The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge.
MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S
MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION
AND DISMISSING THE PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT
An employee of the U.S. Department of Commerce brings this Title VII
action seeking an injunction to prevent that agency from assigning her to
an office space which she considers detrimental to her health. In her
complaint and motion for injunctive relief, the pro se plaintiff, Janet
Howard ("the plaintiff"), claims that a change in her work environment
will cause irreparable damage to her mental and physical health, and
could lead to her premature death. After consideration of the parties'
submissions and the relevant law, the court concludes that the plaintiff
has not exhausted her administrative remedies before initiating the
current action and thereby fails to sufficiently demonstrate that she has
a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, a necessary element
for injunctive relief. Accordingly, the court does not have jurisdiction
over the case and denies the plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief and
dismisses the complaint.
The plaintiff seeks to enjoin her employer, the U.S. Department of
Commerce, Bureau of Export Analysis, Office of Enforcement Analysis, from
assigning the plaintiff to an office space which she considers
unsuitable, and to have her computer, telephone, and cabinets installed
and reconnected in order that she may resume her assigned duties and
responsibilities at work. See Compl. at 7-8. The defendant is Donald L.
Evans, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce ("the
defendant"),*fn1 named in his official capacity.
The plaintiff alleges that her office reassignment from "room 4066 on
the fourth floor," which she describes as a "bright, airy, and tranquil
space," would cause irreparable damage to her mental and physical health,
as she claims to suffer from a systemic occupational illness. See id. at
2; Pl.'s T.R.O. Mot. at 1. The plaintiff has occupied room 4066 for more
than five years and argues that a change in her work environment could
lead to further health injuries or premature death. See Compl. at 2.
In support of the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, the
plaintiff submits a letter written by her treating psychiatrist to the
U.S. Department of Commerce Director of Enforcement Analysis, Mr. Thomas
Andrukonis, dated June 28, 2001, which states that the plaintiff is
suffering from "acute and post traumatic stress induced by discord at her
job." See Pl.'s T.R.O. Mot., Ex. 1. The letter also states that the
plaintiff's recovery must involve the cooperation of her supervisors not
to impose "sudden deliberate changes" on the plaintiff. See id. The
letter further explains that her employer's disruption of the plaintiff's
"office, telephone access, and proximity to amicable co-workers . . .
constitutes unnecessary and deliberately imposed stress . . . result[ing]
in re-injury." See id. In its conclusion, the letter causally links the
plaintiff's heart condition to the aforementioned changes in her work
environment. See id.
Aside from various disparaging remarks allegedly directed at the
plaintiff by Mr. Andrukonis, and allegedly being the subject of her
co-workers' jokes, the plaintiff also asserts that Mr. Andrukonis and the
"top level managers" in the plaintiff's office have failed to provide
her with assistance to deter Mr. Andrukonis's actions. See Compl. at 2;
Pl.'s T.R.O. Mot. at 2-3. The plaintiff further alleges that she has
"filed 10 EEO complaints" against Mr. Andrukonis in addition to other EEO
complaints. See Compl. at 1. Before pursuing the current action with this
court, however, the plaintiff did not file a complaint with the EEOC
because she believes that "among African Americans, there is a stigma
associated with anyone who sees a psychiatrist, there is also a name for
such people (crazed)." Id. at 9. As the lead agent in a class action
suit involving thousands of African Americans employed by the U.S.
Department of Commerce, the plaintiff insinuates that her employer is
intentionally trying to cause the plaintiff premature death so that she
would not survive to represent herself and other members of the class.
See id. at 10; Pl.'s T.R.O. Mot. at 2. Incidentally, the plaintiff claims
that one of the defendants in that class action suit is Mr. Andrukonis.
See Compl. at 1.
The defendant counters that the changes complained of by the plaintiff
are all part of the U.S. Department of Commerce's plan to renovate its
office space. See Def.'s Statement of Material Facts in Supp. of Mot. for
Summ. J. at 2-3. In a meeting held on May 10, 2000, Mr. Andrukonis
allegedly explained that the location of the employees in the office
would be arranged around the organization of the three divisions so that
employees may be functionally located. See id. at 3-4. Mr. Andrukonis
also stated that the plaintiff's division would be located in rooms 4061
through 4073. See id. at 3. In a subsequent staff meeting held on May
31, 2001, Mr. Andrukonis discussed the plaintiff's move across the hall
to be with the rest of the staff in her division. See id. at 4., Ex. 1,
Over the course of the next two weeks, Mr. Andrukonis indicates that he
made repeated attempts to secure the plaintiff an alternative workspace
desirable to the plaintiff. See id. at 6-9. Just as before, the plaintiff
apparently declined to accept any of these proposed alternative office
locations. See id. On July 6, 2001, the plaintiff was shown the work
space in room 4620, which was a semi-private location with two offices in
one work bay, one employee in each office space. See Def.'s Statement of
Material Facts in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 5-6. The plaintiff
supposedly indicated that she would not move there either. See id. at 6.
The defendant alleges that no one in the plaintiff's position is
located in an office space similar to room 4620, with the exception of
one employee for documented medical reasons. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ.
J. at 9. The defendant also claims that room 4620 offers the plaintiff a
better workstation than the one she had because it would provide the
plaintiff with the privacy she has requested and keep her separated from
the rest of her division. See id. The office also allows the plaintiff to
keep her telephone access just as the plaintiff had before. See id.
Furthermore, because construction has already commenced, the plaintiff's
old workstation no ...