Defendant maintains that the only reason OPM termed its conclusions "advisory classification opinions," and not a "classification audit," was that OPM was "advising" another agency of the propriety of its job classifications. Whether or not this was the reason for the nomenclature, the undisputed evidence is that the 1982 "opinions" were the "audit" called for in the settlement agreement.
This view is not based on the content of the "opinions" alone. It is bolstered by OPM's own 1983 statement that it had "conducted the audit" called for in the settlement agreement. Id. at 25. The undisputed evidence is that the only action undertaken by OPM prior to issuing this statement, and thus the only finding that could possibly qualify as this "audit," was the 1982 "advisory classification opinions." Plaintiff's speculations to the contrary have no force on a summary judgment motion; the undisputed evidence shows that the 1982 "opinions" were the binding "audit" that defendant agreed to facilitate.
In short, plaintiff has advanced a number of theories to support her contention that she is entitled to raise claims that were resolved by the 1982 settlement agreement. None of those theories offers plaintiff a means of prevailing in this suit. As to all claims for race, sex, and color discrimination from 1975 through January 22, 1982, defendant is entitled to summary judgment.
DEFENDANT IS ENTITLED TO PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT WITH RESPECT TO THE 1985 COMPLAINT, BUT EQUITY DEMANDS THAT THE COURT REINSTATE THAT COMPLAINT IN PART.
On July 31, 1985, plaintiff filed another discrimination complaint. In that complaint, plaintiff charged that "on or about July 1, 1980 and continuing until present, [her] position has been misclassified due to my race, sex, age, physical handicap and in reprisal for prior EEO complaints." Id. at 43. The agency rejected this complaint as raising issues identical to those disposed of by the 1982 settlement agreement, id. at 44-46, and the EEOC upheld the agency's determination, id. at 52-53. Plaintiff argues that defendant erred by rejecting that complaint, but the Court must conclude that plaintiff is wrong. The Court will, however, follow the commands of equity and permit reinstatement of that portion of plaintiff's 1985 complaint that was not precluded by the settlement agreement.
The agency and, on appeal, the EEOC rejected the complaint because it concluded that plaintiff was not bringing a new discrimination complaint but was attempting to reopen the complaint that was the subject of the settlement agreement. Id. at 45-46, 52-53. Certainly plaintiff may not reopen settled claims by renewing them under the guise of continuing discrimination. See, e.g., McKenzie v. Sawyer, 221 U.S. App. D.C. 288, 684 F.2d 62, 72 (1982); Stoller v. Marsh, 221 U.S. App. D.C. 22, 682 F.2d 971, 975 (1982), cert. denied, 460 U.S. 1037, 75 L. Ed. 2d 787, 103 S. Ct. 1427 (1983). To the extent that plaintiff's 1985 complaint simply charged that her position was misclassified from 1975 through September, 1982, defendant properly rejected that complaint.
This is not to say, however, that plaintiff may never recover for discrimination she may have suffered at defendant's hands. It should go without saying that the 1982 settlement agreement did not prevent plaintiff from bringing a complaint if she experienced discrimination thereafter. Although the agency logically read plaintiff's 1985 complaint as charging the agency with discrimination that began in 1980 and continued until the date the complaint was filed, the agency could not have rejected any complaint alleging that defendant discriminated against plaintiff on or after January 23, 1982.
See, e.g., Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co., 415 U.S. 36, 52, 39 L. Ed. 2d 147, 94 S. Ct. 1011 (1974).
Thus, if the Court were fully to grant defendant's motion for summary judgment with respect to the 1985 complaint, plaintiff might be able to file a new complaint charging defendant with discrimination from the day after the settlement agreement was signed -- January 23, 1982 -- forward. In order to do so, however, plaintiff would have to show that the continuing acts of discrimination of which she complained in 1985 continued through the present day. See, e.g., McKenzie v. Sawyer, 221 U.S. App. D.C. 288, 684 F.2d 62, 72 (1982); Valentino v. United States Postal Service, 218 U.S. App. D.C. 213, 674 F.2d 56, 65 (1982). If these acts did not "continue," within the meaning specified at law, plaintiff's complaint would face dismissal as untimely filed. E.g., id.
