ 58;
Def.’s Ex. 4 at 66–67; see Def.’s
Reply, ECF No. 24-1 [hereinafter Def.’s Reply Exs.], at
1–6 [hereinafter Def.’s Ex. 51], at 40. According
to Boynton, the CEO decided to fire Plaintiff because
[s]he was upset at the use of the Endocrine Society’s
tools and technology. She was upset at the performance over[
]time that had been reported to her by the management and the
marketing department. And the whole package, I think, just
represented to her somebody whom she did not have confidence
in that had the Endocrine Society’s business best
interest in mind.
Def.’s Ex. 51 at 40.
January 8, 2015-while Plaintiff was still on FMLA
leave-Boynton sent Plaintiff a letter notifying her that her
employment had been terminated, effective immediately.
Def.’s Mot. at 6; Pl.’s Opp’n, ECF No.
23-18 [hereinafter Pl.’s Ex. 16]. The letter stated the
reasons for Plaintiff’s termination as follows:
In addition to ongoing, documented concerns about poor work
performance, a recent audit of our ES systems revealed your
extensive and long-term use of the organization’s
business resources, including your labor hours, ES IT
systems, copiers/scanners and office facilities, to run at
least two personal businesses (Long & Associates, LLC,
Wired Cycling). In addition, we have evidence of your
application for other employment.
Pl.’s Ex. 16. In light of the termination letter,
Plaintiff did not return to work. Pl.’s Stmt. ¶
97; Def.’s Resp. ¶ 97.
filed this action in early 2016, alleging that
Defendant’s decision to terminate her employment while
she was on leave interfered with her right to take leave
under the FMLA and its D.C. counterpart, the D.C. Family and
Medical Leave Act (“DCFMLA”), D.C. Code §
32–501, et seq., and was in retaliation for taking
approved leave (Counts I–IV). Am. Compl., ECF No. 4
[hereinafter Am. Compl.], ¶¶ 26–42. Plaintiff
further claims that Defendant improperly classified her as an
“exempt” employee ineligible for overtime pay
protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act
(“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C. § 201, et seq., and,
because of this improper classification, she is entitled to
overtime wages pursuant to the D.C. Minimum Wage Revision Act
(“DCMWRA”), D.C. Code § 32–1001, et
seq., the D.C. Wage Payment and Collection Law
(“DCWPCL”), D.C. Code § 32–1301, et
seq., and the FLSA (Counts V–VII). Am. Compl.
¶¶ 43–49, 55–61. Additionally,
Plaintiff asserts that Defendant failed to pay out vacation
hours upon her termination in violation of the DCWPCL (Count
VI). Am. Compl. ¶ 54. Defendant moves for summary
judgment as to all Counts in Plaintiff’s Amended
judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there
is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(a). A “genuine dispute” of a
“material fact” exists when the fact is
“capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the
litigation” and “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could ...