United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit
September 12, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
Columbia (No. 1:16-cv-02086) David A. Branch argued
the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.
N. Davis argued the cause for appellee.
her on the brief was Meredith L. Schramm-Strosser.
Before: Henderson and Griffith, Circuit Judges, and Williams,
Senior Circuit Judge.
Griffith, Circuit Judge.
Haynes had worked at the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority
("D.C. Water") for nearly thirty years when his
position was eliminated as part of a reorganization. D.C.
Water offered Haynes a new position, but he was unable to
obtain the license that position required and lost his job.
Haynes alleges that he was treated differently than other
employees affected by the reorganization due to his race,
age, and learning disability, and that D.C. Water refused to
accommodate his disability when it set deadlines for him to
obtain the new license. He brings claims under various
federal and D.C. civil rights statutes. The district court
granted D.C. Water summary judgment, Haynes appealed, and we
Water is an independent agency of the D.C. government that
provides water and sewage service to the District of
Columbia. Haynes v. DC Water is Life, 271 F.Supp.3d
142, 145 (D.D.C. 2017). Haynes started working at D.C.
Water's predecessor organization in 1988. He was an
"Electrical Equipment Repairer," grade
"11/CDL." D.C. Water had long required Repairers in
that position to hold a Class B Commercial Driver's
License (CDL) and an apprentice electrician license, both of
which Haynes possessed.
2014, D.C. Water consolidated several departments. Many
positions were to remain the same after the reorganization,
but some, including Haynes's, were to be eliminated or
replaced. D.C. Water also discovered during this
reorganization that D.C. law requires individuals holding
apprentice electrician licenses-such as Haynes-to be directly
supervised by master electricians. Problematically, D.C.
Water did not employ enough master electricians to supervise
all the Electrical Equipment Repairers holding apprentice
electrician licenses, and, by mid-2014, determined that it
would not be feasible to hire enough master electricians to
do so. D.C. Water thus concluded that the Electrical
Equipment Repairer position would be replaced by an
"Industrial Journeyman Electrician" position, and
that individuals employed in the new position would be
required to hold a more advanced journeyman electrician
license that permitted additional unsupervised work.
negotiations with the union representing affected employees,
D.C. Water set a March 31, 2015 deadline for current
Repairers to obtain their new licenses. Repairers who
obtained the proper licenses on or before that date were to
be retained as Industrial Journeyman Electricians, and those
that did not would be fired. Beginning on September 2, 2014,
Haynes and other Repairers attended training sessions offered
by D.C. Water. Haynes alleges that around this time he told
D.C. Water's Human Resources Department that he was
dyslexic and needed more time to prepare for the exam,
particularly because the training was a "refresher"
course "not meant for first-time test takers."
Haynes, 271 F.Supp.3d at 148-49 (quoting Am. Compl.
¶ 8). Indeed, a journeyman electrician license generally
requires years of training and supervised work. Id.
Haynes, who is over fifty and black, alleges that younger,
white electricians employed by D.C. Water received
accommodations, including being given more time to obtain
their licenses, not being subjected to the heightened license
requirement, or being allowed to return to school for
additional training. In contrast, D.C. Water refused to offer
Haynes additional time or any other accommodation. Haynes
completed the training offered by D.C. Water on December 9,
2014, but still felt unprepared for the license examination.
Shortly thereafter, he began attempting to get medical
documentation of his disability.
March 31, 2015, Haynes had failed to take the journeyman
electrician exam and been unable to get medical documentation
of his dyslexia. The next day, D.C. Water sent him a letter
explaining that his failure to comply with the licensing
deadline meant that he could no longer perform any electrical
work. D.C. Water did, however, give him sixty more days
(until May 31, 2015) to pass the examination. Haynes was able
to meet with a clinical psychologist on May 13, who diagnosed
Haynes with a "[r]eading [d]isorder with impairment in
word reading and reading comprehension," and a
"[w]riting [d]isorder with impairment in written
expression and spelling." Joint Appendix
("J.A.") 157. The psychologist concluded that it
would be "reasonable" for Haynes's
"current job . . . to accommodate for [these] reading
and writing disabilities." Id. The record is
silent as to whether Haynes presented this documentation to
clear is that on May 26, 2015, Haynes went to the Washington
Field Office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC). There he submitted an intake questionnaire describing
what had happened at work and requesting additional
counseling about whether to file a charge of discrimination.
