United States District Court, D. Columbia
October 18, 2005.
MARA K. CLARIETT, Plaintiff,
CONDOLEEZZA RICE,[fn1] Secretary, United States Department of State, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD LEON, District Judge
*fn1 The Court will grant plaintiff's "Motion for Substitution
of Party" [Dkt. #11]. Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d)(1), the
Court automatically substitutes current Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice for her predecessor, former Secretary of State
MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER
This matter is before the Court on consideration of defendant's
motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.
Having considered defendant's motion, plaintiff's opposition, and
the entire record of the case, the Court will grant the motion in
part, and deny the motion in part without prejudice. In addition,
the Court will order plaintiff to submit a more definite
Plaintiff, "an American, black, female citizen" from
California, was an employee of the American Embassy in Vienna,
Austria from May 1996 through January 2000. Compl., ¶ 2.
Plaintiff entered into a personal services contract with the
United States Department of State ("State Department") effective
May 13, 1996. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 6 (Contract No. SOAU990-96-P-0034). According to the contract,
plaintiff was to serve as an Administrative Assistant for the
United States delegation to the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe ("USOSCE") for annual compensation of
$21,344. Id. The term of the contract was one year, and the
parties renewed the contract in 1997 and 1998.*fn2 See id.
(Amendment of Solicitation/Modification of Contract, Nos. M0180
The USOSCE Executive Office found that the delegation lacked
sufficient administrative resources to manage funds, track
movements of contract staff, administer contracts, or handle
complex personnel matters. Def's Mot., Ex. 8 (DeSoto Aff.) at 5.
Consequently, it established a "mission staffing unit" within the
USOSCE, headed by a Foreign Service Officer to whom the
Administrative Assistant, plaintiff, would report. Id., Ex. 7
(Request for USOSCE Program Personnel Position and Proposed
Position Description), Ex. 8 at 3, 5-6. In light of this
organizational change, the work requirements of the
Administrative Assistant were revised somewhat. Id., Ex. 8 at
6. Plaintiff allegedly opposed the restructuring plan, and
actively resisted its implementation. Id. at 7. Evidently,
plaintiff considered the revised work requirements a demotion to
a purely clerical job.*fn3 See Compl., ¶ 16(c).
Plaintiff alleges that she endured "hostile work environment,
harassment, and racial and gender discrimination" under Jeffrey Hovenier, who
became her supervisor in April 1999. Compl., ¶ 16(c). Under Oscar
DeSoto, who became her supervisor in December 1999, plaintiff
alleges that her work environment "changed drastically." Id.
For the alleged harassment and discrimination suffered under
Hovenier's supervision, she states that she filed a formal
complaint of discrimination with the Embassy Personnel Officer on
December 19, 1999. Id., ¶ 6. Approximately one month later, she
alleges that DeSoto demoted her to a purely clerical position on
January 14, 2000 and placed her on probation, solely on the basis
of her race and gender. Id., ¶¶ 6, 16(c). She further alleges
that, barely two weeks later, on January 24, 2000, DeSoto fired
her.*fn4 Id., ¶¶ 6, 16(c), 17(4); Def.'s Mot., Ex. 10
(Amendment of Solicitation/Modification of Contract, No. M0005,
effective January 25, 2000, and supporting memoranda).
Plaintiff challenged her termination by filing a complaint with
the State Department's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and
Civil Rights on March 3, 2000.*fn5 Compl., ¶ 7; Def.'s Mot.,
Ex. 1 (Formal Complaint of Discrimination and attachment).
Although the agency allegedly suggested a desire to settle the
case after its initial investigation, plaintiff stated that the
State Department issued its Final Agency Decision in November 2002 upholding the termination. Compl., ¶¶
8-10. Plaintiff appealed the agency's decision to the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in December 2002.
Id., ¶ 11. On May 13, 2004, the EEOC affirmed the State
Department's decision, and in June 2004 denied plaintiff's
request for reconsideration. Id., ¶¶ 13-14 & Ex. B (EEOC
Decision), D (Denial of Request for Reconsideration).
Plaintiff brings this action under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and
under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 791
et seq. Compl., ¶ 41. She alleges that defendant terminated her
employment unlawfully on the bases of her race, color, gender,
and national origin, and in reprisal for having filed a complaint
of discrimination. Id., ¶ 44. In addition to these
discrimination claims, plaintiff brings tort claims for "the
publication of defamatory statements, . . . damage to her
reputation, same, mortification, and emotional
distress."*fn6 Id., ¶ 47.
