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Charles v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 19, 2016



CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States District Judge.

Monica A. Charles was employed for several years in a temporary position as a Program Support Assistant with the District of Columbia’s Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (“DYRS”). After rejecting her application for permanent employment and refusing to conduct a “desk audit” to determine if she was performing work beyond her pay grade, DYRS decided not to renew Charles’s temporary appointment. According to Charles, the DYRS officials who took these actions against her acted with discriminatory intent based on her race, age, and national origin, and retaliated against her for objecting to their allegedly discriminatory employment practices.

In response, Charles filed a charge of discrimination with both the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), and after receiving a right-to-sue letter, brought this lawsuit alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. She also seeks to recover damages for her Title VII claim pursuant to Section 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1981a. The District now moves to dismiss Charles’s Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim, or alternatively for summary judgment, contending that Charles failed to timely exhaust her administrative remedies by waiting too long to file her charge of discrimination with the appropriate state agency or the EEOC.[1] Because the times during which Charles alleges that these discrete acts of discrimination occurred fall more than 300 days before she filed her administrative charge, her claims are time-barred. The Court will therefore grant the District’s motion to dismiss.

I. Legal Standard

To overcome a motion to dismiss pursuant to 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Facial plausibility requires “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. While the court “must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, ” legal conclusions “couched as a factual allegation” do not warrant the same deference. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

“In ruling upon a motion to dismiss, a court may ordinarily consider only ‘the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits incorporated by reference in the complaint, and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice.’” Dyson v. District of Columbia, 808 F.Supp.2d 84, 86 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002)). A Court properly may consider as well “documents upon which [a] plaintiff’s complaint necessarily relies even if the document is produced not by the plaintiff in the complaint but by the defendant in a motion to dismiss.” Slate v. Public Defender Serv., 31 F.Supp.3d 277, 287-89 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Hinton v. Corr. Corp. of Am., 624 F.Supp.2d 45, 46 (D.D.C. 2009)). It is appropriate to consider such “documents attached to motions to dismiss . . . without converting the motion into one for summary judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff’s claims.” Slate, 31 F.Supp.3d at 287.

II. Analysis

A. Statutory Requirements for Bringing a Claim for Discrimination or Retaliation

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., forbids an employer “to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or to otherwise discriminate against any individual . . . because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Id. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The ADEA includes the same prohibition based on age. 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq. Title VII also makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee because she “opposed” an unlawful employment practice, filed a charge of discrimination, or otherwise participated in a formal investigation into alleged unlawful employment practices. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a). Congress has authorized the EEOC to investigate allegations of employment discrimination and to file civil charges against employers in federal district court. Id. §§ 2000e-5, 2000e-8.

Administrative charges under Title VII and the ADEA “shall be filed” no later than 180 days after the alleged unlawful employment practice took place; that deadline is extended to 300 days where a charge is filed with a state or local agency that also has the “authority to grant or seek relief from such practice.” Id. § 2000e-5(e)(1); 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(1); see also Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 109 (2002) (“‘Shall’ makes the act of filing a charge within the specified time period mandatory.”). If the EEOC declines to pursue the charge or has not taken action within 180 days, it issues the complainant a right-to-sue letter, authorizing her to bring suit on her own behalf within 90 days from receipt of the letter. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1); Martini v. Fannie Mae, 178 F.3d 1336, 1340-41 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Employees must first exhaust these administrative requirements and comply with the timelines in the statute in order to recover for the acts of discrimination they allege. Washington v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 160 F.3d 750, 752 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

Failure to timely file an administrative charge of discrimination subjects a plaintiff to a time bar, similar to a statute of limitations. Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982); Singleton v. Potter, 402 F.Supp.2d 12, 33 (D.D.C. 2005) (“[T]he administrative deadlines imposed . . . ‘function like a statue of limitations . . . .’” (quoting Brown v. Marsh, 777 F.2d 8, 13 (D.C. Cir. 1985))). “The statute precludes recovery for discrete acts of discrimination or retaliation that occur outside the statutory time period.” Morgan, 536 U.S. at 105. When alleging discrete discriminatory acts, as Charles does here, “each discriminatory act starts a new clock for filing charges alleging that act.” Id. at 113.

B. Whether Charles’s Claims Are Time-Barred

Charles filed her charge of discrimination with both the appropriate state agency and the EEOC, so it appears that the 300-day window applies.[2] She filed the charge on August 12, 2013. Accordingly, the “claims arising from acts that occurred more than 300[] days prior to [that date] must be dismissed, ” Coleman v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 310 F.Supp.2d 154, 159 (D.D.C. 2004), meaning that the only acts for which she can recover must have occurred on October 16, 2012 or later.

None of the purported acts of discrimination that Charles describes in her Amended Complaint, however, is alleged to have occurred on or after that date. For instance, Charles does not state the exact dates on which she applied for and was denied a promotion to a permanent Program Support Assistant position. She does explain, however, that she applied for or inquired about such a promotion in January and February 2011, but that DYRS “did not take the action . . . to promote her” at that time, Am. Compl. ¶ 11; that her supervisor subsequently agreed to approve her for a promotion but “failed and refused to promote” her when that “application process” was “decided in March 2012, ” id.; and that DYRS advertised an opening for a permanent position in April 2012, but that she was discouraged from applying and ultimately passed over for this position at some point prior to August 12, 2012, id. ¶¶ 13, 16. She further claims that on August 12, 2012, she requested a “desk audit”- which was approved by a Human Resources management official on August 20, 2012-but that her supervisor “just refused” to allow it to take place.[3]Id. ¶ 16. Finally, she accuses DYRS of “terminat[ing] her, ” id. ΒΆ 18, ...

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