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Craft v. Fairfax County Government

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

April 26, 2016

ANTHONY D. CRAFT, Plaintiff,


James C. Cacheris, United States District Court Judge

This matter is before the Court on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss. [Dkt. 8] For the following reasons, the Court grants Defendant’s motion to dismiss and dismisses Plaintiff’s Complaint [Dkt. 1] without prejudice.

I. Background

At the motion to dismiss stage, the Court must read the complaint as a whole, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accept the facts alleged in the complaint as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). The facts below are taken from Plaintiff’s Complaint and the attached documents.[1]

Plaintiff Anthony Craft (“Craft” or “Plaintiff”) was employed by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department (“FRD”) as a firefighter until July 31, 2015. (Compl. at 1, 3.) On August 22, 2013, Craft suffered a work related back injury while performing his duties as a firefighter. (Id. ) After Craft visited several physicians, Defendant Fairfax County (“the County” or “Defendant”) accepted Craft’s claim as compensable pursuant to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act through its workers’ compensation claims administrator, Corvel. (Id. at 1, 2; Ex. 1.)

On May 19, 2014, after a series of medical procedures including two epidural injections and back surgery for a slipped disc, Craft received a memorandum from FRD documenting that he had been unable to perform his duties as a firefighter for over nine months. (Compl. at 2; Ex. 2; Ex. 3.) That memorandum referenced FRD’s Standard Operating Procedure 02.03.06, which provides FRD employees such as Craft one calendar year to return to full duty. (Ex. 3.) Employees who are unable to perform their job duties after that time period are subject to separation from the FRD. (Id.) That same memorandum presented Craft with six options moving forward if he was unable to return to full duty. (Compl. at 2; Ex. 3.) Craft was notified that if he was unable to return to full duty by August 22, 2014, the FRD could begin the process for his involuntary separation. (Ex. 3.) Craft ultimately chose to pursue referral to the Uniformed Retirement Board for service connected disability retirement and notified the FRD of that choice via memorandum on July 30, 2014. (Compl. at 2; Ex. 4.) The Retirement Administration Agency (“Retirement Agency”), a County agency, received Craft’s application for disability retirement on August 5, 2014. (Compl. at 2; Ex. 5.) The Retirement Agency informed Craft in writing that his application would be referred to its Medical Examining Board (“Medical Board”) which would consider his application and make recommendations to the Retirement Agency’s Board of Trustees (“Retirement Board”). (Id.) The Retirement Board would ultimately be responsible for determining whether Craft was eligible for disability retirement. (Id.) On August 7, 2014, the Retirement Agency requested a copy of Craft’s workers’ compensation file and a statement of compensability from the County’s Risk Management Division (“Risk Management”). (Ex. 6.) In its October 15, 2014 response, Risk Management indicated that while the County had accepted Craft’s workers’ compensation claim and compensable, there were differing medical opinions as to Craft’s ability to return to work once he reached maximum medical improvement, which was anticipated to occur by December 1, 2014. (Id.) Ultimately, Risk Management made no recommendation as to whether Craft qualified for service-connected disability retirement. (Id.)

On March 3, 2015, in response to a request from Craft for a copy of his disability file, the Retirement Agency informed Craft that the Medical Board was waiting for him to send them additional medical documentation. (Ex. 7.) Attached to the Retirement Agency’s March 3, 2015 letter was a letter dated January 26, 2015, in which the Retirement Agency informed Craft that the Medical Board could not make recommendations on his case to the Retirement Board until it had information concerning whether Craft had reached maximum medical improvement from his injury. (Id.) The January 26, 2015 letter instructed Craft to complete a functional capacity evaluation in order to provide the Medical Board with needed information concerning his physical capabilities and limitations once he reached maximum medical improvement. (Id.)

On March 27, 2015, FRD notified Craft that he was nearing the end of the maximum allowable hours of injury leave that the County would permit for his back injury pursuant to Fairfax County Personnel/Payroll Administration Policies and Procedures Memorandum number 23 Section 3 (3.7). (Ex. 8.) Craft was informed that after the exhaustion of his allotted injury leave on April 9, 2015, he would be able to use his own personal leave until that leave was exhausted. (Id.) Craft was further informed that upon exhaustion of his personal leave balances, Craft would be placed on leave without pay and would no longer receive a paycheck from the County. (Id.)

On April 21, 2015, FRD employee Dwayne Harman, Craft’s case manager, informed Craft that the Medical Board was still awaiting documentation of whether Craft had reached maximum medical improvement, and a copy of a functional capacity evaluation before it could reach a decision on his disability application. (Ex. 9.)

On May 28, 2015, Craft participated in a functional capacity evaluation, which resulted in the issuance of a summary and recommendations for Craft’s return to employment. (Ex. 11.) The summary suggested that Craft could return to employment with the county either in a position with a light physical demand level or after participation in a work conditioning program that had the potential to increase his ability to work in a position with physical demands. (Id.) On June 26, 2015, Craft received a memorandum from FRD proposing separation of employment due to Craft’s failure to return to full duty, and the lack of a foreseeable return to duty within the time allowed by County policy. (Ex. 12.) On July 23, 2015, Fire Chief Richard Bowers approved Craft’s separation from service due to his ongoing medical condition. The effective date of Craft’s separation was July 31, 2015. (Ex. 13.)

After Craft was separated from employment by the County, his application for disability retirement remained before the Retirement Board. Throughout this time Craft continued to seek a variety of treatments from several different physicians. An Independent Medical Examination (“IME”) was performed on Craft by a Dr. Dhruv B. Prateder. (Ex. 14.) Dr. Prateder concluded that there was no objective medical finding that would explain Craft’s complained of symptoms, and that there was no medical reason that Craft’s back injury prevented him from working. (Id.) On October 2, 2015, after receiving Dr. Prateder’s opinion, the Medical Board issued a report to the Retirement Board containing its findings, and its conclusion that Craft was not incapacitated or unable to perform his job duties. (Ex. 15.) Craft and his wife attended a meeting of the Retirement Board on October 21, 2015, where Craft presented evidence as to his injury and his asserted disability. (Compl. at 3.) On December 16, 2015, Craft was notified that the Retirement Board had denied his application for disability retirement. (Ex. 16.) Craft has appealed the Retirement Board’s decision. (Compl. at 3.)

Craft has filed two complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) related to his employment with the FRD. Craft’s first charge, filed April 10, 2015, alleged that he had been discriminated against by the Retirement Agency’s delay in considering his application due to his race, sex, and disability. (Compl. at 2; Ex. 17.) On October 27, 2015, the EEOC determined that the charge did not establish a violation of anti-discrimination statutes, and issued Craft a right-to-sue letter. (Ex. 18.) Craft’s second charge, filed September 11, 2015, contends that his separation from employment with the County was in retaliation for his first EEOC charge. (Compl. at 3.) Craft’s complaint does not allege that has received, or that he is entitled to, a right-to-sue letter associated with his September 11, 2015 EEOC charge.

Craft’s complaint alleges that he was discriminated against by Fairfax County Government in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) 29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Defendant filed the instant motion to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil ...

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