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Jackson v. Acedo

August 26, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge


Darian Jackson, the pro se plaintiff in this civil lawsuit, seeks $400,000 in damages, Complaint (the "Compl.") at 11, against her employer, Safeway Inc. ("Safeway"), and Anna Acedo, an assistant manager at the Safeway store where the plaintiff is employed, id. at 1--2, for "alleg[ed] continuous harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, race and sex discrimination, [and] unsafe working conditions" in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17 (2006), id. at 1. Currently before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint in its entirety pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn1 After carefully considering the plaintiff's complaint, the defendants' motion, and all memoranda of law and exhibits relating to that motion,*fn2 the Court concludes for the reasons that follow that it must grant the defendant's motion and dismiss the plaintiff's complaint in its entirety.

I. Background

The following facts are alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. The plaintiff, a fourteen-year employee of the Safeway store located on Northwest Columbia Road in the District of Columbia, alleges that she was "subject[ed] to [a] hostile work environment and harassment on a continuous basis from January [] through mid-May [of 2008] by" Acedo, an assistant manager at the same store. Compl. at 2. Specifically, Acedo allegedly "listen[ed] to . . . [the plaintiff's] conversation[s]," id. at 3, "refused to refund the plaintiff's monies," id. at 4, questioned the plaintiff when the plaintiff was sitting during her shift to ease a back injury, id. at 5, "timed [the plaintiff] when using the restroom," id. at 9, and called her a "liar" in front of "subordinates and customers," id. at 8.

The plaintiff also alleges that Acedo once stated "that it is easy for Americans to get jobs" and that "they did not have to earn them." Id. at 6. In addition, Acedo allegedly "trapped [the plaintiff] in [an] office [at the Safeway store where they work]," id. at 8, and "accused [her] of talking about [Acedo] to other employees and customers and lying," id. at 7--8. Acedo later allegedly apologized for her behavior and "blamed her actions on her medication." Id. at 8. Further, upon finding an amount of money missing from the office till, Acedo allegedly "insinuated that [the p]laintiff knew where the money was." Id. at 7.

The plaintiff alleges that, in response to these alleged incidents, she complained about Acedo's conduct to her supervisor, Lydia St. Rose, and her former assistant manager, Travis Beynum. Id. at 2. Allegedly, "whenever [the p]laintiff complained of the continuous harassment and hostile work environment . . . [she] would receive responses such as, '[M]aybe [Acedo] will quit; maybe Donna (Maxwell) will transfer [Acedo]. Just ignore her.'" Id. at 2--3. The plaintiff maintains that she requested "a change in work schedule [] to eliminate having to work with [Acedo]," but that St. Rose allegedly informed her that she would have to "learn how to get along and work together" with Acedo because "the [requested] change in work schedule was not possible." Id. at 2. St. Rose allegedly advised the plaintiff to "stay in the check stand" whenever Acedo arrived to work. Id. at 3. "[These] responses frustrated [the p]laintiff" because she allegedly "was assigned to work in the front office, . . . not stay in the check stand to avoid [Acedo]." Id.

When the plaintiff informed St. Rose about her back injury and the resulting alleged problems with the defendant, St. Rose allegedly "verbally reprimanded Acedo and, in turn, [the p]laintiff continued to experience a hostile work environment throughout the end of [her] work shift." Id. at 5-6. The plaintiff approached St. Rose again after Acedo allegedly trapped the plaintiff in the office and "informed St. Rose of [Acedo's] actions and [the plaintiff's] desire to go home." Id. at 9. St. Rose allegedly told the plaintiff "not to leave, continue work[,] and call back tomorrow to get the telephone number of" a human resources advisor. Id.

Following this advice, the plaintiff allegedly attempted to contact a human resources advisor on May 22, 2008, "leaving a message on his answering machine of the events and her intentions to file a grievance/complaint and or [c]harge against [Acedo]." Id. The plaintiff then allegedly left messages for her union representative. Id. After receiving no response from either of these individuals, the plaintiff allegedly sent "certified letters to both," id., "indicating that she ha[d] yet[,] as of the date of the letter, to be contacted by [a human resources advisor,] and request[ing] [] a meeting to discuss [her] experiences, concerns[,] and the results/findings of [the human resource advisor's] investigation and where to go from that point," id. Allegedly, "[the] plaintiff [was informed] that [the human resources advisor] did not believe he needed to contact [her] or have a meeting because he believed the situation had been handled and [that Acedo] was being transferred and [was no] longer at [the] store." Id.

The plaintiff asserts four claims-all purportedly raised under Title VII-in her complaint. First, she claims that a series of antagonistic encounters with Acedo allegedly occurring from "January[ of] 2008 through mid-May[ of 2008]" constituted continuous harassment and created a hostile work environment. Id. at 2. Second, she claims that her alleged "occasional [] subject[ion] to racial comments" from Acedo "such as 'You Americans'" amounts to discrimination on the basis of race and national origin. Id. Third, the plaintiff asserts a cause of action for retaliation, maintaining that "she has been retaliated against because she brought [] matters to management's attention." Id. at 4. Fourth, she claims that Acedo's conduct at the Safeway store where the plaintiff works has created an unsafe work environment that somehow violates Title VII. Id. at 1, 8--9. Finally, the plaintiff makes a smattering of factual allegations that could be construed as claims for false imprisonment and defamation against Acedo under District of Columbia law. See id. at 7--8 (alleging that Acedo "trapped [the p]laintiff in the office" one night "by standing in front of the door" and refusing the plaintiff's requests to let her leave); see also id. at 8 (alleging that Acedo "damaged [the p]laintiff's character" by "[r]epeatedly calling [the p]laintiff a 'liar' and accusing [the p]laintiff of lying and talking about [Acedo]").

The defendants filed their motion to dismiss on December 4, 2008. In support of that motion, the defendants contend that "[the p]laintiffs' Title VII claims against [] Acedo fail [because] individuals cannot be personally liable for violations [under] Title VII," Defs.' Mem. at 2, and that they "are unaware of any specific provision of Title VII that enables [the p]laintiff to sue them for some generalized claim of unsafe working conditions," id. at 12. They further maintain that the plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims fail against both parties because "[the] plaintiff has not alleged that she suffered any 'adverse employment action,'" id. at 2, 3--7, 11, and that the plaintiff's discrimination and hostile work environment claims must be dismissed because "[the p]laintiff has failed to allege any facts from which an inference of discrimination based on race, sex, or national origin could arise." Id.; see also id. at 8 (describing the interactions between the plaintiff and Acedo as "routine personnel disputes between employees and managers"). Finally, the defendants concede that the plaintiff has alleged facts that could be construed as giving rise to claims for false imprisonment and defamation, but argue that these "claims" are fatally defective as well. Id. at 12--16.

The plaintiff asserts in her opposition that "her pleading provides the requisite 'short and plain' statement of her claims and fair notice of the legal and factual bases for those claims."

Pls.' Opp'n at 2--3. She further argues that "[b]ecause race discrimination in employment is a claim upon which relief can be granted, there is no requirement that [she] plead particular facts supporting a prima facie case . . . to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Id. at 3 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The defendants counter that the plaintiff has "ignore[d] virtually every one of [their] arguments," Defs.' Reply at 2, and requests that the plaintiff's complaint be dismissed with prejudice, id. at 3.

II. Standard of Review

The standard governing the defendants' motion is well-established. On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged" in considering motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). The Court may only consider the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents attached as exhibits thereto, and matters subject to judicial notice in weighing the merits of the motion. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624--25 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The Court's focus is therefore restricted to ...

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