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Davis v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 27, 2013

RONDA L. DAVIS, et al., and CYNTHIA DUDLEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

Page 2

For RONDA L. DAVIS, ZACCHAEUS T. AJAKAIYIYE, SEPHANIE R. ALSTON, KIMBERLY BROWN, STEPHANY M. KAGHA, DONNA YVETTA LEE, CELCIEL W. MOORE, DARIUS MORRIS, JANICE SMITH WASHINGTON, and others Similarly Situated, MABLE LARRAINE BOLER, Ms., JAMES E. BYRD, JR., GWENDOLYN CARTHENS, Ms., SAKITHIA LATRENA DAVIS, Ms., CLARENCE EVANS, ELAINE FARRAR, Ms., GALE AUSTIN FIELDS, Ms., OMAR FRANCIS, Mr., VICKIE MARIA GUION, Ms., ERNEST HUNTER, Mr., CARLA C. JOHNSON, Ms., KAREN R. JOHNSON, Ms., VERJENA JONES, Mrs., JOHN ROLAND JORDAN, Mr., MARY RUTH KING, Ms., LUZ A. LAGARES, FRANCISCA U. LETREN, Ms., MICHELLE MILLARD-SIMMS, SHIRLEY MIMS, Mrs., STACY DAVE MURRY, Mr., NICKY ODAKA, MOSES OGOKEH, Mr., EDWARD L. RANDOLPH, Mr., TRINA MARCELL ROBINSON, LAURA SMART, Ms., DARRYL STANFIELD, Mr., ANGELA GOOLSHAN KHAN THOMAS, Mrs., CHANELLE TIBBS, Ms., GERMAINE Elanda WALKER, Mrs., PATRICIA C. WASHINGTON, RODNEY E. WILLIAMS, WANDA MARIE WILLIAMS (1:10-cv-01564), Plaintiffs: David Louis Rose, ROSE LEGAL ADVOCATES, Washington, DC.

For ALL PLAINTIFFS (1:10-cv-01564), Plaintiff: David Louis Rose, Joshua N. Rose, LEAD ATTORNEYS, ROSE LEGAL ADVOCATES, Washington, DC; Donald M. Temple, LEAD ATTORNEY, DONALD M. TEMPLE, P.C., Washington, DC.

For CYNTHIA DUDLEY, 10cv1718, KARONE GRAY, 10cv1718, DAVID L. HAILES, 10cv1718, LORRAINE KELLY, 10cv1718 (1:10-cv-01564), Plaintiffs: Donald M. Temple, LEAD ATTORNEY, DONALD M. TEMPLE, P.C., Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES AGENCY, ADRIAN M. FENTY, Mayor, GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, MAYOR OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES AGENCY, 10cv1718 (1:10-cv-01564), Defendants: Chad Alan Naso, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC; Grace Graham, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC.

For CYNTHIA DUDLEY, KARONE GRAY, DAVID L. HAILES, VERJENA JONES, LORRAINE KELLY, ALL PLAINTIFFS (1:10-cv-01718), Plaintiffs: Donald M. Temple, DONALD M. TEMPLE, P.C., Washington, DC.

OPINION

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

Rudolph Contreras, United States District Judge.

In June 2010, the Child and Family Services Agency of the District of Columbia conducted a reduction in force. The plaintiffs were among those who lost their jobs. They allege that they were laid off because of their age and race. The defendants have moved to dismiss the case or, in the alternative, for summary judgment prior to discovery.

I. BACKGROUND

In their complaint, the plaintiffs allege that they were employed by the District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency (" CFSA" or " the agency" ) until June 11, 2010, when a reduction in force took effect. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. The agency had announced the layoff the previous month, emphasizing that " [t]his action in no way reflects adversely on your performance of your . . . official duties." Id. ¶ 23 (quoting Letter from Roque Gerald, Director, CFSA (May 6, 2010)). One hundred and ten employees lost their jobs, id. ¶ 37, including the forty-five plaintiffs, id. ¶ ¶ 9, 23, who have brought these consolidated actions as the representatives of the putative class of all employees who were laid off in the reduction in force, id. ¶ 1.

