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Maurice v. O'Rourke

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

June 25, 2019

LISA R. MAURICE, Plaintiff,
v.
PETER O'ROURKE, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs; and UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Thomas S. Zilly, United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment, docket no. 21, as amended, docket no. 25-1. Having reviewed all papers filed in support of, and in opposition to, [1] the motion, the Court enters the following order.

         Background

         From April 2005 until December 2015, plaintiff Lisa R. Maurice worked for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) as a dental hygienist. See Order at 1 (docket no. 16). During the period 2014 - 2015, plaintiff was supervised by Gregg Hyde, DDS, Chief of the Dental Service at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, and Brock Satoris, DDS, MS, Associate Director of Dental Services. See Hyde Decl. at ¶¶ 1 & 2 (docket no. 23). On December 22, 2015, after being interviewed by VA police, [2] plaintiff left the worksite early and never returned. Id. at ¶ 12. On January 7, 2016, Plaintiff applied for workers' compensation, claiming that she had been injured on the job. Fedderly Decl. at ¶ 4 & Ex. A (docket no. 24). In her application, plaintiff indicated that, as a result of her interaction with VA police, “[e]very time [she] think[s] about going back to work [she] can't breath and start[s] to hyperventilate, ” and that her “hands tremble and shake uncontrollably at the thought of the VA dental where [she] treat[s] patients with fine instruments in their bodies.” Id. at Ex. A (docket no. 24-1 at 3).

         On January 8, 2016, plaintiff faxed a handwritten note to Drs. Hyde and Satoris that read:

Per my doctors [sic] orders, due to my medical condition stemming from the Dec. 22, 2015[, ] police incident, I will not be returning to work, until further notice from my physicians.

Ex. C to Hyde Decl. (docket no. 23-3); see also Hyde Decl. at ¶ 14 (docket no. 23). In February 2016, plaintiff unsuccessfully sought a dental hygienist position in the VA's Seattle dental clinic; plaintiff had previously been working at the VA's American Lake clinic. See Fedderly Decl. at ¶ 5 (docket no. 24); Hyde Decl. at ¶ 7 (docket no. 23). On March 7, 2016, plaintiff sent an email to Drs. Hyde and Satoris that stated:

Good Morning, I am writing to let you know that I am still on medical leave due to my condition and under medical provider(s) care, it will be unfair for my patients not to be able to have the required treatment at the utmost quality care that I had always provided prior to the police incident December 22, 2015[, ] at American Lake Dental Clinic.
I hope and pray that I can cope with this and heal. VA support is important at this time. I will keep you up to date.

Ex. D to Hyde Decl. (docket no. 23-4).

         On June 15, 2016, in response to a letter from Dr. Satoris directing plaintiff to report for duty, see Ex. C to Fedderly Decl. (docket no. 24-3), plaintiff indicated in writing that she was “not cleared medically to return to American Lake Dental Clinic where [she] was a victim of trauma” in December 2015. See Ex. D to Fedderly Decl. (docket no. 24-4). In September 2016, plaintiff applied for disability retirement, stating that the onset date of her disability was December 2015. See Ex. B to Fedderly Decl. (docket no. 24-2). In May 2018, plaintiff was deemed by the United States Office of Personnel Management to be “disabled from [her] position as a Dental Hygienist due to Panic Disorder without Agoraphobia, ” and plaintiff's request for disability retirement under the Federal Employees Retirement System was approved. See Ex. B to Stockwell Decl. (docket no. 26-1 at 39-41; docket no. 27 at 36-38).

         On January 1, 2018, plaintiff commenced this action. See Compl. (docket no. 1). On a motion brought by defendants Peter O'Rourke, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, the Court dismissed certain claims with prejudice and other claims without prejudice, and granted plaintiff leave to amend to allege a claim under the Rehabilitation Act against solely Acting Secretary O'Rourke. See Order (docket no. 16). Instead of complying with the Court's ruling, plaintiff asserted in her Amended Complaint a single claim under the Civil Service Reform Act (“CSRA”) against both Acting Secretary O'Rourke and the VA. Defendants now seek summary judgment.

         Discussion

         A. Summary ...


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