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Jessalyn L. Marcus v. Timothy Geithner

September 22, 2011

JESSALYN L. MARCUS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TIMOTHY GEITHNER, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Re Document No.: 38

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS'PARTIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiff, a pro se litigant, is a former employee of the Department of the Treasury who alleges that she was the victim of racial discrimination. She seeks relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq.,42 U.S.C. § 1981, the D.C. Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. CODE §§ 2.1401.01 et seq., and various common law tort doctrines. The defendants move for partial dismissal, arguing that the plaintiff may only pursue certain Title VII claims. The court agrees.

Because sovereign immunity bars the plaintiff's tort claims and the plaintiff's DCHRA claim, the court dismisses those claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because the plaintiff fails to state a claim against the federal government under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, the court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss that claim as well. Because an individual plaintiff may not bring a standalone "pattern or practice" claim under Title VII, the court grants the defendants' motion on this claim. Finally, because Title VII does not allow recovery of punitive damages against the federal government, the court grants the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's request for punitive damages.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

In 2002, the plaintiff, an African-American female, began her employment with the United States Department of the Treasury ("Treasury") within the Bureau of Engraving and Printing ("BEP"). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2. The plaintiff first held an entry-level position as a Mutilated Currency Examiner to be paid at a GS-5 level.*fn2 Id. The plaintiff's duties as a Mutilated Currency Examiner "included identifying and reconstructing damaged currency, and determining the value of the damaged money for reimbursement." Id.

In 2003, the BEP's Office of Currency Standards ("OCS") held a meeting attended by various high-level Treasury employees, including defendants Gregory Carper, the Chief Finance Officer, and Lorraine Robinson, a former Division Manager within the agency. Id. ¶ 3. At this meeting, the defendants discussed the possibility that a Mutilated Currency Specialist would relocate to the Western Currency Facility ("WCF"), located in Fort Worth, Texas. Id. The plaintiff volunteered to work at the WCF on a temporary basis, from March through May 2004. Id. ¶ 4. The plaintiff states that "[t]he salary/pay grade scale for [this assignment] was GS-5 through GS-9." Id. Subsequently, the plaintiff "agreed to relocate permanently" to the WCF, and she moved to Texas in August 2004. Id. ¶ 5. At that time, the plaintiff "was a GS-7 Mutilated Currency Examiner." Id. The plaintiff asserts that she accepted the transfer with the understanding that she would receive a pay grade increase by September 2004. Id. ¶ 4. The plaintiff claims that this pay grade increase never materialized. Id. ¶ 7. Rather, the plaintiff alleges that the defendants informed her that she "would have to wait until March or April 2005 to receive her GS-8, wait another year . . . for her GS-9 and [then] wait for a GS-11 position to become available" in 2007 or 2008. Id. ¶¶ 4, 8.

Believing that she had been misled and that "management['s] conduct was illegal," the plaintiff contacted an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") representative on October 5, 2004. Id. ¶ 9. The plaintiff "complained . . . about what she perceived [as] race and gender discrimination in regards to the relocation to Texas." Id. (emphasis removed). On October 6, 2004, the plaintiff sent an email to Robinson and "informed her that she had contacted an EEOC Representative." Id. ¶ 12. Following this communication and the plaintiff's filing of a union grievance on November 29, 2004, the defendants allegedly subjected the plaintiff to "a barrage of adverse employment actions," which included: (1) changing the plaintiff's work schedule without prior approval; (2) false accusations that the plaintiff had made errors in her work; (3) increases in the difficulty of the plaintiff's work load; (4) inadequate training; (5) denial of the plaintiff's request for transfers due to a family emergency; (6) denial of the plaintiff's request for leave without pay; and (7) placing the plaintiff on "absent without leave" status. Id. ¶ 13.

The plaintiff also alleges that the defendants improperly denied her a number of opportunities for professional advancement. Specifically, the plaintiff claims that she applied for a Claims Control Technician (GS-6) position on September 8, 2005, but that the listing "was cancelled and reposted as a GS-5." Id., Ex. B at 2. She further alleges that she applied for a Mutilated Currency Specialist (GS-11) position on September 14, 2005, a listing which was later cancelled, and a Claims Control Technician (GS-5) position on October 6, 2005, which was also cancelled. Id., Ex. B at 2. The plaintiff attributed the agency's hiring decisions to discrimination based on race, and she therefore "resigned under stress and duress on March 29, 2006." Id. ¶¶ 16-17.

In September 2009, the plaintiff filed an action in this court, advancing the following claims: (1) fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation; (2) "pattern-or-practice of hostile retaliatory work environment/harassment"; (3) retaliation; (4) disparate treatment; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED"); and (6) constructive discharge. Id. ¶ 1. The plaintiff claims the defendants violated Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the DCHRA. Id. In addition, the plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages. Am. Compl.¶ 89.

The defendants now move for partial dismissal of the plaintiff's claims. See generally Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss. In particular, the defendants seek dismissal pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to dismiss the plaintiff's common law tort claims, the plaintiff's § 1981 claim and the plaintiff's Title VII "pattern-or-practice" claim. Id. In addition, the defendants also ask this court to dismiss the plaintiff's claim for punitive damages. Id. With the defendants' motion now ripe for adjudication, the court turns to the parties' arguments and the relevant legal standards.

III. DISCUSSION

A. The Court Lacks Jurisdiction to Hear the Plaintiff's Tort Claims and the ...


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