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Epps v. Potomac Electric Power Company

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 10, 2019

LINDA D. EPPS, Plaintiff
v.
POTOMAC ELECTRIC POWER COMPANY, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff was employed by the Potomac Electric Power Company (“Pepco”), a public utility company owned by Exelon Corporation, from February 22, 1994 until her termination on June 21, 2018. Beginning in March 2006, Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled from work due to a depressive illness and was placed on long term disability leave. In June 2016, Defendants informed Plaintiff that she would be terminated unless she returned to work. Plaintiff contends that she attempted to return to work. However, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants discriminated against her by failing to reinstate her and by ultimately terminating her on June 21, 2018. Plaintiff brings claims for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, and under the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”), D.C. Code § 2-1402.11. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Plaintiff's claims are untimely and that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted.

         Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN PART Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Defendants' Motion is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE IN PART as at least some of Plaintiff's claims are timely. Specifically, the Court concludes that Plaintiff's ADA claim is timely with respect to acts occurring on or after September 19, 2017, and her DCHRA claim is timely with respect to acts occurring on or after June 14, 2017. As such, Plaintiff's claims concerning Defendants' alleged January 2018 decision to terminate her in 90 days if she could not identify a new position and her June 21, 2018 termination are timely. The Court further concludes that Plaintiff has alleged facts sufficient to state a claim for disability discrimination under the ADA and the DCHRA for these events. Additional factual development is required before the Court can more fully assess Plaintiff's claims.

         However, Defendants' Motion is also GRANTED IN PART. Plaintiff's claims related to Defendants' June 23, 2016 letter informing her that she needed to return to work and Defendants' alleged August 2016 to May 2017 comments that she would be returned to work shortly are DISMISSED as untimely.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For the purposes of the motion before the Court, the Court accepts as true the well-pled allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint. The Court does “not accept as true, however, the plaintiff's legal conclusions or inferences that are unsupported by the facts alleged.” Ralls Corp. v. Comm. on Foreign Inv. in the United States, 758 F.3d 296, 315 (D.C. Cir. 2014).

         Plaintiff alleges that she was hired by Pepco, a public utility company owned by Exelon Corporation, on February 22, 1994 as a Senior Administrative Assistant. Am. Compl., ECF No. 9, ¶ 8. Sometime before March 2006, Plaintiff contends that she was assigned to work as a Service Associate. Id.

         In March 2006, Plaintiff alleges that she became disabled from work due to a depressive illness. Id. at ¶ 9. Due to her depressive illness, Plaintiff claims that Pepco placed her on long term disability leave. Id. For the next ten years and three months, Plaintiff claims that she struggled with her mental illness. Id. at ¶ 10. But, by 2016, Plaintiff alleges that she was recovered to the extent that she could return to work. Id.

         On June 23, 2016, Plaintiff claims that Pepco sent her a letter informing her that it had concluded that she was “unable to return to work [her] assigned position, Senior Admin Asst., due to [her] medical condition.” Id. at ¶ 12. According to Plaintiff, the letter further explained that if Plaintiff's healthcare provider certified that she was allowed to work, Pepco would help Plaintiff and her provider determine whether a reasonable accommodation could be made to allow her to perform the essential functions of her job. Id. The letter stated that if Plaintiff did not respond by August 23, 2016, Pepco would terminate Plaintiff's employment. Id. Plaintiff claims that, prior to this letter, Pepco had not informed her that there was a time limit for her leave, that her job would not be held, or that she would be terminated if she did not return to work. Id. at ¶ 11.

         Plaintiff alleges that she responded to Pepco's letter prior to August 23, 2016, informing Pepco that she was ready to return to work. Id. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff further alleges that, on multiple occasions, she provided Pepco with medical documentation confirming that she could return to work without limitations. Id. at ¶ 14. Following Plaintiff's reply to Pepco's letter, Plaintiff contends that Pepco human resources managers repeatedly told Plaintiff that a position had been identified and that she would soon be returned to work. Id. at ¶ 15. Specifically, in May 2017, Plaintiff alleges that she was told by Pepco that she would be returned to work by the end of the month. Id. at ¶ 16. However, Plaintiff was not reinstated.

