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Beulah J. Robinson v. Red Coats

August 30, 2012

BEULAH J. ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RED COATS, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Beulah J. Robinson, the plaintiff in this civil case, seeks relief pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 to -3 (2006), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-24 (2006), and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 2-1402.11(a)(1), 2-1402.61(a)-(b) (2001). Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 23, 26, 33, 39. Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. After carefully considering all of the relevant submissions by the parties,*fn1 the Court concludes for the following reasons that the defendant's motion must be denied in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff, "a 75 year old woman of the black race," Compl. ¶ 4, was hired as a "cleaner" in 1984 "by a company that was [subsequently] either acquired by the [d]efendant or a competitor [that] lost a contract bid to the [d]efendant in 2006," id. ¶ 8. The plaintiff's duties "consisted of dusting surface areas, emptying trash cans, and vacuuming the carpet of various offices of commercial buildings." Id. ¶ 9.

"In June 2010, the [p]laintiff was transferred from one office building to another where the contract for the latter office building was terminating within a month. The [p]laintiff complained to her union representative and was transferred to an office building located at 1225 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C." Id. ¶ 12. The plaintiff alleges that "[w]hen [she] arrived on her first day at the [Connecticut Avenue b]uilding, she was told by her manager that she . . . was not wanted at that location," id. ¶ 13, and he purportedly "embarked upon a pattern of conduct designed to discourage the [p]laintiff from continuing her employment with the [d]efendant by giving [her] more assignments than her counterparts of [a] different race and younger age." Id. ¶ 15. In addition, the plaintiff claims that she was "isolate[ed] . . . from the other cleaners," id., and "not provided a reasonable opportunity to become familiar with the location of the trash cans . . . and to develop an efficient plan," and that "she was forced to work alone . . . while her younger Hispanic co-workers were allowed to work in crews where division of labor enabled them to work more efficiently," Pl.'s Mem. at 8-9. Moreover, the plaintiff contends that the "[d]efendant's discriminatory tactics included the fabrication of sub-par performance issues, and [the] utiliz[ation of] those fabrications as a pretext to discipline and [ultimately] terminate [her emloyment]. Compl. ¶ 15. The plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on October 1, 2010,*fn2 alleging race and age discrimination. Id. ¶ 16. Specifically, as noted earlier, the plaintiff claimed that she "had been transferred to a new location where the work contract would soon expire because of [her] race and age." Id. The defendant was made aware of the plaintiff's EEOC charge on October 7, 2010. Id. ¶ 17.

The defendant gave the plaintiff both verbal and written warnings about her work performance on October 4, 2010, and a written warning on October 7, 2010. Def.'s Mem. ¶¶ 6-8 at 2-3. Several days later, on October 13, 2010, the defendant terminated the plaintiff and replaced her with someone "substantially younger" and of a different race than the plaintiff. Compl. ¶¶ 18-19. On October 14, 2010, the Service Employees International Union ("SEIU") filed an unjust discharge grievance on the plaintiff's behalf, which was eventually submitted to arbitration. Def.'s Mem. ¶¶ 10-11 at 3. After a two-day evidentiary hearing, the arbitrator issued a written decision finding "just cause for the discharge of [the plaintiff]." Def.'s Mem., Exhibit ("Ex.") 7 (Decision & Award). However, the decision did not address the plaintiff's discrimination claims. See Pl.'s Mem. at 9 n.2 ("The arbitrator simply made a ruling based on a contract involving the parties . . . .").

The plaintiff filed this case on October 25, 2011, in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. Compl. at 1. The defendant then removed the case to this Court on December 13, 2011. Notice of Removal at 1. The defendant now moves for dismissal or summary judgment arguing that the plaintiff "cannot establish that she was qualified for her position as a [c]leaner," nor can she "establish a causal connection between her filing a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC and the termination of her employment," Def.'s Mem. at 6-7. Consequently, the defendant requests that the plaintiff's Complaint "be dismissed, in its entirety, with prejudice." Id. at 8.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests whether a complaint properly states a claim upon which relief can be granted. For a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it need only provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which accomplishes the dual objectives of "giv[ing] 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) (citation omitted). "Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the grounds of entitlement to relief, [the] plaintiff must furnish more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Hinson ex rel. N.H. v. Merritt Educ. Ctr., 521 F. Supp. 2d 22, 27 (D.D.C. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Or, as the Supreme Court stated in the Rule 12(b)(6) context, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). And, a claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Moreover, under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true [and] must grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences [that can be derived] from the facts alleged." Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Further, in resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court may consider only the factual allegations set forth in the complaint, any documents attached as exhibits with the complaint (or incorporated into the complaint), and matters subject to judicial notice. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The Court's focus is therefore restricted to the facts as alleged by the plaintiff, which must be sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Finally, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) provides that "[i]f, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) . . . , matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56."

B. Rule 56 Motion for Summary Judgment

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In making this assessment, courts must view all the evidence, except for conclusory statements, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, "even when the court entertains grave doubts" about the non-movant's statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 674 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Summary judgment "ordinarily is proper only after the plaintiff has been given adequate time for discovery," Chappell-Johnson v. Powell, 440 F.3d 484, 488 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted), and courts are especially cautious in granting summary judgment prematurely in discrimination cases because they "center on the issue of an employer's intent, and 'writings directly supporting a claim of intentional discrimination are rarely, if ever, found among an employer's corporate papers.'" Aka v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 116 F.3d 876, 879 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (internal citation omitted), rev'd on other grounds, 156 F.3d 1284 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc).

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. The Defendant's 12(b)(6) Motion ...


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