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Husain v. Shah

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 19, 2016

GAYLE E. SMITH, [1] Administrator, United States Agency for International Development, et al., Defendants.


          RANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge

         This is action against the United States Agency for International Development (“USAID”) and the United States brought by a former USAID employee, Musarrat Roohi Husain. During her tenure at USAID, Husain filed six administrative complaints against the agency alleging unlawful discrimination, Dkt. 14 at 20-30 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 46-80), and two related claims against the United States under the Federal Torts Claims Act (“FTCA”), id. at 30-34 (¶¶ 81-99). These administrative complaints alleged various forms of workplace discrimination and other mistreatment under a host of federal and local statutes. Husain subsequently filed this action, asserting twenty-four claims against USAID and the United States, including, among other things, claims for violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Rehabilitation Act, the District of Columbia Whistleblower Protection Act (“DCWPA”), the federal Whistleblower Protection Act (“WPA”), and the FTCA. See Id. at 37-49 (¶¶ 106-37). USAID and the United States have now moved to dismiss many-but not all-of those claims, Dkt. 23, and Husain has cross-moved for summary judgment, Dkt. 28. For the reasons discussed below, the defendants’ partial motion to dismiss is GRANTED, and Husain’s cross-motion for summary judgment is DENIED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         When, as here, a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, her complaint must “be liberally construed” and held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). To this end, courts will often consider all of a pro se plaintiff’s filings-and not merely her complaint-in evaluating a motion to dismiss. See Brown v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc., 789 F.3d 146, 152 (D.C. Cir. 2015). There are limits to this forbearance, however, and even when a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a district court is not “obliged to sift through hundreds of pages . . . to make [its] own analysis and determination of what may[ ] or may not” support the plaintiff’s claims. Twist v. Meese, 854 F.2d 1421, 1425 (D.C. Cir. 1988). This is such a case. Husain has filed more than 500 pages of attachments. See Dkts. 2-8. The complaint often refers generally to “the exhibits, ” see, e.g., Dkt. 14 at 4, 24, 29 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 59, 78), without specifying where in the lengthy series of exhibits the supporting documents can be found. As a result, where the Court can reasonably discern the nature of Husain’s claims, the Court will address the legal sufficiency of those claims. But, where it can only speculate as to what Husain intends to allege, the Court will not, in effect, “assume the role of advocate” and fill in the gaps left in Husain’s complaint. Miller v. Kemp, No. 11-cv-0530, 2012 WL 1592537, at *3 (N.D. Okla. May 4, 2012).

         The substance of Husain’s claims in this action is perhaps discerned best by looking to the eight administrative complaints that she unsuccessfully pursued before USAID, which form the gravamen of her current claims. They are as follows:

         (1) Husain filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) complaint with USAID’s Office of Civil Rights and Diversity on May 16, 2013, alleging that the agency had violated the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) and the Privacy Act. Dkt. 14 at 21 (Am. Compl. ¶ 48). This complaint asserted that an agency director unlawfully shared “confidential medical information” with other USAID employees. Id. (¶ 47); see also Dkt. 3 at 63-65. Five days after filing this complaint, Husain was suspended for three days. Dkt. 14 at 21 (Am. Compl. ¶ 49).

         (2) Husain filed a “Reasonable Accommodation” request on May 14, 2014, to compel USAID to accommodate her medical conditions, particularly her alleged brain surgery, along with her extreme stress and her need to take certain medication. Id. at 5-6 (¶¶ 11-16); see also Dkt. 5 at 60-67. The agency allegedly failed to respond. Dkt. 14 at 22 (Am. Compl. ¶ 52). In an EEO complaint filed June 7, 2014, Husain maintained that the agency had failed to move her out of a “very unsafe, threatening, hostile work environment.” Id. (¶¶ 52-54).

         (3) USAID issued Husain a “Notice of Proposed Termination” on July 8, 2014, for “Failure to Carry out Assignments, ” “Failure to Maintain a Regular Work Schedule, ” and “Insubordination.” Id. at 23 (¶ 55); see also Dkt. 4 at 48. After receiving this “Notice of Proposed Termination” and an administrative suspension, Husain filed her third EEO complaint on July 10, 2014, asserting that USAID issued the termination letter in retaliation for her prior protected EEO activity. Dkt. 14 at 24 (Am. Compl. ¶ 59).

         (4) Husain sent an email on August 12, 2014, challenging her termination on the ground that it was “based on false accusations, pretexts and retaliation because of her prior EEO activity, ” id. at 23 (¶ 56), but USAID never responded, id. (¶ 57). She then filed her fourth EEO complaint on August 14, 2014, arguing that the USAID retaliated against her for her earlier EEO filings. Id. at 24 (¶ 60). USAID issued its final decision to terminate Husain on September 4, 2014, and Husain received a letter describing this termination a week later. Id. (¶¶ 61-62). Husain alleges in this action that she was denied due process because USAID did not conduct an investigation into her termination, and because she was denied a fair opportunity to defend herself before the termination decision was made. Id. at 25 (¶¶ 63-64). USAID, however, withdrew Husain’s termination on October 17, 2014. See Dkt. 5 at 23. It then reissued a notice of final removal in a letter dated November 25, 2014, with an effective date of January 11, 2015. Dkt. 14 at 28 (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 73-74); see also Dkt. 23 at 4 (Defs.’ Mem. at 2).

         (5) After the USAID terminated her, Husain filed a fifth EEO complaint on or around February 3, 2015, see Dkt. 14 at 26 (Am. Compl. ¶ 67), claiming that the USAID discriminated and retaliated against her on the basis of her “prior EEO activities, race, color, national origin, and religion” when it failed to provide her with personnel documents necessary for her application for unemployment benefits, id. at 25-26 (¶¶ 65-71). The crux of this claim was that USAID’s refusal to provide her with her personnel file was intended to punish her for past EEO activity. Id. at 27 (¶ 69).

         (6) Husain’s sixth and final EEO complaint, filed on February 4 or 5, 2015, claimed that the USAID wrongfully reissued its termination on November 25, 2014, in a discriminatory fashion, violating her “fundamental constitutional right[] to due process.” Id. at 28-29 (¶¶ 75, 77).

         (7) Husain filed her first FTCA claim with the USAID’s Office of General Counsel on June 10, 2014, alleging that her termination was the result of the USAID’s “negligence, wrongful act[s], omissions, violation[s] of mandatory laws, unlawful retaliation, discrimination and harassment.” Id. at 30-31 (¶ 84); see also Dkt. 23 at 18-19 (Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A).

         (8) Husain filed her second FTCA claim with USAID’s Office of General Counsel on September 30, 2014. Dkt. 14 at 33 (¶ 94). This claim alleged widespread negligence by the USAID against Husain, specifically in its failure to undertake any investigation into her prior EEO complaints. Id. at 34 (¶¶ 97-98).

         Husain did not receive administrative relief with respect to these complaints, and she subsequently brought suit before this Court. Her amended complaint includes twenty-four counts. See Dkt. 14. The USAID ...

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