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Bouknight v. Dist. of Columbia

March 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos. 8, 9




This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. The plaintiff, Anthony Bouknight, brings a discrimination and a hostile work environment claim against his employer the District of Columbia, the defendant. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant harassed, threatened, transferred and suspended him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. and the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 2-1401 et seq.*fn1 Because the plaintiff's complaint is too vague and conclusory to allow the court to thoroughly evaluate the defendant's motion to dismiss, the court converts the motion to one for a more definite statement and orders the plaintiff to provide greater factual specificity in support of his claims. In addition, the court denies the defendant's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's racial discrimination claim based on his transfer because it is unclear whether the transfer adversely affected the plaintiff's earning capacity.


The plaintiff alleges the following facts in support of his claims. The plaintiff, who is African-American, began serving as a paramedic with the D.C. Fire and EMS department in December 1991. Am. Comp. ¶¶ 6-7. On August 6, 2006, the plaintiff and his partner, Matthew Shook, who is Caucasian, responded to a call at 3800 Reservoir Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. Id. ¶ 8. The plaintiff drove an ambulance to the scene where Shook proceeded to provide a patient care while the plaintiff assisted the patient's mother into the front passenger seat of the ambulance. Id. ¶¶ 10-12. The plaintiff then drove the patient and her mother to the Georgetown University Hospital emergency room. Id. ¶ 13. Once they arrived, the plaintiff assisted the patient's mother out of the ambulance while Shook accompanied the patient into the emergency room. Id.

On August 22, 2005, the plaintiff's supervisor, Captain Hattie Thompkins, who is African-American, instructed the plaintiff and Shook to report to her office where she informed both men that the mother of the patient they assisted on August 6, 2005 had filed a complaint against them. Id. ¶¶ 17-18, 25. The Captain called the plaintiff into her office again on August 30, 2005 and told the plaintiff that no disciplinary action would be taken against him as a result of their discussions at that meeting. Id. ¶ 23. Shortly thereafter, Thompkins notified the plaintiff that she would be transferring the plaintiff and Shook to separate units effective September 4, 2005. Id. ¶ 24. Approximately one week later, Thompkins told the plaintiff that although he did nothing wrong, she transferred him because he is African-American. Id. ¶ 25.

Then, on October 1, 2005, Thompkins recommended that the plaintiff be suspended for being "[i]nefficient; to wit: [n]egligent or careless work performance." Id. ¶ 27. And on January 18, 2006, the D.C. Emergency Medical Services Department suspended the plaintiff for nine calendar days effective February 11, 2006 through February 20, 2006. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 7.

In December 2005, the plaintiff filed a D.C. Office of Human Rights ("OHR") Complaint (cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC")) for racial discrimination based on his transfer to another unit. Def.'s Mot., Ex. A ("OHR Compl."). In March 2006, the plaintiff amended his OHR Complaint to include his suspension as an additional ground for racial discrimination. Def.'s Mot. Ex. B ("OHR Am."). The OHR issued a letter of determination on June 13, 2006, rejecting the plaintiff's discrimination claim arising from the transfer, stating that the plaintiff "fail[ed] to establish that he suffered an adverse action, and this failure is fatal to his charge of discrimination." Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 9. OHR did, however, determine that probable cause exists to "believe that [the defendant] discriminated against [the plaintiff] on the basis of his race (Black) when it suspended him for nine (9) calendar days." Id.

Six months later, the plaintiff filed a complaint in this court alleging discrimination and hostile work environment on account of his race. See generally Am. Compl. The plaintiff claims that as a result of this harassment he suffered "embarrassment, humiliation, pain and suffering . . . [and] sustained damages and/or injuries that are permanent in nature." Id.¶ 41. As a result, the plaintiff seeks attorneys' fees, $500,000 in compensatory and punitive damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. ¶ 42. On March 5, 2007, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment. Now fully briefed, the court turns to the defendant's motion.


A. Legal Standard for a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). The complaint need only set forth a short and plain statement of the claim, giving the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, 348 F.3d 1033, 1040(D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2) and Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Such simplified notice pleading is made possible by the liberal opportunity for discovery and the other pre-trial procedures established by the Rules to disclose more precisely the basis of both claim and defense to define more narrowly the disputed facts and issues." Conley, 355 U.S. at 47-48 (internal quotation marks omitted). It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements of his prima facie case in the complaint, ...

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