United States District Court, D. Maryland
VIDA R. GATLING, Plaintiff,
ASHTON B. CARTER, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, et al., Defendants.
Xinis United States District Judge
in this disability discrimination case is Defendants'
motion to dismiss the amended complaint, or in the
alternative, for summary judgment (ECF No. 23) and
Plaintiff's motion to for leave to file a second amended
complaint (ECF No. 21). The relevant issues have been fully
briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6
because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons stated
below, Plaintiff's motion to amend is GRANTED and
Defendant's motion to dismiss is GRANTED.
Vida R. Gatling (“Plaintiff”) was employed by the
United States Department of Defense (the
“Agency”) as a GS-7 “Credentials
Coordinator” at the Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center (“WRNMMC”) in Bethesda, Maryland
from August 14, 2011 until her retirement in 2013. Her job
involved reviewing applications and providing recommendations
as to whether medical providers should have hospital
privileges at WRNMMC. Before August 14, 2011, Plaintiff
worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
ECF No. 9 at 12.
2009, Plaintiff was diagnosed with possible
“Demyelinating Disease, Vasculitis, or Post
Infect.” ECF No. 9 at 6. On November 2, 2009,
Plaintiff's office manager, Elain Fleming
(“Fleming”), brought to Plaintiff's attention
that she had made a “big mistake, HUGE, ”
involving her filing duties. ECF No. 9 at 6. Upset about
being reprimanded, Plaintiff contacted the administrative
office and was advised to first speak with her supervisors
for assistance and then, if Plaintiff's issues remained
unresolved, file an equal employment opportunity
(“EEO”) complaint. ECF No. 9 at 6 (citing ECF No.
1-6 at 6). On November 3, 2009, Plaintiff was again
criticized for allegedly making another filing error, this
time by her supervisor, Cynthia Contreras
(“Contreras”). ECF No. 9 at 7.
February 24, 2010, Plaintiff informed Fleming and Contreras
of her health issues. ECF No. 9 at 7. Her supervisors advised
her to take leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave
Act (“FMLA”) and, for an unknown reason, stated
to Plaintiff that she may need to look for employment
elsewhere. ECF No. 9 at 7. Plaintiff alleges that she was
unable to take leave due to personal financial constraints.
ECF No. 9 at 7-8.
March 7, 2010, Plaintiff was hospitalized for symptoms of her
mental disability. ECF No. 9 at 8. After Plaintiff was
released from the hospital, she could not work past 5 p.m.
without doctor's permission. ECF No. 9 at 8. On March 17,
2010, Contreras asked Plaintiff if she could work past 5 p.m.
in a rude and disrespectful manner, and in response,
Plaintiff suffered a panic attack and was again hospitalized.
ECF No. 9 at 9. Plaintiff was fully released from hospital
care on April 9, 2010. ECF No. 9 at 9. Plaintiff then
returned to work.
22, 2010 Plaintiff was again hospitalized due to her mental
illness. ECF No. 9 at 11. Plaintiff then took FMLA leave from
June 2010 to September 2010. Upon her return, Plaintiff was
provided different responsibilities to accommodate her
mental-health disorders. ECF No. 9 at 11-12. On April 8,
2011, Plaintiff requested an accommodation to work four days
per week, ECF No. 9 at 12; ECF No. 1-14, which Fleming
approved, ECF No. 9 at 13.
August 14, 2011, Plaintiff was assigned to work at Walter
Reed National Navy Medical Center. ECF No. 9 at 12. Plaintiff
requested an accommodation for a four-day work week, which
was denied. ECF No. 9 at 13. On November 29, 2011, Plaintiff
requested a transfer out of her current department, and this
request was also denied. ECF No. 9 at 14.
November 22, 2011, Plaintiff was told by Contreras that
socializing in the office should be curtailed. Then on
December 16, 2011, Plaintiff's request for FMLA leave was
denied. ECF No. 9 at 14. Plaintiff then requested an
accommodation to work from home, which required additional
medical documentation. ECF No. 9 at 15.
January 26, 2012, Plaintiff's workload was increased
because she carried a substantially lower caseload than her
co-workers. ECF No. 9 at 15. Plaintiff then suffered relapses
related to her mental illness on January 27, 2012, February
8, 2012, and February 14, 2012. ECF No. 9 at 15-16. In
response, Plaintiff's doctor confirmed in writing that
Plaintiff should work from home two to three days a week to
accommodate her disability. ECF No. 9 at 16. The Agency did
not accommodate Plaintiff's request. ECF No. 9 at 18. As
a consequence, Plaintiff retired on disability in 2013. ECF
No. 9 at 18.
timely met with an EEO counselor on April 27, 2012. ECF No.
23-14. On June 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed a formal EEO
complaint. Id. The issues accepted for investigation
were whether the Agency discriminated against Plaintiff based
on her mental-health disability when:
(a) On or about January 26, 2012. [her] immediate supervisor
singled [her] out and informed [her] that [she] would receive
a heavier workload because [she] was too social and
gregarious on the job;
(b) On or about March 2012, [she was] in a hostile work
environment that interfered with [her] work performance; and
(c) On or about April 13, 2012, [she was] informed by
management, without written notification, that [her] request
for an ...