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Harrison v. Office of The Architect of The Capitol

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 23, 2014

SHARON M. HARRISON, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 162

For SHARON M. HARRISON, Plaintiff: Jeffrey Howard Leib, Washington, DC.

For OFFICE OF THE ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL, Defendant: Judith A. Kidwell, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's [72] Motion for Reconsideration of the

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Court's [69] Order, granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and granting in part Defendant's Motion for Sanctions, and accompanying [70] Memorandum Opinion. Plaintiff argues that: (1) the Court erred by imposing a sanction on Plaintiff; (2) the Court erred by applying case law related to Title VII claims to the instant action brought under the Congressional Accountability Act (" CAA" ), 2 U.S.C. § 1301 et seq.; and (3) the Court made specific errors in its findings related to each of the six Counts in Plaintiff's Complaint. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court INCORPORATES into this opinion its reasoning as laid out in its [70] Memorandum Opinion, see 964 F.Supp.2d 81 (D.D.C. 2013), and DENIES Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration for the foregoing reasons.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court has detailed the underlying facts of this Motion in its previous opinion. See Harrison v. Office of the Architect of the Capitol, 964 F.Supp.2d 81, 85-92 (D.D.C. 2013). The instant matter is based on events that occurred between November 12, 2009 and August 31, 2010. During all pertinent times, Plaintiff, Sharon Harrison, was employed by Defendant, the Architect of the Capitol. This action is the second of three lawsuits filed in this Court by the Plaintiff challenging various aspects of her employment with the Defendant. On July 23, 2009, Plaintiff filed her first action (" Harrison I " ) against Defendant, alleging that Defendant unlawfully discriminated against her in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1311(a)(1), and unlawfully retaliated against her in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1317(a). See Civ. No. 09-1364 (CKK) (" Harrison I " ). On August 31, 2010, Plaintiff filed the instant action (" Harrison II " ) against Defendant, alleging that Defendant unlawfully retaliated against her in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1317(a). On February 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed a third action (" Harrison III " ) against Defendant, alleging that Defendant unlawfully retaliated against her in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1317(a). See Civ. No. 11-420 (CKK) (" Harrison III " ). By separate orders, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant in each of the three actions. See Harrison I, 964 F.Supp.2d 71 (D.D.C. 2013); Harrison II, 964 F.Supp.2d 81 (D.D.C. 2013); Harrison III, 985 F.Supp.2d 13 (D.D.C. 2013).

In the instant action, the Court granted in part Defendant's Motion for Sanctions related to Plaintiff destroying a recording device requested by Defendant through discovery. The Court also granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant on all six of Plaintiff's claims: (a) unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activities in violation of the CAA based on a search of Plaintiff's coat (Count I); (b) unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activities based on Defendant's violation of Procedural Rule 2.03(m) when processing one of Plaintiff's Requests for Counseling (Count II); (c) unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activities based on the March 8, 2010, proposed reprimand of Plaintiff (Count III); (d) unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activities related to the March 3, 2010, inquiry regarding the protocol for obtaining access to Plaintiff's email (Count IV); (e) unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activities

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based on the issuing of a Performance Improvement Plan (Count V); and imposition of a retaliatory hostile work environment against Plaintiff (Count VI). See generally Harrison II, 964 F.Supp.2d 81 (D.D.C. 2013).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) permits a party to file " [a] motion to alter or amend a judgment" within " 28 days after the entry of the judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Motions under Rule 59(e) are " disfavored" and the moving party bears the burden of establishing " extraordinary circumstances" warranting relief from a final judgment. Niedermeier v. Office of Baucus, 153 F.Supp.2d 23, 28 (D.D.C. 2001). Rule 59(e) motions are " discretionary and need not be granted unless the district court finds that there is an intervening change of controlling law, the availability of new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent manifest injustice." Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208, 316 U.S.App.D.C. 152 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 59(e) does not provide a vehicle " to relitigate old matters, or to raise arguments or present evidence that could have been raised prior to the entry of judgment." Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, 554 U.S. 471, 485 n.5, 128 S.Ct. 2605, 171 L.Ed.2d 570 (2008) (quoting 11 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 2810.1 (2d ed. 1995)).

III. DISCUSSION

First, Plaintiff alleges that the Court erred by imposing a sanction on her for destroying a recording device requested by Defendant through discovery. Second, Plaintiff further alleges that the Court erred by applying case law related to Title VII claims to the instant action brought under the CAA. Finally, Plaintiff raises specific objections to the Court's findings on each of the six Counts of the Plaintiff's Complaint. The Court shall address each argument in turn.

A. Sanction Imposed on Plaintiff

Plaintiff argues that the Court failed to consider certain medical evidence when making its determination that a sanction should be imposed against Plaintiff for destroying a digital recorder. While a complete account of the incident related to Plaintiff's digital recorder is included in the Court's earlier opinion, see Harrison II, 964 F.Supp.2d 81, 88-90 (D.D.C. 2013), the Court shall provide a brief summary of the facts in order to address Plaintiff's request for reconsideration. While Plaintiff was out of the office, Kristy Miller and Amy Heslep, two employees of Defendant, found a recording device in Plaintiff's coat pocket. Id. at 89. Ms. Miller identified the recorder as a white, Olympus-brand voice-activated digital recorder, and noticed that the numbers on the digital display were moving when she removed the recorder from Plaintiff's coat pocket. Id. Ms. Heslep attempted to turn the device off and then returned it to Plaintiff's coat pocket. Id. Ms. Miller and Ms. Heslep contacted a number of individuals in the chain of command as well as the Capitol Police to report the incident. Id. Plaintiff was informed that the Rules of the House of Representatives prohibited the use of recording devices in her office, and Ms. Miller and Ms. Heslep were verbally counseled for touching Plaintiff's property. Id. Defendant later requested that Plaintiff produce the recording device through discovery. The Court explained in its earlier opinion:

Prior to the Plaintiff's deposition on August 25, 2011, the Defendant submitted a discovery request for the recording device. Harrison Dep. 27:14:16. The Plaintiff testified that when the Defendant made its request for the device, the Plaintiff " took a hammer and [] hit it

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and [] destroyed it and [] broke it up in pieces and [] threw it away." Id. 27:3-5; 31:17-25. The Plaintiff also disposed of the instruction book for the recorder. Id. 36:8-18. The Plaintiff claims to have made a copy of the conversation between Ms. Miller and Ms. Heslep at the time they discovered the recorder in the Plaintiff's coat, and produced a copy of the recorded conversation to the Defendant. Id. 28:16-29:13. When asked why she destroyed the device, the Plaintiff explained that the recorded conversation on the device " was depressing" and the Plaintiff " didn't want it around." Id. 28:9-20. The Plaintiff denies that the recording device was voice activated. Id. 32:16-21; 35:23-36:7.

Id. at 89-90.

Defendant requested that the Court impose a sanction on Plaintiff for destroying the recording device by dismissing Count I of her Compliant. See Def.'s Mot. for Sanction & Atty. Fees at 1, ECF No. [71]. The Court granted in part the Defendant's request for a sanction, but did not dismiss Count I as requested. Instead, the Court imposed a lesser sanction. In resolving the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court assumed that the recording device would have revealed that Plaintiff was intentionally taping conversations between her coworkers without their consent. Harrison II, 964 F.Supp.2d at ...


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