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Ndzerre v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 23, 2016



RICHARD J. LEON United States District Judge

Plaintiff Habakuk Ndzerre ("plaintiff) brings this action, pro se, against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA" or "defendant") and Hernando O'Farrell, in his capacity as a Manager for WMATA, alleging, inter alia, violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), Occupational Safety and Health Act ("OSHA"), the National Transit Systems Security Act ("NTSSA"), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"). See Am. Compl. [Dkt. #3]. Before this Court is defendant WMATA's Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. #6] ("Def.'s Mot."). For the following reasons, defendant's motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.[1]


Since January 3, 2000, plaintiff, who was born in Cameroon, West Africa, has been employed by WMATA as an automatic train control mechanic. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 9. In his amended complaint, plaintiff recounts a series of actions by WMATA beginning in 2006 that allegedly violate various laws, including alleged acts of discrimination and harassment due to plaintiffs national origin and in retaliation for plaintiffs participation in statutorily protected activities. Am. Compl. ¶ 10.

To begin with, plaintiff believes that on two occasions he was denied his rights under the FMLA. First, in April 2006, plaintiff asserts that despite his request for leave due to the birth of his son and for various illnesses, WMATA management intentionally failed to provide him with the appropriate FMLA paperwork. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 11. As a consequence, plaintiff was forced to use his accrued personal leave. Am. Compl. ¶ 11. Similarly, on or around June 2012, plaintiff requested medical leave to undergo an endoscopy, colonoscopy, and hemorrhoid surgery, yet defendant denied him FMLA benefits and held him back from promotion even though plaintiff submitted the necessary paperwork upon returning to work. Am. Compl. ¶ 13.

Plaintiff also alleges that he was subject to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and a hostile work environment. He first explains that, in 2011, he was denied a one-step promotion from C Mechanic to B Mechanic despite passing all written and practical tests for that promotion, even though all other mechanics in the same status were promoted. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Plaintiff avers that the basis for this decision was discriminatory animus. Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Plaintiff then describes an incident in January 2013 in which he was pressured to go along with efforts to justify the prior wrongful demotion of Mildred Wood, a Rail Supervisor. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Specifically, on or about January 7, 2013, plaintiffs immediate supervisor, Hernando O'Farrell, asked him to assist in preparing an incident report for a rail incident that occurred on or about October 22, 2012 that would justify Wood's demotion. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Thereafter, plaintiff was presented with an incident report purportedly containing information from him and bearing his signature, but that he had never seen or signed, and, indeed, did not reflect plaintiffs knowledge of the 2012 rail incident. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiff reported the apparent forgery to WMATA management and requested an official investigation. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Upon further investigation, O'Farrell stated that he had generated the incident report and used plaintiffs information and electronic signature because plaintiff "did not know how to write English." Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Plaintiff asserts that WMATA retaliated against him for his refusal to participate in the production of this fraudulent incident report. Am. Compl. ¶ 10.

Indeed, plaintiff contends that in February 2013, defendant devised a scheme to generate a "bogus 'failure to comply'" complaint against him. Am. Compl. ¶16. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that he received a management directive to report immediately to Shift Supervisor Le Tuong Duy's office at a time when he could not comply because he was on scheduled vacation. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. Nevertheless, because plaintiff happened to stop by the office to check on an unrelated matter, he became aware of the directive and reported to the supervisor's office. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. There, plaintiff was directed to WMATA's Employee Assistance Program ("EAP") for consultation and evaluation, despite having no performance or behavioral issues in the workplace. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. When plaintiff returned from vacation on or about March 14, 2013, he was informed he needed to report back to EAP for reevaluation and received a letter, which he claims did not actually come from EAP, that he was being held off from work by EAP pending completion of a fitness evaluation and assessment. Am. Compl. ¶ 16. As a result, plaintiff was not allowed to work for over ninety days pending this assessment. Am. Compl. ¶ 16.

On June 10, 2013, after making his grievances known to his union and to WMATA's management, plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") regarding defendant's alleged discriminatory conduct. Am. Compl. ¶ 17. Thereafter, plaintiff alleges defendant retaliated against him in a variety of ways. For example, on or about June 12, 2013, plaintiff was taken out of a series of safety and security classes that were necessary for enhancing his work performance in a manner that was humiliating, Am. Compl. ¶ 20; beginning in March 2014, plaintiff was required to perform certain supervisory functions, outside of his regular job description, without being duly compensated for these duties, Am. Compl. ¶ 18; on or about May 2014, plaintiff learned that Jonita Dowling, an Automatic Train Control instructor, stated to her students that as long as she was in charge of administering testing required for job promotions, plaintiff would never pass the testing required to achieve a promotion, Am. Compl. ¶ 19; and on or about April and November 2014, plaintiff was denied review of his test results following promotional testing, Am. Compl. ¶ 21. On April 30, 2015, plaintiff received notice from the EEOC that his complaint was being dismissed, Am. Compl. ¶ 22, and on July 30, 2015, he filed this action, see Compl. [Dkt. #1].


A. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)

Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and a court should begin with a presumption that a case lies outside its jurisdiction. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994). The burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction rests upon the party asserting it. Id.; see also Moms Against Mercury v. Food & Drug Admin., 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C. Cir. 2007). In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the Court must construe the allegations in the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See, e.g., Hohri v. United States, 782 F.2d 227, 241 (D.C. Cir. 1986), vacated on other grounds, 482 U.S. 64 (1987). However, the Court's inquiry is not limited to the allegations in the complaint. Id. Rather, "a court may consider such materials outside the pleadings as it deems appropriate to resolve the question [of] whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case." Scolaro v. D.C. Bd. of Elections & Ethics, 104 F.Supp.2d 18, 22 (D.D.C. 2000).

B. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

To survive a motion to dismiss 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) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]he Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff]] if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). The Court may consider "any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the court] may take judicial notice, " EEOC v.St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997), as well as documents appended to a motion to dismiss whose authenticity is not disputed, if they are referred to in the complaint and integral to a claim. See Kaempe v.Myers, 367 F.3d 958, ...

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