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Ramos v. Lynch

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 31, 2017

LAURA J. RAMOS, Plaintiff,
LORETTA LYNCH, as U.S. Attorney General, [1] Defendant.



         In her original complaint in this long-running employment discrimination suit, plaintiff Laura J. Ramos alleged that her employer, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), discriminated against her on the basis of her race (Count I), subjected her to a hostile work environment (Count II), and retaliated against her after she filed an administrative complaint (Count III). The Court granted defendant's motion to dismiss Count II, the hostile work environment claim, on March 21, 2014, and it granted defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings as to Count I, the racial discrimination claim, on July 7, 2015. The parties have been engaged in motions practice related to the remaining retaliation claim for more than a year. Currently pending before the Court is defendant's motion to dismiss Count III under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), or in the alternative, for summary judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Def.'s Mot. for Partial Dismissal or, in the Alternative, for Partial Summ. J. [Dkt. # 54] (“Def.'s Mot.”); see also Def.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 54-2] (“Def.'s Mem.”).

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant defendant's motion in part and deny it in part. It will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's claims in paragraphs 16(b) and 17(b)(iv) of the Amended Complaint. But plaintiff's claims in paragraphs 16(a), 17(a) and 17(b)(i-iii) of the Amended Complaint will proceed to discovery. The Court's decision is without prejudice to a future motion for summary judgment, once the facts are developed further.


         I. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed her initial complaint on March 13, 2013. Compl. [Dkt. # 1]. The original complaint alleged three counts: disparate treatment, hostile work environment, and retaliation. Id. On June 20, 2013, defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 10]. The Court granted the motion in part, dismissing Count II, the hostile work environment claim, but it denied the motion to dismiss as to Counts I - disparate treatment - and Count III - retaliation. Min. Entry (Mar. 21, 2014).

         On November 10, 2015, the Court granted plaintiff's motion to amend her complaint, over defendant's futility objection, to add claims that she was stripped of her supervisory roles, denied various transfers, and was constructively forced to withdraw from a particular program. Min. Entry (Nov. 10, 2015). Plaintiff filed her amended complaint on November 17, 2015. Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 50].

         On February 2, 2016, defendant filed the instant motion - to dismiss the complaint in part, or in the alternative, for summary judgment in part. Def.'s Mot.; Def.'s Mem.

         Plaintiff opposed the motion to dismiss on February 26, 2016, arguing that defendant was attempting to improperly relitigate or seek reconsideration of matters that had been adjudicated as part of the November 2015 ruling. Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Opp. to Def's Mot. [Dkt. # 56] (“Pl.'s Mem.”) at 1-2. The Court allowed plaintiff to file a supplement to her opposition in order to comport with Rule 56 and Local Civil Rule 7(h). Order (Apr. 15, 2016) [Dkt. # 61]. Plaintiff filed a revised memorandum in opposition on October 3, 2016, as well as an opposition to defendant's statement of facts, and affidavits both from herself and her attorney. See Pl.'s Suppl. Mem. of P. & A. in Opp. to Def's Mot. [Dkt. # 66] (“Pl.'s Suppl. Mem.”); Aff of Laura Ramos [Dkt. # 66-3] (“Ramos Aff”); Decl. of Maura McGonigle [Dkt. #66-4] (“McGonigle Decl.”). Defendant replied in support of its motion on October 17, 2016, Def's Suppl. Reply in Supp. of Def's Mot. [Dkt. # 67] (“Def's Reply”), and the Court granted plaintiff leave to file a brief surreply. Pl.'s Surreply in Opp. of Def's Mot. [Dkt #69]; Min. Order (Oct. 19, 2016).

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiff is a Hispanic woman who has worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) since 2003, and she is currently assigned to the Baltimore Field Office in Baltimore, Maryland. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. She alleges that after she reported discrimination on August 31, 2011 to the agency's EEO office, her supervisors began to retaliate against her. Id. ¶¶ 15, 16. Plaintiff identifies five incidents of retaliation:

Rescission of Transfer Offer: Plaintiff alleges that, starting in May 2011, she repeatedly requested to be transferred out of Unit 1D of the Counterintelligence Division. Id. ¶ 14(b). On August 31, 2011, the same day of her formal complaint to EEO, one of her supervisors, Edward Finnegan, offered to transfer her to Unit 1B. Id.¶ 15. But after Finnegan learned about the EEO complaint, he rescinded the transfer offer and “explicitly told [plaintiff] that he would not transfer her because she had filed a formal EEO complaint.” Id. ¶ 16(a).
Lower Performance Evaluation: Plaintiff claims that “specific critical elements” of her November 10, 2011 Performance Appraisal Report (“PAR”) were lower than in her most recent mid-year evaluation. Id. ¶ 16(b).
Minimized Authority / Supervisory Role: From mid-February through November 2013, plaintiff contends defendant “systematically decreased [her] job responsibilities, ” “excluded [her] from email communications and meetings” regarding projects she had been managing, and “stripped [her] of her supervisory role.” Id. at 17(a).
Denial of Lateral Transfer Requests: Plaintiff alleges that beginning in April 2013, she was denied numerous requests to transfer. Id. ¶ 17(b). Specifically, her request to transfer to the Internal Operations Division, her request for a Voluntary Rotational Transfer to the New York Field Office, and her request for a Specialty Transfer to the Boston Field Division were all denied. Id.
• Self-Demotion: Plaintiff claims that she was “constructively forced” to take her current position with the Baltimore Field Office. Id. ΒΆ 17(b)(iv). She describes this position as a demotion because she claims to have lost income, supervisory roles, professional reputation, and leadership potential because she ...

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