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Gibbs v. Jewell

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 21, 2014

JESSICA W. GIBBS, Plaintiff,
SALLY JEWELL, et al., U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Defendants. [1]

Jessica Wailani Gibbs, Plaintiff, Pro se, Haymarket , VA.

For Department of The Interior, Kenneth Lee Salazar, Leslie Jones, Barbara Wainman, Barbara Cardellichio, Mary Kendall, Dan Shillingford, Dan Furtrowsky, Defendants: Alexander Daniel Shoaibi, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington , DC.

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PAUL L. FRIEDMAN, United States District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on several motions filed by the parties in this case.[2] Plaintiff Jessica Gibbs, proceeding

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pro se, alleges that she suffered various acts of retaliation after lodging complaints about her supervisor and others within the Department of the Interior (" DOI" ), where Ms. Gibbs formerly was employed. See generally Compl. She further alleges that the DOI's Office of the Inspector General has retaliated against her and has violated her due process rights in the course of investigating her alleged misuse of an agency charge account. The government has moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or, in the alternative, for failure to state a claim. Ms. Gibbs has filed a motion for summary judgment; she also has asked the Court to stay collection proceedings against her that are ongoing within the DOI's administrative system. After careful consideration of the parties' papers, the relevant legal authorities, and the entire record in this case, the Court will dismiss the action. Accordingly, it will deny the plaintiff's two motions.


The plaintiff's action stems from her former employment at the U.S. Geological Survey, an agency within the Department of the Interior. See generally Compl. Ms. Gibbs alleges that she reported complaints regarding two workplace incidents and then suffered various forms of retaliation as a consequence. The first alleged incident involved a co-worker's " coercing" Ms. Gibbs to place a phone call to the supervisor of the co-worker's niece, also an agency employee, for the purpose of procuring increased tuition compensation benefits for the niece. Id. at 2-3. Ms. Gibbs states that after being forced to make this call, she reported the incident up her " chain of command." Id. at 3. In the second episode, Ms. Gibbs' supervisor, Leslie Jones, allegedly asked her to sign and backdate a document, which Ms. Gibbs refused to do. Id. at 1-3. Ms. Gibbs states that she complained to a number of authorities about this incident, including DOI's human resources office, its Office of the Inspector General (" OIG" ), its Office of Equal Employment Opportunity (" EEO" ), and her congressional representatives. See id. She contends that as a consequence of these reports, Ms. Jones retaliated against her by withdrawing her purchase card authority, changing her work duties, " reconstructing [her] performance plan," filing complaints against Ms. Gibbs with OIG and human resources, and publicly humiliating and harassing her. Id. at 1. In addition, Ms. Gibbs alleges that Ms. Jones forced her to lift and move several boxes, despites Jones' awareness that the plaintiff suffered from back trouble. Id. at 3-5. Ms. Gibbs subsequently sought medical attention, and she alleges that Jones thwarted her ability to receive workers' compensation for the injury. Id.

Linked to both of these incidents was a DOI program that permitted employees to pursue college coursework at agency expense. Ms. Gibbs had taken advantage of this benefit and she states that, for three years, Ms. Jones had attentively advised her in these educational pursuits. See Compl. at 1-2, 6-7. But, it seems, Jones failed to ensure that Gibbs had submitted necessary paperwork during those years, leading Jones to ask Gibbs to sign and backdate the document. See id. at 2-3. The incident involving the coerced phone call also related to the educational benefits

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program, as the co-worker sought Ms. Gibbs' assistance in procuring a higher level of benefits for her niece. Id. The upshot of these events was that, in addition to the alleged retaliation that the plaintiff suffered at the hands of Ms. Jones, the OIG began investigating Ms. Gibbs in relation to costs that she had charged to the agency. See id. at 3, 5-6. It appears that this investigation has led to the agency's pursuit of repayment from Ms. Gibbs in internal collection proceedings. See id. at 2, 6-7. As previously noted, Ms. Gibbs has moved this Court to stay these proceedings; she reports that the next scheduled hearing before DOI's Office of Hearings and Appeals will take place on April 22, 2014. Pl.'s Mot. to Stay at 1.

The final component of Ms. Gibbs' complaint relates to the OIG's conduct during its investigation of her. Ms. Gibbs alleges that the OIG itself retaliated against her after she contacted Senator Mark Warner in relation to these events. See Compl. at 5-7. Specifically, she asserts that OIG agents have mistreated her and have refused to consider evidence that she has sought to submit, thus denying her a " meaningful opportunity to be heard." See id.

Ms. Gibbs' complaint, for all of the various facts that are alleged, neglects to specify what form of relief she seeks. In addition, Ms. Gibbs alludes to ongoing proceedings before the Merit Systems Protection Board (" MSPB" ), but does not detail their nature or history. See Compl. at 7-8. The government, however, has provided the Court with several decisions issued by the MSPB arising from Ms. Gibbs' claims before that body. See MSPB Final Order (Mar. 6, 2014); MSPB Final Order (Feb. 25, 2014); MSPB Initial Decision (Nov. 28, 2012); MSPB Initial Decision (Aug. 1, 2012).[3] These materials reveal that the plaintiff has pursued through the administrative process claims based on the same allegations presented in her complaint to this Court. The government argues that this Court therefore lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of Ms. Gibbs' action because her claims, arising as they did in the federal workplace, fall within the exclusive confines of the procedures prescribed by federal statute, including ...

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