The Court does not know if plaintiff can prove these continuing acts or not. Instead, it appears that plaintiff's administrative complaint may have created an unfortunate situation: because she charged defendant with discrimination that predated the settlement agreement, defendant was within its rights to refuse to consider her legitimate allegations of post-settlement agreement discrimination as well. If plaintiff has to refile her complaint, and cannot show discrimination continuing through the present day, she will be unable to recover for any discrimination she actually experienced from January 23, 1982, through the date her 1985 administrative complaint was filed.
The Court is concerned that justice be done. Title VII and its accompanying anti-discrimination statutes are equitable in nature; they are designed to serve justice and will not tolerate any elevation of form over substance. See, e.g., Love v. Pullman Co., 404 U.S. 522, 527, 30 L. Ed. 2d 679, 92 S. Ct. 616 (1980) Most important, as lay persons initiate the administrative process, technical imperfections in administrative complaints cannot defeat an individual's right to redress for discriminatory acts. Id. This principle clearly points the way toward the equitable outcome in this case.
The Court cannot allow plaintiff's improperly worded administrative complaint to deprive her of all possibility of a remedy for discrimination that she may have suffered. Equity commands the Court to allow plaintiff to proceed on her complaint as if it charged defendant with acts of continuing discrimination from January 23, 1982, onward. If the Court acted in any other fashion, neither law nor equity would be well served. Accordingly, the Court will order reinstatement of a portion of the 1985 complaint so that the agency may determine whether plaintiff's position was misclassified as a result of continuing discrimination from January 23, 1982, through the date that complaint was filed.
In this case, it is clear that plaintiff has, in part, attempted to evade the consequences of a settlement agreement into which she voluntarily entered in 1982. By the express terms of that agreement, plaintiff is bound by the results of a classification audit that was conducted by the Office of Personnel Management. The Court can offer plaintiff no relief from that audit simply because she disputes its results. Nor can plaintiff seek a remedy in this suit for any flaws she perceives in the process by which OPM conducted the audit.
By the same token, however, the Court cannot penalize plaintiff for filing a new administrative complaint that was defective because it charged defendants with alleged acts of discrimination that were resolved through the settlement agreement as well as alleged acts of discrimination that occurred after the agreement was signed. While this complaint was undoubtedly defective, plaintiff unarguably has a right to challenge alleged discriminatory conduct that occurred after she settled her earlier complaint. Because of potential statute of limitations problems, equity counsels the Court to allow plaintiff to proceed on her 1985 complaint as if it properly charged defendant only with post-settlement agreement discrimination. The Court will do so.
The Court will enter an Order, of even date herewith, memorializing these findings.
DATE July 12, 1988
ORDER - July 13, 1988, Filed
In accordance with the Opinion in the above-captioned case, issued of even date herewith, it is this 12th day of July, 1988,
ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be, and hereby is, granted with respect to the January 22, 1982 settlement agreement, plaintiff's 1978 and 1980 administrative complaints, and those portions of plaintiff's 1985 administrative complaint concerning any and all acts of discrimination that occurred prior to January 23, 1982; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment seeking reinstatement of her administrative complaints shall be, and hereby is, granted with respect to that portion of plaintiff's 1985 administrative complaint charging defendant with continuing acts of discrimination from January 23, 1982, onward; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment shall be, and hereby is, denied in all other respects; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that defendant shall reinstate that portion of plaintiff's 1985 administrative complaint charging it with continuing acts of discrimination that allegedly began on January 23, 1982; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that this case shall be, and hereby is, dismissed from the docket of this Court, without prejudice to plaintiff's right to bring suit as to matters that may arise out of defendant's processing of and decision on the reinstated portion of plaintiff's complaint.
CHARLES R. RICHEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE