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Howard v. Kerry

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 30, 2015

KERRY HOWARD, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN F. KERRY, in his official capacity as United States Secretary of State, Defendant

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 430

For KERRY HOWARD, Plaintiff: Lawrence Ellis Kelly, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Bayport, NY.

For JOHN F. KERRY, Secretary of State, Defendant: William Mark Nebeker, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Kerry Howard, a former Community Liaison Officer at the American consulate in Naples, did not enjoy her working environment. That is an understatement, to be fair: she refers to it as a " cesspool." Pl.'s Opp'n [ECF No. 21] at 3. In this suit, Howard asserts that she suffered from a hostile work environment that was discriminatory to women, and from discrete instances of retaliation for her attempts to aid fellow employees. But these claims do not match precisely with those she raised during the administrative process. As a result, some must be dismissed, based on the defendant's motion to do so.

BACKGROUND

The following facts are taken from Howard's amended complaint and are 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). Howard served as a Community Liaison Officer in the Naples consulate from February 2010 to May 2012. Am. Compl. [ECF No. 6] ¶ 3. Her duties included working with consulate staff and their families " to maintain morale," help them adjust to the new cultural environment, and " serve as a resource and advocate." Id. ¶ 4.

Howard describes a generally repressive environment at the consulate. In his first address to consulate staff, Consul General Donald Moore stated: " If you try to bring me down, I will bring you down first." Id.¶ 29. Moore was perhaps referring to his alleged practice of allowing " young women dressed as prostitutes" access through secure passages during work hours. Id. ¶ 44 (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, Howard points to descriptions of Moore as " running the U.S. consulate as the largest house of prostitution in southern Italy," of which he allegedly was the only customer. Id. ¶ 62. Moore explained to staff that " he used women for 'sexercise,'" id. ¶ 68, and that they " are like candy, . . . meant to be eaten and then thrown away," id. ¶ 69 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Howard's personal troubles seem to stem from her advocacy on behalf of an unnamed foreign service officer and his wife. Id. ¶ 6. Howard had worked with them since their arrival in 2011, and " assisted them in their equal employment opportunity complaints" to the State Department and the American embassy in Rome. Id. ¶ 18. In particular, Howard's " disclosing the facts on the ground" to officers from the embassy resulted in the transfer of Naples consulate management officer Pamela Caplis, id. ¶ 19--who had been quite supportive of Moore, id. ¶ 21. Howard also informed the embassy of the poor morale at the consulate, which she attributed to Moore's sexual relationship with a language instructor. Id. ¶ 22.

Howard alleges--in vague terms--that Moore responded to her advocacy bye " deliberately ma[king] expedited efforts to make [her] working conditions become so intolerable that [she] had no other choice but to quit." Id.¶ 9; see also id.¶ 76. She claims that in an April 2012 meeting, Moore " excoriated" her. Id. ¶ 9. And on May 11, 14, and 15, 2012, Moore directed Howard to come to his private office, where he double-locked the door and " bec[a]me verbally abusive," projecting spittle into her face as he explained that " as a woman, [she] was unable to do anything."

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Id.¶ 14; see also ¶ ¶ 47--58. Or, he would simply miss meetings, making her wait for " extended periods of time." Id. ¶ ¶ 42--43. More specifically, Howard alleges that, on April 19, 2012, Caplis gave her an unsatisfactory performance review, a drop from her prior excellent rating. Id.¶ 32. And on that same day, Moore placed Howard on a personal improvement program (better known as a performance improvement ...


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