Most of the plaintiffs are African-American, as were at least ninetythree percent of the employees who lost their jobs in the reduction in force. Id. ¶ 26. The plaintiffs allege that there is a statistically significant difference between the racial composition of the employees who were laid off and those who were retained by the agency. Id. ¶ ¶ 49-50. Many of the plaintiffs had been employed as Social Service Assistants. Id. ¶ 27. Those positions, which did not require a college degree, id. ¶ 29, were eliminated and replaced by fewer Family Social Worker positions, which required a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, id. ¶ ¶ 31-32. Other plaintiffs had been employed as Associate Social Workers or Program Monitors before

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they were laid off. Id. ¶ ¶ 54-55, 76. The complaint implies that a master's degree was required for the former position, and a bachelor's degree for the latter. Id. ¶ ¶ 71-72. It is not clear whether those requirements were pre-existing or imposed at the time of the reduction in force.

The plaintiffs allege that the requirement of a bachelor's or master's degree can have a disparate impact upon African-Americans, who hold such degrees in smaller numbers than members of other racial groups, and that the defendants knew or should have known this fact. Id. ¶ ¶ 42-44. The plaintiffs further allege that, although the two positions were responsible for essentially identical duties, id. ¶ 51, several plaintiffs who held bachelor's degrees and had been employed as Social Service Assistants were not retained as Family Social Workers, id. ¶ 52.

All but one of the plaintiffs was at least forty years old on the date of the reduction in force, id. ¶ 35, as were approximately three-quarters of the employees who lost their jobs, id. ¶ 25. (The remaining plaintiff was thirty-six, id. ¶ 35; more than nine-tenths of the laid-off employees were at least thirty-seven, id. ¶ 25.) The plaintiffs allege that the agency hired or promoted many younger, less-experienced employees to fill the new Family Social Worker positions, instead of the older, more-experienced plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 53.

On the plaintiffs' account, the Child and Family Services Agency has offered inaccurate or conflicting explanations of the reduction in force and the imposition of educational requirements. The plaintiffs allege that, before the reduction was announced, high-ranking agency officials incorrectly claimed that the federal government requires or encourages the imposition of minimum educational requirements on employees who assist or work alongside licensed social workers. Id. ¶ ¶ 67-68. They further allege that, several days before the reduction took effect, the Council of the District of Columbia restored some funding to the agency's budget, thereby lessening the need for layoffs. Id. ¶ 69. If the agency had not hired any new employees from the date that it announced the reduction in force until the end of September 2010, the plaintiffs claim, it could have afforded to retain all of the employees that it laid off. Id. ¶ ¶ 64, 70. Instead, it hired many employees who were younger than those it laid off; the plaintiffs allege that the " great majority" of the new hires were thirty-four or younger. Id. ¶ 63.

One plaintiff challenged the reduction in force through the agency's Office of Employee Appeals, arguing that there was no reason for the layoffs. Id. ¶ ¶ 73-74. In rejecting her challenge, the agency director offered two explanations. First, he said, " I . . . made a management decision to effect an agency-wide realignment, which resulted in the Reduction-In-Force of some positions." Id. ¶ 74. And " [a]dditionally the . . . Agency, like most District of Columbia Government Agencies, had its agency's . . . budget cut, which added additional pressures to reduce staff . . . ." Id. (ellipses in complaint).

After the reduction in force took effect, the plaintiffs allegedly notified the Mayor and the Attorney General of the District of Columbia of their claims that the District discriminated against them on the basis of age and race in conducting the layoffs. Id. ¶ 77. At least two plaintiffs filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging race discrimination, and received right to sue letters. Id. ¶ ¶ 78-80. The plaintiffs now bring suit against the District of Columbia and its Mayor, alleging age discrimination in violation of the Human Rights Act of the District of Columbia, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq.,

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and race discrimination in violation of both that Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The defendants have moved to dismiss the suit or, in the alternative, for summary judgment without discovery.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242, 352 U.S.App. D.C. 4 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Such motions allege that a plaintiff has not properly stated a claim; they do not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of success on the merits. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). The complaint is only required to set forth a short and plain statement of the claim, in order to give the defendant fair notice of the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Kingman Park Civic Ass'n v. Williams, ...


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