A. Standard of Review
1. Motion to Dismiss
A complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a
claim unless the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support
of his claim that would entitle him to relief. Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). The ruling on a motion under
Rule 12(b)(6) does not test a plaintiff's likelihood of success
on the merits; rather, it tests whether a plaintiff properly has
stated a claim. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The factual allegations of the complaint are presumed
to be true and are construed liberally in plaintiff's favor.
See, e.g., United States v. Phillip Morris, Inc.,
116 F. Supp. 2d 131, 135 (D.D.C. 2001). The Court is not obligated, however,
to draw factual inferences that are not supported by the facts
alleged. Kowal v. MCI Communications Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276
(D.C. Cir. 1994). Because the Court has considered matters
outside of the pleadings that the parties presented in support of
their respective positions, it treats the motion in part as a
motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b).
2. Motion for Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is granted to the movant if it has shown, when
the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-movant, that there are no genuine issues of material fact in
dispute and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986);
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is one "that might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When evaluating a
summary judgment motion, "[c]redibility determinations, the
weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate
inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a
judge." Id. at 255; Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products,
Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).
The party opposing a motion for summary judgment "may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but . . .
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. at 248; see also Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garret &
Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 150 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
B. Plaintiff has not exhausted administrative remedies with
respect to her claims for hostile work environment, discrimination
based on a disability, and reprisal for whistleblower activity.
Generally, there are two prerequisites to maintaining a Title
VII claim in district court: a plaintiff must timely file an EEOC
charge and she must timely file a civil complaint after receipt
of a right-to-sue letter. See Alexander v. Gardner-Denver Co.,
415 U.S. 36
, 47 (1974). Title VII complaints are liberally
construed. See Caldwell v. ServiceMaster Corp., 966 F.Supp. 33,
49 (D.D.C. 1997). Liberal interpretation, however, cannot be used
to bypass Title VII's administrative processes. Park v. Howard
University, 71 F.3d 904, 907 (D.C. Cir. 1995), cert. denied,
519 U.S. 811 (1996). The requirement that a plaintiff pursue
employment discrimination claims before the EEOC prior to filing
a civil action in federal court serves two important purposes:
notice to the employer of claims of discrimination against it,
and a narrowing of the issues for prompt adjudication and
decision. See Laffey v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 567 F.2d 429,
472 n. 235 (D.C. Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1086
(1978). A lawsuit following an EEOC charge is limited in scope to
claims that are "like or reasonably related to the allegations of
the charge and growing out of such allegations." Park v. Howard
Univ., 71 F.3d at 907 (quoting Cheek v. Western and Southern
Life Ins. Co., 31 F.3d 497
, 500 (7th Cir. 1994) (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted)).
The State Department's Office of Equal Employment Opportunity
and Civil Rights accepted the following issue for investigation:
That because of [plaintiff's] race, color, sex,
national origin and reprisal, [she was:] 1) not
allowed to perform the duties of [her] position as an Administrative Assistant to the U.S.
OSCE Delegation; 2) terminated from [her] position as
an Administrative Assistant to the U.S. OSCE
Delegation; 3) denied the opportunity to serve as an
election observer in the Republic of Georgia; and 4)
denied payment of more than 260 hours of accrued
overtime and 240 hours of accrued vacation leave [she
is] entitled to for [her] time with the OSCE
Def.'s Mot., Ex. 4 (May 1, 2000 letter regarding EEO Case Number
00-38). These were indeed the claims raised in plaintiff's Formal
Complaint of Discrimination. See id., Ex. 1 (Formal Complaint
of Discrimination and attached Memorandum). In addition, these
were the only matters investigated at the agency level, and the
only matters presented to the EEOC on appeal. See Def.'s Mot.,
Ex. 5 (Report of Investigation), 14 (EEOC Decision).
Conspicuously absent were plaintiff's claims for hostile work
environment, reprisal for whistleblower activity, and claims
under the Rehabilitation Act.*fn7
See Def.'s Ex. 1-2
(Formal Complaint of Discrimination and March 30, 2000 Amendment,
respectively), Ex. 3 (EEO Counselor's Report) at 1-2, Ex. 5
(Report of Investigation) at 1. It cannot be said that plaintiff
gave defendant fair warning of these claims against the agency,
such that the agency had an opportunity to address or correct
them short of litigation. Plaintiff's failure to exhaust her
administrative remedies with respect to these three claims bars
their consideration by the Court. See Hunt v. District of
Columbia Dep't of Corrections, 41 F.Supp.2d 31
, 36 (D.D.C. 1999)
(dismissing gender discrimination claim for failure to exhaust
admin remedies because neither checked off box on EEOC complaint
form nor mentioned claim in complaint itself).
