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BEEMAN v. MIDDENDORF

January 18, 1977

ANITA BEEMAN, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
J. WILLIAM MIDDENDORF, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 In this case, plaintiff Beeman charges the Secretary of the Navy, in his official capacity, with discrimination against her on the basis of sex. Plaintiff brings this suit under § 717 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, and under the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution.

 The case is currently before the Court on the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction of both the Title VII and the fifth amendment claims, and on the plaintiff's motion for class certification. The Court will, for the reasons indicated below, deny the motion to dismiss as to the Title VII claim, grant it as to the fifth amendment claim, and grant plaintiff's motion for class certification.

 I. THE MOTION TO DISMISS

 A. Plaintiff has Stated a Cognizable Claim Under Title VII.

 The essence of defendant's motion to dismiss the Title VII claim is that since plaintiff does not allege discrimination on the part of the agency in which she is employed, the Treasury Department, but instead alleges discrimination on the part of another agency, the Navy, her claims are not redressable under Title VII, as she has filed suit against the wrong party. It is interesting to note first that, at the administrative level, the Treasury Department rejected plaintiff's initial complaint of discrimination because it was not "based on a matter over which the agency has jurisdiction." Plaintiff proceeded to channel her complaint to the Navy, which decided the merits of her claim both on the initial and appellate levels. Thus, the government's position in this Court, that plaintiff's grievance is against Treasury, not the Navy, contradicts the approach it insisted upon on the administrative level.

 The government maintains, without citation to any cases, that "[there] must be an employer-employee or employer-applicant relationship established in order for a federal employee to come within the protection of the statute." Its position is simply unsupported by the language of § 717. The very first sentence of § 717 directs that " [all] personnel actions affecting employees or applicants for employment . . . in military departments . . . [and] executive agencies . . . shall be made free from any discrimination based on . . . sex . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(a) (emphasis added). The Act goes on to authorize civil actions in which "the head of the department . . . as appropriate, shall be the defendant." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c). The Court of Appeals for this circuit has interpreted that phrase as meaning that the proper defendant is the head of the agency "in which the allegedly discriminatory acts transpired." Hackley v. Roudebush, 171 U.S. App. D.C. 376, 520 F.2d 108, 115 n.17. Neither the Act itself nor the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the Act indicates that the agency "in which the discriminatory acts transpired" must be the same as the agency in which the plaintiff-employee works. Accordingly, this Court finds that the appropriate defendant in this case is the head of the Department of the Navy. To conclude otherwise would be to conclude that a person in the federal employ who is allegedly the victim of job-related discrimination at the hands of a federal agency other than her own has no remedy under an Act which has as its "basic purpose . . . the rooting out of every vestige of employment discrimination within the federal government." Hackley, 520 F.2d at 136. This Court, needless to say, rejects such a conclusion and will therefore deny defendant's motion to dismiss the Title VII claim.

 B. Brown v. GSA, 425 U.S. 820, 96 S. Ct. 1961, 48 L. Ed. 2d 402 (1976), Mandates that the Fifth Amendment Claim be Dismissed.

 The government puts forward two reasons why the fifth amendment claim must be dismissed: 1) it is barred by sovereign immunity; and, 2) plaintiff's exclusive remedy is provided by Title VII. While the Court rejects the first reason, it agrees that Title VII provides plaintiff's exclusive remedy and will therefore grant defendant's motion as it applies to the fifth amendment claim.

 As to the sovereign immunity issue, it is only necessary to note that a venerable exception to that doctrine arises when government officials commit unconstitutional acts. See Larson v. Domestic and Foreign Commerce Corp., 337 U.S. 682, 93 L. Ed. 1628, 69 S. Ct. 1457 (1949); Dugan v. Rank, 372 U.S. 609, 10 L. Ed. 2d 15, 83 S. Ct. 999 (1963). Assuming the fifth amendment claim would otherwise be cognizable, the claim would fall outside the sovereign immunity bar because its essence is an allegation of unconstitutional action.

 In asserting that plaintiff's fifth amendment claim is also barred because Title VII provides her exclusive remedy, defendant relies on the recent case of Brown v. GSA, 425 U.S. 820, 96 S. Ct. 1961, 48 L. Ed. 2d 402 (1976). The Court notes at the outset that there is a certain asymmetry, to say the least, in the government's position that, on the one hand, plaintiff's claim cannot be brought under Title VII and, on the other, that it cannot be brought under the fifth amendment because Title VII provides her exclusive remedy. Be that as it may, the Court has rejected the government's position that Title VII is unavailable to plaintiff and will therefore proceed to consider whether that Act provides plaintiff's exclusive remedy.

 Brown clearly holds that "the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, provides the exclusive judicial remedy for claims of discrimination in federal employment." Id. at 835. Plaintiff seeks to avoid the impact of that holding, however, by pointing out that while petitioner Brown had brought his suit under various statutes other than Title VII, he did not assert a constitutional cause of action. Even that much is not clear, however, for the Brown Court indicated that petitioner alleged jurisdiction under, inter alia, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, the general federal question statute which would be invoked by a litigant attempting to establish jurisdiction for a constitutional cause of action. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 29 L. Ed. 2d 619, 91 S. Ct. 1999 (1971). But, even assuming plaintiff is correct that Brown did not allege a cause of action under the fifth amendment, it is nevertheless clear that the Brown Court was aware of the constitutional cause of action. *fn1" Despite this awareness, the Court employed sweeping language, both in its interpretation of § 717's legislative history, see id. at ...


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