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Ahuja v. Detica Inc.

September 30, 2010

KALPANA AHUJA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DETICA INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Kalpana Ahuja, brings this action against her former employer, Detica, Incorporated ("Defendant"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendant discriminated against her on the basis of her gender, race, and national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., on the basis of her race in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("§ 1981"), and the basis of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Presently before the Court are Defendant's [4] Partial Motion to Dismiss Complaint and Motion to Strike Certain Allegations ("Def.'s Mot."); Plaintiff's [9] Opposition to Defendant's Partial Motion to Dismiss and Motion to Strike Certain Allegations ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), in which Plaintiff also requested leave to amend the Complaint; and Defendant's [10] Reply in Support of its Partial Motion to Dismiss Complaint and Motion to Strike Certain Allegations ("Def.'s Reply"). The Court has thoroughly reviewed the parties' submissions, applicable case law, the relevant statutory and regulatory authority, as well as the record of the case as a whole. For the reasons set forth below, the Court shall GRANT-IN-PART, DENY-IN-PART, and HOLD-IN-ABEYANCE-IN-PART Defendant's [4] Partial Motion to Dismiss and DENY Plaintiff's construed motion for leave to amend the Complaint. Specifically, the Court shall: (1) convert Defendant's motions to dismiss Plaintiff's ADEA, Title VII retaliation, and Title VII hostile work environment claims to motions for summary judgment because the parties' filings relied on documents outside the pleadings when discussing these motions; (2) grant Defendant's converted motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII hostile work environment claim (Count I) for failure to state a claim; (3) grant Defendant's converted motion to dismiss Plaintiff's ADEA claims (Counts III & IV) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; (4) hold in abeyance Defendant's converted motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim (Count IV) for failure to exhaust administrative remedies; (5) deny Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's purported pattern and practice claims for failure to state a claim; (6) deny Defendant's motion to strike the Complaint's allegations of Defendant's pattern and practices; (7) deny Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's purported Title VII claims for discrimination in hiring, compensation and benefits, performance evaluations, and demotions; (8) grant Defendant's motion to dismiss as time barred Plaintiff's remaining Title VII claims based on events occurring prior to March 8, 2007; (9) grant Defendant's motion to dismiss as time barred Plaintiff's § 1981 claims based on discrete acts of discrimination occurring prior to November 25, 2004; and (10) deny Plaintiff's construed motion for leave to amend the Complaint.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a female of Asian-Indian ancestry, began working for Defendant's Information Technology ("IT") Division on January 2, 2002. Complaint ¶¶ 14, 17, Docket No. [1]. Plaintiff signed an employment agreement with Defendant on June 21, 2004, which was renewed annually until Plaintiff's termination on December 31, 2007. Id. ¶ 18; see also Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 2 (Plaintiff's Arlington Human Rights Comm'n Emp't Discrimination Intake Questionnaire) (hereinafter "Intake Questionnaire"), at 2. Initially, Plaintiff helped develop Defendant's IT Division and, eventually, Plaintiff became one of Defendant's five IT project managers. Compl. ¶¶ 17-20. While working for Defendant, Plaintiff was supervised by Phil Vincenzes, a Caucasian male, and Matthew Travis, Defendant's president and a Caucasian male. Compl. ¶ 21. Plaintiff alleges that despite six years of exceptional work, she was never awarded a promotion and, in fact, that Mr. Vincenzes suppressed her promotion through the company. Id. ¶¶ 38, 45.

In September 2004, Plaintiff informed Mr. Vincenzes that Stuart Zimmerman, one of Plaintiff's subordinates who is a Caucasian male, was not performing his duties properly. Id. ¶ 46; see also Intake Questionnaire at 7. Mr. Zimmerman then filed allegations of harassment against Plaintiff. Compl. ¶ 46. Although Defendant's human resources department concluded that Plaintiff did not harass Mr. Zimmerman and the whole incident was a due to a misunderstanding, Plaintiff alleges that thereafter Mr. Vincenzes favored Mr. Zimmerman, ostracized Plaintiff, and forced Plaintiff to write Mr. Zimmerman an apology. Id. ¶¶ 47-48.

