United States District Court, District of Columbia
Jeffrey S. GAUER, Plaintiff,
GALLAUDET UNIVERSITY, Defendant.
Jeffrey S. Gauer, Colorado Springs, CO, Seann Patrick Malloy, Malloy Law Offices, LLC, Bethesda, MD, for Plaintiff.
Christopher E. Hassell, Bonner, Kiernan, Trebach & Crociata, LLP, Washington, DC, for Defendant.
JOHN D. BATES, District Judge.
This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion to dismiss. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted.
Gallaudet University hired plaintiff " on August 15, 2005 as a full-time, regular tenure-track instructor for the Department of Business." Am. Compl. ¶ 7 (internal quotation marks omitted). Although plaintiff " had ... completed all of his doctoral coursework and had ... passed his doctoral comprehensive exams," he had not yet completed his doctoral dissertation. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff's appointment apparently was for a one-year term, and " [w]ith each year's reappointment application, [he] reported
on his doctoral progress [and] provided Gallaudet a copy of his dissertation in-progress." Id. ¶ 9. The letter of hire provided that, if plaintiff were to complete his Ph.D. by January 2006, he would have been granted credit of three years towards promotion and thus be eligible to apply for a promotion to an Assistant Professor position in his first year. Id. ¶ 10. Based on this letter and Faculty Guideline 188.8.131.52, it was plaintiff's understanding that he could apply for a promotion either upon completion of his Ph.D. or after his third year of teaching. Id. Plaintiff taught full-time for three years, from Fall 2005 through Spring 2008; he received not only positive performance reviews but also assurances as to his prospects for continued employment at Gallaudet. Id. ¶ 11; see id. ¶¶ 12-13. Although he applied for a promotion in 2008, allegedly his " direct supervisor failed to submit his promotion application to the Promotion and Tenure Committee." Id. ¶ 10.
Plaintiff, who " suffers from chronic pain resulting from degenerative disc disorder and fibromyalgia," id. ¶ 14, had been " receiving weekly epidural injunctions and extremely strong oral medications for his pain management," id. ¶ 15. These treatments did not sufficiently manage plaintiff's back pain, and on July 29, 2008, plaintiff applied for medical leave. Id. Gallaudet granted the leave request on August 28, 2008. Id. " Plaintiff underwent spinal fusion surgery on November 12, 2008." Id. Although pre-and post-surgery pain caused him to be " bedridden more than 23 hours per day from Summer [ ] 2008 through Spring 2009," id. ¶ 17, plaintiff completed his doctoral degree while on medical leave. Id. ¶ 20. Thus having obtained his Ph.D. and having taught for three years, on February 17, 2009, plaintiff formally applied for a promotion from Instructor to Assistant Professor for the school year beginning on August 16, 2009. Id.; see Pl.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss Pl.'s Am. Compl. (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ), Ex. A (Request for Promotion dated February 27, 2009).
According to plaintiff, Dr. Rashid, his direct supervisor, prepared " an incomplete and false report (indicating that [plaintiff] had not earned his Ph.D.) in order to squelch his earned reappointment and promotion per Gallaudet guidelines." Compl. ¶ 22. This report, dated February 27, 2009, allegedly contained " negative and erroneous" information about plaintiff's " performance in the areas of teaching, scholarship, service, and integrity," and labeled plaintiff " irresponsible, ... dishonest, ... lazy, [and] incompetent." Id.; see id. ¶ 30. In plaintiff's view, this assessment was " a complete reversal" from those received prior to his medical leave. Id. ¶ 22. Contrary to provisions of Gallaudet's Faculty Handbook, plaintiff allegedly was afforded no opportunity to review or to challenge the report before its submission on February 28, 2009, to the Dean and to the Promotion and Tenure Committee. See id. ¶ 31.
Dr. Rashid allegedly called plaintiff on March 19, 2009, at which time he informed plaintiff that his return for Fall 2009 would not be recommended for reasons related to plaintiff's medical condition. Id. ¶ 23. At that point, " [d]ejected by Gallaudet's sudden change of appraisal and acting in reliance with Dr. Rashid's statements, [plaintiff] made preparations to move from the area." Id. ¶ 24.
On March 25, 2009, plaintiff received a copy of the February 27, 2009, report along with formal notification of Gallaudet's decision not to renew his teaching position for the following year and its denial of his request for a promotion. Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Plaintiff was " shocked" by the contents of the report, id. ¶ 25, and he
viewed the " stark contrast" between the pre-medical and post-medical leave evaluations as a ploy " to facilitate [his] elimination." Id. ¶ 30. Gallaudet allegedly hired two full-time instructors to teach courses that plaintiff ...