Plaintiff: Donna Alston

Defendant: Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority*

Damages Sought: Unspecified compensatory damages, back pay, and front pay; legal fees

Complaint: Alston used to clean out Metrobuses. Since people track a lot of grime all over those things, cleaning them out means using heavy-duty chemicals. It also means breathing heavy-duty fumes. After five years on the job, Alston’s lungs weren’t what they used to be; her doctor said she couldn’t clean another bus, and Metro wasn’t exactly delighted to hear it. It put Alston on leave without pay and told her to find a new job within the agency by 2009. Otherwise, Metro would let her go. So she applied for truck driver, counselor, gardener, maintenance clerk, management assistant, and quality-assurance positions, but she’s never been given an interview. And despite a clause in her contract that says the human-resources office will help her find a new position in such a case, Alston claims no one has done a thing on her behalf.

Quality of Representation: Good but dull. Attorneys Bruce Bender and Leizer Goldsmith make the necessary points in clear order. They show little flair, though. And some sentences run amok: “Said condition causes her to be substantially limited in the major life activity of breathing as she has substantial problems breathing, chest pain and shortness of breath and can only walk short distances.”

Summary Judgment: Find the woman a job. In an agency that employs about 10,000—not to mention one with extremely generous overtime and pension policies—how hard can it possibly be to find a job for someone who’s given her lungs to Metro? And down among the sticky bits, the strange puddles, the discarded potato chips, who knows what emotional and spiritual horrors Alston suffered? Plaintiff has left most of her damages unspecified, and the court has just the remedy. According to its Web site, Metro seeks an assistant inspector general for its audits. We award this position to Alston, whose sense for smelling something funny has been trained in the toughest possible school.

* Not the District government, per se, but an interstate compact of which the District is a memberSPORTS