United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.
Glenford Hewitt worked for six years as a Facility
Maintenance Technician for Defendant Chugach Government
Services, Inc., here in Washington. In the summer of 2016,
Chugach fired him for allegedly sleeping on the job. He
responded with this suit for wrongful termination, which
Defendant now moves to dismiss. As Chugach correctly points
out, Hewitt has not demonstrated that his claim falls within
the public-policy exception to the doctrine that bars at-will
employees from suing for wrongful discharge. The Court will
thus grant Defendant's Motion.
to Plaintiff's Complaint, which must be presumed true for
purposes of this Motion, he “was employed on an at-will
basis as a Facility Maintenance Technician by Defendant
through Potomac Job Corps Center, Washington, District of
Columbia,  since March 22, 2010.” ECF No. 1-1,
Attach. B (Complaint), ¶ 2. “On or about June 22,
2016[, ] Defendant alleged that Plaintiff was
‘sleeping' on the job and as proof thereof, the
Human Resources Manager alleged in writing that it
[sic] ‘received a picture' of Plaintiff
sleeping on the job” that day. Id., ¶ 5.
Although Plaintiff denied such somnolence, the company
nonetheless relieved him of his position in early July.
Id., ¶¶ 6-7. Hewitt alleges that Defendant
subsequently admitted that no photographic proof existed.
Id., ¶ 10.
Complaint sets out no specific causes of action. Given that
it is entitled “Complaint for Wrongful Termination of
Employment, ” id. at 1, however, the Court
assumes this is the sole count asserted. Plaintiff initially
filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, but
Defendant removed the matter here on the basis of diversity
jurisdiction on November 2, 2016. See ECF No. 1. In
setting out his claim, Hewitt alleges that his termination
contravened the District's public policy set forth in
“D.C. Code, Title 51-110(b)(1)(2) [sic],
” Compl., ¶ 11, a code section related to
unemployment benefits. More particularly, he alleges that, in
responding to his application for unemployment compensation,
“the District of Columbia Department of Employment
Services concluded that Defendant has not established gross
misconduct for the discharge of Plaintiff from his
employment.” Id., ¶ 9. Hewitt also claims
to have “reasonably relied on the provisions of the
personnel manual regarding the cause for which employees
could be terminated and the procedures set forth for such
termination, ” which procedures, he believes, were not
followed. Id., ¶ 8.
has now moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of an action where a
complaint fails “to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted.” In 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 v. United Air
Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000)
(quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608
(D.C. Cir. 1979)) (citation omitted); see also Jerome
Stevens Pharms., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1250 (D.C.
Cir. 2005). The pleading rules are “not meant to impose
a great burden upon a plaintiff, ” Dura Pharm.,
Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347 (2005), and he must
thus be given every favorable inference that may be drawn
from the allegations of fact. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416
U.S. 232, 238 (1974).
“detailed factual allegations” are not necessary
to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atlantic 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, 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
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. The
Court need not accept as true “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 marks omitted)). For
a plaintiff to survive a 12(b)(6) motion even if
“‘recovery is very remote and unlikely,
'” moreover, 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 (citing Rhodes, 416 U.S. at 236).
claim here is that Chugach improperly sacked him. His
principal hurdle, therefore, is his concession that he was
merely an at-will employee. See Compl., ¶ 2.
Such status is not necessarily fatal to a
wrongful-termination suit, however, as the Court explained in
a similar case:
The general law “in the District of Columbia [is] that
an employer may discharge an at-will employee at any time and
for any reason, or for no reason at all.” Adams v.
George W. Cochran & Co., Inc., 597 A.2d 28, 30 (D.C.
1991) (citations omitted). In Adams, the D.C. Court
of Appeals held that “there is a very narrow exception
to the at-will doctrine under which a discharged at-will
employee may sue his or her former employer for wrongful
discharge when the sole reason for the discharge is the
employee's refusal to violate the law, as expressed in a
statute or municipal regulation.” Id. at 34.
The DCCA then expanded this exception six years later in its
en banc decision in Carl v. Children's
Hospital, 702 A.2d 159 (D.C. 1997). The plaintiff in
Carl was a nurse who was terminated after she
testified in the City Council against the hospital's
interests and also as an expert witness for plaintiffs in
malpractice cases. Id. at 160. The majority of the
DCCA - as constituted by those joining Judge Terry's
concurrence and Judge Steadman's dissent - held that
Adams's exception was not the only possible one,
but that “the recognition of any such [future
public-policy] exception must be firmly anchored either in
the Constitution or in a statute or regulation which clearly
reflects the particular ‘public policy' being
relied upon.” Id. at 162 (Terry, J.,
concurring). In addition, “[t]his court should consider
seriously only those arguments that reflect a clear mandate
of public policy - i.e., those that make a clear
showing, based on some identifiable policy that has been
‘officially declared' in a statute or ...