January 11, 2019
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
(CAB-799-15) (Hon. Robert R. Rigsby, Trial Judge)
McDonough for appellant.
S. Block, with whom Andrew Butz was on the brief, for
Thompson and McLeese, Associate Judges, and Edelman,
Associate Judge of the Superior Court of the District of
McLeese, Associate Judge.
Khalil Abdul-Azim sued his former employer, appellee Howard
University Hospital (HUH), alleging that HUH discriminated
against him on the basis of a perceived disability. The trial
court granted summary judgment to HUH. We vacate and remand.
as indicated, the following facts appear to be undisputed.
Mr. Abdul-Azim began working at HUH in 1998 as a cardiology
technician. He had an excellent performance record. In
February 2014, Mr. Abdul-Azim was involved in a dispute with
a coworker, Renaldon Perkins, regarding the treatment of a
patient. Mr. Perkins received a formal letter of reprimand;
Mr. Abdul-Azim was not disciplined. Both men returned to work
after the incident.
April 2014, Mr. Abdul-Azim and Mr. Perkins were involved in a
second incident that occurred during a heart-catheterization
procedure. Mr. Abdul-Azim's account of that incident was
that, believing that Mr. Perkins had omitted a procedure, Mr.
Abdul-Azim walked over to Mr. Perkins, placed his hand on Mr.
Perkins's shoulder, pointed to the monitor, and
instructed Mr. Perkins to correct the omission. Mr. Perkins
immediately stood up and left the room. Later that day, Mr.
Perkins accused Mr. Abdul-Azim of assault. Both Mr.
Abdul-Azim and Mr. Perkins were placed on administrative
leave that day pending investigation of the alleged assault.
HUH's corporate representative later testified that HUH
believed Mr. Abdul-Azim was the aggressor in both of the
incidents with Mr. Perkins.
this second incident, Mr. Abdul-Azim's supervisor Tawana
Brooks recommended that Mr. Abdul-Azim be required to
participate in HUH's Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
before returning to work. This recommendation was accepted by
HUH's senior employee and labor-relations specialist,
Candace Dabney-Smith, who expressed concern about the
"[p]ossibility of something else driving what appears to
be manic behavior."
also referred Mr. Abdul-Azim to the Employee Health
Department for a fitness-for-duty evaluation. The evaluation
was conducted in May 2014 by Dr. Elizabeth Nolte. Dr. Nolte
found that Mr. Abdul-Azim was "hyperactive" and
"manic," that he had "poor
concentration," and that his behavior during the
evaluation was bizarre. Dr. Nolte concluded that Mr.
Abdul-Azim was "[n]ot physically able to safely and
efficiently perform the essential functions of the job."
Subsequently, Dr. Nolte referred Mr. Abdul-Azim for an
evaluation for organic disease or psychiatric disorder,
noting that Mr. Abdul-Azim "would benefit from
psychiatric evaluation" and that he would remain on
leave until evaluated and treated. Dr. Nolte testified that
she did not know whether or not Mr. Abdul-Azim was disabled
and did not recall whether she had believed that Mr.
Abdul-Azim had any particular disorder.
2014, the EAP administrator reported that Mr. Abdul-Azim had
completed his EAP sessions and that no further services were
recommended. One week later, Mr. Abdul-Azim underwent a
psychological evaluation. Dr. Kelurah Comilang noted that Mr.
Abdul-Azim was "considered to be fully competent to be
released to his own custody and does not present active
danger to self or others." Mr. Abdul-Azim was released
Abdul-Azim delivered a letter from Dr. Comilang to HUH, dated
August 2014, stating that Mr. Abdul-Azim was "currently
receiving individual therapy services" and that his
treatment began in July. Mr. Abdul-Azim did not send the
evaluation records to Dr. Nolte, but he testified that he
believed this letter would suffice to demonstrate that he had
undergone the required evaluation. In October 2014, Ms.
Dabney-Smith sent Mr. Abdul-Azim a letter stating that HUH
was "unaware" if the requested psychiatric
evaluation had occurred, "and if so, the results."
That letter directed Mr. Abdul-Azim to contact Dr. Nolte. Mr.
Abdul-Azim and his attorneys repeatedly tried to contact Dr.
Nolte and HUH, but they initially got no response.
November 17, 2014, HUH sent a letter to Mr. Abdul-Azim's
attorney stating that Mr. Abdul-Azim could not return to work
until he had provided "documentation that he was
evaluated and treated by a Psychiatrist and has been cleared
for duty by Dr. Nolte." After further correspondence
back and forth, HUH sent a letter in December 2014 stating
that HUH was considering terminating Mr. Abdul-Azim because
he had not produced "documentation verifying completion
of a psychiatric evaluation." Mr. Abdul-Azim responded
with a letter insisting that he had complied with the
conditions on his return to work. HUH terminated ...