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GRIFFIN v. ACACIA LIFE INSURANCE CO.
United States District Court, District of Columbia
July 24, 2001
BARBARA GRIFFIN, PLAINTIFF,
ACACIA LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging that her employer, Acacia Life
Insurance Company ("Acacia"), discriminated against her on the basis of
her sex, subjected her to quid pro quo sexual harassment, and retaliated
against her. Plaintiff asserted claims under both Title VII*fn1 and
District of Columbia law. Defendant has moved for summary judgment on the
Title VII claims based on plaintiff's alleged failure to file her
complaint within ninety days after receiving the Notice of Right to Sue
letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Because
plaintiff has failed to present sufficiently probative evidence to rebut
the presumption that she received the Right to Sue letter three days
after it was mailed, the Title VII claims are untimely. Having dismissed
the federal claims which provided the basis for original jurisdiction,
the Court will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
claims under D.C. law and will dismiss those claims without prejudice
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3).
Plaintiff began her employment with Acacia in 1970. In 1991, plaintiff
was assigned to the Duplicating and Purchasing Department and, in
February 1992, she was promoted to Senior Copy Preparation Specialist.
During this period, she reported to Edward Elko, who reported to Arnold
Rexroad. Beginning in March 1995, plaintiff reported directly to
Rexroad. Plaintiff alleges that Rexroad engaged in quid pro quo sexual
harassment between 1991 and October 1996.
On October 25, 1996, plaintiff told Leon Stevens, a friend who was a
supervisor for Acacia, that Shirl Nevas said that Rexroad moved Nevas's
bra strap. Stevens reported the conversation to Rexroad, who reported it
to his supervisor, Richard Fedalen. Plaintiff alleges that Rexroad
retaliated against her for reporting the alleged sexual harassment of
Plaintiff was advised in March 1997 that her position would be
eliminated when the company reorganized and certain duties were
outsourced. On May 2, 1997, plaintiff was given a written warning about
poor performance based on customer complaints. On May 5, 1997, plaintiff
"went out on sick leave . . . due to stress from the workplace."
Plaintiff's Opposition to Summary Judgment, at 11.
Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. After she
received her Notice of Right to Sue letter, she filed this lawsuit.
Rule 56 is an integral part of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
recognizing a party's right to demonstrate that certain claims have no
factual or legal basis and to have those unsupported claims disposed of
prior to trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). A motion
for summary judgment is properly granted unless there is evidence "on
which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff. The judge's
inquiry, therefore, unavoidably asks whether reasonable jurors could find
by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff is
entitled to a
verdict. . . ." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252
(1986). "Summary judgment is appropriate when evidence on file shows
`that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.'" America's
Community Bankers v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., 200 F.3d 822, 831
(D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)). "[A] genuine dispute
about material facts exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. (internal
quotations omitted). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477
U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted).
"While a nonmovant is not required to produce evidence in a form that
would be admissible at trial, the evidence still must be capable of being
converted into admissible evidence." Gleklen v. Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee, Inc., 199 F.3d 1365, 1369 (D.C. Cir. 2000).
"Otherwise, the objective of summary judgment — to prevent
unnecessary trials — would be undermined." Id.
I. Title VII Claims
A person aggrieved under Title VII who seeks to file a civil action
must do so within ninety days from receipt of the EEOC right-to-sue
notice. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Hogue v. Roach, 967 F. Supp. 7, 8
In this case, it is undisputed that the EEOC mailed the Notice of Right
to Sue letter to plaintiff on August 7, 1997. See Dismissal and Notice of
Rights, Exh. L to Declaration of Henry A. Platt. Plaintiff testified in
her deposition that she does not know on what date she received the
right-to-sue letter and that she has no records which reflect the date of
receipt. See Griffin Deposition, at 60-61. Where, as here, the plaintiff
does not know when she received the Right to Sue letter, Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 6(e) creates a presumption that the letter was received
three days after it was mailed. Baldwin County Welcome Center v. Brown,
466 U.S. 147, 148 n. 1 (1984); Smith-Haynie v. District of Columbia,
155 F.3d 575, 578 n. 3 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Plaintiff presumptively
received the letter on August 11, 1997.*fn2 The complaint was filed
more than ninety days thereafter, on November 24, 1997.
