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Rodriguez v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

July 27, 2015

ANA RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants

Page 133

For ANA MARIA RODRIGUEZ, Plaintiff: Jeanett P. Henry, LEAD ATTORNEY, RUCKER & HENRY, P.C., Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, WAYNE SWANN, DAISY CARR, DEBRA CRAWFORD, Defendants: Sarah L. Knapp, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.

Page 134

MEMORANDUM OPINION

AMY BERMAN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Ana Rodriguez brings this action against the District of Columbia and three individual defendants, Wayne Swann, Debra Crawford, and Daisy Carr, asserting claims for employment discrimination, retaliation, hostile work environment, failure to accommodate, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and deprivation of constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983, all arising out of her employment with the District of Columbia Department of Human Services (" DHS" ). 2d Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 13]. Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's hostile work environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and section 1983 claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Defs.' Renewed Partial Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 14] (" Defs.' Mot." ); Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 14] (" Defs.' Mem." ). Upon review of the pleadings and the relevant case law, the Court finds that plaintiff has failed to allege a deprivation of her constitutional rights to equal protection or due process, as required to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and so the Court will dismiss Count VI. And because the dismissal of plaintiff's lone federal claim divests this Court of its original jurisdiction, the Court will remand the matter to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff identifies herself as Hispanic of Puerto Rican descent. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 5. Defendants Carr, Crawford, and Swann are African American. Id. ¶ ¶ 7-9.

Plaintiff was hired by DHS in July 2010 as a " Grade 5, Staff Assistant/Intern." Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that during the first few months of her internship, she attended meetings where defendant Carr, the Human Resources Liaison for DHS, and " other African American managers," made racially-based derogatory remarks about plaintiff's immediate supervisor, Hillary Cairns, who plaintiff identifies as Caucasian. Id. ¶ ¶ 9, 11-12. Plaintiff claims that defendant Crawford, the Deputy for the Family Services Division of DHS, participated in the meetings and did nothing to stop the comments. Id. ¶ 8, 11. Plaintiff states that she " opposed the racially insensitive remarks through verbal and body language expressions," but the comments persisted. Id. ¶ 12.

According to the second amended complaint, in September 2010, plaintiff " was offered a Grade 9 Staff Assistant position and was scheduled to begin orientation for the position on or around September 15, 2010." Id. ¶ 13. She alleges that shortly before the orientation, she attended another meeting with defendants Carr and Crawford and other African American mangers where " they again made racially-derogatory comments" about Cairns. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff claims that she " opposed

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the racially insensitive remarks through . . . expressions of her displeasure" and left before the meeting ended. Id. Later, Carr " made negative comments" to plaintiff's immediate supervisor, Cairns, about plaintiff's conduct at the meeting, which Cairns then addressed with plaintiff. Id. ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that, " [i]n explaining her actions, [she] disclosed to Cairns some of the racially derogatory comments that Defendant Carr and other African American managers" had made. Id. Plaintiff believes that Cairns shared this information with Defendant Crawford, who then discussed it with other managers and staff. Id. She also alleges that, at the end of that workday, Crawford's assistant told plaintiff " everyone was mad" with her. Id. ¶ 16.

Plaintiff claims that when she arrived at work the following Monday to begin the orientation for the Grade 9 Staff Assistant positon, " she learned that Defendant Carr was re-writing the job description as a pay grade 6, level 4 Clerical Assistant." Id. ¶ 17. She asserts that at that time, " several African Americans . . . with less or equal qualification [sic] to [plaintiff] were being paid at the Grade 9 level in clerical assistant positions." Id. Plaintiff also alleges that defendant Carr delayed in completing " the paperwork for [plaintiff's] new position" and " began treating [her] in a negative manner, publicly demeaning and intimidating her about the viability of her continued employment at DHS." Id. ¶ 19. After her complaint to Cairns, plaintiff states that " she was isolated in the workplace, cut off from overtime and training opportunities, barred from continuing her work with the emergency liaison officer and any other opportunity that could have helped her advance in the workplace." Id. ¶ 18.

By the end of December 2010, plaintiff alleges that defendant Carr had still not processed the paperwork for plaintiff's promotion, and she discussed her " dismay with the lengthy delay" with defendant Crawford and defendant Swann, the Director of Human Resources for DHS, who took no steps to address the situation. Id. ¶ ¶ 7, 20-21. At the end of March 2011, plaintiff states that defendants Carr and Crawford informed her that her paperwork " would be processed to place her in the Clerical Assistant position at a Grade 5 with no benefits, but that after a year in the position she would receive benefits and a pay raise." Id. ¶ 22. After repeated inquiries to defendants Carr, Swann, and Crawford about the status of her benefits and raise, plaintiff alleges that she received the benefits in October 2012, but that she did not receive a pay raise. Id. ¶ 23.

Plaintiff states that on January 25, 2013, she " attended a DHS job fair, applied for and was offered a Grade 9 Social Services Representative position within the Economic Security Administration ('ESA')," but that on February 6, 2013, she " was notified that she would no longer be hired" for the position. Id. ¶ 24-25. Plaintiff alleges that an African American co-worker " also attended the job fair, applied for and was offered a similar position." Id. ¶ 24.

As a result of what she characterizes as this " pattern of discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment," plaintiff states that " she suffered severe emotional distress and was forced to take leave from work under the DC Family and Medical Leave Act." Id. ¶ 26. At the conclusion of this leave in June 2013, plaintiff states that she requested an accommodation " for her emotional disability" through August 2013, but defendants " refused to accommodate her." Id. ¶ 28. Instead, on August 14, 2013, defendants terminated plaintiff's employment by letter, effective August 16, 2013. Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff alleges that " Defendants

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were required to provide [her] with advanced notice of the intent to terminate her," but that she never received such notice because " Defendants allegedly sent the notice to an incorrect address despite the agency having [her] correct address." Id. ¶ 30.

After filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in April 2013, id. ¶ 27, plaintiff initiated this lawsuit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and defendants removed the case to this Court on April 30, 2014. Defs.' Notice of Removal [Dkt. # 1]. With defendants' consent, plaintiff filed her second amended complaint on October 24, 2014. Notice of Consent to Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to Amend [Dkt. # 12]; 2d Am. Compl. It sets out six counts: Count I - Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Race and/or National Origin in Violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (" DCHRA" ), D.C. Code § 2-1401 et seq. ; Count II - Employment Discrimination on the Basis of Retaliation in Violation of the DCHRA; Count III - Retaliation/Hostile Work Environment in Violation of the DCHRA; Count IV - Disability Discrimination and Failure to Accommodate in Violation of the DCHRA; Count V - Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress; and Count VI - Violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 34-99. Counts I through V are brought against all defendants; Count VI is only against the three individual defendants. Id. Defendants have moved to dismiss Counts III, V, and VI for failure to state a claim, and they also contend that the individual defendants do not qualify as supervisors under the DCHRA and that Counts I through IV should therefore be dismissed as to those defendants. Defs.' Mem. at 7-13. Plaintiff opposed the motion, Pl.'s Opp. to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 15] (" Pl.'s Opp." ), and it is now ripe for review.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

" To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), quoting Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the two principles underlying its decision in Twombly: " First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions," and " [s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 678-79. A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content " allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. at 678. " The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 566. A pleading must offer more than " labels and conclusions" or a " formulaic ...


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