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Vanegas v. P & R Enterprises

October 9, 2002


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge.

Document No. 8



The plaintiff, Irene Vanegas, brings this three-count complaint under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. ("ADEA"), and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 1-2501 et seq. ("DCHRA"). Ms. Vanegas claims that her former employer, P & R Enterprises, discriminated against her on the basis of gender and age. This matter is currently before the court on the defendant's partial motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the court grants the defendant's partial motion to dismiss.


The plaintiff, a 56-year old Hispanic female, worked as a cleaning person for the defendant from October 1978 until February 2000. Compl. at 3. In July 1982, the defendant promoted Ms. Vanegas to a supervisory position. Id. In February 2000, the defendant notified Ms. Vanegas of the loss of the cleaning contract with the building in which she worked. Id. In response to the plaintiff's request for a reassignment, the defendant told her that no supervisory positions were available and terminated her employment. Id.

The plaintiff filed her complaint on March 15, 2002. Ms. Vanegas alleges sex discrimination pursuant to Title VII in count one, age discrimination pursuant to the ADEA in count two, and age and sex discrimination pursuant to the DCHRA in count three. The plaintiff seeks relief including: (1) a declaration that the defendant engaged in discriminatory conduct; (2) reinstatement as a supervisor, (3) back pay, front pay, and other compensation; (4) compensatory damages in the amount of one-million dollars; and (5) punitive damages in the amount of one-million dollars. Compl. at 4-8.

The defendant filed a partial motion to dismiss on April 29, 2002. The defendant argues that Ms. Venegas' DCHRA claims are time-barred; that the plaintiff cannot recover under Title VII because she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies; and that, because the ADEA does not provide for compensatory or punitive damages, the plaintiff cannot recover such damages. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss at 2-4. The plaintiff concedes that the court should dismiss counts one and three -- her Title VII and DCHRA claims. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. She argues, however, that the court should not dismiss her ADEA claims for compensatory and punitive damages *fn1 because the ADEA permits recovery of such damages under certain circumstances. Id. at 1-2. The court now resolves this one remaining issue.


A. Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss

For a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, it need only provide a short and plain statement of the claim and the grounds on which it rests. FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2); Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests not whether the plaintiff will prevail on the merits, but instead whether the plaintiff has properly stated a cla im. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982). The plaintiff need not plead the elements of a prima-facie case in the complaint. Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506 (2002) (holding that a plaintiff in an employment-discrimination case need not establish her prima-facie case in the complaint); Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1114 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Thus, the court may dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Atchinson v. Dist. of Columbia, 73 F.3d 418, 422 (D.C. Cir. 1996). In deciding such a motion, the court must accept all of the complaint's well-pled factual allegations as true and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236.

B. The ADEA Does Not Provide for Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Section 626(b) of the ADEA articulates its enforcement provisions and specifies the remedies available to plaintiffs alleging ADEA violations:

Amounts owing to a person as a result of a violation of this chapter shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation . . . Provided: That liquidated damages shall be payable only in cases of willful violations of this chapter . . . the court shall have jurisdiction to grant such legal or equitable relief . . . including without limitation judgments compelling employment, reinstatement or promotion, or enforcing the liability for ...

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