June 8, 2017
Petition for Review of an Order of the District of Columbia
Department of Employment Services Compensation Review Board
N. DeSmyter for appellant.
A. Zelenak, with whom Elizabeth D. Cardona was on the brief,
A. Racine, Attorney General for the District of Columbia,
Todd S. Kim, Solicitor General, and Loren L. AliKhan, Deputy
Solicitor General, filed a statement in lieu of brief for
Fisher, Easterly, and McLeese, Associate Judges.
McLeese, Associate Judge
Brenda Johnson seeks review of decisions by the Compensation
Review Board (CRB): (1) concluding that Ms. Johnson suffered
from adjustment disorder and major depression, but not
post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as a result of a
work-related incident; (2) awarding Ms. Johnson temporary
total-disability benefits for the period from January 31,
2012, through July 3, 2012, but denying such benefits for the
period thereafter; and (3) ordering intervenors Federal
Express Corporation and Sedgwick Claims Management Services
(collectively "FedEx") to pay Ms. Johnson's
medical expenses for treatment related to her adjustment
disorder and major depression. We remand to the CRB for further
following evidence was presented at an evidentiary hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Ms. Johnson worked
for FedEx for over twenty- six years as a carrier and
operations agent. During a meeting on Friday, January 27,
2012, FedEx supervisors told Ms. Johnson and five coworkers
that their positions were going to be eliminated as a result
of an internal reorganization. FedEx offered Ms. Johnson a
different position, but the position was part-time and Ms.
Johnson believed that the position was beyond her physical
abilities. Ms. Johnson returned to work on Monday, January
30, but left early after having a breakdown. Ms. Johnson has
not worked in any capacity since January 2012.
February 2012, Ms. Johnson began seeing a therapist, Patricia
Carter, who diagnosed Ms. Johnson with adjustment disorder
with mixed anxiety and depression resulting from her job
loss. In June 2012, Ms. Johnson sought alternative medical
treatment with Dr. Alan Brody, a psychiatrist. Dr. Brody
diagnosed Ms. Johnson with PTSD and major depression
resulting from her termination on January 27, and he
restricted her from working. In July, Dr. Bruce Smoller, a
neuropsychiatric specialist, conducted an independent medical
examination of Ms. Johnson. Dr. Smoller concluded that Ms.
Johnson had "an exaggerated normal human reaction"
that "skim[med] the border of a psychiatric
disorder." Dr. Smoller stated that Ms. Johnson had no
work restrictions, and he expressed doubt about her need for
continuing psychiatric treatment.
ALJ initially concluded that Ms. Johnson's condition was
not compensable because the elimination of her position was
not an "accidental injury" covered by the District
of Columbia Workers' Compensation Act (WCA). On appeal,
the CRB remanded, concluding that under Ramey v. District
of Columbia Dep't of Emp't Servs., 950 A.2d 33
(D.C. 2008), Ms. Johnson's claim could be compensable
under the WCA if Ms. Johnson demonstrated a psychological
injury and an actual workplace condition or event that could
have caused or aggravated that injury.
ALJ was assigned to the matter on remand. That ALJ reopened
the record, over Ms. Johnson's objection, and instructed
the parties to provide evidence of definitions, criteria, and
symptoms with respect to PTSD and adjustment disorder. The
ALJ ultimately concluded that Ms. Johnson suffered from
adjustment disorder -- but not major depression or PTSD -- as
a result of her termination. The ALJ awarded Ms. Johnson
temporary total-disability benefits from January 31 through
July 3, 2012.
appeal, the CRB affirmed the ALJ's conclusions that Ms.
Johnson suffered from adjustment disorder, that she did not
have PTSD, and that she was entitled to temporary
total-disability benefits from January 31 through July 3,
2012. The CRB remanded the case, however, for the ALJ to
determine whether FedEx had rebutted the presumption of
compensability with respect to Ms. Johnson's diagnosis of
major depression. On remand, the ALJ determined that FedEx
had rebutted the presumption and that Ms. Johnson had not
proven that she had major depression. The CRB reversed,
concluding that Dr. Smoller's report was insufficient to
rebut the presumption, because the report did not
specifically address whether Ms. Johnson's diagnosis of
major depression was correct or whether that condition was
causally related to Ms. Johnson's termination.
Accordingly, the ALJ ...