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Ruffin v. Cong. Budget Office

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 10, 2015

MONTE A. RUFFIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE, Defendant

For MONTE A. RUFFIN, Plaintiff: Donald A MacKay, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF DONALD A. MACKAY, Glendale, CA.

For CONGRESSIONAL BUDGET OFFICE, Defendant: William Mark Nebeker, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 247

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Monte Ruffin, a computer support specialist at the Congressional Budget Office, has sued his employer for various instances of alleged discrimination. The CBO has moved to dismiss the final count of Ruffin's amended complaint--hostile work environment--arguing that Ruffin failed to exhaust that particular claim under the informal processes peculiar to the Congressional Accountability Act. As explained below, the Court agrees.

BACKGROUND

The factual allegations in the complaint will be taken as true. Ruffin, an African-American man, Am. Compl. [ECF No. 9] ¶ 7, joined the CBO in 2009 as an office services assistant, id. ¶ 16. Early in his career there, however, Ruffin undertook many duties assigned to a computer specialist. Id. ¶ ¶ 18-19, 23. After several years of performing these extra duties, he requested a promotion commensurate with his actual role--specifically, to computer specialist. Id. ¶ ¶ 21-22.

Ruffin was soon promoted, but not to the level he aspired. Instead, he was named Computer Support Specialist Level 1--a position, he believes, that was either newly created or given a revised, lower pay range. Id. ¶ 26. In any event, this position carried a lower pay range than that of computer specialist--and a lower one than Ruffin expected. Compare id. ¶ 47 with id. ¶ 46.

Page 248

Ruffin believes that this outcome was a result of racial discrimination, and so informed his supervisors before the salary reduction was finalized. See id. ¶ 27. Ruffin is especially concerned about the role of the human resources director in these decisions: he views her as " particularly rude and disrespectful towards African American male employees," id. ¶ 37; see also id. ¶ 33, and to him specifically, see id. ¶ ¶ 38-42, 44-45 (alleging, e.g., the HR director's " baseless" investigation into Ruffin and her spreading of " unsubstantiated and defamatory rumors" ).

According to the Notice of Invocation of Mediation, Ruffin " formally requested counseling on April 25, 2013, alleging disparate treatment and unfair compensation because of race, sex, and reprisal, in violation of sections 201 and 207 of the Congressional Accountability Act." Ex. 1 to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [ECF No. 11-1] at 1 (emphasis removed). After completing the required counseling and mediation, see Am. Compl. ¶ 1, Ruffin filed the present suit. He alleges race and sex discrimination, retaliation, and, pertinent here, that his employers created a hostile work environment. The CBO moves to dismiss that final count, arguing that Ruffin failed to exhaust that claim.

LEGAL STANDARD

The CBO moves to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). As " [f]ederal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction[,] . . . [i]t is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting" it. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am.,511 U.S. 375, 377, 114 S.Ct. 1673, 128 L.Ed.2d 391 (1994) (internal citations omitted). Thus, Ruffin must establish jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. See Gordon v. Office of the Architect of the Capitol,750 F.Supp.2d 82, 87 (D.D.C. 2010). In making this determination, " the Court must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," but those facts " will bear closer ...


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