United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge
Breana Higgs, a transgender woman, alleges that Defendants
Cava Group, Inc., Cava Mezze Grill Chinatown, LLC
(“Cava Chinatown”), and Cava Mezze Grill Silver
Spring, LLC (“Cava Silver Spring”) discriminated
against her on the basis of her gender identity in violation
of the D.C. Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) and the
Montgomery County Human Rights Act (“MCHRA”).
Pending before the Court is Defendants'  Motion to
Dismiss Count II of the Complaint, in which Defendants argue
that Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim under the
DCHRA should be dismissed because the DCHRA does not apply
extraterritorially and the conduct at issue in that claim
occurred in Maryland. Upon consideration of the pleadings,
relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the
Court DENIES Defendants'  Motion to Dismiss. At this
preliminary stage in the case, the Court finds that Plaintiff
may proceed with her hostile work environment claim under the
DCHRA because Plaintiff has adequately alleged that certain
decisions underlying that claim were made in the District of
Court herein recites only those allegations necessary for the
resolution of the narrow issue presented by the pending
partial Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff Breana Higgs is a
transgender woman who was assigned the sex male at birth but
identifies as, and has presented as, female since the age of
14. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 12. On December 9, 2015,
Plaintiff applied for a Customer Service Representative
position with Defendant Cava Chinatown. Id. ¶
16. Plaintiff was invited to interview for the job, but was
allegedly mistreated during that interview and was not
offered the position. Id. ¶¶ 17-21, 24.
However, after Plaintiff complained about her experience on
Cava's Facebook page, a Cava representative located at
Cava's headquarters in Washington, D.C., contacted
Plaintiff by e-mail and eventually suggested Plaintiff submit
a new application to Cava's location in Silver Spring,
Maryland. Id. ¶¶ 27, 28, 34. Plaintiff did
so and was hired at that location. Id. ¶¶
working at Cava Silver Spring, Plaintiff alleges that she
experienced hostility, disrespect, and mistreatment from her
coworkers and supervisors. Id. ¶ 45.
Plaintiff's Complaint outlines a series of disrespectful
comments and instances of misgendering on the part of various
Cava employees, including repeated comments regarding
Plaintiff's sexual identity and remarks questioning
whether Plaintiff was a prostitute. Id. ¶¶
45-72. Plaintiff lodged complaints about this misconduct to
Cava representatives located in Washington, D.C., but those
representatives allegedly minimized her complaints and failed
to attempt to correct the behavior. Id. Eventually,
Plaintiff was terminated by Cava allegedly for “having
a bad attitude and not smiling enough.” Id.
¶ 73. Plaintiff claims that the decision to fire her was
made by Cava employees located in Washington, D.C.
Id. ¶ 74.
on these allegations, Plaintiff has asserted several causes
of action in this lawsuit. Plaintiff asserts that Defendants
violated the DCHRA by failing to hire her at Cava Chinatown
(Count I), creating a hostile work environment (Count II),
and by retaliating against Plaintiff for complaining about
this work environment by terminating her (Count III).
Id. ¶¶ 76-97. Plaintiff also brings her
hostile work environment and retaliation claims under the
MCHRA (Counts IV and V). Id. ¶¶ 98-114.
have filed a Motion to Dismiss Count II of the Complaint, in
which Plaintiff alleges that she suffered a hostile work
environment under the DCHRA, pursuant to Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). See
Defs.' Mot. Defendants argue in their motion that the
DCHRA does not apply to the circumstances alleged in this
claim because “the predicate acts or comments forming
the basis for [Plaintiff's] hostile work environment
claim, as alleged in the complaint, occurred in
Maryland.” Id. at 1.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1)
survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1),
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the court has
subject matter jurisdiction over its claim. See Moms
Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C. Cir.
2007). In determining whether there is jurisdiction, the
Court may “consider the complaint supplemented by
undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint
supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court's
resolution of disputed facts.” Coal. for
Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C.
Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). “Although a court must
accept as true all factual allegations contained in the
complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1), ” the factual allegations in the complaint
“will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1)
motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to
state a claim.” Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance
Bd., 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 170 (D.D.C. 2007) (citations
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a party may move
to dismiss a complaint on the grounds that it “fail[s]
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
require that a complaint contain “‘a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief, ' in order to ‘give the
defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'” Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley
v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). “[A] complaint
[does not] suffice if it tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]' devoid of ‘further factual
enhancement.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).
Rather, a complaint must contain sufficient factual
allegations that, if true, “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570. “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678. In evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, a court must construe the complaint
in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept as
true all reasonable factual inferences drawn from
well-pleaded factual allegations. See In re United Mine
Workers of Am. Employee Benefit Plans Litig., 854
F.Supp. 914, 915 (D.D.C. 1994).
DCHRA is not extraterritorial; it does not and cannot secure
an end to discrimination in jurisdictions outside of the
District of Columbia.” Cole v. Boeing Co., 845
F.Supp.2d 277, 284 (D.D.C. 2012). Accordingly, for the DCHRA
to apply to a set of facts, “[e]ither the decision must
be made, or its effects must be felt, or both must have
occurred, in the District of Columbia.” Monteilh v.
AFSCME, AFL-CIO, 982 A.2d 301, 304-05 (D.C. 2009). At
this preliminary stage in this case, the Court concludes that
Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that ...