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Caudle v. District of Columbia

August 13, 2008

FRAZIER CAUDLE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL. DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Frazier Caudle, Nikeith Goins, Williams James, Sholanda Miller, and Donald Smalls (collectively, "plaintiffs") are Black police officers with the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia ("MPD"). They bring this action against the District of Columbia and Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy L. Lanier ("District") alleging that they were retaliated against in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.61 ("DCHRA"). Before the court is the District's motion for partial summary judgment.*fn1

Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, and the oral argument of counsel, the court concludes that: (1) the District's motion with respect to plaintiffs' claims to the extent they seek unliquidated damages under the DCHRA must be granted; (2) the District's motion with respect to plaintiffs' other claims for relief pursuant to the DCHRA, back pay and attorneys fees, must be denied; and (3) the District's motion to dismiss all claims against defendant Lanier must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs joined the MPD between 1987 and 2002. Between 1995 and 2004, each plaintiff was selected for the Focus Mission Unit ("FMU"), an elite MPD unit that targets vice crimes and major criminal activities. In 2005, Lt. Ronald Wilkins was put in charge of the FMU. Lt. Wilkins is White. Plaintiffs assert that once Lt. Wilkins assumed command of the FMU, Lt. Wilkins began to discriminate against plaintiffs on account of their race.

Plaintiffs contend that they expressed their concerns about discriminatory treatment, violations of Title VII, and misconduct in a letter to the district commander on June 16, 2006. Lt. Wilkins was allegedly investigated and disciplined as a result of plaintiffs' letter. Though the letter was sent anonymously, plaintiffs maintain that Lt. Wilkins concluded that plaintiffs were responsible.

In August 2006, Lt. Wilkins announced that all FMU officers who wished to continue working in the unit would have to reapply for their positions. Lt. Wilkins stated that he would decide which applicants would be permitted to remain with the FMU. Four of the five plaintiffs applied to continue working in the FMU. Officer Miller, the fifth plaintiff, requested a reassignment from the FMU and a day shift assignment.

On August 24, 2006, all five plaintiffs filed a complaint against Lt. Wilkins with the District of Columbia's Office of Human Rights and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In September or October 2006, the four plaintiffs who applied to continue working in the FMU learned that their applications had been denied. All four were transferred to other units within MPD. Officer Miller was denied her request to be reassigned to the day shift and was dismissed from the FMU.

II. ANALYSIS

Plaintiffs' claims against the District are brought under the DCHRA and Title VII. The District moves for summary judgment*fn2 on plaintiffs' DCHRA claims on the grounds that plaintiffs failed to comply with the mandatory notice requirements of D.C. Code § 12-309. Section 309 provides that

an action cannot be maintained against the District of Columbia for unliquidated damages unless, within six months after the injury or damage was sustained, plaintiffs give notice in writing to the mayor of the District about the approximate time, place, cause, and circumstances of the injury or damage.

D.C. Code § 12-309. While conceding that they did not provide § 12-309 notice and that they, thus, are unable to maintain their DCHRA claims seeking unliquidated damages, plaintiffs assert that § 12-309 is no impediment to their DCHRA claims seeking back pay and attorneys' fees, types of relief that are not "unliquidated." The District rejoins that back pay and attorneys' fees are unliquidated forms of relief and that plaintiffs' failure to comply with ...


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