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Howard R.L. Cook & Tommy Shaw Foundation For Black Employees of the v. James H. Billington

August 9, 2011

HOWARD R.L. COOK & TOMMY SHAW FOUNDATION FOR BLACK EMPLOYEES OF THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, INC. ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JAMES H. BILLINGTON, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs, four Black employees of the Library of Congress and the Howard R.L. Cook & Tommy Shaw Foundation ("the Foundation"), which represents current and former Library employees, bring this action against Librarian of Congress James H. Billington, in his official capacity. Plaintiffs allege that the Library violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., by refusing to recognize the Foundation as an employee organization and failing to publish annual equal employment opportunity plans. Before the Court is the Librarian's motion to dismiss [#11], which argues that plaintiffs lack standing to bring their claims and fail to state a plausible claim for relief. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, the record of this case, and oral argument of counsel, the Court concludes that the motion must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

The Foundation is a nonprofit organization composed of current and former Library employees. Compl. ¶¶ 3--5. The Foundation's activities include assisting Library employees with pursuing claims of discrimination against the Library. Compl. ¶ 22. The Foundation has repeatedly sought formal recognition by the Library, which would allow it to (among other things) hold meetings in Library facilities and distribute materials to other Library employees, including new hires. Compl. ¶¶ 12--14. The Foundation made one such request for recognition in June 2008. Compl. ¶ 15. The Library denied the request, informing the Foundation that "it would not be appropriate for the Library to . . . officially recognize an organization that has as its main goals assisting individuals in filing and maintaining claims . . . against the Library." Compl. ¶ 16 (quoting letter from Dennis Hanratty, Director of Human Resources Services (July 10, 2008)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Compl. ¶ 17 (Library Chief Operating Officer's agreement that recognition of the Foundation would not be appropriate). After exhausting their administrative remedies regarding the Library's denial of recognition, see Compl. ¶¶ 18--19, plaintiffs filed this suit, alleging that the denial constituted unlawful retaliation in violation of Title VII. Compl. ¶¶ 21--22. Plaintiffs further allege that the Library has also violated Title VII by failing to publish annual EEO reports as required by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(b). See Compl. ¶¶ 25--31. Plaintiffs allege that the Library has not complied with its obligations under § 2000e-16(b) since 2004. Compl. ¶¶ 27--28.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint, or a claim therein, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1); see Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994) ("Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. . . . It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction . . . ."). In response to such a motion, the plaintiff must show that her claims lie within "the judicial Power of the United States," U.S. CONST. art. III, § 1, and that a federal statute grants the Court jurisdiction to hear those claims. Micei Int'l v. Dep't of Commerce, 613 F.3d 1147, 1151 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (citing Mayor v. Cooper, 73 U.S. 247, 252 (1868)); see also Shuler v. United States, 531 F.3d 930, 932 (D.C. Cir. 2008). If the plaintiff cannot establish both elements, the Court must dismiss the action. Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998) (citing Ex parte McCardle, 7 U.S. 506, 514 (1868)).

B. Failure to State a Claim

On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(6), the Court will dismiss a complaint or claim that fails to plead "enough facts to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007); see FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). Thus, although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must recite facts sufficient to at least "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)." Id. at 555. A "pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, -U.S.-, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). A plausible claim for relief is one that allows the Court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Plaintiffs' Retaliation Claim

"Title VII prohibits federal agencies from . . . retaliating against employees for the assertion of their rights under Title VII." Lathram v. Snow, 336 F.3d 1085, 1088 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing Forman v. Small, 271 F.3d 285, 297 (D.C. Cir. 2001); Ethnic Emps. of the Library of Cong. v. Boorstin, 751 F.2d 1405, 1415 & n.13 (D.C. Cir. 1985)). Here, plaintiffs' first claim alleges that the Library ran afoul of this prohibition when it refused to recognize the Foundation as an official employee organization. Plaintiffs allege that the Library's denial of recognition was a direct response to the Foundation's opposition to employment discrimination at the Library. See Compl. ¶ 21. The Librarian seeks the dismissal of this claim on two grounds: first, that plaintiffs have no standing to raise this claim, and second, that plaintiffs have failed to state a plausible claim of retaliation under Title VII. Because the Librarian's standing argument goes to the Court's jurisdiction, the Court must address it first. AT&T Corp. v. FCC, 317 F.3d 227, 237 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

1. Plaintiffs Have Standing to Bring this Claim

In Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992), the Supreme Court explained that "the irreducible constitutional minimum of standing" contains three elements: (1) injury-in-fact, (2) causation, and (3) redressability. Id. at 560--61. To invoke federal jurisdiction, a plaintiff must show all three. Id. at 561. At the motion-to-dismiss stage, independent proof of these elements is not needed; standing can be established by "general factual allegations." Id. Here, the Librarian challenges the ...


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