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Beckham v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

December 10, 2008

PAMELA MONTGOMERY BECKHAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Pamela Montgomery Beckham sues Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation for employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. See Dkt. # 5. For the reasons set forth herein, the Court will deny the motion.

I. FACTS

Plaintiff is an African-American woman who has been employed by Defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) since 1989. Plaintiff was initially hired as a Train Attendant. She is currently a Senior Analyst in the Office of Service Standards located in Wilmington, Delaware.

In 1999, Plaintiff was part of a class action filed against Defendant alleging race discrimination against African-American employees. Compl. ¶¶ 1 & 7. The class action was resolved through a consent decree which continued until 2004. Id. ¶ 7. Mr. David Nogar, Senior Director of the Service Standards Division, was named in the class action as an Amtrak official who engaged in race discrimination against African-American employees. Id.

As a Senior Analyst in the Service Standards Division, Plaintiff worked directly for Mr. Nogar. Id. ¶ 8. Mr. Nogar allegedly instructed the Employee Development Division not to approve tuition reimbursement for classes that Plaintiff attended to improve her performance. Id. ¶ 10. Other comparators who are white and/or who were not part of the class action allegedly have been reimbursed for their tuition expenses. Id. ¶ 11.

In 2005, Defendant posted a vacancy position to select Mr. Nogar's replacement as Director of Service Standards. Id. ¶ 12. The job description, drafted by Mr. Nogar, did not accurately reflect the duties of the job but is alleged to have included qualifications purposefully intended to eliminate Plaintiff from eligibility. Id. Defendant's Office of Human Resources reviewed and approved the description. Id. ¶ 13. Mr. Nogar selected a white applicant to fill the position, despite his alleged knowledge that Plaintiff was a better qualified candidate. Id. ¶ 14. The person selected had not engaged in protected activity. Id.

Defendant allegedly has denied Plaintiff other benefits and favorable conditions of employment, including training and preferential work conditions, that were not denied to white employees and/or employees who have not engaged in protected activities. Id. ¶ 15.

In January 2006, Plaintiff filed a formal charge of discrimination with United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging disparate treatment and denial of promotion based on race and/or retaliation for her previous involvement in protected activities. Id. ¶ 16. The EEOC investigated the charge and determined that reasonable cause exists to believe that Defendant violated Title VII based on race discrimination and retaliation. Id. ¶ 17. The EEOC attempted to resolve the dispute through mediation but Defendant refused to participate. Id. ¶ 18. On October 29, 2007, the EEOC issued a Notice of Right to Sue to Plaintiff. Id. ¶ 19. On January 29, 2008, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit alleging discrimination on the basis of race in violation of Section 703 of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, and retaliation for opposing unlawful discrimination in violation of Section 704 of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. See Dkt. # 1.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and the law presumes that "a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction." Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994); St. Paul Mercury Indem. Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283, 288-89 (1938). No action of the parties can confer subject matter jurisdiction on a federal court because subject matter jurisdiction is an Article III and a statutory requirement. Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003). The party claiming subject matter jurisdiction bears the burden of demonstrating that such jurisdiction exists. Khadr v. United States, 529 F.3d 1112, 1115 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face, testing whether a plaintiff has properly stated a claim. A sufficient complaint "contains a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" enough "to give a defendant fair notice of the claims against him." Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d 661, 668-70 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal citations omitted). The facts alleged "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level," Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, and a court need not accept as true inferences unsupported by facts set out in the complaint or legal conclusions cast as factual allegations. Aktieselskabet Af 21. Nov. 2001 v. Fame Jeans, Inc., 525 F.3d 8, 16 n.4 (D.C. Cir. 2008).

For both a Rule 12(b)(1) and a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court must treat the complaint's factual allegations - including mixed questions of law and fact - as true, drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 67 (D.C. Cir. 2003); see also Aktieselskabet, 525 F.3d at 17 (under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must construe a complaint liberally in the plaintiff's favor, accepting all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, "even if doubtful in fact.") (citing Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1965).

In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider only "the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice." Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F. Supp. 2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002) (citation omitted). In deciding a 12(b)(1) motion for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, however, the Court may ...


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