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Solomon v. Office of the Architect of the Capitol

March 26, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge


This matter comes before the Court on defendants' motion [6] to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Upon full consideration of the motion, plaintiff's opposition, the reply, and applicable law, the Court will GRANT the motion to dismiss.


Plaintiff Robert Solomon was an employee of defendant Office of the Architect of the Capitol ("AOC") from July 1986 until his termination on December 29, 2003. (Compl. ¶¶ 6, 48.) Plaintiff worked in the capacity of "R-W-5 Grill Cook" at the Baby Gourmet snack bar, a part of the United States Senate Restaurants. (Id. ¶ 7.) The AOC terminated plaintiff following a series of events that began with his absence from work on June 9, 10, and 11th, 2003. (Id. ¶ 23.) Plaintiff asserts that he provided his employer with proper documentation from a physician indicating that he was unable to work on these three days. (Id. ¶ 26; Sick Certificate, Ex. 3 to Opp.) Plaintiff was advised by his first line supervisor, defendant Robert Savidge, that additional documentation of his medical diagnosis would be required. (See Compl. ¶¶ 30--31.)

Plaintiff "vigorously protested" this request and was placed on "away without leave" status for the three days in question. (Id. ¶¶ 33--34.) Eventually this dispute led to plaintiff's placement on administrative leave pending investigation of an incident between plaintiff and Mr. Savidge that occurred on June 16, 2003. (Id. ¶ 35; see Ltr. from Tiscione to Solomon (June 16, 2003), Ex. 6 to Opp.) On August 6, 2003, Mr. Savidge proposed to terminate plaintiff for "hostile and threatening behavior in the workplace" in violation of the AOC's Standards of Conduct. (See Compl. ¶ 38; Ltr. from Savidge to Solomon (Aug. 6, 2003), Ex. 8 to Opp.) Plaintiff responded to the termination proposal on August 20, 2003 by letter to director of food services, defendant Michael Marinaccio. (See Compl. ¶ 39; Ltr. from Solomon to Marinaccio (Aug. 20, 2003), Ex. 9 to Opp.) Mr. Marinaccio concurred with the proposal to terminate plaintiff's employment, and plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing before a hearing officer. (See Compl. ¶¶ 40--41; Ltr. from Marinaccio to Solomon (Sept. 15, 2003), Ex. 10 to Opp.) Subsequent to an administrative hearing, plaintiff was terminated by letter from the AOC's chief operating officer, defendant Richard McSeveney. (See Compl.¶ 48.)

In addition to the Office of the AOC, plaintiff brings this suit against seven present and former Office of the AOC personnel-including Architect of the Capitol Alan Hantman-who plaintiff contends were responsible for his unlawful termination. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8--14.) Specifically, plaintiff asserts constitutional violations arising from his inability to receive the hearing officer's report, which was only provided to the Architect. (See Opp. at 34.)


A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss Standard

On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), this Court will dismiss a claim if the plaintiff fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974 (2007). 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 Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). This Court must construe the allegations and facts in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must grant the plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged. Barr v. Clinton, 370 F.3d 1196, 1199 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citing Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). However, the Court need not accept asserted inferences or conclusory allegations that are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Kowal, 16 F.3d at 1276.

Generally, when a court relies upon matters outside the pleadings, a motion to dismiss must be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of pursuant to Rule 56. See FED. R. CIV. P. 12(d). "However, where a document is referred to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's claim, such a document attached to the motion papers may be considered without converting the motion to one for summary judgment." Vanover v. Hantman, 77 F. Supp. 2d 91, 98 (D.D.C. 1999), aff'd, 38 F. App'x 4 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citing Greenberg v. Life Ins. Co. of Va., 177 F.3d 507, 514 (6th Cir. 1999)). Here, documents from the AOC's Personnel Manual, letters, and other materials attached to the parties' briefs, fall under this exception, and the Court will consider them without converting defendants' motion to one for summary judgment. See id.

B. Fifth Amendment Due Process Claim

1. Due Process Requirements

The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. U.S. CONST. amend. V. In order to establish a Fifth Amendment deprivation of property claim based on termination from employment, a plaintiff must make two showings. First, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he has a "property interest in continued employment." Orange v. District of Columbia, 59 F.3d 1267, 1274 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (citing Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 538 (1985)). The Supreme Court has held that property interests "'are created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law.'" Id. (quoting Bd. of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577 (1972)). Second, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he was deprived of the process he was due. Id. at 1273--74 (citing Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422, 428 (1982)). An essential component of this second prong is that a deprivation "be preceded by notice and opportunity for hearing appropriate to the nature of the case." Cleveland Bd. of Educ., 470 U.S. at 542 (citations omitted). "This principle requiressome kind of a hearing prior to the ...

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