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Ramseur v. Perez

United States District Court, District Circuit

August 23, 2013

LINDA RAMSEUR, Plaintiff,
v.
THOMAS E. PEREZ, Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

ELLEN SEGAL HUVELLE United States District Judge

Plaintiff Linda Ramseur brings this action against Thomas E. Perez, in his official capacity as the Secretary of the Department of Labor.[1] She asserts claims for discrimination on account of race and sex and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. 2000e-16. Before the Court is defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings, plaintiff’s opposition thereto, and defendant’s reply. For the reasons stated herein, defendant’s motion is granted in part and denied in part.

BACKGROUND

When the events giving rise to this case occurred, plaintiff was employed by the Department of Labor (“DOL”) as a Staff Assistant, GS-09, assigned to the Office of the Director in DOL’s Civil Rights Center (“CRC”). (Compl. ¶ 6, Feb. 6, 2013.) On May 18, 2009, defendant posted a vacancy announcement for a “GS-11 Staff Assistant” in the CRC. (Id. ¶¶ 1, 6.) The position description included a requirement that a successful applicant must have “specialized experience in planning, implementing, or evaluating compliance and technical assistance activities related to recipients of federal financial assistance; conducting EEO and EO investigations and non-discrimination statutes under Title VI and VII of the Civil Rights Act and Related Statutes.” (Id. ¶ 1.) Shortly after the advertisement was posted, plaintiff applied for the position. (Id.)

On October 26, 2009, plaintiff received notice that she had been deemed “unqualified” for the position because of her lack of specialized experience. (Compl. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff alleges that this specialized experience is “unrelated and unnecessary” to the position advertised. (Id. ¶ 20; see also id. ¶¶ 1, 2, 11-14, 21, 22, 24, 31, 47.) She alleges that the GS-11 Staff Assistant position “contained the same administrative duties that were already being performed by [her].” (Id. ¶ 6.) Further, she alleges that the specialized experience requirement had been added to the job qualifications by her supervisor, Patricia Lamond, specifically to prevent her from qualifying for the position and that she had never been given the opportunity to gain such experience. (See, e.g., id. ¶¶ 43, 46.)

On November 5, 2009, plaintiff received a performance rating of “effective” and no bonus award. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 49.) She claims that, unlike all other CRC employees, she was the only support staff who did not receive a bonus in 2009, and that she had not been given the opportunity to participate in a mid-year appraisal that could have informed her that she needed to improve her performance. (Id. ¶ 49.) Plaintiff also alleges that Eliva Mata forwarded her performance appraisal to the Human Resource Center without allowing her to add her comments. (Id.) On both November 17 and 18, 2009, plaintiff asserts that Lamond yelled at her for failing to copy a document and properly deal with office correspondence. (Id.)

On December 9, 2009, plaintiff submitted an “Informal Complaint Information Form” to the CRC (Def.’s Mot. for Judgment on the Pleadings (“Def. Mot.”), Ex. 1, May 15, 2013), and on February 4, 2010, she filed a formal administrative complaint. (Id., Ex. 2 (“EEO Formal Compl.”).) On April 18, 2012, an EEOC administrative judge dismissed plaintiff’s claims.

On February 6, 2013, plaintiff filed an employment discrimination complaint under Title VII, claiming that (1) defendant engaged in an unlawful employment practice by including a requirement in the staff assistant job posting that disproportionately disqualifies minority and/or women applicants and has no relationship to the tasks expected to be performed (Compl. ¶¶ 52-56 (Count I)); (2) defendant retaliated against her by giving her a lower performance review and denying her a performance award, delaying the progress of her administrative claim, and subjecting her to a hostile work environment (id. ¶¶ 57-61 (Count II)); (3) defendant subjected her to a retaliatory hostile work environment for “speaking out against the denial of a promotion opportunity, ” by subjecting her to constant yelling and by instructing her to leave post-it notes in her cubicle when she was not at her desk (id. at 25-28 (Count III)); and (4) she is a victim of “workplace bullying” because her supervisor constantly yelled at her. (Id. at 28-29 (Count IV).) Defendant filed an answer (Answer, Apr. 8, 2013), and plaintiff filed a response thereto. (Pl. Resp. to Answer, Apr. 19, 2013.) The Court held an initial scheduling conference on May 1, 2013, and discovery commenced.

Defendant has now filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on the ground that plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies and that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

ANALYSIS

Under Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, “[a]fter the pleadings are closed—but early enough not to delay trial—a party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A Rule 12(c) motion shall be granted “if the moving party demonstrates that no material fact is in dispute and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Schuler v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 514 F.3d 1365, 1370 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (internal quotations omitted). When evaluating a motion for judgment on the pleadings, courts employ the same standard that governs a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). See Rollins v. Wackenhut Servs., Inc., 703 F.3d 122, 129 (D.C. Cir. 2012). Thus, the “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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A court “should take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, ” but is “not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” Id. at 678 (internal quotations omitted).

I. COUNT I: DISCRIMINATION

Plaintiff claims that defendant engaged in an unlawful employment practice by including a requirement in the staff assistant job posting that disproportionately disqualifies minority and/or women applicants and has no relationship to the tasks expected to be performed. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 52-56.) Defendant argues that plaintiff’s disparate impact claim fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or, alternatively, that plaintiff has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to her disparate impact theory. (Def. Mot. at 11-16.) The Court disagrees, for the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss and ...


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