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Jones v. District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority

United States District Court, District Circuit

February 13, 2013

DEREK A. JONES, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA WATER AND SEWER AUTHORITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES E. BOASBERG United States District Judge

Plaintiff Derek A. Jones, who is black, was employed as a recruiter by Defendant District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority. His lawsuit alleges that WASA unlawfully terminated him in violation of federal Civil Rights Acts and D.C. law. The sole federal claim is based on WASA’s alleged retaliation against him for voicing concerns during staff meetings about racially discriminatory employment practices. In now moving to dismiss, Defendant correctly argues that Jones has failed to sufficiently allege causation under either Title VII or Section 1981. The Court will thus grant Defendant’s Motion as to this count and permit Plaintiff to pursue his state claims in the appropriate local court; alternatively, he may file an amended complaint in this Court if facts exist to support a causal link between his protected activity and his termination.

I.Background

According to Plaintiff’s Complaint, which the Court must presume true for purposes of this Motion, Jones worked as a recruiter in WASA’s Department of Human Resources from 2001 until his termination on October 13, 2011. See Compl., ¶¶ 6, 23. While employed at WASA, Plaintiff believed that the agency was conducting personnel transactions in violation of District and WASA regulations. Id., ¶ 13. Plaintiff also discovered that his supervisor was hiring individuals who were ineligible or had submitted falsified employment applications. Id., ¶¶ 14-15. Additionally, Jones learned that “a good friend of WASA’s chief operating officer” was being hired and “paid an illegal salary.” Id., ¶¶ 15-16. Finally, Plaintiff noticed that a black employee, Charles Taylor, had been unfairly passed over for promotion, and he called this to his supervisor’s attention. Id., ¶ 17.

Plaintiff expressed his concerns about illegal and prohibited personnel practices to his supervisor and WASA’s Director of Human Resources at “a number of all-hands meetings of the WASA Human Resources Department in 2010 and 2011.” Id., ¶ 18. These practices, in Plaintiff’s words, included:

a. Failing to adhere to WASA’s written personnel policies and procedures;
b. Hiring persons who were less qualified while screening out persons who were more qualified;
c. Hiring persons purely because they were friends of management persons;
d. Failing to use accurate testing procedures when the effect was to fail to provide qualified minority applicants with a full and fair opportunity to be considered for positions and promotions.
e. Using private personnel agencies to recruit personnel, when the effect of using such personnel agencies was to adversely impact the hiring and promotional opportunities of minority employees.
f. Failing to properly vet the credentials of engineering candidates, which could cause not only a violation of WASA’s federal grant agreements, but could possibly jeopardize the health and safety of the local population.

Id.

Plaintiff’s supervisor, moreover, allegedly asked him on several occasions to perform tasks that were illegal or in violation of D.C. and WASA regulations. Id. (Complaint contains two paragraphs numbered as 18). Plaintiff was written up twice for insubordination when he refused to perform these tasks. Id., ¶ 19. In August 2011, WASA created the new position of Senior Recruiter, “for which Mr. Jones was clearly the most qualified person in the Human Resources Department at WASA.” Id., ¶ 21. He was nonetheless informed on October 11 that the position “was going to be filled at a later date.” Id., ¶ 22. On October 13, two days later, WASA notified Plaintiff that he was being terminated for insubordination and failing to follow his supervisor’s directives. Id., ¶ 23.

Plaintiff received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and satisfied all administrative prerequisites to filing his suit. Id., ¶ 26. He brought this action against WASA on September 3, 2012. In one count, Plaintiff alleges that WASA unlawfully terminated his employment in retaliation for his concerns about racially discriminatory practices, in violation of both the Civil Rights Acts of 1866 and 1964, 42 U.S.C §§ 1981 and 2000e, et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 1-2501 et seq. Id., ¶¶ 31-32. In a second count, Plaintiff alleges that his termination violated his common-law right to be free from wrongful discharge. Id., ΒΆΒΆ 28-29. Although Plaintiff lists only two causes of ...


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