United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
Argued: October 23, 2014.
Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:12-cv-671).
Sara L. Faulman argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.
Frederick M. Herrera, Attorney, United States Capitol Police, argued the cause and filed the brief for appellee. R. Craig Lawrence, Assistant U.S. Attorney, entered an appearance.
Before: HENDERSON and PILLARD, Circuit Judges, and WILLIAMS, Senior Circuit Judge. OPINION filed by Senior Circuit Judge WILLIAMS.
Williams, Senior Circuit Judge:
This case involves the Family and Medical Leave Act (" FMLA" or the " Act" ), which entitles eligible employees to take unpaid leave for family and medical reasons. 29 U.S.C. § § 2601 et seq. Officer Judy Gordon sued her employer, the U.S. Capitol Police, alleging that it violated § 2615(a) by interfering with her exercise of FMLA rights and by retaliating against her for that exercise.
According to the complaint (from which all the facts below are drawn), Officer Gordon began suffering from bouts of depression following her husband's suicide. The Capitol Police had in place (and evidently still do) a system allowing an employee to obtain a pre-approval of a " bank" of leave under the Act, without identifying specific start or end dates. Gordon applied for such a bank, also filing medical papers explaining that she was experiencing intermittent periods of severe and incapacitating depression. In May 2011 the Capitol Police granted approval for a bank of 240 hours of leave.
A captain in the police later told Gordon that an upper-level manager had said he was " mad" about FMLA requests generally and had vowed to " find a problem" with hers. In July 2011, two months after the grant of her leave request, police superiors ordered Gordon to submit to a " fitness for duty examination," and told her that the facts supporting her FMLA request were the basis for the order. While she was waiting to take the examination, the police revoked her " police powers" and assigned her to administrative duties. The revocation and assignment deprived her of the opportunity to earn $850 by working two days of scheduled overtime. She also spent $50 traveling to and from the exam. Ultimately, Gordon passed the fitness for duty examination and her police powers were reinstated. The examination remains on her record, and she alleges that its presence will be detrimental to her prospects for pay increases, promotions, and transfers.
Several months later, as the anniversary of her husband's death approached, Gordon's sister died. Soon after, an appointment with her therapist (itself rescheduled so that she could go to her sister's funeral) turned out to conflict with a three-day " active shooter training course" for which Gordon was scheduled. To resolve the conflict, Gordon made a request to draw on her bank of FMLA leave--her first such request. Her manager initially " became irate," refused the request, and demanded a " doctor's note." He later relented and granted the request.
Officer Gordon asserts claims of both " interference" and " retaliation," which the district court dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6). Gordon v. U.S. Capitol Police, 923 F.Supp.2d 112 (D.D.C. 2013). We reverse.
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Our principal task here is the construction of 29 U.S.C. § 2615(a), which reads as follows:
(a) Interference with rights
(1) Exercise of rights
It shall be unlawful for any employer to interfere with, restrain, or deny the exercise of or the attempt to exercise, any ...