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Cherichel v. Ergo Solutions, LLC

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 30, 2015

NICOLA CHERICHEL, Plaintiff,
v.
ERGO SOLUTIONS, LLC, Defendant

For Nicola Cherichel, Plaintiff: Samuel Bailey, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, SAMUEL BAILEY & ASSOCIATES, LLC, Washington, DC USA; Clifford G. Stewart, PRO HAC VICE, LAW OFFICES OF C. GREGORY STEWART, Newark, N.J. USA.

For Ergo Solutions, LLC, Defendant: Bernard Cecil Coleman, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICES OF BERNARD C. COLEMAN, JR, Oxon Hill, MD USA; Morris Eli Fischer, LEAD ATTORNEY, MORRIS E. FISCHER, LLC, Silver Spring, MD USA.

Page 246

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Nicola Cherichel alleges severe and pervasive sexual harassment--constituting a hostile work environment--at her former workplace, Ergo Solutions. The vast majority of these allegations, however, are time-barred by the relevant statute of limitations. In fact, only one allegation occurred within the appropriate time-frame. But because that allegation occurred well after Cherichel was fired and left Ergo, it cannot contribute to a claim of hostile work environment: there was no " work environment" for Cherichel at Ergo at that time. As a result, the Court must grant Ergo's motion to dismiss.

Page 247

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from the complaint and assumed to be true. See Maljack Prods., Inc. v. Motion Picture Ass'n of Am., Inc., 52 F.3d 373, 375, 311 U.S.App.D.C. 224 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Cherichel began working at Ergo Solutions in late 2006. Am. Compl. [ECF No. 34] ¶ 6. Soon after she joined the company, CEO George Brownlee began making persistent and personal advances toward her. Id. ¶ 7--10. As time went on, Brownlee's actions progressed to inappropriate touching and even sexual assault. Id. ¶ 13, 20. Cherichel was fired in September 2010. Id. ¶ 28. But this behavior continued until that October, when--in the wake of another sexual advance--Cherichel filed a formal complaint with Ergo's Human Resources Office. Id. ¶ 27.

In February and March 2011--after Cherichel was no longer employed at Ergo--Brownlee continued to initiate contact with her. Id. ¶ 31. He promised employment (at Ergo or elsewhere) were Cherichel to meet with him. Id. She refused. Id.

Cherichel filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in June 2011. Id. ¶ 32. That September, Brownlee attempted to dissuade her from pursuing her complaint. Id. ¶ 33. In particular, he " threatened to use his contacts to get Ms. Cherichel" and " told her that he knew people at the Washington Field Office of the EEOC and would have the complaint dismissed." Id.

Cherichel filed suit in this Court in August 2012. When Ergo failed to respond, Cherichel sought a default judgment. See Mot. for Default J. [ECF No. 12]. The Court's review of the complaint, however, " reveal[ed] . . . obvious and significant defects." May 20, 2014 Order [ECF No. 28] at 1. In response, Cherichel filed an amended complaint in July 2014, mooting the motion for default judgment. See July 18, 2014 Order [ECF No. 33]. The amended complaint raised hostile work environment and sexual harassment claims under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the D.C. Human Rights Act. Cherichel abandoned the § 1983 claim at a status conference that same day. Ergo has now moved to dismiss what remains of the amended complaint, citing the DCHRA's statute of limitations, and has also requested sanctions.

LEGAL STANDARD

" 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." Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Lexington Ins. Co.,357 F.Supp.2d 287, 292 (D.D.C. 2005). At this stage, the Court " construe[s] the complaint liberally in [the plaintiff's] favor, taking all the facts alleged as true, and giving [the ...


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