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Crowley v. Napolitano

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 27, 2013

Kate CROWLEY, Plaintiff,
Janet A. NAPOLITANO, Secretary, U.S. Dep't of Homeland Security, Defendant.

Page 90

Joy M. Bertrand, Joy Bertrand, Esquire., LLC, Scottsdale, AZ, for Plaintiff.

Heather D. Graham-Oliver, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


JAMES E. BOASBERG, District Judge.

Plaintiff Kate Crowley is employed as a Special Agent for the United States Secret Service. Since April 2010, she has been assigned to a protective detail in New York. Believing that she was given worse travel and overtime assignments than men in the detail— and then was retaliated against when she complained— Crowley filed this suit alleging employment discrimination in violation of Title VII. In now moving to dismiss or, in the alternative, transfer the venue of Plaintiff's Complaint, Defendant correctly argues that the case does not belong in the District of Columbia. The Court will thus grant Defendant's Motion and transfer the matter to the Southern District of New York.

Page 91

I. Background

According to Plaintiff's Complaint, which the Court must presume true for purposes of this Motion, Crowley works on a USSS protection detail for a former national leader. See Am. Compl., ¶¶ 1-2. Her detail is based in the New York City area, but also requires travel with the protectee. See id., ¶¶ 3-4. Travel assignments carry higher compensation as a result of overtime, per diem, and danger pay. See id., ¶ 6. At some point, Plaintiff noticed a " distinct disparity" between travel assignments given to her male colleagues and those given to her. See id., ¶ 5. In addition, between February and May 2010, Plaintiff was scheduled for 44 hours of overtime, half the time assigned to similarly situated male colleagues. Id., ¶ 27. When Crowley raised this disparity with her supervisors at USSS, she was " assigned to a punishing overtime and weekend schedule and received a threat at her home." Id., ¶ 7. Plaintiff also alleges that she has been regularly singled out and mocked by her colleagues. See id., ¶¶ 33-36, 44-45, 50, 52.

Believing she was treated unfairly because of her sex, Plaintiff contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2010. Id., ¶¶ 16-17. On December 16, 2010, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint of discrimination against USSS, and she received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on October 26, 2012. Id., ¶¶ 18-19. She then brought this action against USSS alleging employment discrimination and retaliation for protected EEO activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id., ¶¶ 69-72. Defendant has now moved for dismissal or transfer of venue.

II. Legal Standard

When presented with a motion to dismiss or transfer for improper venue under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), the Court " accepts the plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue as true, draws all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor, and resolves any factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor." Pendleton v. Mukasey, 552 F.Supp.2d 14, 17 (D.D.C.2008) (citing Darby v. Dep't of Energy, 231 F.Supp.2d 274, 276-77 (D.D.C.2002)). The Court need not, however, accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as true, Darby, 231 F.Supp.2d at 277, and may consider material outside of the pleadings. See Artis v. Greenspan, 223 F.Supp.2d 149, 152 (D.D.C.2002) (citing Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 735 n. 4, 67 S.Ct. 1009, 91 L.Ed. 1209 (1947)). " Because it is the plaintiff's obligation to institute the action in a permissible forum, the plaintiff usually bears the burden of establishing that venue is proper." Freeman v. Fallin, 254 F.Supp.2d 52, 56 (D.D.C.2003); 15 Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3826 (2d ed. 1986 & Supp.2006) ( " [W]hen an objection has been raised, the burden is on the plaintiff to establish that the district he or she has chosen is a proper venue." ). To prevail on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, however, " the defendant must present facts that will defeat the plaintiff's assertion of venue." Khalil v. L-3 Commc'ns Titan Grp., 656 F.Supp.2d 134, 135 (D.D.C.2009). " Unless there are pertinent factual disputes to resolve, a challenge to venue presents a pure question of law." Williams v. GEICO Corp., 792 F.Supp.2d 58, 62 (D.D.C.2011).

III. Analysis

Venue in Title VII cases is governed by statute. Such an action may be properly brought (1) " in any judicial district in the State in which the unlawful employment practice is alleged to have been ...

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