The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN BATES, District Judge
Plaintiff Lillie Middlebrooks brings this action against Gordon
R. England, Secretary of the Department of the Navy, pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended,
29 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq. Plaintiff alleges that defendant discriminated
against her based on her race, color, gender and national origin
when she worked at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) in
Bethesda, Maryland, from September 2002 to February 2003.
Presently before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss for
improper venue or, in the alternative, to transfer to the
District of Maryland. Because the Court determines that venue is
not proper in the District of Columbia for plaintiff's claim, the
Court will transfer the case to the District of Maryland where
venue is proper.
The following facts are alleged in plaintiff's complaint.
Plaintiff, an African American female of light-brown complexion,
was hired by the Military Family Health Center of the NNMC as a
registered nurse on September 30, 2002. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 12, 13.
Plaintiff's appointment was subject to the completion of a
one-year probationary period. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff alleges that, over the course of her six-month tenure
with NNMC, her coworkers and supervisors repeatedly insulted her
and undermined her ability adequately to perform her duties.
During her first two months of employment, three Caucasian female
coworkers repeatedly made insulting and derogatory remarks to
her. Id. ¶¶ 23, 24, 25, 31, 35, 111, 114. Another Caucasian
female coworker falsely accused plaintiff in an e-mail of
incompetence and refusal to perform work-related duties. Id. ¶
44. In December 2002, plaintiff's Hispanic male supervisor
reassigned her to another staff team, a move that deprived her of
a leadership position. Id. ¶¶ 60, 61, 65, 70. The loss of the
leadership opportunity adversely affected plaintiff's chances for
career advancement. Id. ¶ 72. One month later, a Caucasian male
coworker made false statements concerning plaintiff by e-mail.
Id. ¶ 88.
On February 3, 2003 plaintiff's supervisors confronted her with
negative written comments from three coworkers. Id. ¶¶ 96, 98.
One write-up was authored by an African American male coworker,
who plaintiff alleges discriminated against her on the basis of
her color. Id. ¶¶ 99, 106. Following that meeting, plaintiff's
supervisors solicited additional comments from a Caucasian male
coworker, who submitted negative remarks concerning plaintiff.
Id. ¶¶ 117, 123.
Also on February 3, 2003 plaintiff treated a patient who had
been inadvertently stuck by a dirty needle during an occupational
exposure incident. Id. ¶ 121. Plaintiff apparently released the
patient without initiating post-exposure prophylaxis. Id. ¶¶
137, 138. The next day, it was discovered that the patient's
source of exposure was HIV positive. Id. ¶ 139. Plaintiff was
subsequently berated by her supervisors and her depression
worsened. Id. ¶¶ 31, 35, 142, 149.
Because of these incidents, plaintiff contacted an Equal
Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor on February 6, 2003. Id.
¶ 153. When coworkers learned that she had contacted an EEO counselor, they circulated e-mails accusing her of
incompetence and drafted an allegedly false report concerning the
occupational exposure incident. Id. ¶¶ 156, 157, 158.
Plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the EEO office on
February 13, 2003. Id. ¶¶ 173, 174. She then faced further
harassment from coworkers, and her supervisor submitted a
termination recommendation. Id. ¶¶ 174, 178. Plaintiff alleges
an additional false memorandum was submitted at this time
concerning her job performance. Id. ¶ 181.
On February 20, 2003, plaintiff's supervisors again verbally
abused and harassed her. Id. ¶¶ 191, 194. That same day, a
coworker overheard a phone message from an EEO counselor intended
for plaintiff and informed other coworkers of its content. Id.
¶ 198. Later that day, plaintiff's supervisors formally
recommended her to the Washington Navy Yard HRO for termination.
Id. ¶¶ 199. Plaintiff was terminated five days later. Id. ¶
Defendant argues that venue is improper in the District of
Columbia for plaintiff's claim, and therefore this case should be
dismissed or, in the alternative, transferred to the District of
Maryland where venue is proper. Plaintiff counters that venue is
proper in the District of Columbia.
Venue for Title VII actions is governed by
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3), under which venue is proper in any of three
(1) where the unlawful employment practice is alleged
to have been committed; (2) where the employment
records relevant to such a practice are maintained
and administered; or (3) where the aggrieved person
would have worked but for the alleged unlawful
If the defendant is not found in any district under those
provisions, then venue may be based on a fourth provision the
location of defendant's principal office. Id. This venue
statute governs all Title VII claims and supercedes any other venue provision
governing actions in federal court. Stebbins v. State Farm Auto.
Ins. Co., 413 F.2d 1100, 1102 (D.C. Cir. 1969).
Plaintiff contends that venue is appropriate in this district
under both the first and second provisions of
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3).*fn1 The Court's first inquiry focuses on the
locus of the alleged acts of discrimination. "Courts can
determine venue by applying a `commonsense appraisal' of events
having operative significance." James v. Booz-Allen & Hamilton,
227 F. Supp. 2d 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2002) (citing Lamont v. Haig,
590 F.2d 1124, 1134 (D.C. Cir. 1978)). "Specifically, venue
cannot lie in [the District] when a `substantial part, if not
all, of the employment practices challenged in this action' took
place outside the District even when actions taken in the
District `may have had an impact on the plaintiff's situation.'"
Robinson v. Potter, 2005 WL 1151429 at *3 (D.D.C. May 16, 2005)
(citing Donnell v. Nat'l Guard Bureau, 568 F. Supp. 93, 94
Plaintiff asserts that her allegedly discriminatory termination
was ordered by the Washington Navy Yard HRO and therefore venue
is proper here. Opp'n at 2. This argument is ultimately
unpersuasive, however, because the balance of allegedly
discriminatory events, including plaintiff's actual termination
and every instance of alleged workplace discrimination, occurred
at the Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Notwithstanding the
formal authorization for her termination then, all alleged
discriminatory events took place in Maryland. Venue is therefore
improper in this district under the first prong of
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(3) because, while the HRO's formal authorization of
plaintiff's termination had an impact on her situation, a
substantial part of the allegedly discriminatory events,
including her actual firing, took place in Maryland. See Donnell, ...