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Harrison v. Office of 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

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

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

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REDACTED MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's [31] Motion for Reconsideration of the

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Court's [29] Order, granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and accompanying [30] Memorandum Opinion. Plaintiff argues that: (1) 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 (2) the Court erred in granting summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiff's retaliatory hostile work environment claim given the incidents cited by Plaintiff in the instant matter and in the two earlier cases filed by Plaintiff against Defendant. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court INCORPORATES as part of this opinion its reasoning as laid out in its [30] Memorandum Opinion, see 985 F.Supp.2d 13 (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, 985 F.Supp.2d 13, 15-18 (D.D.C. 2013). The instant matter is based on an event that occurred on July 6, 2010 related to an email sent by Senior Agent James Wilson of the Office of the Inspector General to Plaintiff.

During all pertinent times, Plaintiff, Sharon Harrison, was employed by Defendant, the Architect of the Capitol. This action is the third 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 a subsequent action (" Harrison II " ) against Defendant, alleging that Defendant unlawfully retaliated against her in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1317(a). See Civ. No. 10-1480 (CKK) (" Harrison II " ). On February 23, 2011, Plaintiff filed the instant action (" Harrison III " ) against Defendant, alleging that Defendant unlawfully retaliated against her in violation of 2 U.S.C. § 1317(a). 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 summary judgment in favor of Defendant on all three Counts of Plaintiff's Complaint as follows: (a) unlawful retaliation for Plaintiff's protected activities in violation of the CAA based on the July 6, 2010 incident (Counts I & II); [2] and (b) and imposition of a retaliatory hostile work environment against Plaintiff (Count III). See generally Harrison III, 985 F.Supp.2d 13 (D.D.C. 2013).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) permits a party to file " [a] motion to

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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

Plaintiff raises two objections to the Court's granting of summary judgment in favor of Defendant in the instant matter. First, Plaintiff alleges that the Court erred by applying case law related to Title VII claims to the instant action brought under the CAA. Second, Plaintiff argues that the Court erred in concluding that events cited by Plaintiff in Harrison I, II, and III were too sporadic in nature to compose an actionable hostile work environment claim, particularly in light of the fact that the employees involved in many of the incidents had the same supervisor. The Court shall address each argument in turn.

A. Protection Provided Against Discrimination & Retaliation Under the CAA

Plaintiff argues that the Court erred by applying case law related to the antidiscrimination and antiretaliation provisions of Title VII to the instant action because the CAA provides broader protection against discrimination and retaliation. Pl.'s Mot. at 5-10. Plaintiff roots her argument in two sources: (1) the text of the CAA and Title VII; and (2) decisions of the Office of Compliance Board (" Board" ) related to CAA claims. Id. In contrast, Defendant argues that the Court's application of case law related to Title VII was appropriate because: (1) both the text of the statutes and precedent in this jurisdiction support the finding that the CAA incorporates Title VII and its underlying body of law; and (2) decisions by the Board are not binding on this Court. Def.'s Opp'n at 3-5. The Court finds that it did not err by applying Title VII precedents to the instant action for the reasons described herein.

Turning to Plaintiff's first argument, Plaintiff asserts that the statutory language itself justifies different standards for claims brought under the CAA and those brought under Title VII. Plaintiff argues that the statutory language of the CAA's antidiscrimination provision demonstrates that the protection is broader than that encompassed by Title VII. The relevant portion of the CAA provides: " All personnel actions affecting covered employees shall be made free from any discrimination based on . . . race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, within the meaning of section 703 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [Title VII]." 2 U.S.C. § 1311(a)(1). Title VII's antidiscrimination provision provides:

It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his

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compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or . . . to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a). Plaintiff argues that the reference in the CAA to " all personnel actions" covers a broader range of potential employment actions than Title VII which only provides relief from specific ...


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