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Thompson v. Jasas Corporation

July 15, 2002

WENOKA THOMPSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JASAS CORPORATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard W. Roberts United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Wenoka Thompson filed this lawsuit alleging that she had been discriminated against and harassed by her employer on the basis of her sex, race, and religion. She also asserts causes of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, defamation, and retaliation. Defendants Jasas Corporation ("Jasas") and Tribune Broadcasting Company ("Tribune") filed a number of dispositive motions directed to various counts in plaintiff's complaint.

Because plaintiff has amply established the court's subject matter jurisdiction over her Title VII claim, dismissal of Count I is inappropriate. Because plaintiff's defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims are either time-barred or inadequate as a matter of law, those two counts will be dismissed. Because plaintiff requested and obtained a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") less than 180 days after filing her EEOC charge of retaliation, plaintiff's retaliation claim must be dismissed without prejudice. Tribune's motion to dismiss for untimely service of process will be denied since the Court will extend the service period retroactively for good cause shown.

BACKGROUND

Thompson, a black female and a member of the Jehovah's Witness faith, was employed by Jasas beginning in May 1993. In June 1994, she was promoted to the Business Department as an Accounts Payable Technician under the supervision of Donn Fraser. Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against in job assignments. Plaintiff also alleges that she was harassed because of her race and her religion, and that Jasas did not address her complaints of harassment by Fraser.

Plaintiff alleges that numerous incidents contributed to a racially hostile work environment. She alleges that Fraser referred to her as "Tar Baby" and "Speck"; that Fraser responded to her request to help plan a company picnic by stating that everyone would be eating barbecue, chitterlings, and watermelon; and that Fraser once carried a "noose" through the office and hung it on his office door, commenting that it was plaintiff's size.

Thompson also alleges that Sandy Shieber, a white female co-worker, harassed her on the basis of her race. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that Shieber accused her of stealing, commenting that "black people do all the stealing." On another occasion, when plaintiff's boyfriend visited the office, Shieber allegedly asked whether the boyfriend was plaintiff's pimp.

Plaintiff was moved from the Business Department to the Engineering Department in December 1995. She alleges that she was subjected to discrimination and harassment in the new department also. Plaintiff claims that she was physically and verbally assaulted and battered by a co-employee on January 7, 1997. She also complains that the alleged attacker, although suspended without pay for one week, was permitted to return to work before the suspension expired.

Thompson filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC in August 1996. After she received her right to sue letter, she filed this lawsuit pro se in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on December 17, 1997 asserting only a Title VII claim for discrimination and harassment. Jasas removed the action to this court in January 1998.

Thereafter, plaintiff alleges, she was transferred involuntarily from the night shift to the day shift on March 1, 1998, and was discharged on March 12, 1998. She claims that these two events were in retaliation for filing the EEOC charge and this lawsuit. Thompson filed a subsequent EEOC charge of retaliation on May 5, 1998. She quickly requested a right to sue letter and, on June 22, 1998, the EEOC issued one.

Plaintiff, through an attorney, filed an amended complaint in this court, adding causes of action for defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. In a second amended complaint, plaintiff added a cause of action for retaliation.

Jasas moved for summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII claim, arguing only that the Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiff failed to cooperate with the EEOC investigation. Jasas and Tribune moved to dismiss the defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims as time-barred and as failing to state a claim. Jasas also moved to dismiss the retaliation claim because plaintiff obtained the right to sue letter prior to the expiration of the statutory 180-day period for the EEOC investigation to be undertaken. Finally, Tribune moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint, asserting that plaintiff failed to effect proper service upon it within 120 days from the date of removal. *fn1

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction Over Plaintiff's Title VII Claim

Before suing under Title VII, an aggrieved party must exhaust her administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1); Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Auth., 160 F.3d 750, 752 (D.C. Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 527 U.S. 1038 (1999). "Title VII requires that a person complaining of a violation file an administrative charge with the EEOC and allow the agency time to act on the charge." Park v. Howard Univ., 71 F.3d 904, 907 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 811 (1996). A "[g]ood faith effort by the employee to cooperate with the agency and EEOC and to provide all relevant, available information is all that exhaustion requires." Crawford v. Babbitt, 186 F.3d 1322, 1326 (11th Cir. 1999); see also Briley v. Carlin, 172 F.3d 567, 571 (8th Cir. 1999) (plaintiff has exhausted administrative remedies where there has been a "good faith participation in the administrative process, which includes making specific charges and providing information necessary to the investigation"); MadNab v. Fortis, Inc., 2002 WL 534885 *1 (D. Minn. 2002) (citing Briley in Title VII case against private employer). Additionally, "[o]nce a complainant files a complaint or appeal and cooperates with the agency or EEOC for 180 days, he is not required to take any further action to exhaust his administrative remedies." ...


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