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Hammel v. Marsh USA, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 10, 2015


Page 235

For MARNIE HAMMEL, Plaintiff: Cathy Ann Harris, Juliette Markham Niehuss, LEAD ATTORNEYS, KATOR, PARKS, WEISER & HARRIS, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For MARSH USA INC., MARSH & MCLENNAN COMPANIES, INC., Defendants: Mary M. Lenahan, William G. Miossi, WINSTON & STRAWN, LLP, Washington, DC.

Page 236



Plaintiff Marnie Hammel filed suit against Marsh USA Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (" MMC" ), alleging violations of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (" DCHRA" ), D.C. Code Ann. § § 2-1401.01 et seq., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act[1], arising out of Plaintiff's employment as a FINPRO Claims Advocate in Washington, D.C. Plaintiff alleges that her former employer, Defendant Marsh USA Inc., discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, and pregnancy, and retaliated against her for reporting harassment. Presently before the Court is Defendants' [7] Motion to Dismiss. Upon consideration of the pleadings,[2] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims are not barred by the statute of limitations as Defendants contend. The Court does find, however, that Plaintiff's Title VII claims against Defendant MMC must be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and that Plaintiff's constructive discharge claims must be dismissed to the extent they are asserted as independent bases for liability. Accordingly, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

Page 237



As Defendants' main arguments in their Motion to Dismiss pertain to the statute of limitations and other procedural aspects of this case, the Court's discussion of the facts will focus on the procedural, not factual, history of Plaintiff's claims. For the purposes of this motion, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint.

Plaintiff alleges that the " primary acts of discrimination and retaliation at issue . . . occurred between April 2009 and July 11, 2012," leading to her constructive discharge in July 2012. Compl. ¶ ¶ 3, 54, ECF No. [1-1]. Shortly after her constructive discharge, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) on July 17, 2012, which was cross-filed pursuant to a work-sharing agreement on the same date with the District of Columbia's Office of Human Rights (" DCOHR" ). Id. ¶ ¶ 3, 54, 56. The EEOC transferred Plaintiff's complaint from the EEOC Washington Field Office to the EEOC Oklahoma District Office on July 15, 2013. Id. ¶ 4. On February 10, 2014, Plaintiff contacted the Oklahoma EEOC office and inquired about the status of her case. Id. ¶ 5. Plaintiff alleges that she was then informed " for the first time that her case had been closed and a notice of rights had been issued on August 26, 2013." Id. During this conversation, Plaintiff asked the EEOC to send her a copy of the right to sue letter. Id. Plaintiff received the copy of her right to sue letter on February 14, 2014. Id. Plaintiff alleges that she never received the August 26, 2013, notice at the time it was issued. Id. After receiving the EEOC right to sue letter in February 2014, Plaintiff filed a notice of withdrawal of her complaint with the DCOHR on March 11, 2014. Id. ¶ 6.

On April 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed suit, in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleging twenty counts: 13 counts under the DCHRA, 5 counts under Title VII, and 2 counts under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.[3] See generally Compl. Defendants removed the case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on June 4, 2014. Notice of Removal, ECF No. [1].

Page 238

Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendants argue that all of Plaintiff's claims are barred by the statute of limitations, that Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies against Defendant MMC, and that Plaintiff's constructive discharge claims are not independent causes of action under either Title VII or the DCHRA and thus should be dismissed. See Defs.' Mot. at 1-2. As Plaintiff has filed an Opposition and Defendants have filed a Reply, Defendants' Motion is now ripe for review.


Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that it " fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint contain " 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in order to 'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007) ( per curiam ). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and must accept as true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from well-pleaded factual allegations. In re United Mine Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854 F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994). " [A] complaint [does not] suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations that, if accepted as true, " state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

A motion to dismiss may be granted on statute of limitations grounds only if apparent from the face of the complaint. See Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co., 357 F.Supp.2d 287, 292 (D.D.C. 2005) (" A defendant may raise the affirmative defense of a statute of limitations via a Rule 12(b)(6) motion when the facts giving rise to the defense are apparent on the face of the complaint" ). " Because statute of limitations defenses often are based on contested facts, the court should be cautious in granting a motion to dismiss on such grounds; 'dismissal is appropriate only if the complaint on its face is conclusively time-barred.'" Rudder v. Williams, 47 F.Supp.3d 47, 2014 WL 2586335, at *2 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Firestone v. Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1209, 316 U.S.App.D.C. 152 (D.C. Cir. 1996)).


A. Statute of Limitations

Defendants first argue that both Plaintiff's DCHRA claims and Plaintiff's Title VII claims are barred by their respective statute of limitations. The Court finds that neither statute of limitations bars Plaintiff's claims.

i. Plaintiff's DCHRA Claims

Pursuant to the DCHRA, " [a] private cause of action [under the ...

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