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Harrigan v. Yang

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 12, 2016

Clare Harrigan, Plaintiff,
v.
Jenny R. Yang, Chair of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., Defendants.

Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Clare Harrigan is a lawyer who, since 2007, has been administratively litigating claims of discrimination and retaliation against her former employer, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In this lawsuit, Plaintiff does not sue HUD; instead, she has sued Defendant Jenny Yang, in her capacity as the Chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the EEOC itself. According to Plaintiff, the EEOC acted unlawfully with respect to its review and processing of her various discrimination complaints against HUD. Asserting claims under the Administrative Procedure Act, the Declaratory Judgment Act, and the Mandamus Act-but not under Title VII-Plaintiff asks this court to grant her injunctive and declaratory relief that would compel the EEOC to take certain actions with regard to her complaints. For the reasons stated below, the court grants Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and dismisses this action in its entirety.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff Clare Harrigan is a lawyer who worked at HUD from 1991 to 2011. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 24. The events at issue in this case arose while Plaintiff was a lawyer within HUD’s Office of Litigation. Id. ¶ 42. Because the events underlying Plaintiff’s complaints of discrimination are less critical to this case than the processing of those complaints, the court focuses below on the procedural history of each of Plaintiff’s three administrative complaints.

1. The 2007 Complaint

On October 18, 2007, Plaintiff filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint with HUD (the “2007 Complaint”), alleging that the agency had subjected her to a hostile work environment and had discriminated against her on the basis of sex and on the basis of reprisal for engaging in protected EEO activity. Id. ¶ 65; Harrigan v. Donovan, No. 0120110905, 2012 WL 5995750, at *1 (E.E.O.C. Nov. 21, 2012). HUD dismissed the 2007 Complaint, see Compl. ¶ 67, concluding that Plaintiff had “failed to prove that the Agency subjected her to discrimination as alleged, ” Harrigan, 2012 WL 5995750, at *3. On December 1, 2010, Plaintiff appealed that decision to the EEOC. Compl. ¶ 68.

Nearly two years later, on November 21, 2012, the EEOC vacated HUD’s “no discrimination” determination (the “November 2012 Order”). See Harrigan, 2012 WL 5995750 at *5-6. In its Order, the EEOC explained that Plaintiff’s complaint asserted 55 claims of discrimination, but HUD’s decision dismissing the 2007 Complaint addressed only 18 of those claims. Id. at *5. The EEOC remanded the matter to HUD to conduct a supplemental investigation with respect to the remaining claims. Id. at *6.

Seven months later, believing that HUD had not complied with the November 2012 Order, Compl. ¶ 81, Plaintiff filed a petition under 29 C.F.R. § 1614.503(a)[1] on June 21, 2013, asking the EEOC to enforce its order (the “Petition for Enforcement”), id. ¶ 84. In her Petition for Enforcement, Plaintiff asked the EEOC to enter a default judgment on her 2007 Complaint. Id. ¶ 85. Four months later, on October 23, 2013, Plaintiff received a letter from HUD indicating that it had completed its supplemental investigation. Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 4 [hereinafter Mot. to Dismiss], Ex. A, ECF No. 4-1. One month later, she formally requested a hearing before an EEOC administrative law judge on her 2007 Complaint. Id., Ex. B, ECF No. 4-2.

On February 10, 2014, the EEOC advised Plaintiff that it had “closed compliance without ruling” on her Petition for Enforcement “because the supplementary investigation had been completed and the issues raised remained viable and [would be] more appropriately addressed in the next step of the administrative process.” Id., Ex. C, ECF No. 4-3. As to Plaintiff’s request for a hearing before the EEOC, the EEOC stated that “[h]earings are not available at the appellate level” but noted that the “issues [Plaintiff] raise[d] in [her] Petition for [E]nforcement can best be raised before the administrative judge (AJ).” Id. On January 12, 2015, Plaintiff received a notice that the EEOC had assigned an administrative law judge to adjudicate the 2007 Complaint. Compl. ¶ 100.

2. The 2010 Complaint

On June 28, 2010, Plaintiff filed a second administrative complaint with HUD, alleging that the agency had retaliated against her in violation of Title VII for engaging in protected EEO activity (the “2010 Complaint”). Id. ¶¶ 66, 71. HUD found that Plaintiff’s discrimination claims were without merit and dismissed the complaint. Harrigan, 2012 WL 5995750, at *3. On December 1, 2010, Plaintiff appealed HUD’s dismissals of both the 2010 and 2007 Complaints to the EEOC. Compl. ¶ 68.

On November 21, 2012, in the same order that addressed the 2007 Complaint, the EEOC affirmed HUD’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s 2010 Complaint. Compl. ¶¶ 70, 72; Harrigan, 2012 WL 5995750, at *5. The EEOC described the 2010 Complaint as having alleged that HUD discriminated against Plaintiff for making FOIA requests-a characterization that Plaintiff contests. Harrigan, 2012 WL 5995750 at *3; Compl. ¶ 73. In affirming HUD’s dismissal, the EEOC explained that it “has held that it does not have jurisdiction over the processing of FOIA requests. Instead, persons having a dispute regarding such requests should bring any appeals about the processing of his or her FOIA requests under the appropriate FOIA regulations.” Harrigan, 2012 WL 5995750, at *5 (citation omitted). The EEOC further held that “FOIA requests are not classified as participation in EEO activity or opposition to ...


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