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Thompson v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 28, 2017

NORA THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. # 12]

          RICHARD J. LEON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, Nora Thompson ("Thompson" or "plaintiff), brings this action, alleging that defendant, the District of Columbia ("District" or "defendant"), discriminated against her, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621. Thompson also alleges that she was subjected to a hostile work environment, in violation of the ADA, and retaliation. This matter is now before the Court on defendant's Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment [Dkt. #12]. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record herein, defendant's motion is GRANTED and plaintiffs case will be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         BACKGROUND

         Thompson-who was 61-years-old at the time she filed her amended complaint in this case-began working as a library technician at the District of Columbia Department of Corrections ("DOC") on May 17, 2004. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-7 [Dkt. # 4]. Thompson uses a walking cane, and she claims that she has a perceived disability to walk. Id. at ¶ 7; Pl.'s Opp. to Def.'s Mot. ("Pl.'s Opp."), Ex. 1 ("Pl.'s Ex. 1"). Although she accepted the position of library technician "with the understanding that she would be eligible for promotion to a higher paying law library position when it became available, " Thompson was never given a promotion. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-10. In May of 2009, Teresa A. Ward ("Ward") was given the job of Legal Instruments Examiner, which pays a higher salary than the position of library technician. Id. at ¶ 11. Ward is 15 years younger than plaintiff, and she was under the age of 40 when she began working as Legal Instruments • Examiner. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Ward "did not have educational qualifications and work experience comparable" to her, and that she did not have a disability. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12. When the position of Legal Instruments Examiner subsequently became vacant again, plaintiff claims that she applied for the job and was rejected. Id. at ¶ 13. Thompson asserts that she "has been continually rejected" for that job and other open positions at the DOC. Id.

         Beginning in approximately 2012, Thomson alleges she has experienced harassment from DOC Corporal Susan Briscoe-Armstrong ("Briscoe-Armstrong"), who provides security for the prison library. Id. at ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges that Briscoe-Armstrong has attempted to intimidate her by "having prisoners verbally abuse [her], falsely accusing [her] of not working, and tracking all of [her] movements in and around the library." Id. Plaintiff alleges that she "filed a Cease and Desist Order" against Briscoe-Armstrong in April of 2015, and again in October of 2015, but nothing was done to resolve her complaints. Id. at ¶¶ 15-17. On November 15, 2015, Thompson "filed a Civil Protection Order (CPO)" against Briscoe-Armstrong in the Civil Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, but again, nothing was done. Id. at ¶ 18.

         In December of 2015, Briscoe-Armstrong filed a complaint against Thompson for harassment. Id. at ¶ 19. Thompson did not respond to the complaint, despite direct orders from her supervisors to do so. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 2 ("Def.'s Ex. 2"). Thompson's immediate supervisor, Dr. James Greene ("Greene") determined that Thompson's refusal to respond violated the DOC's policies on investigations and the chain of command, so Greene charged Thompson with insubordination. Id. Thompson was accordingly suspended without pay for five calendar days, from February 22, 2016 through February 26, 2016. Id.; Am. Compl. ¶ 20. On March 29, 2016, Thompson filed a formal charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 3 ("Def.'s Ex. 3"); Am. Compl. ¶ 22. In her EEOC charge, Thompson claimed that she experienced discrimination based on her age and disability, and that Briscoe-Armstrong created a hostile work environment by harassing her and getting the inmates to harass her. See Def.'s Ex. 3.

         On May 12, 2016, Thompson received a Letter of Counseling from LaToya Lane ("Lane"), the Deputy Warden of Programs. Am. Compl. ¶ 23; Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 4 ("Def.'s Ex. 4"). According to Lane's letter, Thompson violated DOC procedures by allowing an inmate greater access to the library than what was permitted. Id. The letter stated, in relevant part, that the "counseling is expected to correct your behavior. Any further non-compliance will result in corrective/adverse action being taken against you." Def.'s Ex. 4.

         Plaintiff filed her original complaint in this case on August 17, 2016, and then filed an amended complaint in November of that year. See Compl. [Dkt. # 1]; Am. Compl. In her amended complaint, plaintiff alleges one count of discrimination in violation of the ADA, see Am. Compl. ¶¶ 25-32, one count of discrimination in violation of the ADEA, see Id. at ¶¶ 33-39, one count of a hostile work environment in violation of the ADA, see Id. at ¶¶ 40-45, and one count of retaliation, see Id. at ¶¶ 46-52.

         In particular, plaintiff alleges that, even though she has made "numerous attempts to apply to open positions, " she "has been passed over for numerous promotional opportunities, " despite "her educational qualifications and experience." Id. at ¶¶ 29-30. Thompson attributes this failure to promote to discrimination "on the basis of her disability and a record or perception of disability" and "because of her age." Id. at ¶¶ 31, 37. With respect to her hostile work environment claim, plaintiff alleges that Briscoe-Armstrong "deliberately intimidated, frustrated and harassed [her] for over four years, " and that, "despite [her] many complaints to her superiors, " the District did nothing, thereby "breach[ing] its duty to Plaintiff by failing to prevent and remedy the harassment and hostile workplace." Id. at ¶¶ 42, 44. Finally, plaintiff alleges that the letter of counseling she received was issued as retaliation for Thompson's filing of a charge of discrimination. Id. at ¶ 50; Pl.'s Opp. 10-11.

         Plaintiff claims that she has suffered, and continues to suffer "severe emotional distress, fear, embarrassment, humiliation and mental anguish" as a result of defendant's actions and omissions. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32, 38, 45, 52. She accordingly requests compensatory damages in excess of $300, 000, as well as attorneys' fees and costs. Id. at 9.

         On February 6, 2017, the District filed its Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl., or in the Alternative, for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot.") [Dkt. # 12]. Among other arguments, the District insists that plaintiff has failed to state a claim for discrimination and hostile work environment, has failed to demonstrate that she is disabled, and has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Id. 6-13. The District's motion is fully briefed and is ripe for my review.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment. Because the parties have presented materials outside the pleadings, and I have relied upon these materials in this Memorandum Opinion, I will treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d); House v. Salazar,598 F.Supp.2d 89, 91 (D.D.C. 2009). A party is entitled to summary judgment if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). ...


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