Case Summaries: District of Columbia Summaries

Newsletter Volume: 
Newsletter - January 2004
January

AJ Errors in Evaluation of Disability Application

Butler v. Barnhart, No. 02-5312 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 13, 2004), Henderson, J., joined by Tatel, J. and Garland, J.

An administrative law judge erred in evaluating the Plaintiff's disability insurance application by failing to properly consider the plaintiff's inability to meet some of the physical demands of plaintiff's work activities, failing to give proper consideration to the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician, and failing to give proper consideration to her claim that she was disabled by intense pain. This case was reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Court Criticizes Plaintiff’s Attorneys for Inconsistent and Inadequate Billing Practices in Fee Petition

Role Models America, Inc., Appellant v. Les Brownlee, Acting Secretary of the Army, et al., No. 02-5037 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 13, 2004).

Although this opinion concerns fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, its harsh criticism of the plaintiff's attorneys for their inadequate and inconsistent billing records is certainly a warning sign to plaintiff's attorneys seeking recovery of attorneys' fees and expenses under Title VII and other statutes allowing for fee-shifting. Look at the second half of this opinion before preparing a fee petition.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Court Finds Successor Business Liable for Pension Contributions9 MWELA MONTHLY January 2004 Flynn v. R.C. Tile, No. 02-7091 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 09, 2004).

The district court properly concluded that two successive, family-owned, defendant construction companies were alter egos of each other, and therefore, one was liable for the delinquent pension contributions pursuant to its predecessor's collective bargaining agreement with plaintiff Union. To read the opinion, go to: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/data2/circs/DC/027091 A.pdf.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

D.C. Circuit Reverses Decision on Title VII and 1983 Claims

Singletary v. District of Columbia, No. 02-7138 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 16, 2003)

The D.C. Circuit reversed the District Court’s (Judge Sullivan) decision on the Title VII retaliation claim in this case because the district court failed to consider temporal proximity by only looking at a single, remote event. The Court also reversed the District Court on the harassment claim in reliance on Amtrak v. Morgan which allows consideration of older events under the continuing violation doctrine. Also, the Court reversed the Section 1983 claim for failure to promote because of an improper application of the statute of limitations. Accordingly, the case has been remanded for reconsideration of the evidence. An excerpt regarding causation is as follows:

“Although the court found that there was no other evidence of causation that could make up for the temporal proximity that it thought was absent, Singletary, 225 F. Supp. 2d at 57, this circuit has held that a close temporal relationship may alone establish the required causal connection. And here8 MWELA MONTHLY January 2004 the temporal proximity was quite close: Singletary was denied promotion to the acting supervisor position in June 1993, the month after he filed his appeal with the D.C. Court of Appeals. Whether such proximity was enough in this case is, in the first instance, a question for the finder of fact rather than the appellate court. We therefore remand for the district court to determine whether the close temporal relationship between the 1993 protected activity and the 1993 adverse employment action, in the context of other evidence offered by both the plaintiff and the defendants, persuades the court that the defendants unlawfully retaliated against the plaintiff in violation of Title VII.”

To read the opinion, go to: http://pacer.cadc.us courts.gov/docs/common/opinions/200312/02-7138a.pdf.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Dismissal Affirmed for Failure to Exhaust Remedies under CMPA

Burton v. District of Columbia, No. 01-CV-1195 (D.C. Nov. 20, 2003), Terry, J. (Ruiz and Washington, JJ. concur) (affirmed).

A former police officer sued the District of Columbia and three of his former supervisors from the Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) alleging retaliation stemming from his reports of misconduct by one of the supervisors. During trial, the case was dismissed pursuant to Rule 50 on the ground that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act. On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the exhaustion doctrine is a rule of judicial administration and is not jurisdictional, and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing an action for Plaintiff’s failure to exhaust administrative remedies regarding his claims of retaliation. In addition, the Court affirmed that the Defendant could raise the issue of exhaustion as a defense even though it was not included in the Joint Pretrial Order governing the trial.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Judge Kessler Cites District of Columbia for Uncivilized Conduct and Failures to Comply with Discovery Rules

Lerner v. District of Columbia, et al., No. 00-CV-1590 (GK) (Jan. 27, 2004), Kessler, J.

