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Bailey v. Verizon Communications Inc.

April 14, 2008

IVY BAILEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VERIZON COMMUNICATIONS INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Now before the Court comes defendant Verizon Communications Inc.'s motion [3] to dismiss. Upon full consideration of the motion, plaintiff's opposition, the reply, the entire record herein, and applicable law, the Court GRANTED defendant's motion in an Order [9] dated March 31, 2008. The reasons for the Court's Order are set forth below.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was employed as an executive secretary within MCI's Law and Public Policy Department from 2001 until accepting a severance package in 2006. (See Compl. ¶ 3.) Defendant Verizon acquired MCI in 2006. (See id. ¶ 2.) At some time during plaintiff's employment, MCI entered into a contract for legal services with the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP ("Proskauer"). (See id. ¶¶ 6--7.) According to plaintiff, she had ethical concerns about this contract because her direct supervisor Harvey Rumeld had a brother, Myron Rumeld, who was a partner at Proskauer. (See id. ¶¶ 9--10.) Plaintiff's suspicions were apparently strengthened when she overheard Verizon attorney Kathleen Tremblay complain about Proskauer. (See id. ¶¶ 13--14.) At some point, plaintiff brought up her concerns to Harvey Rumeld, who was allegedly unresponsive to her. (See id. ¶ 17.) Plaintiff asserts that she then was subject to a hostile work environment, racially offensive comments, and sexually suggestive innuendo. (See id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff later revealed her concerns to Verizon Executive Vice-President of Ethics, Nancy Higgins. (See id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff contends that Ms. Higgens was also unresponsive to her complaints. (See id. ¶ 19.)

On February 10, 2006, shortly after Verizon's acquisition of MCI, plaintiff accepted a severance package from Verizon in exchange for signing a separation agreement and release, which set an effective date of February 1, 2006 for plaintiff's termination. (See General Release Agmt., Ex. 1 to Holmes Decl.) According to the agreement, plaintiff received a severance payment of $6,658.97 and agreed to "release and forever discharge [defendant] . . . from any and all claims, demands, attorney's fees, damages or liability of any nature whatsoever . . . which Employee may have which arise out of, concern or relate in any way to Employee's employment with [defendant]. . . ." (Id. at ¶ d.) Plaintiff further agreed to release defendant from all claims arising under state or federal law and specifically agreed to release defendant from all Title VII claims. (See id.)

On December 18, 2006, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (See EEOC Charge, Ex. 2 to Holmes Decl.) This charge alleged only age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"). (See id.) On February 23, 2007, the EEOC dismissed plaintiff's charge and issued a notice to plaintiff of her right to sue within ninety days of the notice. (See EEOC Notice, Ex. 3 to Holmes Decl.) However, due to an EEOC administrative error, this notice was not mailed to plaintiff until April 20, 2007. (See Ltr. from EEOC to Bailey, Ex. 4 to Opp.)

On July 19, 2007, plaintiff filed this suit as a pro se litigant in District of Columbia Superior Court. Plaintiff's complaint seeks relief "for acts of retaliation and the creation of a hostile work environment" that has "caused plaintiff considerable pain and suffering." Defendant removed the action to this Court on August 20, 2007, and asks the Court to dismiss this case pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard

Defendant moves to dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When a party files a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), "the plaintiff[ ] bear[s] the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction." Biton v. Palestinian Interim Self-Gov't Auth., 310 F. Supp. 2d 172, 176 (D.D.C. 2004). A court considering a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction must construe plaintiffs' complaint in plaintiffs' favor, accepting all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged. Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

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.

B. Plaintiff's Claim Must Be Dismissed

Construing plaintiff's complaint in a light most favorable to her, she has attempted to state discrimination causes of action under Title VII and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), and a wrongful termination claim based on her voicing concerns over the Proskauer contract. For the reasons set ...


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