The only evidence plaintiff has submitted to rebut this presumption is
the declaration of her attorney, Janice A. Simons. In the declaration,
Simons states that the law firm's records indicate that plaintiff first
came to the law office on August 28, 1997. Declaration of Janice A.
Simons, Exh. 9 to Plaintiff's Opposition to Summary Judgment, ¶ 3.
Simons also states that there is an entry on her calendar for November
24, 1997, which reads "B. Griffin's Complaint Due." Id. ¶ 2. Based
on these records, Simons believes that plaintiff told either Ms. Simons
or someone else in the law firm that she received the Notice of Right to
Sue letter on August 26, 1997, ninety days before the complaint was
filed. Id. ¶ 4.*fn3
Evidence of a person's habit or a firm's routine can be probative of
whether the person or firm acted in conformity with that practice at a
Fed.R.Evid. 406. Assuming that Simons's declaration
satisfied Rule 406, it proves only so much. It may support the inference
that Simons believed the filing deadline was November 24, 1997. Whether
this evidence would be admissible to prove the second-level inference
that plaintiff told Simons that plaintiff received the right-to-sue
letter 90 days before November 24, 1997 is questionable, particularly
with plaintiff wholly unable to corroborate such an inference. Neither
inference, though, establishes when plaintiff actually received the
letter. The speculation by plaintiff's counsel regarding the date
plaintiff may have told one or more of her attorneys that she received the
right-to-sue notice is not sufficient to create a genuine issue of
material fact. See, e.g., McGill v. Munoz, 203 F.3d 843
, 846 (D.C. Cir.
2000) (speculation insufficient to avoid summary judgment).
Thus, in light of the fact that plaintiff has provided insufficiently
probative evidence to rebut the presumption that she received the
right-to-sue notice three days after it was mailed, plaintiff has failed
to demonstrate that a genuine issue of fact exists as to the date on
which she received the right-to-sue letter. It is undisputed that
plaintiff filed her complaint more than ninety-three days after the
right-to-sue notice was mailed and, as a result, the Title VII claims are
II. Claims Based on D.C. Law
Plaintiff's Title VII claims were the basis for this Court's original
jurisdiction, and the Court had supplemental jurisdiction over
plaintiff's claims which were based on the laws of the District of
Columbia. The court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction if
the court "has dismissed all claims over which it has original
jurisdiction." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3); see also United Mine Workers
v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726 (1966) (court should dismiss supplemental
state law claims when federal claims dismissed before trial).*fn4 "In
the usual case in which all federal-law claims are eliminated before
trial, the balance of factors to be considered under the [supplemental]
jurisdiction doctrine — judicial economy, convenience, fairness,
and comity — will point toward declining to exercise jurisdiction
over the remaining state-law claims." Carnegie-Mellon University v.
Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n. 7 (1988).
In this case, the considerations of judicial economy, convenience,
fairness, and comity favor declining to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over plaintiff's remaining claims. "Needless decisions of
state law should be avoided both as a matter of comity and to promote
justice between the parties, by procuring for them a surer-footed reading
of applicable law." Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726. "Thus comity and fairness
point strongly toward having the District of Columbia's courts decide the
claims." Edmondson & Gallagher v. Alban Towers Tenants Ass'n,
48 F.3d 1260, 1266 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (remanding with instructions either
to remand the matter to the D.C. courts or to dismiss the case without
prejudice). The interests of judicial economy and convenience do not
favor exercising supplemental jurisdiction because this Court has not yet
expended any resources on addressing the merits of the D.C. law claims
and "there seems little difference in convenience for the parties whether
they litigate in D.C. or federal court." Id.
The Court, therefore, will decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over plaintiff's DCHRA and negligent supervision claims.
These claims will be dismissed without prejudice to their being refiled
in D.C. Superior Court. Plaintiff is advised that 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d)
tolls the statute of limitations for these D.C. law claims for a period
of 30 days after entry of the final order in this case.
Plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to rebut the
presumption that she received the EEOC Notice of Right to Sue letter three
days after it was mailed and to raise a genuine issue of material fact on
this issue. As a result, the presumptive date of receipt was August 11,
1997. Plaintiff's complaint was not filed within ninety days after this
presumptive date of receipt and is untimely.
Having dismissed the Title VII claims which provided the basis for
original jurisdiction, the Court will decline to exercise supplemental
jurisdiction over the claims based on the laws of the District of
Columbia. A final order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
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