Judge Kessler ordered the Defendant to produce documents, pay the Plaintiff’s costs and to show cause as to why the Defendant and Counsel should not be held in contempt of Court. This followed after the Plaintiff moved for sanctions against Defendant Patterson and for his ongoing failure to comply with his discovery obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and his failure to comply with a specific Court Order, entered December 9, 2003, granting Plaintiff's Motion to Compel the Production of Documents. Throughout this litigation, Defendant Patterson's counsel consistently failed to comply with his discovery obligations and to handle this case in a professionally responsible and civil manner. In addition to not responding to discovery obligations, Judge Kessler found that he consistently ignored the basic civilities of law practice by refusing to return telephone calls, voicemail messages, and letters. In addition, Defendant’s counsel did not file an opposition to the Plaintiff’s latest motion for sanctions.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Non-selection Constitutes Adverse Action; Failure to Rebut Agency’s Articulation Justifies Defense Judgment

Stewart v. Ashcroft, No. 02-5233 (D.C. Cir. December 23, 2003)

The district court erred in failing to find a non-selection to be an adverse employment action, however the plaintiff failed to rebut the government's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for not selecting him to become Chief of the Environmental Crimes Section. To read the full text of this opinion, go t o : [PDF File]

http://caselaw.findlaw.com/data2/circs/DC/0252 33A.pdf.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Pleading Error deemed Fatal to Rehabilitation Act Claim; Employer’s Corrective Action Precludes Liability

Taylor v. Small, (D.C. Cir. Dec. 12, 2003).

Two key issues: (1) the D.C. Circuit refused to allow the federal employee plaintiff, who mistakenly pled her disability claim under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, to proceed under Section 501 instead (even if they had, the plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies), and (2) an employer can cure a discriminatory adverse employment action prior to litigation, thereby avoiding liability. To read the decision, go to: http://pacer.cadc.uscourts.gov /docs/common/opinions/200312/02-5261a.pdf.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Statute of Limitations Ran Out on Classification Claim

Harris v. Federal Aviation Admin., No. 02-5304 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 13, 2004), Henderson, J., joined by Tatel, J. and Roberts, J.

The Court found that the Federal Aviation Administration=s recruitment notice was a final agency action. However, the plaintiffs filed suit after the six-year statute of limitations expired, so the District Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the claims. The case arose when the plaintiffs, who were air traffic controller strikers who were fired and then rehired under a 1993 Recruitment Notice sue the agency alleging that the decision to rehire them at the GS-9 level, rather than their pre-termination grades, was arbitrary and capricious. The suit commenced in 2001 and therefore was outside the limitations period.

Manner of Addressing Parties is Negotiable Association of Civilian Technicians v. Federal Labor Relations Auth., No. 03-1083 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 9, 2004), Edwards, J, joined by Sentelle; Henderson, J. (concurring).

A bargaining proposal tendered by a union to an employer stating the manner in which management representatives should address union agents during collective bargaining negotiations was negotiable. The union's proposal did not regulate the substantive conditions of employment of management officials or other non-union people B it only established the standards for governing union/management interactions.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Summary Judgment Denied in Age Bias Case

Equal Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. District of Columbia Public Schools, No. 02-371 (D.D.C. Aug. 13, 2003) Walton, J.

Defendant's conflicting and inconsistent reasons for District of Columbia teacher's lay off created genuine issue of material fact which precludes summary judgment for the defendant in the teacher's age discrimination lawsuit.

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Newsletter - January 2004
January

Summary Judgment is Granted Where Harassment is Not Severe Enough to Be Actionable; Plaintiff Fails to Show Adverse Action for Retaliation Claim

Milford S. Jones v. John E. Potter, Post Master General, United States Postal Service, No. 01- 1905 (D.D.C. Jan. 2004), Walton, J.

Summary judgment was warranted in this case because the single incident of harassment was of short duration and not sufficiently severe. The retaliation claim also failed because the temporary reassignment of the plaintiff and the denial of opportunities to work overtime were not adverse employment actions (the latter justifiable because the USPS was under a cost-cutting mandate). This decision discusses some of the case law governing same-sex harassment and single incident harassment. To read the decision, go to:http://www.dcd.uscourts.gov/01-1905.pdf.

Judge Walton concluded that “[w]hile Mr. Wallace's actions were not in accordance with proper workplace etiquette, ‘a supervisor's unprofessional managerial approach and accompanying efforts to assert his authority are not the focus of the discrimination laws.’ Lee Crespo, 2003 WL 23095261, at * 10. Nor are any of the claims of retaliation actionable as they were not adverse employment actions and the defendant has asserted legitimate reasons for its actions. Accordingly, summary judgment is entered in favor of the defendant and plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.”7 MWELA MONTHLY January 2004

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Newsletter - January 2004
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