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Clara Mae Bowers v. District of Columbia

June 2, 2011

CLARA MAE BOWERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Clara Mae Bowers, a black female of African descent, has sued her former employer, the District of Columbia, and is proceeding pro se. Plaintiff claims that she was discriminated against on the basis of her "race, color, and gender" while employed as a teacher at the Walker Jones Educational Center ("WJEC") within the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 et seq., and the D.C. Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. Plaintiff also claims that defendant breached her employment contract by failing to follow a number of prescribed procedures during plaintiff's performance evaluations. Before the Court is defendant's Motion to Dismiss. (Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ["Def.'s Mot."]). For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion will be granted and plaintiff's case will be dismissed with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

I. FACTUAL HISTORY

Plaintiff was employed as a middle school teacher with DCPS from around September 2000 to late 2007. (Complaint ["Compl."] ¶ 3.) During the time she alleges discrimination and breach of contract (i.e., September 2006 to December 2007), plaintiff taught at WJEC. (Id.)

Plaintiff alleges that defendant engaged in discriminatory acts by giving her negative evaluations in violation of prescribed evaluation procedures. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) Plaintiff alleges that she was given a disproportionate number of special education students without support from a special education teacher, a support service that she claims was accorded to white teachers and male teachers. (Id. ¶ 7.) This, in turn, caused her teaching to suffer because she was unable to manage the students by herself. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff asserts that during evaluations of her performance, defendant failed to fulfill several obligations set forth in the employment contract, including written notice when an evaluation occurred, preconference meetings, and a review of lesson plans and ancillary materials. (Id. ¶¶ 19-20.) The combination of the overloaded class and the unfair evaluation techniques created several poor reviews of plaintiff's performance. (Id. ¶¶ 19-21.)

Plaintiff claims defendant targeted her because of her race, color, and gender, and as a result, unfairly placed her on a ninety-day evaluation program on November 13, 2006, which in turn resulted in her termination in late 2007. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11, 25.) On either November 30, 2007 or December 7, 2007, defendant fired plaintiff as a result of poor evaluations. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13, 25; Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Reply") ["Def.'s Rep."] at 4 & n.4; Plaintiff's Supplemental Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Supplemental Opposition") ["Pl.'s Supp. Opp."] at 6-7.)

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in D.C. Superior Court on September 28, 2010. (See Compl. at 1.) The Complaint contains three counts. First, plaintiff claims that defendant violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by unfairly targeting her because of her race, color, and gender. (Id. ¶ 5-14.) Second, plaintiff claims that these same actions violated the DCHRA. (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Third, plaintiff claims that defendant's failure to follow the evaluation procedures outlined in her employment contract constituted a breach of contract. (Id. ¶¶ 17-25.)

Defendant removed the case to the federal court (see Notice of Removal [Dkt. #1]), but then filed a Motion to Dismiss claiming that plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, to meet the statute of limitations, and to comply with D.C.'s administrative regime for resolving contract disputes. (Def.'s Mot. at 1). Plaintiff filed an Opposition, supplemented by several evaluation documents generated during plaintiff's employment with defendant. (See Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss ("Opposition") ["Pl.'s Opp."].) In response, defendant filed a Reply, attached to which was some of plaintiff's EEO paperwork. (See Def.'s Rep.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a Supplemental Opposition to the motion, supplemented by additional paperwork from the evaluation process. (See Pl.'s Supp. Opp.) Plaintiff also filed a Supplemental Response to defendant's Motion. (See Supplemental Response to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ["Pl.'s Supp. Resp."])

ANALYSIS

I. LEGAL STANDARDS

Despite some confusion in this jurisdiction regarding "whether a failure to exhaust administrative remedies is properly brought in a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, as a jurisdictional defect, or in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim," recent cases "favor treating failure to exhaust as a failure to state a claim." Hansen v. Billington, 644 F. Supp. 2d 97, 102 (D.D.C. 2009) (listing cases); see also Kilby-Robb v. Spellings, 309 F. App'x 422, 423 n.1 (D.C. Cir. 2009) ("[T]he mandatory exhaustion requirement is not jurisdictional.").

As the Supreme Court recently held in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937 (2009), "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure], a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) if it consists only of "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Id. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). The allegations in plaintiff's complaint are presumed true at this stage, and all reasonable factual inferences must be construed in the plaintiff's favor. Maljack Prods., Inc. v. Motion Picture Ass'n of Am., 52 F.3d 373, 375 (D.C. Cir. 1995). "However, 'the court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint.'" Hughes v. Abell, 634 F. Supp. 2d 110, 113 (D.D.C. 2009) (quoting Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). In ...


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