Tolbert v. Donley et al (MAG+)
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER directing as follows: (1) Plaintiff Violet Tolbert's Objection (Doc. # 68 ) is OVERRULED; (2) The Recommendation (Doc. # 67 ) is ADOPTED; (3) Defendant Deborah Lee James's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. # 58 ) is GRANTED. Signed by Chief Judge William Keith Watkins on May 8, 2015. (scn, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
DEBORAH LEE JAMES, Secretary
Department of the Air Force,
CASE NO. 2:13-CV-427-WKW
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On March 25, 2015, the Magistrate Judge issued a Recommendation (Doc. #
67) as to Defendant’s pending motion for summary judgment. (Doc. # 58.) The
Magistrate Judge recommended that the court grant Defendant’s motion for
summary judgment concluding that there was no genuine dispute of material fact
and that Defendant was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff Violet
Tolbert filed a timely Objection to the Recommendation. (Doc. # 68.) The court
reviews de novo the portion of the Recommendation to which the Objection applies.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). After careful consideration of the record, the applicable case
law, the Recommendation, and Ms. Tolbert’s Objection, the court finds that the
Recommendation is due to be adopted and Defendant’s motion for summary
judgment is due to be granted.
In her Objection to the Magistrate Judge’s Recommendation, Ms. Tolbert
contends that the Magistrate Judge misquoted, misrepresented, and misstated her
claims in several respects. Her objections and clarifications, however, are largely
factual and do not contradict the Recommendation’s legal determinations.
Additionally, the objections that do address the Recommendation’s legal conclusion,
fail to cure Ms. Tolbert’s claims’ insufficiencies as properly outlined by the
Magistrate Judge. Accordingly, Ms. Tolbert’s Objection is due to be overruled.
First, as the Magistrate Judge accurately explained, Ms. Tolbert’s claim of
discrimination on the basis of her disability pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act, 29
U.S.C. §§ 791, et seq., cannot go forward because she was not an “otherwise
qualified” person with a disability. 45 C.F.R. § 84.3(1)(1). While Ms. Tolbert
argues that she “did not want an indefinite medical leave,” the record is clear that
Ms. Tolbert repeatedly sought to extend her formal request for medical leave without
informing her employer when she would be able to return to work. The Magistrate
Judge properly concluded that an indefinite medical leave that was to extend until
Ms. Tolbert recovered by some uncertain future date was not a reasonable
accommodation capable of rendering Ms. Tolbert an “otherwise qualified” person
for purposes of a Rehabilitation Act claim. (Doc. # 68, at 2.)
Second, Ms. Tolbert argues that she never alleged that her termination was in
retaliation for the filing of her worker’s compensation claim. She contends instead
that the initial, and subsequently abandoned, processing of her termination was “in
retaliation” for a letter she wrote to Crispin Luna regarding unprofessional treatment
she received at the hands of supervisory staff. (Doc. # 68, at 3.) Because the
Magistrate Judge addressed the viability of her retaliation claim,1 focusing
specifically on Ms. Tolbert’s letter to Crispin Luna, his analysis remains applicable
regardless of the events complained of in the letter.
Based on the foregoing analysis, it is ORDERED as follows:
Plaintiff Violet Tolbert’s Objection (Doc. # 68) is OVERRULED.
The Recommendation (Doc. # 67) is ADOPTED.
Defendant Deborah Lee James’s Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
# 58) is GRANTED.
A separate final judgment will be entered.
DONE this 8th day of May, 2015.
/s/ W. Keith Watkins
CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Ms. Tolbert argues that she did not allege a claim of retaliation against Defendants.
However, her Objection states that “[t]he processing of the termination was in retaliation of
Tolbert’s letter to Crispin Luna which Tolbert emphasized was in regard to the ill treatment she
received by supervisory staff and not in regard[ ] to a workers compensation claim. (Doc. # 68, at
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