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Byrd v. District of Columbia

March 13, 2008

GARRINA BYRD, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Garrina Byrd, Annette Burns, Demera Gaskins, and Carmen Jean-Baptiste are former employees of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation ("the Department"). They bring this action against the District of Columbia ("the District") alleging that they experienced sexual discrimination and harassment while employed at the Department. Plaintiffs allege violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01 ("DCHRA"), the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and the D.C. Whistleblower Act, D.C. Code §§ 1- 615.51. The District has moved to dismiss portions of plaintiffs' third amended complaint or, in the alternative, for partial summary judgment [## 54-55]. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of the case, the court concludes that the motion must be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiffs were employed at the Department at various times between 2000 and 2005. They each allege that they experienced sexual discrimination and harassment while employed there. Byrd, Burns, and Gaskins allege that one individual -- Darnell Thompson, who was the Director of Facilities Management -- harassed them. These three plaintiffs contend that they reported the harassment to various supervisors at the Department, but that none of these supervisors addressed their complaints. They further assert that they were subjected to adverse employment actions for reporting the harassment. The fourth plaintiff, Jean-Baptiste, alleges that one of her male supervisors sexually harassed her, but the complaint does not name this supervisor. Jean-Baptiste also contends that she was harmed as a result of this conduct.

Plaintiffs' complaint includes seven counts arising out of the above allegations. Counts IVI are brought on behalf of all four plaintiffs. Count VII is brought solely on behalf of Byrd and Jean-Baptiste.

C Count I: Plaintiffs allege that the District violated Title VII by subjecting them and other female employees to a hostile working environment, sexual harassment, and quid pro quo discrimination in violation of Title VII.

C Count II: Count II is identical to Count I, except plaintiffs here claim that the District violated the DCHRA.

C Count III: Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a cause of action for municipal liability, plaintiffs allege that the District violated the Fifth Amendment by being deliberately indifferent to sexual harassment.

C Count IV: Plaintiffs allege that the District violated Title VII by retaliating against plaintiffs for complaining about sex discrimination.

C Count V: Count V is identical to Count IV, except plaintiffs here claim that the District violated the DCHRA.

C Count VI: Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs allege that the District violated the First Amendment. Plaintiffs allege that their complaints about sexual harassment and a hostile work environment constituted protected speech, and that the District violated the First Amendment by retaliating against them for complaining.

C Count VII: This count alleges a violation of the D.C. Whistleblower Act, and it is brought on behalf of only two plaintiffs -- Byrd and Jean-Baptiste. Byrd and Jean-Baptiste allege that the District violated this Act by retaliating against them for complaining about sexual harassment and a hostile working environment.

II. ANALYSIS

The District moves to dismiss, or in the alternative for summary judgment, only some of plaintiffs' claims. The District moves to dismiss Counts I and IV with respect to Burns, Gaskins, and Jean-Baptiste on the grounds that they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The District moves to dismiss Counts II and V with respect to Burns and Gaskins on the grounds that they did not comply with the mandatory notice requirements of D.C. Code § 12-309 and the statute of limitations expired. The District moves to dismiss Counts III and VI on the grounds that plaintiffs do not satisfactorily allege the existence of constitutional violations. The District further asserts that, even if plaintiffs do satisfactorily allege constitutional violations, plaintiffs do not satisfactorily allege that the violations were caused by a policy or custom of the District.*fn1

A. Counts I and IV

In Counts I and IV, plaintiffs assert that the District violated Title VII. The District contends that Counts I and IV, with respect to Burns, Gaskins, and Jean-Baptiste, should be dismissed because they failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The District asserts that neither Burns nor Gaskins exhausted their administrative remedies because they did not file a complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. The District contends that Jean-Baptiste did not exhaust her administrative remedies because she did not receive a "right to sue letter" from the EEOC prior to filing suit.

Plaintiffs rejoin that, as to Gaskins' and Burns' claims, the EEOC deadline is subject to waiver, estoppel, or equitable tolling. Plaintiffs next assert that, even if Gaskins and Burns did not file their complaint in a timely manner, these plaintiffs can rely upon Byrd's timely-filed EEOC complaint under the single-filing rule. Lastly, with respect to Jean-Baptiste's claim, plaintiffs argue that her claim should not be dismissed because she received her right-to-sue letter after she filed suit.

If the moving party meets its burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to establish that a genuine issue as to any material fact actually exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). To meet this burden, the non-moving party must show that "'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict'" in its favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir.1987) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Such evidence must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials; rather, the non-moving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 321 n.3. If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment should be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

Because plaintiffs have not submitted a statement of genuine issues setting forth material facts, the court assumes that the facts identified by the District in its statement of ...


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