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Taylor v. Perry Street Preparatory Public Charter School

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 17, 2017



          COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge

         Plaintiff in this case, the former Dean of Students at Defendant Perry Street Preparatory Public Charter School (“Perry Street”), alleges that Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his gender when it denied him a promotion, and subsequently retaliated against him for filing a complaint about that discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Plaintiff brings this lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Pending before the Court is Defendant Perry Street's [15] Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. Defendant argues that the Complaint should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to file a timely charge with the EEOC regarding the challenged conduct, and because Plaintiff's allegations are not sufficient to satisfy the causation requirement of his retaliation claim.

         Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court GRANTS-IN-PART and DENIES-IN-PART Defendant's Motion. The Court will dismiss Plaintiff's retaliation claim because Plaintiff did not file a timely EEOC charge with respect to the alleged retaliatory actions. The Court will not, however, dismiss Plaintiff's discriminatory failure to promote claim at this preliminary stage of the case because Plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that equitable tolling may apply to excuse his failure to file a timely charge with respect to that claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Charles Taylor worked as the Dean of Students at Perry Street from 2008 to 2014. Compl., ECF No. 3, ¶ 5. In 2013, Plaintiff interviewed for a position at the school as the Human Resources Manager. Id. Plaintiff was denied that position in favor of a female candidate. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Plaintiff alleges that this female candidate did not apply for the position and was not qualified for it. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Nonetheless, Plaintiff alleges that the female candidate was given the position because she was engaged in a romantic relationship with one of the members of the hiring committee, Mr. Shadwick Jenkins. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Jenkins has engaged in a pattern or practice of firing male employees and replacing them with females with whom he has romantic relationships. Id. ¶ 9.

         Plaintiff alleges that he filed a charge with the EEOC regarding this conduct on approximately March 29, 2013, but the EEOC lost his complaint. Id. ¶ 10. Plaintiff eventually refiled his complaint and received a right to sue letter on June 22, 2015. Id. Plaintiff alleges that he was retaliated against for filing his original 2013 charge. He alleges that his supervisor began to berate and embarrass him in front of other employees, and that he was thereafter required to perform tasks that female employees were not required to perform. Id. ¶¶ 11-12. Plaintiff also alleges that Mr. Jenkins fired him without cause on July 31, 2014.[2] Id. ¶ 13.

         Defendant Perry Street subsequently moved to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defendant moved to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiff's EEOC charge was not timely filed and his retaliation claim is not causally connected to any protected activity. See Def.'s Mot. That motion has been fully briefed and is now ripe for resolution.[3]


         Pursuant 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).


         Defendant's Motion to Dismiss is primarily a challenge to the timeliness of the charge Plaintiff filed with the EEOC before bringing his lawsuit. “Prior to filing a Title VII suit, a plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies by filing an EEOC charge outlining his allegations.” Duberry v. Inter-Con Sec. Sys., Inc., 898 F.Supp.2d 294, 298 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)). “In the District of Columbia, such an EEOC charge must be filed within 300 days of the allegedly discriminatory/retaliatory act.” Id. “[I]f the employee does not submit a timely EEOC charge, the employee may not challenge that practice in court.” Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618, 624 (2007) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(f)(1)), superseded by statute, Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Pub.L. No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (2009).

         Plaintiff's Complaint contains two categories of allegedly unlawful action. First, Plaintiff alleges that he was discriminated against on the basis of his gender when he was denied the Human Resources Manager position in early 2013. Plaintiff alleges that he filed a timely charge with the EEOC regarding that discrimination. Second, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant retaliated against Plaintiff for filing that EEOC charge by berating him for a period of time culminating in his termination on July 31, 2014.

         Plaintiff's claims will not be dismissed as they relate to the first category of alleged unlawful conduct-the allegedly discriminatory failure to promote Plaintiff. Plaintiff alleges that he filed an EEOC charge relating to this claim on approximately March 29, 2013, which would have been timely, but “[t]he EEO office lost said complaint.” Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff claims that he only discovered that his timely charge had been lost when he returned to the EEO Office in June 2015 and was told that the office could not locate his file. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2. Under these circumstances, Plaintiff asks the Court to apply equitable tolling to his deadline to file an EEOC charge.

         “‘[F]iling a timely charge of discrimination with the EEOC is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to suit in federal court, but a requirement that, like a statute of limitations, is subject to waiver, estoppel, and equitable tolling.'” Dyson v. D.C., 710 F.3d 415, 421 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (quoting Zipes v. Trans World Airlines, Inc., 455 U.S. 385, 393 (1982)). “A ‘petitioner is entitled to equitable tolling only if he shows (1) that he has been pursuing his rights diligently, and (2) that some extraordinary circumstance ...

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