United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a discrimination case alleging violations of the Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et
seq.; violations of the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code
§ 2-1401.01 et seq.; and D.C. common-law
claims, including claims for intentional and negligent
infliction of emotional distress ("IIED" and
"NIED"). Defendant AARP moves to dismiss Count III
of the complaint, which alleges IIED and NIED, as
time-barred, or, alternatively, for failure to state a claim.
Dkt. 8. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant
the partial motion to dismiss.
this case is before the Court on a motion to dismiss, the
Court assumes the truth of the factual allegations in the
complaint, from which the following details are drawn.
Harris v. D.C. Water & Sewer Auth., 791 F.3d 65, 67
(D.C. Cir. 2015).
Darlene Williams-Jefferies worked at AARP, which was formerly
known as the American Association of Retired Persons, from
1980 to 2008. Dkt. 1-1 at 4 n.1. For much of that time,
Williams-Jefferies, who is an African-American woman, worked
as an "administrative associate." Id. at
4. In October 2006, she applied for a promotion to the
position of Executive Secretary to the Director of the Office
of Board Support. Id. In March 2007, her application
was denied and the position was instead offered to a less
experienced white male "contract employee" whom she
had trained. See Id. at 25. In June 2007,
Williams-Jefferies filed a complaint with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"),
alleging that she was denied the position because of her
race. Id. at 4. In the ensuing investigation, AARP
defended its decision not to select Williams-Jefferies for
the position on the ground that the white employee was better
qualified. Id. at 25-26.
alleges that, beginning after she filed her complaint with
the EEOC and continuing through March 2008-when she was
fired-she was subjected to hostility and mistreatment by her
supervisors. Id. at 7. According to the complaint,
shortly after she filed her EEOC complaint,
Williams-Jefferies’s supervisor began to
"bombard" her with tasks "with nearly
impossible deadlines" and to prevent her from
"seek[ing] assistance from colleagues."
Id. at 10. In October 2007, several months after she
filed the complaint, her supervisor brought her into his
office, closed the door, and erupted, "burst[ing] into a
shouting fit, " "slamm[ing] his fists repeatedly on
his desk, turning red in the face, yelling, ‘It’s
your job!’" Id. According to the
complaint, Williams-Jefferies "felt physically
threatened" by the incident. Id. at 14. In the
wake of the October 2007 incident, Williams-Jefferies
alleges, she met with AARP’s general counsel to discuss
the incident and a possible transfer, but the general counsel
told her that AARP could not accommodate her request.
Id. at 10.
fired Williams-Jefferies in March 2008, citing her
"continued poor performance and insubordination."
Id. at 7, 27. The D.C. Office of Human Rights, to
which the EEOC had referred Williams-Jefferies’s
complaint, issued a report in February 2014, finding no
probable cause to believe that she had been the victim of
discrimination or retaliation. Id. at 36. The EEOC
adopted the Office’s conclusions and issued
Williams-Jefferies a right-to-sue letter in May 2015.
Id. at 22. On August 6, 2015, Williams-Jefferies,
then proceeding pro se, filed a complaint in D.C.
Superior Court. Id. at 2. Construed liberally, the
complaint appears to allege racial discrimination,
retaliation, and hostile work environment in violation of
Title VII and the D.C. Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §
2-1401.01 et seq. Id. at 3-17. It also appears to
allege the common-law torts of wrongful discharge, IIED, and
NIED. Id. AARP removed this action to federal court
later that month. Dkt. 1 at 1.
matter is now before the Court on AARP’s partial motion
to dismiss. Dkt. 8. The motion is opposed by
Williams-Jefferies, who has now obtained counsel. Dkt. 14.
motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) is designed to "test the legal
sufficiency of a complaint." Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In
evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court "must first
‘tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
state [the] claim to relief, ’ and then determine
whether the plaintiff has pleaded those elements with
adequate factual support to ‘state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.’" Blue v.
District of Columbia, 811 F.3d 14, 20 (D.C. Cir. 2015)
(quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675, 678
(2009)). Although "detailed factual allegations"
are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007), "a complaint must contain sufficient factual
matter, [if] accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. A plaintiff may survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion even
if "recovery is very remote and unlikely, " but the
facts alleged in the complaint "must be enough to raise
a right to relief above the speculative level."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56.
the complaint includes multiple claims, AARP moves to dismiss
only Count III, which claims that AARP intentionally or
negligently caused Williams-Jefferies emotional distress.
See Dkt. 1-1 at 13-16. That Count alleges that
Williams-Jefferies suffered acute emotional distress as a
result of "the disparate treatment, the retaliation and
wrongful termination" that she experienced-and, in
particular, as a result of the October 2007 incident with her
supervisor, in which he became "violently enraged,
slamming his fists and yelling at her in such a way that the
entire office could hear." Id. at 13-14. It
further alleges that Williams-Jefferies felt "physically
threatened and defensive" as a result of her
supervisor’s conduct, and adds that she "can
recall several other incidents where her supervisor was
similarly or equally volatile toward her." Id.
makes three arguments why Count III should be dismissed.
First, AARP argues that Williams-Jefferies’s IIED and
NIED claims are both untimely, because under D.C. law the
statute of limitations for an IIED or NIED claim is three
years, and Williams-Jefferies did not bring suit until more
than seven years after she was fired. Dkt. 8-1 at 4-5.
Second, AARP argues that the allegations contained in Count
III, even taken as true, do not state an IIED claim, because
the conduct Williams-Jefferies describes is insufficiently
"extreme and outrageous" to satisfy the high
standard set by D.C. law for pleading IIED claims.
Id. at 5-8. Finally, AARP argues that the relevant
allegations also fail to state an NIED claim, because they do
not show that she was in a "zone of physical danger,
" as required under D.C. law. Id. at 8-10. The
Court agrees that the claims are untimely.
the operation of some rule that would extend the accrual of
Williams-Jefferies’s IIED and NIED claims, or alter or
toll the statute of limitations, it is clear that the claims
are untimely. The D.C. Code specifies different statutes of
limitations for different common-law causes of action.
See D.C. Code § 12-301. Although the Code does
not provide a specific limitations period for IIED and NIED
claims, it includes a "residual" statute of
limitations of three years for causes of action "not
otherwise specifically prescribed." Id. §
12-301(8). The D.C. Court of Appeals has confirmed that this
three-year statute applies to IIED claims, see Saunders
v. Nemati, 580 A.2d 660, 661 (D.C. 1990), and the
parties agree that, at least in the usual course, it applies
to NIED claims as well. Here, Williams-Jefferies’s IIED
and NIED claims arise out of events that took place during
her employment at AARP, which ended in March 2008. She did
not file ...