United States District Court, D. Columbia
Seabern Hill, Plaintiff: John W. Davis, LAW OFFICES OF JOHN
W. DAVIS, Washington, DC USA.
Board of Trustees University of District of Columbia,
Defendant: Anessa Abrams, LEAD ATTORNEY, FORD & HARRISON LLP,
Washington, DC USA.
OPINION AND ORDER
Mehta, United States District Judge.
Seabern Hill worked in various capacities for the University
of the District of Columbia (" UDC" ) for 38 years,
including 25 years as Acting Director of UDC Records
Management. Beginning in 2010, however, Plaintiff's
tenure at UDC took a turn for the worse. First, Plaintiff was
demoted to a less significant, department-specific position
within UDC's Office of Recruitment and Admissions. Two
years later, Plaintiff discovered that student interns
working in the Office of Recruitment and Admissions were
allowed to access student records in violation of District of
Columbia privacy laws. Hill reported the problem to the
Acting Director of Recruitment and Admissions, but she
ignored his concerns. He then elevated the issue to "
the District of Columbia Records Officer" --apparently a
government official outside the University. Shortly
thereafter, Plaintiff was stripped of his duties and
subsequently terminated from his job.
obtaining a right to sue letter from the U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff filed his
Complaint against Defendant UDC, alleging gender
discrimination, age discrimination, and violation of 42
U.S.C. § 1983 for retaliating against his exercise of
free speech under the First Amendment. ECF No. 1. Defendant
has filed a Motion to Dismiss for failure to state a claim
under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 3
[hereinafter " Mot. to Dismiss" ].
reasons stated below, the court grants in part and denies in
part Defendant's Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff is
permitted to proceed with his claims of age discrimination
and violation of his right to free speech, but his claim of
gender discrimination is hereby dismissed.
Seabern Hill is a 68 year old former employee of the
University of the District of Columbia (" UDC" ).
Compl. ¶ ¶ 4, 36-37; Mot. to Dismiss, Ex.
A. Plaintiff began his employment with
UDC in the early to mid-1970s and held several positions in
his 38 years there, including more than 25 years as the
Acting Director of UDC Records Management. Id.
¶ ¶ 4, 6, 8-12. Throughout this time,
Plaintiff's " work performance was always evaluated
as exceptional." Id. ¶ 18. Yet despite
these reviews, Plaintiff was demoted in 2010 from his
position as Acting Director and reassigned to serve in "
a line position as the Records Officer in the UDC Office of
Recruitment and Admissions." Id. ¶ 19.
Plaintiff alleges that he was not given any notice of his
right to appeal the demotion. Id. ¶ 20. He
further contends that the Director position he formerly held
in an " Acting" capacity remained vacant for three
years following his demotion, in violation of District of
Columbia law. Id. ¶ ¶ 22-23.
his transfer to the UDC Office of Recruitment and Admissions,
Plaintiff was asked to " establish[ ] the electronic
records storage and retrieval system" for that office.
Id. ¶ 24. This assignment entailed scanning and
transferring student record files into the office's
electronic records management system. Id. ¶
¶ 25-28. Plaintiff personally scanned over 22,000 such
files. Id. During his time scanning records in the
Office of Recruitment and Admissions, Plaintiff did not
receive any performance evaluations. Id. ¶ 38.
September 2012, a new Acting Director of Recruitment and
Admissions, Sandra Carter, replaced the outgoing Director,
David Sanchez. Id. ¶ ¶ 29-30. Around this
time, Plaintiff discovered that student interns within the
Office were allowed to access student records as part of
their work. Id. ¶ 31. Believing this to be a
violation of District of Columbia privacy laws, Plaintiff
shared his concerns with the new Acting Director.
Id. ¶ 32. She, however, ignored his complaints.
Plaintiff then sent an email to " the District of
Columbia Records Officer," id. ¶
33--evidently a District official outside the
University--to report that student interns were
inappropriately " processing and handling confidential
student records," id.
thereafter, in November 2012, Plaintiff was " stripped
of all his duties as Records Officer." Id.
¶ 34. In January 2013, Plaintiff received further "
notice from UDC that his position as Records Officer in the
Office of Recruitment and Admissions had been abolished, and
that he was being terminated," effective one month
later. Id. ¶ ¶ 36-37. UDC did not give
Plaintiff the opportunity to apply for any vacant positions
for which he might qualify. Id. ¶ 40. In
addition, UDC refused to grant Plaintiff severance pay until
he signed " a statement waiving all of his rights to
contest his termination." Id. ¶ 39.
alleges that sixty-nine people were terminated by UDC in the
January 2013 " reduction in force" that cost him
his job. Id. ¶ 43. More than 50 percent of
those terminated employees, he claims, were older than 40
years of age. Id. In addition, Plaintiff notes that
" [i]n the year preceding [his] termination, the
Department of Recruitment and Admissions hired several
persons younger than the age of thirty into full-time
positions." Id. ¶ 41. Further, " at
least four women" in Plaintiff's office with "
less seniority" were retained when he was terminated.
Id. ¶ 42.
April 2013, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with
the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("
EEOC" ). Id. ¶ 46; Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A.
Plaintiff alleged employment discrimination on the grounds of
age, disability, and retaliation. Compl. ¶ 46; Mot. to
Dismiss, Ex. A. More than a year later, in August 2014,
Plaintiff received a " right-to-sue" letter from
the EEOC. Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. C. Thereafter, on October 29,
2014, he filed the Complaint presently before this court.
Complaint, Plaintiff asserts that UDC (1) discriminated
against him based on his gender--a basis not raised in his
Charge of Discrimination--and age, and (2) violated 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 by retaliating against him for exercising his
First Amendment right to free speech. On December 15, 2014,
Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss ...