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Gatling v. Carter

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 6, 2017

VIDA R. GATLING, Plaintiff,
v.
ASHTON B. CARTER, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Pending 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.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff 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.

         In 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On June 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         On 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.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff 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 ...

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