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Howard R.L. Cook & Tommy Shaw Foundation for Black Employees of the Library, Inc. v. Billington

March 31, 2008

HOWARD R.L. COOK & TOMMY SHAW FOUNDATION FOR BLACK EMPLOYEES OF THE LIBRARY, INC., ET AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JAMES H. BILLINGTON, LIBRARIAN, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. U.S. District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, the Howard R.L. Cook & Tommy Shaw Foundation for Black Employees of the Library, Inc. ("Foundation") and four individual employees of the Library of Congress ("Library"), bring this putative class action against James H. Billington, the Librarian of the Library in his official capacity. Plaintiffs contend that the Library discriminated against them on the basis of color, national origin, and/or race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000(e) et seq.*fn1 Before the court is the Library's motion to dismiss [#5]. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that the motion must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The Library permits employees to participate in certain employee organizations during working hours and allows these organizations to hold meetings in Library facilities. These privileges are available, however, only to employees who participate in organizations that are recognized by the Library. Employee organizations must apply to the Library for recognition.

The Foundation, an organization formed in 1999 to address working conditions at the Library thought to be adverse to Black employees, applied to the Library for recognition. On August 25, 2005, the Library denied the Foundation's application.

On June 15, 2006, plaintiffs filed a class administrative complaint with the Library's Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office ("EEO Office") in which plaintiffs challenged the Library's refusal to recognize the Foundation. Plaintiffs asserted that the Library's refusal to recognize the Foundation constituted discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

On July 5, 2006,*fn2 the EEO Office informed plaintiffs that it would not process their administrative complaint because it was not timely filed. The EEO Office noted that Library regulations require that individual complaints be filed within twenty days after the allegedly discriminatory event and class complaints be filed within sixty days after the allegedly discriminatory event. Because the June 15, 2006, administrative complaint was filed almost a year after the Library refused to recognize the Foundation, the EEO Office concluded that it was untimely.

On July 19, 2006, plaintiffs filed a second class administrative complaint with the EEO Office. In this complaint, plaintiffs asserted that the EEO Office should have processed their June 15, 2006, complaint. Plaintiffs contended that the EEO Office's refusal to do so was discriminatory and retaliatory. The EEO Office informed plaintiffs that it would not process this second complaint because it was frivolous and non-meritorious. The EEO Office stated that, to the extent plaintiffs were dissatisfied with the refusal to process the June 15, 2006, administrative complaint, plaintiffs should have appealed, rather than file a second complaint.

This putative class action followed. Plaintiffs assert that the Library engaged in discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII when the Library: (1) refused to recognize the Foundation and (2) refused to accept the June 15, 2006, administrative complaint for processing.

II. ANALYSIS

The Library moves to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint on three grounds. The Library first contends that plaintiffs do not have standing to sue because they did not suffer an injury in fact. Second, the Library argues that plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. Third, the Library asserts that plaintiffs fail to state a prima facie claim of discrimination or retaliation. The court will address each argument in turn.

A. Standing

The Library contends that plaintiffs' claims must be dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) because none of the plaintiffs have standing.*fn3 Plaintiffs in this action consist of individual employees of the Library, as well as the Foundation. The Library argues that: (1) the individual employees do not have standing to assert claims on their own behalf; (2) the Foundation does not have standing to assert claims on behalf of its members; and (3) the Foundation does not have standing to assert claims on its own behalf.

Because plaintiffs are invoking federal jurisdiction, they bear the burden of demonstrating standing. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992). At the motion to dismiss stage, plaintiffs' burden is simply to make adequate allegations of standing. Id. at 561; see also Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Dev. Drugs v. Eschebach, 469 F.2d 129, 132 (D.C. Cir. 2006) ("At the motion to ...


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