Around December 2006, Plaintiff complained to John Capitelli, a member of Defendant's human resources department, that she was being discriminated against by her co-workers based on her race, national origin, and gender. See id. ¶ 52, 58. As a result of this complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Vincenzes and Mr. Travis retaliated against her in various forms, including not inviting her to meetings, ostracizing her, and removing her from projects. Id. Approximately two months later, on February 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed a complaint with HR due to the alleged harassment of Kathleen McDonald, a Caucasian female co-worker. Id. ¶ 53. Plaintiff alleges that after this complaint, Defendant's management removed her from projects and disciplined her. Id. ¶ 57. On March 16, 2007, Plaintiff complained again to HR that she was being discriminated against based on her race, gender, and national origin. Id. ¶ 58. These complaints, Plaintiff alleges, were never investigated by HR and no formal documentation of her complaints was created. Id. ¶ 59.

Plaintiff became pregnant in July 2007. Id. ¶ 25. On approximately November 12, 2007, Plaintiff informed Mr. Vincenzes and Mr. Travis that she was four months into a high risk pregnancy and requested maternity leave commencing in the end of March 2008, to the beginning of June 2008. Id. Plaintiff alleges that at the time of this request she had amassed 233 hours of leave and 60 additional hours of sick leave. Id. ¶26. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendant offers four weeks of maternity leave to its employees and that prior to Plaintiff's termination Defendant had granted maternity leave to four Caucasian, non-Asian, employees, including one employee who requested maternity leave at approximately the same time as Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 26-27.

On November 30, 2007, Mr. Travis and Mr. Vincenzes informed Plaintiff that due to a decrease in projects and funding, Plaintiff would be terminated on December 31, 2007. Id. ¶¶ 21, 62. Plaintiff was the only IT project manager terminated at that time and none of the other IT project managers were of Asian-Indian ancestry. Id. ¶¶ 28-29. Plaintiff alleges that when terminated she was the longest tenured IT project manager, had more seniority than three of other the IT project managers, and was equal in seniority to the fourth IT project manager. Id. ¶¶ 23, 28. Plaintiff also claims that she was replaced by two Caucasian American males who were both younger than forty years old. Id. ¶ 33. A month after her termination, on January 30, 2008, Defendant contacted Plaintiff and offered to rehire her at one hundred dollars per hour, without benefits. Id. ¶¶ 36, 37.

Shortly after her termination, January 2, 2008, Plaintiff filed an Intake Questionnaire with Dennis Sumlin, a Human Rights Investigator/Intake Officer with the Arlington Human Rights Commission, in which she alleged that Defendant had discriminated against her. See Intake Questionnaire; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 2, at 1. The Intake Questionnaire informs complainants, such as Plaintiff, that "The information requested on this form will help us to understand your allegations. Please complete the information to the best of your ability. An Intake officer will review the information and talk to you about filing a complaint after you have completed this form." Intake Questionnaire at 1; see also id. at 12 (informing complainants that they have "the responsibility to cooperate with this office in order to continue the process of filing a complaint" and that their "failure to do so will result in the termination of this process") (changed from all capital letters). In the Intake Questionnaire, Plaintiff checked boxes indicating that she believed Defendant retaliated against her and discriminated against her on the basis of her race, sex, and national origin. Id. at 4. The Intake Questionnaire totals twelve pages, eight of which include Plaintiff's factual allegations regarding her claims of discrimination. See id. at 4-11.

