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Mansfield v. Billington

November 12, 2009

JUDITH A. MANSFIELD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES H. BILLINGTON, LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No. 36

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RELIEF UPON RECONSIDERATION

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, an employee at the Library of Congress, originally brought this action alleging gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1694 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and retaliation under Title VII and the Equal Pay Act ("EPA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 206 et seq. At the time the plaintiff filed the instant motion, her only remaining claim was for retaliation under Title VII. The plaintiff is, however, asking the court for relief upon reconsideration of its decision dismissing her retaliation claim under the EPA. Because recent case law suggests a shift toward broadening the interpretation of statutory anti-retaliation provisions, the court grants the plaintiff's motion and reinstates her retaliation claim under the EPA.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

The plaintiff has been employed at the Library of Congress since 1969. Mem. Op. (Sept. 3, 2008) at 2. In September 2002 and February 2004, the defendant temporarily designated the plaintiff Acting Director for Cataloging and increased her pay level from GS-15 to the Senior Level. Id. at 3-4. During both of these periods, the plaintiff received less pay than her male predecessor and other male employees performing similar duties. Id. ¶ 16.

In August 2004 the defendant appointed the plaintiff to one of three Assistant Director positions. Id. ¶ 22. Male employees filled the other two positions, though they received pay at the Senior Level, while the plaintiff was paid at the GS-15 level. Id. ¶¶ 22-23. Between October 2004 and March 2005, the plaintiff had several conversations with her supervisor about the pay difference and requested compensation at a level commensurate with that of her male counterparts. Id. ¶ 24. On March 15, 2005, the plaintiff hand delivered a letter to the defendant alleging that her pay violated the law and again requesting compensation equal to that of her male peers. Id. ¶ 25. On March 31, 2005, the defendant informed the plaintiff that it planned to abolish her position, along with the other two Assistant Director positions. Id. ¶ 26.

The plaintiff filed her complaint on September 9, 2005. See Compl. On June 1, 2006, the court dismissed the plaintiff's retaliation claim under the EPA. Mem. Op. (June 1, 2006) at 12-15. On September 3, 2008, the court dismissed the plaintiff's Title VII gender discrimination claim. Mem. Op. (Sept. 3, 2008) at 11-18. On October 5, 2009, the plaintiff filed a motion for relief upon reconsideration of the court's order dismissing her EPA retaliation claim. See Pl.'s Mot. for Relief Upon Recons. ("Pl.'s Mot."). That motion has been fully briefed and the court turns now to the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Altering or Amending an Interlocutory Judgment

A district court may revise an interlocutory decision "at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of all the parties." FED. R. CIV. P. 54(b); see also Childers v. Slater, 197 F.R.D. 185, 190 (D.D.C. 2000). The standard for the court's review of an interlocutory decision differs from the standards applied to final judgments under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e) and 60(b). See Muwekma Tribe v. Babbitt, 133 F. Supp. 2d 42, 48 n.6 (D.D.C. 2001) (noting that "motions for [relief upon] reconsideration of interlocutory orders, in contrast to motions for [relief upon] reconsideration of final orders, are within the sound discretion of the trial court"). The primary reasons for altering or amending a judgment pursuant to Rule 59(e) or Rule 60(b) are an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice. Id.; Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (per curiam); FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b); LaRouche v. Dep't of Treasury, 112 F. Supp. 2d 48, 51-52 (D.D.C. 2000). Such motions are not routinely granted. See Harvey v. District of Columbia, 949 F. Supp. 878, 879 (D.D.C. 1996).

By contrast, under Rule 54(b) is available "as justice requires." Childers, 197 F.R.D. at 190. "As justice requires" indicates concrete considerations of whether the court "has patently misunderstood a party, has made a decision outside the adversarial issues presented to the [c]court by the parties, has made an error not of reasoning, but of apprehension, or where a controlling or significant change in the law or facts [has occurred] since the submission of the issue to the court." Cobell v. Norton, 224 F.R.D. 266, 272 (D.D.C. 2004) (internal citation omitted). These considerations leave a great deal of room for the court's discretion and, accordingly, the "as justice requires" standard amounts to determining "whether [relief upon] reconsideration is necessary under the relevant circumstances." Id. Nonetheless, the court's discretion under Rule 54(b) is limited by the law of the case doctrine and "subject to the caveat that, where litigants ...


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