United States District Court, District of Columbia
RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge
Habakuk Ndzerre ("Ndzerre" or "plaintiff),
brings this action, pro se, alleging that defendant,
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
("WMATA" or "defendant"), discriminated
against him in violation of (1) the Federal Family and
Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601 ("FMLA");
(2) the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act,
D.C. Code § 32-501 ("DCFMLA"); (3) the
District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code §
2-1401 ("DCHRA"); and (4) 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
This matter is now before the Court on defendant's Motion
to Dismiss [Dkt. # 4], Upon consideration of the parties'
submissions, defendant's motion is GRANTED and plaintiffs
case will be DISMISSED with prejudice.
who was born in Cameroon, has been employed by WMATA as an
automatic train control mechanic since January 3, 2000.
See Compl. ¶¶12, 14, 17. In his complaint,
plaintiff details a series of allegedly unlawful actions by
WMATA beginning in 2013, including allegations of an ongoing
pattern and practice of discrimination against Ndzerre on the
basis of his race, color, and national origin, a hostile work
environment, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
wrongful denial of FMLA leave, and various violations of his
constitutional rights. Id. at ¶ 14.
begin with, plaintiff believes he was denied his rights under
the FMLA and the DCFMLA on two occasions. First, plaintiff
alleges that on December 21, 2015, WMATA wrongfully denied
him FMLA leave for a health condition that was "caused
by WMATA's hazardous, hostile[, ] or abusive work
environment." Id. at ¶ 15. He asserts
that, beginning on November 4, 2015, he was eligible to
receive approximately 12 weeks of DCFMLA and/or FMLA leave
because he was suffering from gastrointestinal bleeding,
gastroesophageal reflux disease, and hemorrhoids.
Id. at ¶ 20. After receiving outpatient surgery
for these conditions, Ndzerre contends he was unable to
return to work because he could not lift heavy materials.
Id. at ¶ 21. After plaintiff submitted the
required FMLA paperwork to WMATA, defendant denied him FMLA
leave on the ground that his condition did not qualify as a
serious health condition and that no medical condition was
indicated on his FMLA certification. Id. at ¶
26. As a result, plaintiff was forced to use his accrued
personal leave to care for his condition. Id. at
¶ 15. Second, in July of 2016, plaintiff submitted an
FMLA application to his immediate supervisor because he
needed time to recover from another outpatient surgery
related to his gastrointestinal condition. Id. at
¶¶ 27-28. WMATA allegedly failed to
"responsively answer" the FMLA request and failed
to give Ndzerre proper notice as required by the FMLA.
Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff was ultimately denied
leave. Id. at ¶ 28.
also alleges that he was subject to discrimination,
harassment, and a hostile work environment in violation of
the DCHRA. In particular, he alleges that WMATA "failed
to provide him with a reasonable accommodation, denied him
his employment benefit[, ] and subjected him to other adverse
and disparate treatment that interfered with, and negatively
impacted, the terms and conditions of [his] employment."
Id. at ¶ 81. Ndzerre further claims that WMATA
was aware that he was suffering from "severe and major
depression" from his gastrointestinal bleeding, and that
WMATA persisted in discriminating against him because it
"perceived [his] race, color[, ] and national origin as
being [a] foreigner or as a second class citizen."
Id. at ¶ 89. Plaintiff also asserts that WMATA
"harassed, retaliated[, ] and denied [him] leave, and
harassed him by threatening to terminate his employment"
because of his race and national origin. Id. at
plaintiff alleges that WMATA committed the tort of
intentional infliction of emotional distress by subjecting
him to discrimination, extreme harassment, and a hostile work
environment because of his race, color, and national origin.
Id. at ¶ 95. Specifically, Ndzerre contends
that WMATA harassed him, failed to provide him with FMLA
notice, intimidated him, denied him leave, threatened to
terminate him, and ultimately terminated him because of his
race. Id. at ¶ 97. Plaintiff additionally
claims that he has suffered panic and anxiety attacks, severe
depression, embarrassment, humiliation, inability to sleep,
fatigue, loss of concentration, and loss of appetite as a
result of WMATA's conduct. Id. at ¶ 98,
it appears that plaintiff has attempted to state a claim
against WMATA under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of
his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. To
support his constitutional claims, plaintiff alleges that
WMATA violated his First Amendment rights "to not speak
and not to be retaliated against for speaking."
Id. at ¶ 61. He contends that WMATA also
"violated [his] Eight[h] Amendment Rights to be free of
cruel and unusual punishment ('mentally and
physically')." Id. at ¶ 60. And he
alleges that WMATA "has not subjected employees born in
the United States to similar acts constituting a hostile or
abusive work environment, " and that WMATA thus violated
his Fourteenth Amendment right "to be treated equally to
those similarly situated as him." Id. at
¶¶ 34, 61.
survive a motion to dismiss, a 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) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). This Court is not "bound to accept as true a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation."
Id. In determining whether a complaint fails to
state a claim, "[the Court] may consider only the facts
alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or
incorporated in the complaint and matters of which [the
Court] may take judicial notice." E.E.O.C. v. St.
Francis Xavier Parochial Sch, 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C.
Cir. 1997). While pro se complaints are liberally
construed, "even a pro se plaintiff must plead
factual matter that permits the court to infer more than the
mere possibility of misconduct." Plummer v. Safeway,
Inc., 934 F.Supp.2d 191, 195 (D.D.C. 2013) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
Family and Medical Leave Act Claim
asserts that Ndzerre's FMLA claim must be dismissed
because WMATA enjoys Eleventh Amendment immunity for alleged
violations of the self-care provisions of the FMLA.
See Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Def.'s Mot.
to Dismiss ("Def.'s Mem.") at 3. For the
following reasons, I agree.
is an interstate compact agency, created by a compact enacted
by Congress and to which the Commonwealth of Virginia, the
State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia are
signatories. Jones v. Washington Metro. Area Transit
Auth.,205 F.3d 428, 432 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Our Circuit
has "consistently recognized that in signing the WMATA
Compact, Virginia and Maryland each conferred its immunity
upon WMATA, which therefore enjoys, to the same extent as
each state, immunity from suit in federal court based on its
performance of governmental functions." Id. Our
Circuit has also held that "WMATA's
'governmental function' immunity encompasses 'the
hiring, training, and supervision of WMATA personnel, '
which is the kind of conduct for which [Ndzerre] seeks to
hold WMATA liable" under the FMLA. Id. The only
remaining question therefore is whether, as defendant has
argued, in enacting the FMLA Congress abrogated the
states' (and thus WMATA's) Eleventh Amendment
immunity from FMLA liability. Unfortunately for plaintiff,
the Supreme Court has answered that question in the negative.
Although the Supreme Court has held that states are not
immune from the family-care provision of the FMLA,
see Nevada Dep't of Human Res. v. Hibbs, 538
U.S. 721 (2003), it has affirmed that Congress did not
validly abrogate states' sovereign immunity from suits
for money damages in enacting FMLA's self-care
provision. Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland, 566
U.S. 30 (2012); see also, e.g., McKlintic v. 36th
Judicial Circuit Court,508 F.3d 875, 877 (8th Cir.
2007) (Eleventh Amendment bars suit against a state for