Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hernandez v. Mao

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 14, 2017

DAVID S. MAO, Acting Librarian, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, Defendant.


          TANYA S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Ida Hernández brings this suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against David Mao, Acting Librarian of the Library of Congress, alleging sex discrimination and sexual harassment (Count I), hostile work environment based on both sex and race and national origin (Counts II, III), and retaliation (Count IV). (Compl. ¶¶ 34-67). Before the court is Defendant's partial motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).[1] (ECF No. 10). For the reasons stated herein, Defendant's motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Hernández, a Mexican-American woman, has been employed at the Library of Congress's Office of Opportunity, Inclusiveness, and Compliance (“OIC”) since 2006 as a Special Assistant to the OIC Director. (Compl. ¶¶ 4, 35, 52). In June 2012, Kirk Rascoe joined OIC as its Director, and Hernández alleges that once he began working at OIC Rascoe made her feel “extremely uncomfortable, ” minimized her professional role, dismissed her ideas, and told her not to “worry [her] little head about” issues that had previously been part of her job responsibilities. (Id. ¶¶ 7- 9). She further alleges that Rascoe repeatedly commented on and critiqued her clothing, including telling her that he did not like her wearing men's sweaters, and that he once gave her one of his own shirts and later asked why she had not worn it. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 17).

         Hernández also claims that Rascoe repeatedly referred to her as “querida, ” a Spanish word meaning “dear.” (Id. ¶ 11). In July 2012, Hernández told Rascoe that, based on her upbringing in Texas, where Spanish was her first language, she interpreted querida to mean “a man's paid other woman or lover.” (Id. ¶ 12). She asked him to stop using it because she felt it was offensive and unwelcome, but he disputed the meaning of the word and continued using it to refer to her. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 16). She further alleges that Rascoe patted a chair next to him at a meeting, indicating that Hernández should sit there, which made her feel embarrassed (id. ¶ 18), and that he once spoke at a meeting where Hernández was present about the Library's collection of adult books, calling OIC both the “glue and lubricant” that holds the Library together (id. ¶ 26).

         Finally, Hernández alleges that after a disagreement in April 2013 about her role in reserving event space for Blacks in Government, an affinity group at the Library, Rascoe issued her a counseling memorandum for inappropriate conduct and failure to follow supervisory orders. (Id. ¶ 20). Rascoe allegedly then entered Hernández's office and yelled that she was to “do as I tell you to do.” (Id.). Later that summer, on August 6, 2013, Hernández further states that during a one-on-one performance appraisal with Rascoe, he indicated he was giving her a satisfactory, rather than outstanding, review, and he discussed the counseling memorandum and room reservation events at length. (Id. ¶ 28). During that meeting, Hernández felt threatened when Rascoe acted angrily, yelled, leaned across his desk, pointed his finger, yelled “silence!” at one point to prevent her from speaking, and physically blocked the door to prevent her exit. (Id.).

         After she received the counseling memorandum, Hernández filed an informal allegation of discrimination with the Library's EEO office on May 15, 2013. (Def. Ex. 1 (ECF No. 10-1)). Following her performance appraisal meeting with Rascoe, she reported the incident to Lucy Suddreth on August 8, 2013, after which she was physically relocated to another department in the Library, Integrated Support Services (“ISS”), where she no longer had a personal office and lacked any assigned job responsibilities for months. (Def. Ex. 2 (ECF No. 10-2); Compl. ¶ 31). Shortly after the reassignment, she filed an additional allegation of discrimination, and then filed a formal discrimination complaint in October 2013. (Def. Exs. 2, 3). An administrative hearing was held in March 2015, and in July 2015 the hearing examiner issued its final agency decision, finding no discrimination. (Compl. ¶¶ 32-33; Pl. Ex. 1 (ECF No. 13-1)). Hernández subsequently commenced this suit in February 2016.


         A motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). For a plaintiff to prevail on a motion to dismiss, her 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). A claim is plausible when the factual content allows the court to “draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Thus, although a plaintiff may survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion even where “recovery is very remote and unlikely, ” the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). Evaluating a 12(b)(6) motion “requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

         Partial summary judgment is appropriate where there is no disputed genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The movant must rely on record materials to demonstrate the absence of any genuinely disputed issues of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323. The nonmoving party, in response, must present her own evidence beyond the pleadings to demonstrate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324. A fact is material if “a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit, ” and an issue is genuine if “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006).


         Defendant argues that Hernández failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with regard to her race and national origin harassment claim and her retaliation claim. Defendant further argues that as a matter of law, the counseling memorandum that Rascoe issued to Hernández in April 2013 cannot constitute a materially adverse employment action.

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Before filing a Title VII claim, a federal employee must file an administrative claim with her employing agency. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16; Brown v. Gen. Servs. Admin., 425 U.S. 820, 832 (1976). A court “may not consider a discrimination claim that has not been exhausted.” Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 693 (D.C. Cir. 2008). The primary purpose of the exhaustion requirement is to provide the agency with sufficient notice to begin the investigative process. Brown v. Marsh, 777 F.2d 8, 13 (D.C. Cir. 1985); Park v. Howard Univ., 71 F.3d 904, 907 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Thus, while the exhaustion requirement “should not be construed to place a heavy technical burden” on plaintiffs, it is “not a mere technicality, ” and a plaintiff's “Title VII lawsuit following the EEOC charge is limited in scope to claims that are like or reasonably related to the allegations of the charge and growing out of such allegations.” Park, 71 F.3d at 907 (internal quotations omitted). The failure to exhaust administrative ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.