The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge
Denying the Defendants' Renewed Motion to Dismiss
This matter comes before the court upon the defendants' renewed motion
to dismiss. On February 11, 2000, Andrew Fowler initiated this employment
discrimination suit, alleging that the defendants retaliated against him
by unlawfully discharging him from his teaching position at Roosevelt
Senior High School in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). The
defendants are Learie Phillip, Principal of Roosevelt Senior High
School, and the District of Columbia, through Arlene Ackerman in her
official capacity as Superintendent of the District of Columbia Public
In a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated July 26, 2000 ("Mem. Op."),
this court granted in part and denied in part the defendants' motion to
dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.
August 7, 2000, Mr. Fowler amended his complaint to allege a violation of
the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 1-2501 et
seq. ("DCHRA"). The defendants responded with the instant motion, in
which they now urge the court to dismiss the plaintiff's DCHRA claim on
the ground that he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. For the
reasons stated herein, the court will deny the defendants' renewed motion
Andrew Fowler has worked for the D.C. Public School System for
twenty-five years. In 1982, Mr. Fowler began his tenure as a full-time
English teacher at Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School. In addition to
his primary teaching responsibilities, Mr. Fowler served as chairman of
the English Department and coach of the boys' basketball team. Mr. Fowler
was, it seems, a veteran member of the Roosevelt faculty when Mr. Learie
Phillip assumed the post of principal of Roosevelt High in September
According to Mr. Fowler, almost immediately after arriving at
Roosevelt, Mr. Philip began sexually harassing female faculty members. In
late September 1995, Mr. Fowler complained to Mr. Phillip and his
superiors, and to then-DCPS Superintendent Franklin K. Smith, that Mr.
Phillip was sexually harassing female members of the faculty. In response
to Mr. Fowler's accusations, Mr. Phillip allegedly "embarked on a
campaign to destroy plaintiff's professional reputation and standing in
the Roosevelt community." See Am. Compl. ¶ 12. For example, after
Mr. Fowler reported the alleged sexual harassment, he received his lowest
performance evaluation ever during his tenure with DCPS. See Pl.'s
Statement of Material Facts as to which There is a Genuine Dispute ¶
As Roosevelt High became immersed in an eddy of accusations and
reprisals, the District of Columbia was struggling with a crisis of its
own. Operating deficits, cash shortages, management inefficiencies,
deficit spending, and an overall "fiscal emergency" led Congress to enact
the D.C. Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Act of 1995,
Pub.L. No. 104-8, 109 Stat. 97 (1995), and the D.C. Appropriations Act of
1996, Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). By this legislation,
Congress authorized the District to implement an emergency reduction in
force ("RIF"). Prior to 1996, the District's RIF regulations had operated
on the basis of seniority. See D.C. Code § 1-625.1 (1992 Repl.). The
effect of the new RIF regulations was to allow the Superintendent of
Schools to designate each school as a separate "competitive area," so
that teachers at one school would compete for available positions only
with other teachers in that school, rather than on a city-wide basis.
See D.C. Code § 1-625.1 (1996).
As a result of the new RIF regulations, the Roosevelt English
Department learned that in May 1996 it would have to reduce its staff by
two. See Mot. to Dis., Ex. 3 at 8 (Office of Employee Appeals Initiation
Decision). To effectuate the reduction, the RIF required DCPS principals
to fill out "competitive level documentation form[s]" ("CLDF"), by which
they would rank teachers in the soon-to-be-eliminated positions. See
D.C. Mun. Regs. Tit. 5, §§ 1500, 1503. Mr. Phillip devised the method
that Roosevelt High would use to calculate the CLDF. The CDLF
determination placed Mr. Fowler seventh out of eight English teachers at
Roosevelt High. See Mot. to Dis., Ex. 3 at 4. In June 1996, Mr. Fowler
received notice that he would
be terminated within thirty days.*fn2 See id.
At length, Mr. Fowler filed a complaint in this court, alleging that
his termination was the result of illegal retaliation in violation of
Title VII. Specifically, Mr. Fowler alleges that Mr. Phillip retaliated
against him with "poor performance evaluations, denial of [Mr. Fowler's]
applications to coach interscholastic sports, notification that [Mr.
Fowler] was to be transferred to another school, and ultimately, [his]
inclusion in a DCPS system-wide reduction-in-force." See Compl. ¶
12. Indeed, with respect to this latter charge, Mr. Fowler alleges that
Mr. Phillip manipulated the implementation of the RIF in a manner that
guaranteed Mr. Fowler's removal. See id. ¶ 13.
On April 7, 2000, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, or in the
alternative, for summary judgment. The defendants asserted three grounds
for dismissal: (1) the plaintiff could not recover punitive damages
against a government agency under Title VII; (2) the plaintiff did not
follow the proper procedures and did not exhaust administrative remedies
in challenging his dismissal under the RIF regulations; and (3) the
plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the DCHRA.
By Memorandum Opinion and Order dated July 26, 2000, the court granted
in part and denied in part the defendants' motion to dismiss.
Specifically, the court agreed with the defendants that Title VII does not
permit the plaintiff to recover punitive damages from the District of
Columbia or its agents. By contrast, the court rejected the defendants'
claim that the plaintiff did not follow the appropriate procedures or
exhaust his administrative remedies in challenging his RIF dismissal.
Finally, and most relevant for the purposes of the present motion, the
court denied without prejudice the defendants' motion to dismiss all
causes of action under the DCHRA. In so holding, the court noted that
although the plaintiff premised jurisdiction on both Title VII and the
DCHRA, his one-count complaint alleged violation only of Title VII. See
Mem. Op. at 6 n. 2. The court indicated, however, that if the plaintiff
amended his complaint to allege violation of the DCHRA, the defendants
would be permitted to renew their DCHRA-based exhaustion arguments. See
Mem. Op. at 6.
On August 7, 2000, the plaintiff amended his complaint to allege
violation of the DCHRA. On August 30, 2000, the defendants filed the
instant motion, renewing their request for dismissal of the DCHRA claim
on the ground that the plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies. The defendants argue that by failing to exhaust his
administrative remedies, the plaintiff has deprived this court of
subject-matter jurisdiction, see Fed.R.Civ.P. ...