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Corbett v. Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority

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

August 25, 2016

MARIAN CORBETT, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHMOND METROPOLITAN TRANSPORTATION AUHTORITY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (MOTION TO DISMISS)

          Henry E. Hudson United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Marian Corbett ("Plaintiff) brings suit against her former employer, Defendant Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority ("RMTA"), and two former coworkers, Defendants Angela Gray ("Gray") and Joi Dean ("Dean"). According to Plaintiff, the RMTA, Gray, and Dean (collectively "Defendants") discriminated against Plaintiff in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), impermissibly interfered with Plaintiffs rights in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), and retaliated against her in violation of the FMLA.

         This matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 5). Defendants seek dismissal, arguing that Plaintiff has failed to plead sufficient factual material in support of her claims under the ADA and the FMLA. Further, Defendants aver Plaintiff may not maintain suit against Gray or Dean in their individual capacities under the FMLA. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendants' Motion.[1] Each side has filed memoranda supporting their respective positions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         As required by Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes Plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations to be true, and views all facts in the light most favorable to her. T.G. Slater & Son v. Donald P. & Patricia A. Brennan, LLC, 385 F.3d 836, 841 (4th Cir. 2004) (citing Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). At this stage, the Court's analysis is both informed and constrained by the four corners of Plaintiff s Complaint. Viewed through this lens, the facts are as follows.

         In 2002, the RMTA hired Plaintiff as an administrative assistant to then-General Manager Michael Berry ("Berry"). (Compl. ¶ 11, ECF No. 1.) During her tenure, Plaintiff received not only positive performance evaluations, but also performance bonuses. (Id. ¶ 12.) According to Plaintiff, she enjoyed working for the RMTA and met the RMTA's legitimate expectations for her performance. (Id.)

         In 2008, Plaintiff was diagnosed with depression. (Id. ¶ 13.) She also suffered from panic attacks and anxiety as a result of the depression. (Id.) Plaintiff took prescriptions to keep her symptoms under control, but high levels of stress or emotional trauma could exacerbate her symptoms. (Id.) Combined, these disorders substantially affected her cognitive thinking and functioning, impaired her ability to interact with others, and interfered with her ability to sleep. (Id.)

         In 2012, Berry retired. The RMTA hired defendant Angela Gray as the new General Manager, a position later retitled Chief Executive Officer. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 17.) Plaintiff pleads that she continued as administrative assistant and reported to Gray, just as she had served under Berry. (Id.) In September 2013, the RMTA contracted with defendant Joi Dean as a "peer-level coworker." (Id. ¶ 15.) Also in September 2013, another RMTA employee, Linda McElroy ("McElroy"), resigned. (Id. ¶ 16.) Gray divided McElroy's job duties between Plaintiff and Dean. (Id.) McElroy's responsibilities had included handing public relations matters and other functions related to communications with the RMTA Board. (Id.)

         Plaintiff and Gray developed a close working relationship after Gray was hired at the RMTA. (Id. ¶ 18.) In fact, Gray began asking Plaintiff to accompany her on social outings unrelated to work. (Id.) This included furniture shopping, getting coffee, joining her for lunch during the week and brunch on the weekends, as well as participating in a Thanksgiving dinner at Keswick Hall near Charlottesville, Virginia. (Id.)

         In addition to these social outings, Gray would often sit at Plaintiffs desk during the day and discuss matters unrelated to work. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff eventually confided in Gray that Plaintiff suffered from depression, anxiety, and a panic disorder, controlled with a prescription for Prozac. (Id.)

         These visits allegedly caused Plaintiff to fall behind in her work and made it increasingly difficult to accomplish tasks. (Id. ¶ 20.) According to Plaintiff, she diplomatically attempted to inform Gray that her presence was distracting and counterproductive. (Id.) Apparently, Gray "did not get the message." (Id.) Plaintiff maintains that she became less productive and unable "to correct the cause of the problem without alienating her superior." (Id.)

         In May 2014, Plaintiff conferred with Sheryl Johnson ("Johnson") in Human Resources regarding Gray's "constant presence" at Plaintiffs desk. (Id. ¶ 21.) Johnson had worked as a Human Resources manager at the RMTA since approximately 2001, and knew of Plaintiff s depression and related disorders. (Id.) Plaintiff informed Johnson that Gray's socializing interfered with Plaintiffs work and that her inability to get Gray to stop exacerbated her disabilities. (Id.) Plaintiff asked that Johnson keep their conversation confidential, but sought her assistance in encouraging Gray to leave Plaintiff alone so that she could perform her work. (Id.)

         Despite Plaintiffs request to keep the complaint confidential, Johnson reported Plaintiffs concerns to Gray. (Id. ¶ 22.) As a result, Gray became more distant towards Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 23.) According to Plaintiff, Gray also scrutinized Plaintiffs "every move" and complained about Plaintiffs work. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that Gray did this intentionally, knowing that such actions would aggravate Plaintiffs symptoms. (Id.) Although Gray increased her scrutiny over Plaintiff, the RMTA paid Plaintiff a bonus in June 2014. (A/.¶24.)

         In August 2014, Gray's actions caused Plaintiff to seek medical help from her physician. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiffs doctor suggested that Plaintiff take medical leave. (Id.) Plaintiff requested-and the RMTA granted-medical leave for Plaintiff under the FMLA to address her depression and anxiety. (Id. ¶ 27.) Plaintiff ultimately took four weeks of approved FMLA leave. (Id. ¶ 28.)

         Plaintiff returned to work on September 15, 2014. (Id.) Plaintiff was informed by Johnson that her job duties and reporting requirements had changed during her absence. (Id. ¶ 29.) Specifically, Plaintiff would no longer report to Gray, but to Dean instead, who had been promoted to Chief of Staff. (Id. ¶ 30.) Further, Plaintiff had been relieved of her responsibilities related to communicating with the Board and fielding public relations calls. (Id.) Additionally, Gray refused to speak to Plaintiff after she returned to work, even though Gray had to walk past Plaintiffs desk to enter or exit the office. (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff contends that Gray knew such behavior could aggravate Plaintiffs depression, anxiety, and panic disorder. (Id.)

         In the fall of 2014, Plaintiff was called into a meeting with Johnson and Dean. (Id. ¶ 33.) Dean accused Plaintiff of "making mistakes." (Id.) When asked for specifics about those mistakes, neither Dean nor Johnson provided any details. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, Dean and Johnson admitted that they had no documentation to substantiate the claim that Plaintiff had been making mistakes. (Id.) Plaintiff maintains that these alleged mistakes were "purely pretextual and were part of a plan by Defendants to bring about [Plaintiff]'s termination." (Id. ¶ 34.)

         In January 2015, Plaintiff inadvertently sent a calendar event to members of the Board with an incorrect date and time. (Id. ¶ 35.) Although she corrected her mistake, she received a written warning. (Id.) According to Plaintiff, others had made similar mistakes in the past but had neither been warned nor disciplined. (Id.) Plaintiff believes that the written warning was created by Defendants as a false justification for Plaintiffs eventual termination. (Id.)

         That same month, Dean and Johnson met with Plaintiff and suggested that she take early retirement. (Id. ¶36.) Plaintiffdeclinedtodoso. (Id.) On January 27, 2015, Defendants gave Plaintiff a final written warning and suspended her for two days. (Id.) Plaintiff claims this final written warning also served as a pretext for her dismissal. (Id.)

         In March 2015, Plaintiff failed to put a telephone call through to Gray, believing that Gray was already on a scheduled conference call. (Id. ¶ 37.) On March 31, 2015, Plaintiff was terminated for her failure to do so. (Id.)

         Plaintiffs Complaint contains three counts. Count I alleges violations of the ADA. Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated the ADA by 1) discriminating against Plaintiff in terminating her employment; 2) failing to provide Plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation; 3) failing to participate in the interactive process; and 4) retaliating against Plaintiff. Count II maintains that Defendants unlawfully interfered with Plaintiffs FMLA rights by ...


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