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Brown v. Corr. Corp. of Am.

March 26, 2009

CHARLITA BROWN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CORR. CORP. OF AM., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Charlita Brown ("plaintiff" or "Ms. Brown") brings this action against the District of Columbia ("the District"), Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA"), and Devon Brown ("Mr. Brown")*fn1 in his official capacity as the director of the Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Plaintiff's claims arise under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Currently before the Court is a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) filed by Mr. Brown and the District (collectively, "defendants"). They assert that plaintiff has failed to state a claim against them under Title VII and, accordingly, they should be dismissed as party defendants. Defendants have ignored Ms. Brown's section 1983 claim.*fn2 For the reasons discussed below, defendants' motion will be granted in part and denied in part -- Mr. Brown will be dismissed from the case, but both the Title VII and section 1983 claims against the District will move forward.

BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are drawn from plaintiff's amended complaint ("Am. Compl."). Plaintiff began working for CCA in 2001 as a Correctional Officer at the Correctional Treatment Facility ("CTF") in Washington, D.C. Am. Compl. ¶ 10. The District contracts with CCA for CCA to manage CTF. Id. ¶ 5. Within a year of her employment at CTF, plaintiff's superior, Captain McNeil, began to sexually harass her. Id. ¶ 11. Ms. Brown filed many complaints against McNeil with her supervisors and the union, but the sexual harassment continued. Id. ¶¶ 12-14.

On December 7, 2004, McNeil allegedly followed plaintiff home and raped her. Id. ¶ 20. Plaintiff reported the rape to the warden at CTF, to her superiors, and to the union. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. She was prescribed treatment for the rape, which prevented her from returning to work immediately. Id. ¶ 24. Soon thereafter, the warden "commenced retaliatory acts against [plaintiff] by writing her up" and threatening to fire her if she did not return to work. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Because plaintiff was fearful of losing her job, she resumed work before concluding treatment. Id. ¶ 27. Soon after plaintiff returned to work, the warden alleged that she falsified information about her attendance at work, and she was fired. Id. ¶ 28.

Ms. Brown asserts that the District "is responsible for supervision and operation of DOC and ensuring the health, safety, and a work environment free of discrimination, hostility and sexual harassment for all its employees in its facilities." Id. ¶ 7. Furthermore, she alleges that the District is responsible for implementing policies and procedures for the training, supervision, and discipline of employees at the DOC and CCA. Id. ¶¶ 8, 18. According to plaintiff, "[d]efendants' willful blindness or failure to implement and effectuate the appropriate policies or take corrective action against McNeil" makes them liable under section 1983 for the sexual assault perpetrated against her. Id. ¶ 19.

Moreover, plaintiff alleges that the sexual harassment she experienced "was not the first of its kind at the Defendants' facilities," and it was not "an isolated incident over which Defendants have failed to take corrective action." Id. ¶ 33. Plaintiff asserts that this Court "previously f[ound] that sexual harassment was the 'standard operating procedure' at the D.O.C., [and] the Court of Appeals also directed this court to enter an injunction 'enjoining the Director of D.O.C. and all employees and agents of the department from: causing, encouraging, condoning, or permitting the practice of sexual harassment of female employees by male supervisors.'" Id. ¶ 36. Ms. Brown also alleges that "it is the custom of the Defendants D.C., D.O.C., and CCA to allow female employees like herself to be sexually harassed or assaulted or raped by the officials and/or agents of the Defendants." Id. ¶ 42. She concludes by asserting that "[d]efendants failure to protect [her] or prevent and remedy the harassment, sexual assault, and rape and invasion of [her] personal privacy [] is tantamount to a policy or custom" that violates section 1983. Id. ¶ 56.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"[I]n passing on a motion to dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action, the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); see Leatherman v. Tarrant Cty. Narcotics and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993); Phillips v. Bureau of Prisons, 591 F.2d 966, 968 (D.C. Cir. 1979). Therefore, the factual allegations in the complaint must be presumed true, and the plaintiff must be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236; Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). However, the Court need not accept as true "a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation," nor inferences that are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Trudeau v. Federal Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

In reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court is mindful that all that the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require of a complaint is that it contain "'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007) (per curiam). "A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint." Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Thus, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atl. Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citations omitted).

ANALYSIS

I. Devon Brown

Mr. Brown, the director of the DOC, moves to be dismissed as a party defendant to this action arguing that the suit against him in his official capacity is redundant because it is equivalent to the suit against the District of Columbia itself. See Defs.' Mot. at 4-5. The amended complaint is clear that Mr. Brown is being sued in his official capacity only. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. The Court agrees that plaintiff's claims against Mr. Brown in his official capacity are redundant of her claims against the District and they will be dismissed.

As a claim against Mr. Brown in his official capacity, plaintiff's Title VII claim is redundant of her Title VII claim against the District, see Cooke-Seals v. District of Columbia, 973 F. Supp. 184, 187 (D.D.C. 1997); therefore, this Court has discretion to dismiss Mr. Brown as a party defendant. "[A]n official capacity suit against an individual is the functional equivalent of a suit against the employer," and therefore it is "redundant and an inefficient use of judicial resources" to name both the employee and the employer in a Title VII claim. Id. Although Title VII defines the term "employer" to include "any agent of" the employer, 42 U.S.C. §2000e(b), the D.C. Circuit has explained that "'[t]he obvious purpose of this agent provision was to incorporate respondeat superior liability into the statute,'" Gary v. Long, 59 F.3d 1391, 1399 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (quoting Miller v. Maxwell' s Int'l, Inc., 991 F.2d 583, 587 (9th Cir. 1993)). Therefore, although "a supervisory employee may be joined as a party defendant in a Title VII action, that employee must be viewed as being sued in his official capacity as the agent of the employer, who is alone liable for a violation of Title VII." Id. Because it is the ...


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