United States District Court, D. Columbia
October 11, 2005.
ALFREDA S. LEWIS, Plaintiff,
OWEN HEALTHCARE, INC., Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLADYS KESSLER, District Judge
Plaintiff, Alfreda S. Lewis, brings suit against Owen
Healthcare, Inc., alleging discrimination on the basis of
religion and race in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e,
et seq. ("Title VII"), and the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C.
Code §§ 2-1401 et seq. ("DCHRA").
This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Partial Motion
to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment.
Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, and Reply, and the
entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below,
Defendant's Motion is granted.
In June of 2001, Plaintiff requested leave from her employment
with Defendant for three days to attend a "sacred religious
ceremony." See Compl. at 2. Defendant rejected her request.
Plaintiff attended the religious ceremony anyway, and when she
returned was fired for job abandonment. See id. On April 18, 2002, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the D.C.
Office of Human Rights ("OHR") alleging religious and racial
discrimination under the DCHRA. Def.'s Br. at 3, Ex. 1. Plaintiff
argued that others could have performed her job duties in her
absence, and noted that Defendant granted an Asian co-worker's
request for leave. Compl. at 2; Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n ("Opp'n") at 5.
Defendant responded that the job could not function without her
and that her co-worker's leave was in place before hers. Def.'s
Br. at 3, Ex. 2.
Plaintiff sent two letters to the OHR to check on the status of
her complaint and received prompt replies. Id., Ex. 3. On April
30, 2004, after a full investigation, the OHR issued Plaintiff a
Letter of Determination finding no probable cause for her claims.
Id., Ex. 2. The Letter of Determination addressed in detail the
merits of Plaintiff's claims and informed Plaintiff that she
could apply for reconsideration of the OHR's conclusion, or in
the alternative, file an appeal with the District of Columbia
Superior Court within thirty days. Id. The Letter of
Determination also notified Plaintiff of her right to a
"Substantial Weight Review" by the U.S. Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within fifteen days. Id.
On October 23, 2004 Plaintiff filed a Petition for Review of
Agency Decision ("Petition") with the Superior Court. Id. at 4,
Ex. 4. On November 2, 2004, the Superior Court dismissed the Petition "without prejudice for Plaintiff to amend," because she
named the wrong party defendant. Id., Ex. 5. Plaintiff did not
amend her Petition. Def.'s Br. at 4.
After filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC,*fn1
Plaintiff filed the instant action in D.C. Superior Court on
February 26, 2005. Defendant removed the case to this Court. In
her Complaint, Plaintiff alleges the same claims she alleged in
2002 with the OHR that Defendant discriminated against her
because of her race and religion when it refused her request for
leave to attend a religious event.*fn2 Compl. at 1-2.
On April 13, 2005, Defendant filed the instant Partial Motion
to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment,
with respect to Plaintiff's DCHRA claim. II. STANDARD OF REVIEW*fn3
Summary judgment should be granted if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,
together with any affidavits or declarations, show that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Material facts are those that "might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of
demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The
nonmoving party then must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its]
own affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories,
and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (internal
quotations omitted). See Laningham v. U.S. Navy,
813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (nonmoving party has affirmative duty
"to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find"
in its favor); Crenshaw v. Georgetown Univ., 23 F.Supp.2d 11,
15 (D.D.C. 1998) (noting that "adverse party must do more than
simply `show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the
material facts'" (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)).
In deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the court must draw
all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it
may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence."
Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150
(2000). Ultimately, the court must determine "whether the
evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission
to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must
prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.
Defendant asserts that under the election of remedies provision
of the DCHRA, Plaintiff cannot file a complaint with the OHR
and bring suit in court. Def.'s Br. at 2. The relevant portion
of the statute provides:
"Any person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful
discriminatory practice shall have a cause of action
in any court of competent jurisdiction for damages
and such other remedies as may be appropriate, unless
such person has filed a complaint hereunder;
provided, that where the Office has dismissed such
complaint on the grounds of administrative
convenience, or where the complainant has withdrawn a
complaint, such person shall maintain all rights to
bring suit as if no complaint had been filed. No
person who maintains, in a court of competent
jurisdiction, any action based upon an act which
would be an unlawful discriminatory practice under
this chapter may file the same complaint with the
D.C. Code § 2-1403.16(a) (West 2005). Thus, it is an established rule of law that jurisdiction of a
court and the OHR are mutually exclusive unless: 1) the OHR had
dismissed the complaint on the grounds of administrative
convenience or, 2) the employee had voluntarily withdrawn the
complaint before an administrative decision was reached. Id.;
see also Weiss v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers,
729 F. Supp. 144, 146 (D.D.C. 1990) (barring plaintiff's claim under the
election of remedies doctrine for failure to allege the complaint
was withdrawn in a timely fashion or dismissed for administrative
convenience); Parker v. Nat'l Corp. for Hous. P'ships,
697 F. Supp. 5, 7 (D.D.C. 1988) (explaining that, under the clear
language of the statute, the jurisdiction of the Court and the
OHR are mutually exclusive); Anderson v. U.S. Safe Deposit Co.,
552 A.2d 859
, 862-63 (D.C. 1989) (interpreting statute to provide
for an ab initio election of remedies); Brown v. Capitol
Hill Club, 425 A.2d 1309
, 1311 (D.C. 1981) (by filing with OHR,
provided the statutory exceptions do not apply, complainant loses
right to file the same action in court).
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff's claim was fully investigated
and decided by the OHR, and that it was not dismissed for
administrative convenience or withdrawn by Plaintiff. Def.'s Br.
at 3. These facts are undisputed. Plaintiff fails to respond to
this argument in her Opposition, and does not in any other way
refute the assertion that she has exhausted her available relief
under the DCHRA's election of remedies provision. Indeed, in her Opposition, Plaintiff concedes she filed a charge of
discrimination with the OHR and received a Letter of
Determination. Opp'n at 6.
Furthermore, Plaintiff was allowed judicial review of the OHR's
decision in Superior Court. That Petition for Review was
dismissed without prejudice, but Plaintiff failed to amend. These
undisputed facts preclude Plaintiff from now seeking redress on
the same claim in this Court, and therefore the DCHRA claim must
Drawing all inferences in Plaintiff's favor, Defendant has
demonstrated that there is no issue of material fact regarding
Plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative remedies under the
DCHRA. For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Partial Motion to
Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment is
granted, and Plaintiff's DCHRA claim is dismissed.
An Order will issue with this Memorandum Opinion.
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