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Angel Lewis v. District of Columbia

August 17, 2012

ANGEL LEWIS,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Angel Lewis is a former employee of the District of Columbia Public Schools. She brought this suit against the District of Columbia, alleging (1) retaliation for protected activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. and (2) wrongful discharge and retaliation for seeking workers' compensation in violation of D.C. Code § 32-1542 and § 1532. The District moves for partial dismissal for failure to state a claim. The Court will grant in part and deny in part the motion.

I. FACTS

For all times relevant to this matter, Ms. Lewis, an African-American, was employed at Kelley Miller Middle School with the District of Columbia Public Schools as the Assistant Principal of Intervention and the Assistant Principal for Eighth Grade. Am. Compl. [Dkt. 3] ¶ 6, 8, 11. The Principal at the Middle School, Cathy Crocker, is Caucasian. Id. ¶ 10. In October of 2009, Ms. Crocker gave Ms. Lewis a negative evaluation. Ms. Lewis filed a grievance with the Washington Teachers' Union ("Union") regarding the evaluation, claiming that Ms. Crocker failed to follow requisite procedures. The Union persuaded management to invalidate Ms. Lewis's evaluation. Id. ¶ 12, 17-19.

In November of 2009, Ms. Lewis complained to Marlene Magrino, an Assistant Principal, of race discrimination by Ms. Crocker. Ms. Magrino is Caucasian. Id. ¶ 22-23. Ms. Lewis alleges that following this complaint, Ms. Crocker required her to develop and follow a daily schedule and to receive approval from Ms. Crocker before making decisions. Ms. Lewis claims that she was the only Assistant Principal subject to these requirements. Ms. Lewis also states that Ms. Crocker instructed Ms. Lewis to provide a schedule reminder to eighth grade teachers, which Ms. Crocker subsequently told the teachers to disregard, and that Ms. Crocker permitted any Assistant Principal to fill out suspension documents, which included Ms. Lewis's name as the suspending official, without her knowledge. Id. ¶ 24-28.

On March 23, 2010, Ms. Lewis filed a complaint with the Office of Labor Management and Employee Relations. Id. ¶ 29. After receiving a letter from an Equal Employment Officer, she filed a formal complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights ("OHR") on May 7, 2010. Id. ¶ 30-31; Resp. to Order of the Ct. [Dkt. 9], Ex. B (Initial Formal Charge). Also during May, Ms. Lewis slipped and fell on water that several students had thrown at Ms. Crocker, injuring her right knee and right ankle. Am. Compl. ¶ 33. Ms. Lewis asserts that Ms. Crocker failed to file workers' compensation documents regarding these injuries on time. As a result, Ms. Lewis claims that she was required to pay for most of her hospital bills. Id. ¶ 36-38.

On June 25, 2010, while on medical leave, Ms. Lewis was terminated for lack of performance. *fn1 Id. ¶ 39-40. Ms. Lewis states that she was mailed a right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on August 12, 2011. Id. ¶ 42.

Based on these facts, Ms. Lewis brought a two-count Complaint against the District of Columbia*fn2 on November 10, 2011.*fn3 Count I states that the District took adverse action against Ms. Lewis for protected activities in violation of Title VII by: (1) giving her a bad evaluation, (2) falsifying her attendance record, (3) failing to file the required workers' compensation documents on time, and (4) terminating her. Count II alleges that the District fired her solely because she filed a workers' compensation claim and took adverse action against her by not filling out workers' compensation documents, in violation of D.C. Code § 32-1542 and § 1532 respectively.

The District now moves to dismiss the amended complaint, in part, for failure to state a claim. Specifically, it moves to dismiss: (1) all but one of Ms. Lewis's retaliation claims under Title VII because (a) the bad evaluation occurred a month before Ms. Lewis claims she engaged in the protected activity, (b) falsification of timesheets does not constitute adverse action, and (c) the Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act ("CMPA"), D.C. Code § 1-623.01 et seq., provides her exclusive remedy for her claim regarding workers' compensation documents; and (2) Ms. Lewis cannot bring either a wrongful discharge or retaliation claim under D.C. Code § 32-1542 because the CMPA is the exclusive remedy for a District employee who has a work-related grievance of any kind. The motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must be sufficient "to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is "plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true, "even if doubtful in fact." Id. at 555. But a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

III. ...


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