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Woodruff v. Peters

May 9, 2007

PHILLIP S. WOODRUFF, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MARY E. PETERS, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.*FN1



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter came before the Court on a motion filed by the defendants Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation Mary E. Peters, the United States Department of Transportation, and the Federal Aviation Administration to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn2 Plaintiff Phillip S. Woodruff, who appears pro se, alleges that defendants discriminated against him on the basis of his age and his disability, and that they have retaliated against him. In addition, plaintiff alleges that defendants violated his procedural due process rights. Upon consideration of the arguments of the parties, and the entire record in this case, the Court grants defendants' motion, dismissing plaintiff's procedural due process claim, and entering judgment for the defendants on plaintiff's age and disability discrimination and retaliation claims.*fn3

I. BACKGROUND

In August of 1986, plaintiff Phillip S. Woodruff began working for the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"), an agency within the United States Department of Transportation's ("DOT"). See Second Amended Complaint ("Sec. Am. Compl.") at 1. On September 29, 1995, plaintiff suffered an accident on the job. See id. Plaintiff went on detail to the Office of the Secretary of Transportation and the United States Senate for the next two years. See id. at 1-2. During this time, plaintiff had a flexible work schedule and was allowed to telecommute from home, while continuing to work on a full-time basis. See id. at 1.

On May 1, 1997, plaintiff underwent surgery to treat his work-related injuries. See Sec. Am. Compl. at 1. For the next nine months, he was placed on total disability. See id. at 2. In February of 1998, plaintiff returned to work at the FAA on a part-time basis. See id. Plaintiff asked defendants to reinstate him to the position of Division Manager, Grade 15, the supervisory position he had held prior to going on medical leave, but defendants denied plaintiff's request. See id.

In March of 1998, plaintiff's physicians allowed him to resume working full-time, provided that he could maintain a flexible schedule with the option to telecommute. See Sec. Am. Compl. at 2. Plaintiff alleges that by September of 1998 defendants cancelled all accommodations, which exacerbated his medical condition and caused him to become totally disabled once again. See id. Plaintiff alleges that he was forced to use his accumulated sick and annual leave and returned to leave without pay and workers' compensation status. See id.

On April 20, 2004, plaintiff received by mail a "Notification of Personnel Action" known as an "SF-50" from the FAA. See Sec. Am. Compl. at 3; Def. Ex. 7. Plaintiff alleges that the notification effectively reduced his salary from $119,267 to $116,786, and terminated his leave without pay ("LWOP") status effective on June 28, 2004. See Sec. Am. Compl. at 3-4. He alleges that the termination of his LWOP status forced his retirement. See id. at 4; Surreply at 2.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

1. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard

When deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may dispose of the motion on the basis of the complaint alone or may consider certain materials beyond the pleadings. "[W]here necessary, the court may consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's resolution of disputed facts." Herbert v. National Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d 192, 197 (D.C. Cir. 1992). This Court has interpreted Herbert to allow a court to "consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case." Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections and Ethics, 104 F. Supp. 2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000) (citing Herbert v. National Academy of Sciences, 974 F.2d at 197), aff'd, Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections and Ethics, No. 00-7176, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 2747, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Jan. 18, 2001); see also Erby v. United States, 424 F. Supp. 2d 180, 182-83 (D.D.C. 2006).

2. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes the truth of the material facts as alleged in the complaint, see Summit Health, Ltd. v. Pinhas, 500 U.S. 322, 325 (1991), and the "complaint should not be dismissed unless plaintiffs can prove no set of facts in support of their claim which would entitle them to relief." Kowal v. MCI Commc'n Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994); see also Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The complaint "is construed liberally in the plaintiffs' favor, and [the Court should] grant plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'n Corp., 16 F.3d at 1276; see also Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d at 242; Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000); Harris v. Ladner, 127 F.3d 1121, 1123 (D.C. Cir.1997). While the complaint is to be construed liberally in plaintiff's favor, the Court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint; nor must the Court accept plaintiff's legal conclusions. See Kowal v. MCI Commc'n Corp., 16 F.3d at 1276; Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d at 242.

While pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than complaints drafted by attorneys, see Gray v. Poole, 275 F.3d 1113, 1116 (D.C. Cir. 2002); Amiri v. Hilton Washington Hotel, 360 F. Supp.2d 38, 41-42 (D.D.C. 2003), a pro se plaintiff's inferences "need not be accepted 'if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint.'" Caldwell v. District of Columbia, 901 F. Supp. 7, 10 (D.D.C. 1995) (quoting Henthorn v. Dept. of Navy, 29 F.3d 682, 684 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). "'A pro se complaint, like any other, ...


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