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Hillware v. Snyder

United States District Court, District of Columbia

December 29, 2015

Loretta Hillware, Plaintiff,
v.
Dan Snyder, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Loretta Hillware filed a lawsuit pro se in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia against the owner of the Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder; the team’s Vice President and General Counsel, Eric Schaffer; the team’s President, Bruce Allen; the Commissioner of the National Football League (“NFL”), Roger Goodell; and the NFL’s Counsel, Jay Bauman, all in their “official” capacities. Plaintiff alleges that the Washington Redskins (hereafter “the Team”) and the NFL “denied [her] work in her profession” because she is African American, female, and a victim of domestic violence. Compl., ECF No. 1-1 at 22.[1] Plaintiff states that her complaint asserts claims under “Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and similar state and local laws, ” including the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §§ 2-1402.11 et seq. Id. at 28, 30, 33. Her claim under Title VII prompted Defendants to remove the case to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1, ¶ 6. Defendants now move to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Their grounds for dismissal include failure to exhaust administrative remedies, failure to state a claim, and statute of limitations. See Mem. in Supp. of Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 3-1 [hereinafter “Defs.’ Mem.”] at 5-9.

After careful consideration of the Complaint, the Amended Complaint, ECF No. 19, and the parties’ arguments for and against dismissal, the court grants the motion to dismiss in part because Plaintiff does not refute Defendants’ argument that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the federal anti-discrimination statutes, and the time has expired for her to do so. The court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3) over any non-federal claims and remands those claims to D.C. Superior Court. See Shekoyan v. Sibley Int’l, 409 F.3d 414, 424 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (stating that when, as here, the federal claims “are dismissed before trial, ” it is preferable for the court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the non-federal claims) (quoting Carnegie–Mellon Univ. v. Cohill, 484 U.S. 343, 350 n.7 (1988) (internal quotation marks omitted)); see also Myers v. Cent. Florida Investments, Inc., 592 F.3d 1201, 1226 (11th Cir. 2010) (“[F]ederal district courts in removal cases must remand, rather than dismiss, state claims over which they decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.”).

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff alleges that in her former position with the New Orleans Saints (“Saints”), she “was . . . experienced in business development, as well as sales and marketing, ” and she was “[w]ell-respected” and “[h]ighly regarded in a 5-state region” for her “deep knowledge of sales and [accomplished] marketing efforts.” Compl. at 27. Plaintiff “established innovative concepts for overall new business relationships, as well as captured the retention of former clients.” Id. at 28. At an unspecified time, Plaintiff became a victim of domestic violence and was fired from her position with the Saints.[2] Plaintiff’s abusive circumstances “caused her to flee, ” which “landed Plaintiff in this jurisdiction, and ensured the safety of [her] children.” Id. at 23. Upon discovering “Plaintiff’s personal emotional cries for help, ” hiring officials with the NFL and the Team allegedly “shun[ned]” Plaintiff for more than 9, nearly 10 years, ” and they have been “non-responsive[] to [Plaintiff’s] numerous job application submissions” for marketing, sales, and business development positions. Id.

According to Plaintiff “the Defendants demonstrated animosity towards Domestic Violence victims and women who were African American, resulting in the fatal subversion of Plaintiff’s career by their refusing to rid their bitter, harsh and cruel, resentment and animosity.” Id. at 28. Consequently, “none of the League affiliates, or the League hired Plaintiff in any similar capacity, or that of an equal position or greater due to the tainted image of being a Domestic Violence victim.” Id.

In a pleading captioned “Amended Complaint, ” which Plaintiff filed “to clarify the [original] allegations, ” Am. Compl. at 2, Plaintiff alleges that beginning in 2005, she “telephoned, faxed or mailed hard copies of [her] resumes to the NFL’s HR Department, Scott Shepherd and Dan Snyder’s office. This extended until 2008, [when] Plaintiff began contacting the Defendants via email.” Id. at 5-6. Based on counts two through twenty of the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff formally applied for positions between 2009 and 2014. Id. at 13-16. Plaintiff admits that the Team did hire her but “as an ‘under-class.’” Id. at 2. Plaintiff, however, “chose to quit . . . after the second Sunday activity on September 9, 2011, when she finally realized that . . . Shepherd would never hire her from an ‘under-class’ who had been hired as FedEx Field servants, and therefore were classified as FedEx Field ‘Sunday only’ or ‘the game days only employees.’” Id. Plaintiff explains that “she made a choice to resign” because she was not earning a livable wage and could not afford the costs of commuting by taxi to FedEx Field. Id. at 2-3.

In addition to Title VII, plaintiff invokes in the Amended Complaint the Age Discrimination Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), because she “pursued employment that began over the age of 40, and continued until she was nearly 55, in 2014, ” and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), because “she is a victim of Domestic Violence.” Id. at 6.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The Supreme Court’s decisions in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal direct federal trial courts to focus on the factual content of a complaint when deciding whether a claim is sufficiently stated to withstand a motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). 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 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted)). A claim is facially plausible when “the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A complaint that pleads factual allegations that are “merely consistent with a defendant’s liability . . . stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557) (internal quotation marks omitted). Although the factual allegations need not be “detailed, ” the Federal Rules demand more than “an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

Before turning to the merits, the court addresses whether it will consider the allegations set forth in Plaintiff’s “Amended Complaint, ” which Defendants have asked the court to strike. See Mot. to Strike Pl.’s Am. Compl., ECF No. 20. When a pro se plaintiff files “multiple submissions in opposition to [a] motion to dismiss, the district court should endeavor to read the party’s filings together and as a whole.” Fennell v. AARP, 770 F.Supp.2d 118, 121 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999)). In addition, “pleadings must be construed so as to do justice.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(e). Because Plaintiff submitted the “Amended Complaint” “to clarify” the allegations in the original complaint, Am. Compl. at 2, the court is compelled to consider those pleadings together as the operative complaint. See Richardson, 193 F.3d at 548 (holding that district court had erred in refusing to consider pro se plaintiff’s reply to a motion to dismiss as an amendment to his original complaint). Defendants’ Motion to Strike therefore is denied.

IV. ANALYSIS

As an initial matter, Defendants argue that Plaintiff has not stated a claim against the individual defendants, see Defs.’ Mem. at 3-4, but this argument is misplaced as the complaint is brought against each individual only “in his official capacity.” Compl. Caption. As the Court of Appeals has explained, “while a supervisory employee may be joined as a party defendant in a Title VII action, that employee must be viewed as being sued in his capacity as the agent of the employer, who is alone liable for a violation of Title VII.” Gary v. Long, 59 F.3d 1391, 1399 (D.C. Cir. 1995) (citation ...


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