United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
difference a lawyer can make. Trina Congress brought suit
against the District of Columbia alleging discrimination on
the basis of her disability. The District moved to dismiss
her original complaint, and the Court dismissed all but one
of her claims. Now represented by new counsel, Congress has
filed an amended complaint with the District's consent.
Once more, the District has moved to dismiss. This time the
result is a bit more favorable to Congress. The Court will
still grant the District's motion in part, dismissing
Congress's ADA claims and two of her Rehabilitation Act
claims while keeping the remaining two Rehabilitation Act
Court draws this factual background from the amended
complaint, assuming the truth of all well-pled allegations as
it must on a motion to dismiss. See, e.g.,
Sissel v. U.S. Dep't of Health & Human
Servs., 760 F.3d 1, 4 (D.C. Cir. 2014). Plaintiff Trina
Congress was hired by the District of Columbia as an
Education Aide in December 2011. Am. Compl. ¶ 23. When
she was hired, Congress suffered from nerve damage that
impaired her physical abilities as a consequence of a prior
car accident. Id. ¶¶ 9-10. She informed
her supervisor, principal Abdullah Zaki, of her condition
after being hired. Id. ¶ 25.
September 2013, Congress requested an elevator key so she
would not have to use the stairs of the school building.
Id. ¶ 26. She also requested that Zaki ensure
the school's handicap parking spaces were kept available
for those with valid placards, such as Congress, so that she
could park closer to the school. Id. ¶ 27. Zaki
allegedly denied Congress's requests for accommodations.
Id. ¶¶ 27, 30. Congress repeated her
requests for both the key and an open parking space
throughout 2013 and 2014, and claims that Zaki never acted on
them. Id. ¶¶ 28, 31.
2013 and 2014, Congress also took intermittent medical leave
due to her nerve damage. Id. ¶ 33.
Nevertheless, Zaki several times denied Congress medical
leave and placed her on absent without leave
(“AWOL”) status. Id. ¶ 35, 51. He
also emailed Congress saying that he “had no time for
someone being sick.” Id. ¶ 37.
September 9, 2014, Congress submitted a complaint against
Zaki to the District's Labor Management and Employee
Relations team. Id. ¶ 42. She met with the team
in October 2014 to discuss her complaint. Id. ¶
43. During that meeting, Congress indicated that Zaki had
forced her to cover classes that were not included in her job
description and that she could not cover because of her
disability and requested that Zaki stop assigning her these
duties. She also told the team that Zaki placed her on leave
and refused to grant her an accommodation such as an elevator
key or closer parking spot. Id. ¶¶ 44-47.
Immediately after that meeting, Congress was informed that a
claim was being asserted against her for alleged residency
fraud-a claim she says was “previously
adjudicated” in July 2013. Id. ¶¶
January 2015, Congress claims she was assaulted by a student,
which aggravated her pre-existing nerve damage. Id.
¶ 53. From January 29 through May 4, Congress was on
workers compensation leave due to the injuries she suffered
in the assault. Id. ¶ 54. While she was on
leave, Zaki gave Congress a negative performance evaluation
that was later forced to be rescinded due to inadequate
documentation. Id. ¶¶ 55-57. He also
refused for several months to sign paperwork necessary to
allow the relevant insurance carrier to process
Congress's claims for treatment stemming from her
injuries. Id. ¶ 60.
6, 2015, shortly after Congress returned to work, Zaki
terminated her employment, allegedly because of dishonesty
associated with the residency fraud claim. Id.
¶ 62. A few months later, in July 2015, Congress filed a
charge of discrimination against the District with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the D.C. Office
of Human Rights. See MTD Ex. 1. In her complaint,
Congress checked the boxes for retaliation and disability
discrimination and detailed how Zaki had refused to provide
her an elevator key or parking spot and terminated her
receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, Congress
brought suit against the District of Columbia. Her original
complaint raised three claims: (1) discrimination on the
basis of her disability due to a failure to provide a
reasonable accommodation, in violation of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Rehabilitation Act, and
D.C. Human Rights Act; (2) retaliation because of protected
activities, in violation of the ADA, Rehabilitation Act, and
D.C. Human Rights Act; and (3) creation of a disability-based
hostile work environment, in violation of the ADA and
Rehabilitation Act. See Compl. ¶¶ 20-27.
The District filed a motion to dismiss, which the Court
granted as to all but Congress's hostile work environment
claim under the Rehabilitation Act. See Congress v.
District of Columbia, 277 F.Supp.3d 82, 86 (D.D.C.
the parties were undergoing discovery, Congress's
original counsel filed a motion to withdraw. See
Mot. Withdraw Attorney [ECF No. 17]. Following a sealed, ex
parte hearing, the Court granted the motion. See
Order [ECF No. 18] (Jan. 24, 2018). The Court also stayed
discovery for a period of 30 days from the date of the Order
to allow Congress to seek new counsel. Id. The stay
was extended for an additional 60 days on Congress's
request. See Minute Order (Jan. 31, 2018).
March 20, 2018, Congress's new (and current) counsel
entered a notice of appearance. He also filed a motion
seeking reconsideration of the Court's prior dismissal
ruling or, alternatively, leave to file an amended complaint.
After the District indicated its consent to the filing of an
amended complaint, the Court granted the motion to amend,
denied the motion for reconsideration as moot, and directed
the District to file an answer or motion to dismiss the
amended complaint. See Minute Order (May 8, 2018).
In response, the District once more moved for dismissal.
Rule 12(b)(6) standards
analyzing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the
complaint “contain[s] 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)). This
requires “factual content that allows the court to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Id. To make this
determination, the Court “must take all of the factual
allegations in the complaint as true.” Id. It
also must “constru[e] the complaint liberally in the
plaintiff's favor with the benefit of all reasonable
inferences derived from the facts alleged.” Stewart
v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C.
Cir. 2006). Finally, the Court may only “consider the
facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached thereto or
incorporated therein, and matters of which it may take
judicial notice.” Id.
Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
that a plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies
are ordinarily addressed through the vehicle of a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Scott v.
Dist. Hosp. Partners, 60 F.Supp.3d 156, 161 (D.D.C.
2014). As an affirmative defense, the District bears the
burden of pleading and proving failure to exhaust. Bowden
v. United States, 106 F.3d 433, 437 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
and Rehabilitation Act each have their own set of exhaustion
requirements and statutes of limitations. As to the ADA, the
requirements for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act govern
exhaustion of administrative remedies. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 12117(a). An aggrieved party must file a charge with
the EEOC within 300 days of the allegedly unlawful employment
practice.Id. § 2000e-5(e)(1). She
must then file her ...