Later that day, he filed such a charge. On May 27, Haynes
received a Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, which stated
that "[b]ased upon its investigation," the agency
was "unable to conclude that the information obtained
establishe[d] violations of the" Americans with
Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et
seq. (ADA), although the EEOC did "not certify that
[D.C. Water] [was] in compliance with the statute."
J.A. 173. The notice also contained information about
Haynes's right to file a lawsuit.
failed to complete the journeyman electrician license exam by
the extended deadline of May 31, 2015 and was fired. At that
time, there were six other Electrical Equipment Repairers in
the same grade ("11/CDL") as Haynes. Five were
black and one was white. Two of the black employees already
had the necessary license for the new position before the
reorganization. Prior to March 31, 2015, one black Repairer
and the white Repairer completed the exam. Along with Haynes,
the remaining two black employees did not complete the
licensing exam by March 31, 2015 and were given the
additional sixty-day extension. They also appear to have been
September 29, 2016, Haynes filed a pro se complaint in the
district court, alleging that D.C. Water failed to
accommodate his learning disability when it set the deadlines
for him to acquire a new license. Haynes eventually retained
counsel and filed an amended complaint that includes claims
for breach of contract, disability discrimination in
violation of the ADA, race discrimination under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq. ("Title VII") and the Civil Rights Act of
1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"), and
age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. (ADEA). Haynes
brings the same discrimination claims under the D.C. Human
Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401 et seq. (DCHRA).
Shortly thereafter, D.C. Water moved for summary judgment.
Haynes opposed the motion as premature, seeking discovery
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). The district
court denied Haynes's request for discovery and granted
summary judgment to D.C. Water. Haynes, 271
F.Supp.3d at 163.
appealed the district court's decision except as to the
breach of contract claim. The district court had federal
question jurisdiction over Haynes's Section 1981, ADA,
Title VII, and ADEA claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. It
exercised supplemental jurisdiction over Haynes's DCHRA
claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. We have jurisdiction under
28 U.S.C. § 1291.
affirm the district court because (1) Haynes's ADA and
DCHRA claims were untimely; (2) he failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies prior to bringing his Title VII and
ADEA claims; (3) it was within the district court's
discretion to conclude that further discovery on Haynes's
only potentially viable claim-the one brought under Section
1981-was unwarranted, given the lack of detail in
Haynes's Rule 56(d) declaration; and (4) summary judgment
on Haynes's Section 1981 claim was appropriate given the
record before the district court.
review the district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo. Epsilon Elecs., Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury,
Office of Foreign Assets Control, 857 F.3d 913, 918
(D.C. Cir. 2017). Summary judgment is warranted if the
record, viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party, demonstrates that "there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Thompson v.
District of Columbia, 832 F.3d 339, 344 (D.C. Cir.
2016). We must "draw all reasonable inferences" in
the nonmoving party's favor, Thompson, 832 F.3d
at 344, and "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be
believed," Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists
when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248. And although "the doctrine
of equitable tolling ordinarily involves discretion on the
trial judge's part," here the district court
declined to toll the relevant statutes of limitations
"based upon [its] finding that as a matter of law
[Haynes's] evidence could not support invocation of the
equitable tolling doctrine based upon [his] mental
state." Smith-Haynie v. District of Columbia,
155 F.3d 575, 578 n.4 (D.C. Cir. 1998). That means we review
de novo that aspect of the district court's decision as
well. Id. at 578.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d), when a party moves for
summary judgment and the "nonmovant shows by affidavit
or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present
facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may: (1)
defer considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to
obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or
(3) issue any other appropriate order." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(d). We review the district court's denial of a request