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Kuklinski v. U.S. Department of The Treasury

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 18, 2014

ANTHONY A. KUKLINSKI, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, et al., Defendants.

OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, District Judge.

Anthony Kuklinski, a resident of the State of Kentucky, is an Inspector with the U.S. Mint Police at the U.S. Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, Kentucky. Mr. Kuklinski has sued the U.S. Department of the Treasury and its Secretary, Jacob Lew, for alleged retaliatory discrimination and constructive discharge based on employment actions that occurred predominantly in Kentucky. Secretary Lew and the Treasury have moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer those that remain to Kentucky. For reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to the extent it requests dismissal of the Department of the Treasury, but deny the motion to dismiss the claims against Secretary Lew. Rather, the Court will transfer this case to the United States District Court in the Western District of Kentucky.

I. BACKGROUND

Anthony Kuklinski has worked for the Department of the Treasury for approximately 20 years. He worked for the U.S. Mint Police, which is a part of the Treasury, in Fort Knox, Kentucky from 1990 to 2000, and resumed working there in 2004. Mr. Kuklinski is currently an Inspector with the U.S. Mint Police. During the period of time relevant to the allegations set forth in the Complaint, Mr. Kuklinski directly supervised three shift lieutenants, six shift sergeants, and approximately 48 officers. Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶¶ 5, 7-8.

Mr. Kuklinski alleges that, in 2008, he was approached by a subordinate officer who complained that she was being sexually harassed by a fellow officer. As the supervisor responsible for determining whether discipline was warranted, Mr. Kuklinski investigated her complaint. During that investigation, Mr. Kuklinski asserts that he learned that the officer accused of harassment had used security cameras to track the female officer's movements, placed recording devices around the facility to listen to her conversations, maintained a journal in his locker detailing murder fantasies about her, watched her from under her porch at her residence, and otherwise spied on her. Mr. Kuklinski recommended removal of the male officer and advised the female officer of her right to seek the assistance of an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor. Id. ¶¶ 9-12.

The female officer filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and, on February 10, 2011, Mr. Kuklinski provided a declaration for the related EEOC investigation. In the declaration, Mr. Kuklinski stated that he had contacted U.S. Mint Headquarters about his concerns of a possible hostile work environment, had encouraged the female officer to contact an EEO counselor, and had contacted Deborah Hayes at the EEO Office at Headquarters to relay his concerns about the situation. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.

Mr. Kuklinski alleges that his superiors ignored his recommendation that the accused officer be removed. Instead, they engaged in a plan to protect the officer accused of harassment and to intimidate the female officer. According to Mr. Kuklinski, as a part of this plan, the female officer became the subject of an internal administrative investigation in which she was accused of lying to authorities in a civil case. The female officer maintained that these accusations were made by the officer against whom she had filed her EEO complaint and that the internal investigation was in reprisal for her filing the complaint. Mr. Kuklinski states that he was also placed under administrative investigation for having an "inappropriate social relationship" with the female officer, but that the investigation was found to be unsubstantiated. Id. ¶¶ 15-18.

In April, 2011, shortly after the conclusion of the administrative investigation concerning Mr. Kuklinski, he was placed under a separate investigation by the Department of the Treasury's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for "possible misconduct" relating to activities that developed during his routine security clearance update. During this investigation, Mr. Kuklinski was temporarily removed from his position as Inspector and was placed in an administrative position "with no law enforcement authority and menial and demanding work duties." Id. ¶ 19. He was relocated to the maintenance building, first to a work bench, and then to a kitchen facility. Id.

On November 7, 2011, Mr. Kuklinski received notice that his "Access to Classified Information" status and his security clearance were officially suspended. Mr. Kuklinski alleges that this suspension was due to the "entirely pretextual investigation" and that even though the U.S. Mint Police "knew that there were no valid grounds for suspension of [his] security clearance, " it delayed reinstatement in order to degrade and humiliate him. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. He further alleges that the supervisory officials responsible for the suspension "have a history of delaying administrative investigations to make the workplace intolerable, intending to evoke resignation or retirement, " and that the U.S. Mint Police used "unsubstantiated security concerns'" to intimidate him into leaving. Id. ¶ 22.

On March 1, 2012, Mr. Kuklinski received a letter from Lester Leach, Assistant Director for Security, notifying him that his suspension had been rescinded and his security clearance was restored. He did not have his supervisory authority restored, however, nor was he returned to his former office. Rather, he was moved out of the main building to a maintenance building and given as an office a storage room that had been used to store paint. Also on March 1, 2012, Mr. Kuklinski received a letter from U.S. Mint Police Deputy Chief Bill Bailey notifying him of a directed reassignment from his current duty located at the U.S. Bullion Depository in Fort Knox, to the U.S. Mint Headquarters in Washington, D.C., effective May 20, 2012. Id. ¶¶ 23-24.

On March 21, 2012, Commander Paul D. Constable informed Mr. Kuklinski that he had suggested Mr. Kuklinski for the special position at the U.S. Mint Headquarters because "he needed a way to get the Mint Intel program off the ground." Id. ¶ 29. Mr. Kuklinski did not want this new position because the reassignment was a substantial geographic change and involved substantially different responsibilities, for most of which he has minimal experience; he states that he has very little investigative background in formal intelligence gathering, outside of regular street information gathering and reporting as a Federal Air Marshal. According to Mr. Kuklinski, Commander Constable recognized that Mr. Kuklinski was not trained for the proposed position and wanted Mr. Kuklinski to take training courses, including a Criminal Investigator (CI) course at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. Mr. Kuklinski asserts that no other inspector has experienced an involuntary transfer and that the other inspector who received CI training was hired specifically to work in the Intel/Investigation Division of the Mint. Mr. Kuklinski further contends that he was informed that he would be involuntarily separated from the U.S. Mint Police if he refused the reassignment. Id. ¶¶ 30-35.

Mr. Kuklinski alleges that all these actions-the investigations, the movement of his office, the revocation of his security clearance and supervisory position, and the reassignment-were taken by the U.S. Mint Police in retaliation for his involvement in the EEO matter related to the female officer's complaint of sexual harassment and his recommendation that the officer accused of harassment be removed. Id. ¶¶ 24-27. He further alleges that the reassignment was instituted to force him to quit. Id. ¶ 36.

Mr. Kuklinski filed a formal EEO Complaint on June 27, 2012 based on his reassignment to a non-supervisory position and other actions taken by the U.S. Mint Police. The EEO investigation was conducted from August 2012 to February 2013. A Final Agency decision was requested and received on July 1, 2013. Id. ¶¶ 37, 41-42.

Mr. Kuklinski filed his Complaint in this action on September 27, 2013, alleging unlawful retaliation and constructive discharge under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, against the United States Department of the Treasury and Secretary Lew. Compl. [Dkt 1]. On March 31, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss under Federal Rules of ...


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