         In January 2018, Plaintiff alleges that Pepco informed her that, in order to be reinstated, she would “have to monitor Pepco's vacancy announcements to identify a suitable position, reapply for employment with Pepco, and be found qualified for an open position.” Id. Plaintiff was given until April 20, 2018 to be selected for another position or face termination. Plaintiff claims that by placing the burden on her to identify a position, apply, and be selected, Pepco discriminated against her based on her disability because other employees were routinely assigned and reassigned when vacant positions became available. Id. at ¶ 17.

         On March 19, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging that Defendants had discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of her disability by threatening her with termination and by failing to reinstate her. Id. at ¶ 3. And, the following day, on March 20, 2019, Plaintiff received a dismissal of her claim by the EEOC and a notice of her rights to sue. Id. On June 15, 2018, Plaintiff brought this lawsuit alleging disability discrimination based on Defendants' threats of termination and on Defendants' failure to reinstate Plaintiff.

         On June 21, 2018, Pepco terminated Plaintiff's employment. Id. at ¶ 20a. Plaintiff alleges that her termination resulted in the loss of wages that she would have earned if reinstated as well as the loss of healthcare coverage that she had maintained as an employee of Pepco. Id. Plaintiff filed a new Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC based on her termination and received a dismissal and a notice of her rights to sue on September 18, 2018. Id. at ¶ 3. On September 26, 2018, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint including allegations related to her termination. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 9.

         Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's claims, arguing that her claims are untimely and that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted. See Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 10. That Motion is currently before the Court.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). According to Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). “[A] complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders ‘naked assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 557 (2007)). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for disability discrimination under the ADA and the DCHRA. Defendants have two arguments for dismissal. First, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's claims are untimely. Second, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief may be granted. The Court will address each argument in turn.

         A. Timeliness of Plaintiff's Claims

         As an initial matter, Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims for disability discrimination under the ADA and the DCHRA should be dismissed as untimely. Defendants contend that Plaintiff's ADA claims are subject to a 180-day limitations period starting from the filing of her Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on March 19, 2018. Defendants further argue that Plaintiff's DCRA claims are subject to a one-year limitations period that was temporarily tolled for the single day that Plaintiff's claims were being considered by the EEOC. Based on these limitations periods, Defendants contend that Plaintiff's ADA claims encompass only those acts occurring on or after September 19, 2017 and that her DCHRA claims encompass only those acts occurring on or after June 14, 2017. Defendants go on to explain that, because Plaintiff's allegations of discrimination all stem from a June 23, 2016 decision to begin termination proceedings if Plaintiff did not return to work, all of her claims are untimely and should be dismissed. For the reasons explained below, the Court agrees in part and disagrees in part.

         It is undisputed that Plaintiff filed her initial Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC on March 19, 2018. See Ex. C, ECF No. 10-5.[2] Under the ADA, discrimination claims are generally subject to a 180-day limitations period from the filing of the EEOC charge. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). As such, Plaintiff's discrimination claim would be timely only with respect to acts occurring on or after September 19, 2017.

         But, Plaintiff contends that the limitations period for her discrimination claim is actually 300 days-not 180 days. In making her argument in support of a 300-day limitations period, Plaintiff relies on 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). Under this provision, a Charge of Discrimination “shall be filed [with the EEOC] within one hundred and eighty days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred … except that in a case of an unlawful employment practice with respect to which the person aggrieved has initially instituted proceedings with a State or local agency … such charge shall be filed by or on behalf of the person aggrieved within three hundred days after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) (emphasis added). When a charging party files a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC in the District of Columbia, that claim is automatically cross-filed with the D.C. Office of Human Rights pursuant to a work-sharing agreement. See Schuler v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, 514 F.3d 1365, ...


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