C. Plaintiff fails to state a claim regarding the processing of
her discrimination complaint.
Plaintiff alleges that the State Department acted in bad faith
in its investigation of her discrimination complaint. See
Compl., ¶¶ 34-40. She alleges that the department conducted two
investigations, the second of which was designed "to suppress
sworn testimony and evidence collected in the initial official
investigation." Id., ¶ 35. In addition, plaintiff asserts that
the Report of Investigation to the EEOC violated applicable
regulations, and that it was "incomplete, thus inaccurate,
therefore misleading, and therefore false." Id., ¶ 36. For
defendant's alleged wrongful acts, plaintiff demands, among other
things, an order compelling defendant to produce a true and
complete Report of Investigation that is consistent with the
"results of the initial Agency investigation conducted . . . in
May 2000." Id., ¶ 51(1-2). This claim is not actionable.
Plaintiff's only cause of action under Title VII is for
discrimination. The provisions of Title VII "do not create an
independent cause of action for the mishandling of an employee's
discrimination complaints." Young v. Sullivan, 733 F.Supp. 131,
132 (D.D.C. 1990), aff'd, 946 F.2d 1568 (D.C. Cir. 1991); see
Nelson v. Greenspan, 163 F.Supp.2d 12, 18 (D.D.C. 2001)
(dismissing claim that defendant failed to follow proper
procedure in the processing of complaints which ultimately
resulted in settlement agreement). D. The Court will order plaintiff to file a more definite
The Court has reviewed the complaint, keeping in mind that a
complaint filed by a pro se litigant is held to a less
stringent standard than a formal pleading drafted by a lawyer.
See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Even a pro se
litigant, however, must comply with the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. Jarrell v. Tisch, 656 F. Supp. 237, 239 (D.D.C.
1987). Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires
that complaints contain "a short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." The purpose of
the minimum requirement of Rule 8 is to give fair notice to
defendants of the claims being asserted, sufficient to prepare a
responsive answer, to prepare an adequate defense, and to
determine whether the doctrine of res judicata applies. Brown
v. Califano, 75 F.R.D. 497, 498 (D.D.C. 1977).
Plaintiff's legal training has not served the parties or the
Court well.*fn8 Her complaint is poorly organized, and
frequently makes vague or conclusory statements. For example, it
is unclear whether plaintiff exhausted administrative remedies
with respect to other Title VII claims, whether any of her claims
are time-barred, or whether she adequately alleges discrimination
on other bases under Title VII. Additionally, plaintiff raises
claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and
defamation without any supporting factual allegations. Further,
with respect to plaintiff's contract and tort claims for money
damages against the State Department, it is unclear whether
plaintiff has presented the claims to the agency, and, if so,
whether this Court has subject matter jurisdiction over such
claims. It is no surprise, then, that defendant finds the pleading so vague and ambiguous that it now moves for a more
definite statement. See Def.'s Mot. at 21. The motion will be
The Court concludes that plaintiff failed to exhaust
administrative remedies with respect to her claims for hostile
work environment, reprisal for whistleblower activity, and for
discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act. In addition, the
Court concludes that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted regarding the processing of her
discrimination claim. Defendant's motion will be granted in part
and denied in part, and plaintiff will be ordered to file a more
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to substitute [Dkt. #11] is
GRANTED. It is further
ORDERED that defendant's motion to dismiss [Dkt. #13] is
GRANTED IN PART. Plaintiff's claim regarding the processing of
her discrimination complaint is dismissed for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. In all other respects,
the motion to dismiss is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. It is further
ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment [Dkt. #14]
is GRANTED IN PART, having concluded that plaintiff failed to
exhaust administrative remedies on her claims of hostile work
environment, reprisal for whistleblower activity, and
discrimination based on disability. In all other respects, the
summary judgment motion is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE. It is
ORDERED that, within 45 days of entry of this Order, plaintiff
shall file a more definite statement. Plaintiff's failure to file
a more definite statement timely may result in dismissal of this action.
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