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Keys v. Donovan

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 22, 2014

JAMES L. KEYS, Plaintiff,
v.
SHAUN DONOVAN, Defendant

JAMES L. KEYS, Plaintiff, Pro se, Burtonsville, MD.

For SHAUN DONOVAN, Department of HUD, Defendant: Claire M. Whitaker, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 369

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge.

Pro se Plaintiff James L. Keys has filed a two-page Complaint in which he alleges retaliation by, and a hostile work environment

Page 370

at, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. More specifically, Keys alleges that after he settled an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint in December 2011, he received a lower performance rating and no performance bonus and had responsibilities taken away. He also claims that his EEO complaint precipitated harassment from his managers. Secretary of HUD Shaun Donovan now moves for dismissal or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Although the Court concurs that the harassment pled here does not rise to the level of a hostile work environment, it believes that Plaintiff's retaliation cause of action is sufficient to survive dismissal and entitle him to some discovery. Summary judgment in these circumstances, moreover, is premature. The Court, accordingly, will grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

I. Background

According to Plaintiff's brief Complaint, which the Court must presume true for purposes of this Motion, Keys " filed an EEO case in September 2011 for denial of Temporary Promotion." Compl. at 1. Given that HUD is the named Defendant, the Court assumes Plaintiff worked at the Agency, although he never so alleges. Fortunately, Defendant's attachments confirm this. See, e.g., Mot., Att. A (Complainant's Affidavit) (" I, James L. Keys, am an employee of the Housing and Urban Development . . . ." ). After the Agency agreed to a settlement, Keys found that he subsequently " received a lowered performance rating [for FY 2011] from past years and no performance bonus as retaliation for filing an EEO complaint." Compl. at 1. In addition, after the settlement " in December 2011, [his] grade controlling duties were taken away by [his managers.]" Id. at 2. He administratively appealed, but without success. Id. at 1. Keys also alleges that he " was subjected to harassment by both managers who started to question my grade, question my Telework schedule and started to isolate me from other employees." Id. at 2. This caused " an enormous amount of mental stress, heart palpitations and loss of sleep . . . ." Id.

As a result, Keys brought this suit, which HUD now moves to dismiss. In the alternative, it contends that summary judgment is appropriate.

II. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a complaint fails " to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In evaluating Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the Court must " treat the complaint's factual allegations as true . . . and must grant plaintiff 'the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'" Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113, 342 U.S.App.D.C. 268 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608, 199 U.S.App.D.C. 23 (D.C. Cir. 1979)) (internal citation omitted); see also Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253, 365 U.S.App.D.C. 270 (D.C. Cir. 2005). The notice-pleading rules are " not meant to impose a great burden upon a plaintiff," Dura Pharms., Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347, 125 S.Ct. 1627, 161 L.Ed.2d 577 (2005), and he must thus be given every favorable inference that may be drawn from the allegations of fact. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 584, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

Although " detailed factual allegations" are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, id. at 555, " a 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, ...


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