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ALLISON v. PERRY

United States District Court, District of Columbia


April 4, 2003

ARTHUR O. ALLISON, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
STEPHEN A. PERRY ADMINISTRATOR, GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION DEFENDANT.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, eleven current or former employees of the General Services Administration ("GSA"),*fn1 bring this action for employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 701 et seq., as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Defendant is Stephen A. Perry, Administrator of the GSA. The matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs are current or former employees of the Physical Security Section ("PSS") in the National Capitol Region of the GSA. They allege that they were subjected to a hostile work environment from 1995 through 1998 on account of their race and age.*fn2

In the Spring of 1995, employees in the PSS were charged with implementing the Building Security Committee Project ("BSC" or "Project"), a Project designed to enhance security at federal office buildings. According to Plaintiffs, the Project was behind schedule and never properly implemented. Plaintiffs allege that, since the development of the BSC, they were subjected to continued harassment in an effort to "publicly discredit, demean and make more vulnerable the employees of the PSS, so that, if the need arose, they could more easily be blamed" for problems with the Project. Compl. ¶ 26. This harassment, Plaintiffs contend, culminated in a January 1998 Inspector General ("IG") Investigation of the BSC Project, in which Plaintiffs were blamed for "any and all mistakes, delays, or any other shortcomings in the BSC Project." Id. ¶ 32.

Plaintiffs contend that they were subjected to numerous acts of harassment during this two-and-one-half-year period including: (1) "being made a scapegoat by officials of the [GSA] in an IG Investigation," Pls. Opp'n to Mot. for Summ. J. at 3, (2) threats that the PSS would be "broken up," (3) relocation of the PSS to "very, very cramped quarters," (4) denial of requests for improved furniture, (5) lack of assistance "during the worst and most stressful part of the project," (6) reassignment of PSS employees out of the Project "when their help was most needed," (7) failure to promote qualified PSS personnel to a supervisory position "and thus avoiding some of the calamities which resulted from being leaderless," (8) failure to insure cooperation from other branches within the GSA, "when such cooperation was indispensable for successful and timely completion of the BSC Project," and (8) "being made the butt of racial jokes, derogatory comments, racial slurs, and imputations of incompetence." Id. at 24.

On November 14, 2001, Plaintiffs brought suit against Perry in his official capacity as Administrator of the GSA. They allege that they were subjected to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and the ADEA. They further contend that they were not paid overtime hours in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq. On May 31, 2002, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, contending that Plaintiffs failed to state a hostile work environment claim. Defendant did not seek dismissal of Plaintiffs' FLSA claims.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"[A] complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff[s] can prove no set of facts in support of [their] claim[s] which would entitle [them] to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The factual allegations of the complaint must be presumed true and liberally construed in favor of the plaintiffs. Shear v. National Rifle Ass'n of Am., 606 F.2d 1251, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 1979)

III. Plaintiffs Have Sufficiently Alleged that They Were Subjected to a Hostile Work Environment
Courts have recognized that certain workplace conditions are "permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment." Onacle v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 78 (1998) (quoting Harris v. Forklift Systems, 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993)); Stewart v. Evans, 275 F.3d 1126, 1133-34 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In determining whether an actionable hostile work environment claim exists, courts are to consider the frequency of such conduct, its severity, whether it was physically threatening or humiliating, and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance. See National Railroad Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 122 S.Ct. 2061, 2067 (2002).

Here, Plaintiffs allege that they were subjected to continued harassment for two-and-one-half years as a result of their race and age. Specifically, they contend that they were denied adequate resources and support — including sufficient employee assistance, qualified leadership, cooperation from other branches within GSA, office space, and furniture — to successfully and timely complete the BSC Project. Moreover, they allege that they were subjected to racial jokes, slurs, and derogatory comments. Significantly, they contend that this harassment was undertaken to undermine their authority and publicly demean and discredit them. As a result, Plaintiffs reason, Defendant could more easily blame them, during the IG Investigation, for the failures of the BSC Project.

While none of these allegations alone may be actionable, the Court is obligated to consider the totality of the circumstances. See id. Moreover, the Court emphasizes that, in considering a Motion to Dismiss, the factual allegations of the Complaint must be presumed true and liberally construed in favor of the Plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' allegations that they were repeatedly subjected to harassment — for two-and-one-half years — in an effort to demean and blame them for failures in GSA's Project, if proven, are "sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment."*fn3 Onacle, 523 U.S. at 78. This harassment was not only frequent and humiliating, but was, according to Plaintiffs, undertaken to interfere with their work performance. Accordingly, Plaintiffs' hostile work environment claims must proceed.*fn4

IV. CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is denied. An Order will issue with this Opinion.

ORDER

Plaintiffs, eleven current or former employees of the General Services Administration ("GSA"),*fn5 bring this action for employment discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, § 701 et seq., as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Defendant is Stephen A. Perry, Administrator of the GSA. The matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, for the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is this ___ day of March 2003, hereby

ORDERED, that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss [#26] is denied; and it is further

ORDERED, that a status conference is scheduled for April 4, 2003, at 10:00 a.m.


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