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McNair v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 8, 2019

SAUNDRA M. MCNAIR, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff, a former Administrative Law Judge for Defendant District of Columbia, was terminated from her job in 2013. According to Defendant, the termination occurred because Plaintiff missed 90 minutes of work daily for over a year after Defendant denied her request to keep an alternate work schedule that would have allowed her to arrive and leave 90 minutes early.

         Following her firing, Plaintiff brought a litany of claims against Defendant. Many of her claims did not survive the motion-to-dismiss stage, but seven proceeded to discovery and now are the subject of Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Those claims include the failure to allow her to work an alternate work schedule in violation of (1) the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for failure to reasonably accommodate, and in violation of (2) Title VII and (3) the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA) for race discrimination. Plaintiff also claims that Defendant violated (4) the ADA and (5) the DCHRA when it retaliated against her for making a reasonable accommodation request and discriminated against her for her disability by firing her. Plaintiff further asserts that her termination violated (6) the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act, because she made two purported protected disclosures that led to her termination. And, finally, Plaintiff avers that Defendant compensated her below the minimum wage in violation of (7) the Fair Labor Standards Act.

         For the reasons explained below, the court grants summary judgment in favor of Defendant as to all of Plaintiff's claims, except for the denial of reasonable accommodation under the ADA. As to that claim, the court finds that Plaintiff has made out a prima facie case and may present her case to a jury.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background[1]

         The District of Columbia Department of Employment Services hired Plaintiff as an Administrative Law Judge in March 2009. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 72 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.]; Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts in Support of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 72 [hereinafter Def.'s Stmt. of Facts], ¶ 1. In February 2010, Plaintiff's supervisor notified her that her “tour of duty” would be 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff submitted a request for accommodation on April 16, 2010, specifically, to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and to telecommute as needed, see Id. ¶ 3, due to conditions such as lupus, “failed back surgery syndrome, ” and a lumbar disc disorder, see Def.'s Mot., Exs. 2, 3, ECF Nos. 72-2, 72-3. Defendant sought additional documentation from Plaintiff less than a week later, but Plaintiff never submitted the requested information. See Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 4. Ultimately, Defendant never resolved Plaintiff's request, because soon after she made it, Plaintiff was away from the office from July 2010 to April 2012. See Id. ¶ 5.

         Upon her return, on April 30, 2012, Plaintiff submitted a request to participate in Defendant's Alternate Work Schedule program, which would allow her to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. See Id. ¶ 9. Defendant denied the request in November 2012. Id. Despite the denial, Plaintiff continued to work each day from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Id. ¶ 10.

         In November 2012, Plaintiff's supervisor, Chief Judge George Crawford, notified her that her “tour of duty” had changed to 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. See Id. ¶ 11. Crawford also warned Plaintiff that she would be treated as Absent Without Leave (“AWOL”) if she did not comply with those work hours. See Id. Notwithstanding the warning, Plaintiff continued to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. See Id. ¶ 10.

         On December 4, 2012, Plaintiff left a letter from her physician, Dr. John Byrne, on Chief Judge Crawford's chair. See Id. ¶ 12. Dr. Byrne noted that Plaintiff was “under his care for a disability of her knees” and recommended that her employer allow Plaintiff to work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic. See id.; see also Def.'s Mot.; Ex. 10, ECF No. 72-10 [hereinafter Physician Letter]. The record does not indicate what action, if any, Chief Judge Crawford took with respect to this request for an alternate work schedule. Chief Judge Crawford stopped working at the Department of Employment Services shortly after December 4, 2012. See Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 12.

         Nine months later, on August 14, 2013, Defendant issued Plaintiff an Advance Written Notice of Proposed Removal, which proposed to terminate Plaintiff for cause based on her having accrued 194.5 AWOL hours and for insubordination. See Id. ¶ 14; Def.'s Mot.; Ex. 6, ECF No. 72-6. Defendant terminated Plaintiff on October 18, 2013, for the accumulation of AWOL hours and insubordination. See Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 15; Def.'s Mot.; Ex. 7, ECF No. 72-7, at 3.

         Throughout her employment from November 2012 to July 2013-the period in which Defendant counted AWOL hours-Plaintiff earned either $40.17 per hour or $41.37 per hour. See Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶¶ 17-18; Def.'s Mot; Ex. 8, ECF No. 72-8, ¶¶ 2-3.

         B. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff filed this action on May 13, 2015. See Compl., ECF No. 1. On January 1, 2016, she filed an Amended Complaint, containing a myriad of claims against the District of Columbia, the Department of Employment Services, and three individuals employed by the District of Columbia. See Am. Comp., ECF No. 12. In a series of opinions, the court dismissed many claims and parties from the action. See Mem. Op., ECF No. 35; see also Mem. Op., ECF No. 45; see also Mem. Op., ECF No. 69. What remains are the following claims against the sole remaining Defendant, the District of Columbia: (1) failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”); (2) retaliation and disability discrimination under the ADA and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”); (3) race discrimination under Title VII and the DCHRA; (4) failure to compensate under the Fair Labor Standards Act; and (7) retaliation under the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act.

         Defendant moved for summary judgment on all remaining claims on July 13, 2018. See Def.'s Mot.[2] Plaintiff filed an Opposition on August 27, 2018. See Pl.'s Response about Mot., ECF No. 75 [hereinafter Pl.'s Resp.]. Defendant replied on October 3, 2018. See Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 76.

         III. ...


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