United States District Court, D. Columbia
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
JEFFRREY BROWN, Plaintiff: David A. Branch, LAW OFFICE OF
DAVID BRANCH & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, Washington, DC.
KENNETH LEE SALAZAR, Defendant: Claire M. Whitaker, LEAD
ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE FOR THE DISTRICT OF
COLUMBIA, Washington, DC; Rafique O. Anderson, LEAD ATTORNEY,
UNITED STATES CAPITOL POLICE, Office of Employment Counsel,
S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge.
Jeffrey Brown alleges race, sex, and age discrimination, and
retaliation, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("
Title VII" ), and the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act, 29 U.S.C. § 633a (the " ADEA" ). Brown
claims that his supervisors at the United States Department
of Interior (" DOI" ) denied his request to
telework, denied his request to travel, and forced him to
retire by transferring most of his job responsibilities to a
different office. (Compl. ¶ ¶ 13, 17, 21).
moves to dismiss the race and sex claims for failure to
exhaust administrative remedies, and to dismiss any claims
predicated on the alleged forced retirement for failure to
timely appeal. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. & Dismiss
(" Def. Mot." ) at 2). Defendant also moves, in the
alternative, for summary judgment on a variety of grounds,
including that Brown did not suffer any adverse employment
action, has not shown an inference of discrimination, has not
demonstrated that DOI's proffered non-discriminatory
reasons for its actions were pretextual, and has not shown
causation for his retaliation claim. ( Id. at 2-3).
consideration of the Defendant's motion, the response and
the reply thereto, as well as the supplemental briefing
ordered by the court on the question of the court's
subject-matter jurisdiction over this case, and for the
reasons set forth below, each of Brown's claims are
dismissed. The forced retirement claims are dismissed for
lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, and Defendant's
motion is granted as to the remaining claims regarding the
denial of his requests to telework and to travel.
Brown is an African-American male who was approximately 55
years old at the times relevant to the Complaint. (Compl.
¶ 6). He held various positions at DOI throughout his
career. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 3-5). At the time of the
alleged discrimination, he was a GS-14 Information Technology
Specialist in the Office of the Chief Information Officer,
Division of IRM Governance, Bureau of Land Management,
Department of Interior. (Compl. ¶ 6).
Telework Denial and Travel Delays
September 2008, Brown requested that he be permitted to work
remotely for two days per week to reduce his commute.
(Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 10). According to
Brown, he could perform 80-90% of his work duties from home,
and he requested telework because he primarily supervised
employees on the West Coast, meaning that he often had to
stay at work late. (Compl. ¶ 8). Laura Bell, Brown's
first-line supervisor, initially approved his request.
(Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 11). However, the next
day Bell informed Brown that her supervisor (and Brown's
second-line supervisor), Scott MacPherson, had overruled her
approval and denied the telework request because Brown had
not provided a medical justification. ( Id. at
¶ 12). After discussions between Brown and MacPherson,
MacPherson indicated that he would only approve the request
for either a short duration or for a valid medical reason. (
Id. at ¶ 13). Brown met neither criterion, so
his request was denied. ( Id. ).
after MacPherson's denial, Brown contacted the Department
of Interior's Equal Employment Opportunity ("
EEO" ) Office and alleged that he was discriminated
against based on race and age when
MacPherson denied his telework request. ( Id. at
¶ 14; Compl. ¶ 16). His complaint was assigned
agency complaint number BLM-09-004. (Def.'s Mot. Ex. A).
his telework complaint was pending, Brown alleges that he
experienced additional incidents of discrimination when
MacPherson denied two requests Brown made to travel to DOI
field offices in Oregon and Colorado. (Compl. ¶ 17). In
October 2008, Brown received an email from an IT manager in
DOI's Portland, Oregon field office inviting Brown to
travel to Portland to review their configuration management
processes. (Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. B at 57). Brown submitted
a travel request to MacPherson, but MacPherson allegedly
never responded. (Pl.'s Opp'n at 9). Brown claims
that MacPherson effectively denied the request (
id.) ; Defendant claims the trip was merely delayed
because of reorganization in the Portland field office.
(Def.'s Mot. at 2-3). Either way, it is undisputed that
Brown eventually traveled to Portland in July 2009.
(Def.'s Statement of Facts ¶ 16; Compl. ¶ 18).
also received an invitation to travel to DOI's Denver,
Colorado field office in February 2009. (Compl. ¶ 17).
Once again, Brown submitted a travel request to MacPherson,
which MacPherson allegedly ignored, and Brown's travel to
Denver was delayed until May 2009. (Def.'s Statement of
Facts ¶ 16).
the record is unclear, it appears that at some point Brown
amended the aforementioned telework complaint to include
allegations related to the travel delays (the "
Telework/Travel Complaint" ). ( Id. ¶ 15).
The EEOC eventually ruled that Brown failed to " provide
sufficient evidence to raise an inference of
discrimination" with respect to the telework denial and
travel delays, and the Telework/Travel Complaint was
dismissed on the merits. ( Id. ¶ 18).
series of events which resulted in Brown's alleged forced
retirement all transpired after Paulette Sanford-Brown was
hired as branch chief in June 2009. During her first meeting
as Brown's supervisor, Sanford-Brown allegedly stated in
front of Brown's peers that the front office was
disappointed in Brown's performance and that she had
grave concerns about his programs. (Pl. Opp'n at 9; Pl.
Opp'n Ex. C. (the " Thomas Decl." ) at 105).
Michelle Thomas, another manager in Brown's office, also
noted that Sanford-Brown was annoyed with her during the same
meeting and made direct and potentially embarrassing remarks
to her in front of other managers. (Thomas Decl. at 106).
After the meeting, Brown e-mailed MacPherson about what
Sanford-Brown had said, and MacPherson indicated that Brown
should discuss matters with Sanford-Brown directly.
(Pl.'s Opp'n at 9).
claims that later that summer, Sanford-Brown "
blindsided" him by sending an e-mail to the
Configuration Management team (while Brown was out of the
office at a funeral) " notifying them that Brown would
be relieved of his operational duties and those duties would
be transferred to the National Operations Center in Denver,
Colorado." (Compl. ¶ 21). That e-mail, dated August
21, 2009, read as follows:
I wanted to start the dialogue to eliminate the confusion
that still exists around roles and responsibilities within
the National Configuration Management Program. With the
implementation of the MFE initiative, the operational
component of NCM transferred to the NOC. As such, WO released
its contract resources and therefore, we no longer have the
resources to assist us with the document review and final
Our role has now transitioned to updating and revising
existing policy to incorporate ITIL standards and to access
the CM program to ensure that proper controls are in place .
Clearly, we still have some things to work out, but I
guarantee will get there. I look forward to working with each
of you to ensure a smooth transition of responsibilities.
(Pl. Opp'n Ex. C at 108-09).
alleges that this email was tantamount to eliminating his
position, as the duties to be transferred accounted for
80-90% of his job responsibilities. (Pl.'s Opp'n at
11). According to Defendant, the operational component of
Brown's job was transferred pursuant to the agency-wide
Managing for Excellence initiative, which was designed to
consolidate all agency operational functions at the National
Operations Center (" NOC" ) in Denver and
consolidate all policy functions in Washington, D.C.
(Def.'s Mot. at 2). Defendant alleges that Sanford-Brown
believed that Brown's operational responsibilities should
have been transferred to the NOC long before she became his
supervisor, and that the ...