On May 12, 2008, Plaintiff filed her "Complaint of Discrimination" (hereinafter "EEOC Complaint") with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging, inter alia, that Defendant discriminated against her "because of [her] sex, female, relating to pregnancy; race (Asian); and national origin (India) . . . ." Def.'s Mot. Ex. 1, at 1. On May 21, 2008, the EEOC served Mr. Travis a "Notice of Charge of Discrimination" (hereinafter "Notice of Charge") indicating that Plaintiff had filed a charge of discrimination against Defendant that alleged discrimination based on race, sex, and national origin in violation of Title VII. The EEOC issued Plaintiff a right to sue letter on September 2, 2009. Compl. Ex. A. On November 25, 2009, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this case asserting claims of discrimination based on race, gender, pregnancy, national origin, creation of hostile work environment, and disparate treatment under Title VII, Compl. ¶ 78-79 (Count I); discrimination based on race, creation of a hostile work environment and disparate treatment in violation of § 1981, id. ¶ 80-81 (Count II); and age discrimination under the ADEA, id. ¶ 82-83 (Count III); and retaliation claims under Title VII, as well as under the ADEA, id. ¶ 84-85 (Count IV).

Defendant filed its pending motions to dismiss on January 7, 2010, and attached Plaintiff's EEOC Complaint and Notice of Charge as exhibits. See Def.'s Mot. Ex. 1. Defendant has moved to: (1) dismiss Plaintiff's ADEA claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, failure to state a claim, or because they are time barred; (2) dismiss some of Plaintiff's Title VII claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, failure to state a claim, or as time barred; (3) dismiss some of Plaintiff's § 1981 claims as time barred; (4) dismiss Plaintiff's claims based on Defendant's pattern and practices for failure to state a claim; and (5) strike the Complaint's allegations on which Plaintiff relies in support of her pattern and practice claims. Plaintiff filed her Opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss on February 5, 2010, and also requested leave to amend the Complaint if the Court dismisses her retaliation or age claims. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10. Plaintiff also attached four exhibits to her Opposition, including Plaintiff's Intake Questionnaire, see id. Exs. 1-4. Defendant then filed its Reply on February 12, 2010.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. (8)(a), "in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombley, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Although "detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must furnish "more than labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Id. "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombley, 550 U.S. at 557). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that if accepted as true, "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombley, 550 U.S. at 570. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must construe the complaint in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F. Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994); see also Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979) ("The complaint must be liberally construed in favor of the plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged") (internal quotation omitted). However, as the Supreme Court recently made clear, a plaintiff must provide more than just "a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. When a complaint's well-pleaded facts do not enable a court, "draw[ing] on its judicial experience and common sense," "to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct," the complaint has not shown that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id.

When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court "may consider only the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [a court] may take judicial notice." EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997). If, however, "matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion [to dismiss] shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d).

"The decision to convert a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment . . . is committed to the sound discretion of the trial court." Flynn v. Tiede-Zoeller, Inc., 412 F. Supp. 2d 46, 50 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing 5C Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1366 at 159 (3d ed. 2004)). In exercising this discretion, a "reviewing court should not automatically treat a dismissal where external materials were not excluded as a summary judgment, although such treatment may be the most common result . . . . Rather, the reviewing court must assure itself that summary judgment treatment would be fair to both parties in that the procedural requirements of the applicable rules were observed." Tele-Commc'ns of Key West, Inc. v. United States, 757 F.2d 1330, 1334 (D.C. Cir. 1985). Nevertheless, "no useful purpose can be served by [Rule 12(d)'s notice-and opportunity requirement's] application where it is clear that the dispositive facts will remain undisputed and unchanged." See Hollis v. U.S. Dep't of Army, 856 F.2d 1541, 1544 (D.C. Cir. 1988); see also Highland Renovation Corp. v. Hanover Ins. Grp., 620 F. Supp. 2d 79, 82 (D.D.C. 2009) (holding that whether plaintiff's claim was time barred was a "discrete legal issue" that the court may decide in a converted motion to dismiss "without providing notice or the opportunity for discovery to the parties") (internal citations omitted).

A party is entitled to summary judgment "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). "A fact is 'material' if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under governing law; factual disputes that are 'irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination." Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986)). "An issue is 'genuine' if 'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Id. (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247).

Under the summary judgment standard, the moving party bears the "initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. 56(c)). In response, the non-moving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the 'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for ...


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