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Martin v. Arc of the Dist. of Columbia

March 28, 2008

LOWRY MARTIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ARC OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Lowry Martin commenced this action against her former employer, the Arc of the District of Columbia ("the Arc"), alleging violations of the False Claims Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, breach of contract, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Pending before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon consideration of the motion, and the response and reply thereto, applicable law, and for the following reasons, defendant's motion shall be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

I. Background

A. The Parties

Defendant the Arc is a non-profit 501(c)(3) membership organization established to serve persons with mental retardation and related developmental disabilities in the District of Columbia. Compl. 1. The Arc receives funding from the federal government, through the Department of Health and Human Services, and from the District of Columbia government, through the Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities Administration ("MRDDA"). Id. Allegedly, both the federal and local government require the Arc to hire job coaches with at least one year of experience as a condition to receive funding. Id.

Plaintiff Lowry Martin was employed by the Arc as a Employment Marketing Specialist, also known as a "Coordinator, Job Development Activities for Conversion Model," from October 27, 2003 until July 19, 2004. Id. The basic function of plaintiff's job was to "coordinate and implement a comprehensive job development and placement program for persons with disabilities involved in the agency conversion models." Id. Ex. D at 1.

B. Plaintiff's Allegations

During the time that plaintiff was employed at the Arc, Annetta Graham was her co-worker. Compl. 5. Ms. Graham's responsibilities allegedly included managing the staff to provide services to clients. Id. According to plaintiff, there were instances in which Ms. Graham neglected her duties. Id. Plaintiff alleges that in those instances, she would contact the client's case manager at the MRDDA to facilitate providing the necessary services to the client. Id. 5-7. Plaintiff allegedly approached Ms. Graham to discuss how the clients were negatively impacted when Ms. Graham neglected her duties, to which Ms. Graham allegedly responded by stating, "F---k you, Lowry." Id. 5.

Plaintiff alleges that the Arc has a Personnel Policies Manual ("Manual"), which governs the Arc's employment practices. Id. 13. Plaintiff included selected portions of the Manual, namely the grievance and disciplinary procedure, as exhibits to her compliant. See Compl. Ex. C. On July 14, 2004, plaintiff filed a grievance to report Ms. Graham's alleged lack of professionalism and to report the instances in which Ms. Graham had allegedly neglected her duties. Compl. 6-7. Plaintiff stated in the grievance that she had contacted case managers at the MRDDA to facilitate providing services to clients when Ms. Graham had failed to do so. Id. 7.

Plaintiff alleges that, contrary to the Manual's grievance procedure, no one within the Arc's management formally responded to her grievance. Id. 8. Rather, on July 15, 2004, Mary Lou Meccariello, the Executive Director of the Arc, allegedly chastised plaintiff for filing the grievance, and told plaintiff that "it was 'ridiculous' [she] had submitted 'a four-page memo' of 'he said, she said.'" Id. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Meccariello also told her that she "should never indicate to a person outside of Arc that a co-worker had made a mistake because it reflects badly upon Arc." Id. 9. Two days later, Ms. Meccariello fired plaintiff, and on July 19, 2004, plaintiff received an official termination letter. Id. 11.

Plaintiff further alleges that the Arc is not compliant with the federal and local funding requirement to hire job coaches with at least one year of experience. Id. 2. Due to this alleged non-compliance, plaintiff contends that the Arc must be submitting falsified documents to the federal and local governments each year to obtain funding.*fn1 Pl.'s Opp'n 27. According to plaintiff, the Arc fired her to prevent her from reporting to the case manager at the MRDDA that "the Arc [was] not utilizing government funds in the manner prescribed or anticipated in its contracts with the government." Compl. 10.

Plaintiff brings the following claims against the Arc: 1) a qui tam relator action under the False Claims Act ("FCA"); 2) a retaliation claim under the FCA; 3) a retaliation claim under the Whistleblower Protection Act ("WPA"); 4) breach of contract; and 5) intentional infliction of emotional distress.*fn2

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for dismissal of a complaint where the plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). As a general matter, the Federal Rules require only that a plaintiff provide "a short and plain statement of the claim . . . [that will] give the defendant fair notice of what the [plaintiff's] claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." See Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (citing Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 8(a)(2)). In Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), the United States Supreme Court discussed the standard of pleading that a plaintiff must meet in order to survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The Court stated that the facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," id. at 1965, or must be sufficient "to state a claim for relief that is plausible on ...


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