United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.
Plaintiffs are sixteen black employees of the United States
Government Publishing Office. They allege that after filing
race-discrimination complaints with the Equal Opportunity
Office, GPO supervisors made racial comments, removed
equipment from Plaintiffs' section, and took actions to
make their workplace less safe. They thus brought this suit
under Title VII alleging both retaliation and a hostile work
environment. Defendant now moves to dismiss on a variety of
grounds. Because Plaintiffs' allegations are rather vague
and imprecise, the Court will grant the Motion, but give them
a chance to amend their Complaint to see if they can cure the
must at this stage, the Court treats all of the facts in the
Amended Complaint as true. Sparrow v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000). The Court
will a ls o consider the facts set forth in Plaintiffs '
Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. See Brown v. Whole
Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc., 789 F.3d 146, 152 (D.C. Cir.
2015). Plaintiffs here allege two counts, retaliation and
hostile work environment. Although the former cites Title IX,
see ECF No. 25 (Amended Complaint), ¶ 33, the
Court, granting pro se litigants some leeway,
see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), w
ill assume that Plaintiffs intended to invoke Title VII.
work in the Digital Print Center (DPC) unit, which is
“exclusively African-American.” Am. Compl.,
¶ 27. In 2008, they filed EEO complaints in which they
alleged that “they were paid less than Caucasian
employees of the GPO doing the same work because of their
race.” Id., ¶ 21. Because the
Administrative Law Judge found that the administrative
complaint was an attempt “to lodge a collateral attack
on [the collective bargaining process], ” it was
dismissed for failure to state a claim. See ECF No.
35, Exh. 1 (EEOC Administrative Judge's Decision, May 20,
2013) at 7.
allege that retaliation for filing this administrative
complaint began “as soon as [it] was filed.” Am.
Compl. at 6. They first allege that Richard Tapella, the
former Public Printer, referred to Plaintiffs as “my
slaves” and their section as the “poor
stepchild.” Id. at 6-7. The Amended Complaint,
however, does not mention when or how often these terms were
used. Next, Plaintiffs allege that around 2010, two printers
- namely, a Xerox iGen color printer and a Canon OCE 800
high-speed printer - were “taken from [P]laintiffs'
section and transferred to higher salaried employees.”
Id., ¶ 30. Plaintiffs also claim that
“[w]hen employees left the section, they were not
replaced.” Id., ¶ 3 1. As a result, one
operator had to manage “two or three machines
simultaneously, ” which Plaintiffs allege is an
“unsafe work practice.” Id. They a ls o
allege that they we re not paid overtime and were not
compensated for the additional work pressure. Id.
(It is unclear if Plaintiffs ever pursued these grievances
15, 2015, Plaintiffs filed this action in the United States
District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which
transferred it to this Court on September 29, 2015. See ECF
Case 1:16-cv-00494-JEB Document 43 Filed 11/30/16 Page 2 of 7
Nos. 1, 14. Defendants GPO and Davita Vance-Cooks, the
current Public Printer, now move to dismiss.
evaluating Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, the Court must
“treat the complaint's factual allegations as true
. . . and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of all
inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Sparrow, 216 F.3d at 1113
(quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608
(D.C. Cir. 1979)) (internal citation omitted); see also
Jerome Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253
(D.C. Cir. 2005). The Court need not accept as true, however,
“a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation,
” nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth
in the Complaint. Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n,
456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v .
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (internal quotation
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of an action where a complaint fails to “state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.” Although the
notice-pleading rules are “not meant to impose a great
burden on a plaintiff, ” Dura Pharm., Inc. v.
Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and “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, accepted as true, to state a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (internal
quotation omitted). A plaintiff must put forth “factual
content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. Though a plaintiff may survive a
12(b)(6) motion even if “recovery is very remote and
unlikely, ” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (citing
Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236), the facts alleged in the complaint
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id. at 555.
make multiple arguments in its Motion to Dismiss, including
ones relating to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8, the Civil
Service Reform Act, and the Federal Service Labor-Management
Relations Act. This Court, however, need only address the
simpler question of whether Plaintiffs have sufficiently
stated a retaliation or hostile-work-environment claim, and
it will look at each count in turn.
first allege that GPO supervisors retaliated against them
after they filed their EEO complaint. See Am. Compl., ¶
28. As previously set forth, the alleged retaliatory acts
include purportedly racial comments (“my slaves,
” “poor stepchild”), the removal of
printers from their section, a failure to fill vacant