United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION [Dkt. #8]
RICHARD J. LEON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Yolonda Mack ("plaintiff or "Mack") brings
this action against Aspen of DC ("Aspen"), Brandy
R. Butler ("Butler"), the District of Columbia
Department of General Services ("DC DGS") and DC
DGS Acting Director Christopher Weaver ("Weaver").
She alleges discrimination and retaliation in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e et seq. against all four defendants, and
failure to pay wages in violation of D.C. Code § 32-1012
et seq. against Aspen and Butler.
DC DGS and Weaver ("DGS defendants") filed a Motion
to Dismiss the claims against them. [Dkt. # 8]. Upon
consideration of the pleadings and relevant law, I will GRANT
defendants' motion and dismiss the claims against them
to the allegations in the Amended Complaint, Mack was
employed from 2011 to 2014 by Aspen, a company that provides
contract employee management and staffing to government and
commercial clients. Am. Compl. ¶ 5 [Dkt. #1]. Defendant
Butler was (and is) Aspen's President and CEO.
Id. ¶ 6. DC DGS is the District agency that
manages District-owned facilities, including oversight of
"lease administration and rent collection" at the
District-owned Eastern Market facility. Id. ¶
7. Defendant Weaver is DC DGS's Acting Director.
Id. ¶ 8.
worked as Eastern Market's North Hall Event Space
Coordinator, pursuant to a contract between Aspen and DC DGS.
Id. ¶ 4. During her employment, Mack alleges
that she was repeatedly sexually harassed by Katrina Cufffey,
a fellow Aspen employee who also worked at Eastern Market.
Id. ¶¶ 9-13. She alleges that she and
Cuffey were both supervised on a daily basis by DC DGS
employee Barry Margeson. Id. ¶ 9.
alleges that she complained about Cuffey's sexual
harassment to Butler and Margeson, but neither stopped the
harassment. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. She also alleges
that the she filed a formal complaint about the harassment
with Aspen in February 2014. Id. at 15. As a result,
she alleges Aspen conducted an internal investigation that
concluded that Cuffey sent "sexually explicit
communications" that Mack found "uninvited and
harassing in nature, " advised Cuffey that the alleged
behavior violated company policy, and recommended sexual
harassment training for both Mack and Cuffey. Id.
16-17. Because Cuffey was neither terminated nor meaningfully
disciplined, Mack alleges that the internal investigation was
a "sham designed to minimize Aspen's liability and
reach a predetermined outcome . . . ." Id.
alleges that Aspen and DC DGS retaliated against her after
she complained about the sexual harassment. Id.
¶ 16. She alleges that Aspen falsely claimed in its
investigation written report that the investigation uncovered
evidence suggesting the Mack was using illegal drugs at work.
Id. She also alleges that her contractor position
was eliminated in September 2014, that she was not given the
chance to compete for a fulltime position with DC DGS, and
that Aspen withheld her final paycheck, in retaliation for
reporting sexual harassment. Id.
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss a complaint, the
Court must determine whether the plaintiffs complaint
contains "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) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Court must
read the complaint's factual allegations in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff, Bell Atlantic Co v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), but the Court is not
required to accept "a legal conclusion couched in the
form of a factual allegation" or "threadbare
recitals of a cause of action's elements, supported by
mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679. In addition, a claim that is based on an incorrect legal
theory must be dismissed, "without regard to whether it
is based on an outlandish legal theory or on a close but
ultimately unavailing one." Nietzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989).
alleges that Aspen and DGS "intentionally discriminated
against [her] in violation of Title VII by retaliating
against her for opposing unlawful sex discrimination."
Compl. ¶ 28. To establish a prima facie Title VII claim
for discrimination, the plaintiff must show "(1) she is
a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered an adverse
employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action gives rise
to an inference of discrimination." Stella v.
Mineta, 284 F.3d 135, 145 (D.C. Cir. 2002). For a
retaliation claim, a plaintiff must show "that she
engage in protected activity, that she suffered an adverse
employment action, and that there was a causal link between
the former and the latter." Allen v. Johnson,
795 F.3d 34, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
initial matter, Mack sued the wrong defendants. Mack names DC
DGS, a subordinate agency in the District's government,
as one of the defendants. However, the District of Columbia
is the proper defendant in a Title VII case, rather than any
subordinate government agencies or departments. Hunter v.
D.C. Child & Family Servs. Agency, 710 F.Supp.2d
152, 157 (D.D.C. 2010) ("[I]n a Title VII case against
the District of Columbia, the District is the proper
defendant, not its agencies."). Furthermore, Mack sues
DC DGS Acting Director Weaver in his official capacity. The
Supreme Court has noted that "[t]here is no . . . need
to bring official-capacity actions against local government
officials, for . . . local government units can be sued
directly for damages or injunctive relief." Kentucky
v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 n. 14 (1985). As a result,
the proper defendant here is the District of Columbia.
asks the Court to construe defendants' motion as a motion
to substitute the proper parties, and she is correct that
courts of this District have chosen to substitute the
District as a defendant when a plaintiff erroneously names a
District agency as a defendant. See, e.g., Sampson v.
D.C. Dep't of Corrections,20 F.Supp.3d 282, 285
(D.D.C. 2014) (construing motion to dismiss as motion to
substitute and substituting the District as the proper
defendant). However, I decline to do so here ...