United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER United States District Judge.
Agreements are contracts; each side gives up something and
each side gets something to resolve a dispute. In this case,
Lester Blount signed a settlement agreement with the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS), his employer, to
resolve multiple charges alleging that DHS had violated his
rights to equal employment opportunity (EEO). In the days
just before the settlement agreement was signed, Mr. Blount
learned that he had not been selected for a particular job
opportunity. He immediately contacted an EEO Counselor and
complained. Nonetheless, with advice of counsel, he signed
the settlement agreement and agreed, in part, that he would
not complain further about anything related to his job that
had occurred prior to and as of the date of his signature.
new counsel, Mr. Blount now sues Jeh Johnson, DHS Secretary,
alleging that his non-selection was due to race and age
discrimination and in retaliation for Mr. Blount's prior
EEO activity. However, DHS is entitled to the benefit of its
bargain in the settlement agreement, which bars this lawsuit.
Accordingly, the motion to dismiss filed by the Secretary
will be granted.
Blount, a 47-year-old African American, has been employed by
the United States Secret Service since 1997. From 2003, after
the Secret Service had become an agency within DHS, until
late 2012, he served as a canine technician in the White
House K-9 canine detachment, Office of Protective Operations;
specifically in the Special Operations Branch (Branch) of the
Uniformed Division. His assigned canine, “Chico,
” was trained to detect explosives. Mr. Blount was
always rated as “successful” or better, and was
repeatedly recognized for his dedicated service. Compl. [Dkt.
1] ¶ 14; see also Id. ¶ 23 (“For the
review period, July 2012 through October 2012,
Plaintiff's immediate supervisor, Sergeant David Dumont
rated Plaintiff's performance as a canine technician as
‘currently performing all his duties at a fully
2012, Mr. Blount used approximately 265 hours of approved
family and medical leave, principally to care for his spouse
who suffered from a serious illness. In the summer of 2012,
new ranked officers were assigned to the Branch, including
Captain Barry Lewis and Lieutenant Steve Stasiuk, who are
suffered a work injury in November 2012 and was retired from
active duty as a result. When Mr. Blount discussed
Chico's injury with Cpt. Lewis, the Captain said that
“because [Mr. Blount] was such a great handler, he
would ensure that [Mr. Blount] would be assigned another
canine and that he would be placed in the next canine
explosives detection training course.” Id.
¶ 18. While waiting for that next course, Mr. Blount was
assigned to security at the Vice President's residence at
the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. In this post, he no
longer earned the night differential and overtime pay that he
received in the Branch.
October 2012, the Branch had posted a vacancy announcement
for an Officer-Technician on the Canine Explosives Detection
Team, for which training was scheduled in February 2013. Mr.
Blount filed a timely application to work with a new dog and
continue his previous assignment. On January 8, 2013, the
Branch posted a list of the persons who had been selected,
but Mr. Blount was not included. He immediately became aware
of his non-selection. Mr. Blount has continued to work as
security at the Vice President's residence. As a result
of his January 8 non-selection, Mr. Blount brought the
January 15, 2013, Mr. Blount entered into a negotiated
Settlement Agreement with the Secret Service that explicitly
settled three formal EEO complaints, identified as EEOC No.
570-2007-00109x/Agency No. DHS-USS-06-034 (“2006
Complaint”), EEOC No. 570-2009-00505x/Agency No.
DHS-USSS-08-0065 (“2009 Complaint”), EEOC Appeal
No. 120114128/Agency No. HS-USSS-01312-2011 (“2011
Complaint”), as well as all claims raised in an
informal EEO complaint, Agency No. HS-USSS-0241-2013
(“2013 Complaint”), which was being counseled by
the Agency's EEO Office. See MTD, Ex. 1 [Dkt.
7-2] (Settlement Agreement). The “2013 Complaint”
did not concern Mr. Blount's non-selection claim, which
underlies the instant lawsuit and was identified as Agency
Blount was represented by counsel throughout the settlement
negotiations and his lawyer, E. Ned Sloan, signed the
Settlement Agreement along with Mr. Blount on January 15,
2015. The Settlement Agreement specified that
“[t]hrough this Settlement Agreement
(‘Agreement'), Mr. Blount and the Agency settle all
matters, claims, or causes of action arising from or related
to Mr. Blount's employment with the Secret Service as of
the date of the signing of the Agreement, including but not
limited to all claims raised” in the formal 2006
Complaint, 2009 Complaint, and 2011 Complaint, as well as the
informal 2013 Complaint numbered, in part, 0241-2013.
Settlement Agreement ¶ 1. Secretary Johnson argues that
this language clearly included Mr. Blount's second
informal complaint in 2013, numbered in part 962-2013, which
complained of his non-selection on January 8, 2013. Mr.
Blount argues that the Settlement Agreement should be limited
to the specified EEO Complaints. See Compl. ¶
language in the Settlement Agreement bears on this question.
For instance, under paragraph 2.b, Mr. Blount agreed to:
Waive any right that he may have, may have had, or may
hereafter discover to bring or file any other complaint,
charge, or action with the Agency, the Department of Homeland
Security, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the
Secret Service's EEO complaints process, the Merit
Systems Protection Board, the Office of Special Counsel, a
Federal court, or any other administrative or regulatory
body, or any other entity if such complaint, charge or action
concerns or relates in any manner to his employment with the
Secret Service as of the date of the signing of this
[Settlement] Agreement . . . .
Id. ¶ 2.b. Further, Mr. Blount agreed that he
“[r]elease[d] the Agency, its employees, officers, or
agents in their official and individual capacities, from any
claims or liability relating to or arising from his
employment with the Secret Service as of and including the
date of this [Settlement] Agreement . . . .”
Id. ¶ 2.c. Additionally, “[b]y his
signature on this Agreement, Mr. Blount agree[d] not to seek
recovery of any back-pay, damages, other monetary relief, or
attorney's fees and expenses or costs in any judicial or
administrative forum in connection with his employment with
the Secret Service as of the date of the signing of this
Agreement . . . .” Id. ¶ 5.
Blount “entered into this [Settlement] Agreement freely
and voluntarily” without threats or unwritten promises.
Id. ¶ 6. He represented by his signature that
he had “read this [Settlement] Agreement, understood
all of its terms, has had a reasonable amount of time to
consider whether to sign, that he has had the opportunity to
discuss the terms . . . with his counsel and has done