Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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.

Latson v. Sessions

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 23, 2017

ELVENIA A. LATSON, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFERSON B. SESSIONS, Attorney General of the United States, [1]Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          REGGIE B. WALTON, United States District Judge

         The pro se plaintiff, Elvenia A. Latson, brings this civil action against the defendant, Jefferson B. Sessions, in his official capacity as the Attorney General of the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”), alleging that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (the “Bureau”) unlawfully discriminated against her based on her race, gender, and age, and retaliated against her due to her pursuit of earlier statutorily protected activity, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e- to 2000-e-17 (2012) (“Title VII”), the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (“§ 1981”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 633a (2012).[2] See Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 1, 5. Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [3] the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must grant in part and deny in part the defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The plaintiff, an African-American woman, is a Bureau employee, see Def.'s Mot., Exhibit (“Ex.”) A (Order Denying In Forma Pauperis Request (“IFP Order”) at 3 (Application to Proceed in District Court Without Prepaying Fees or Costs (“IFP Appl.”) at 1 (listing the Bureau as the plaintiff's current employer), who has held the title of Industry Operations Investigator since September 18, 2007, Compl. ¶ 10. The plaintiff applied but was not selected for four different Bureau positions between September and December 2013: (1) Supervisory Industry Operations Investigator in Dallas, Texas; (2) Supervisory Industry Operations Investigator in Fort Worth, Texas; (3) Firearms Enforcement Specialist in Washington, D.C.; and (4) Acting Area Supervisor in Tampa, Florida. Id. ¶¶ 11-14. The Bureau also denied the plaintiff's request to participate in Industry Operations Investigator interviews in January 2014. Id. ¶¶ 11, 17. On December 17, 2013, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Bureau's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) office, alleging discrimination based on race, gender, age, as well as a claim of retaliation. Id. ¶ 6. Following an investigation, the matter was assigned to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) administrative law judge, “who issued a Decision . . . in favor of the [Bureau] on January 20, 2016.” Id. ¶ 7. The DOJ issued its final agency decision affirming the EEOC's decision on March 10, 2016, which the plaintiff received on March 16, 2016. Id. ¶ 8; see also id., Ex. 9 at 4-8 (Department of Justice Final Order).

         On June 8, 2016, the plaintiff filed in this Court a civil cover sheet, with no complaint attached. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Civil Cover Sheet) at 1-2 (indicating an “employment discrimination” cause of action). On June 23, 2016, the Clerk of the Court received the plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis, see Def.'s Mot., Ex. A (IFP Order) at 3 (IFP Appl.) at 1 (displaying a “received” date stamp of June 23, 2016, on the IFP application), along with her pro se Complaint, id., Ex. A (IFP Order) at 5 (Complaint attached to IFP application (“IFP Compl.”)) at 1 (displaying a “received” date stamp of June 23, 2016, on the IFP Complaint). The plaintiff signed her IFP application on June 6, 2016, see id., Ex. A (IFP Order) at 3 (IFP Appl.) at 2, but did not sign the Complaint she attached to her IFP application until June 20, 2016, see id., Ex. A (IFP Order) at 5 (Complaint attached to IFP application (“IFP Compl.”)) at 16. The IFP application was subsequently denied on June 30, 2016. See id., Ex. A (IFP Order) at 2. The plaintiff then filed her signed Complaint with the requisite filing fee on July 18, 2016. See Compl. at 1.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Although the Court “must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true [and] must grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged, ” Trudeau v. Fed. Trade Comm'n, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (first alteration in original) (citation omitted), legal allegations devoid of factual support are not entitled to this assumption, see, e.g., Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Moreover, a plaintiff must provide more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Hinson ex rel. N.H. v. Merritt Educ. Ctr., 521 F.Supp.2d 22, 27 (D.D.C. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). “In determining whether a complaint states a claim, the court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached thereto or incorporated therein, and matters of which it may take judicial notice.” Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Although filings by a pro se litigant “must be held to less stringent standards than [those] drafted by lawyers, ” Atherton v. D.C. Office of Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681-82 (D.C. Cir. 2009), this latitude “does not constitute a license for a plaintiff filing pro se to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, ” Moore v. Agency for Int'l Dev., 994 F.2d 874, 876 (D.C. Cir. 1993) (citation omitted).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. The Statute of Limitations Applicable to Title VII and the ADEA

         The defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint in its entirety, arguing that the plaintiff failed to timely assert her claims. See Def.'s Mem. at 1. Specifically, the defendant argues that, based on the date that the plaintiff received notice of the DOJ's final agency decision, she “had ninety days[, or] until June 14, 2016, to file her federal lawsuit. [The p]laintiff, however, did not file her complaint until July 18, 2016, more than [thirty] days too late.” Id. at 2. The Court agrees with the defendant that the plaintiff failed to timely file her Title VII and ADEA claims.

         Title VII specifies that “[w]ithin [ninety] days of receipt of notice of final action taken by a department, agency, or unit . . ., an employee or applicant for employment, if aggrieved by the final disposition of his complaint, . . . may file a civil action.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c). Thus, a litigant pursuing a Title VII claim has ninety days after receiving notice of a final agency decision to file his or her claim. See id. As for the ADEA, even though it “lacks an express statutory provision on the [statute of limitations] issue, ” Price v. Bernanke, 470 F.3d 384, 386 (D.C. Cir. 2006); see generally 29 U.S.C. § 633a, the District of Columbia Circuit has held that Title VII's ninety-day statute of limitations period also applies to ADEA claims, see Price, 470 F.3d at 389 (“Accordingly, we hold that when federal employees bring a civil action after pursuing administrative remedies under the ADEA, the action must be brought within [ninety] days of the final agency action, the time period allowed for similar suits under Title VII.”). “[C]ourts have strictly construed the [ninety]-day statute of limitations in Title VII cases, even where the plaintiff is proceeding pro se, ” Ruiz v. Vilsack, 763 F.Supp.2d 168, 173 (D.D.C. 2011), and “[p]rocedural requirements established by Congress for gaining access to the federal courts are not to be disregarded by courts out of a vague sympathy for the particular [pro se] litigant[], ” Baldwin Cty. Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 152 (1984). In this case, the plaintiff received notice of the DOJ's final agency decision on March 16, 2016. See Compl. ¶ 8. Therefore, she had ninety days, or until June 14, 2016, to file her Complaint. See § 2000e-16(c).

         The plaintiff argues that she “filed the Claim/Complaint prior to June 8, 2016[, ] and the complaint was received . . . and stamped [on] June []8, 2016.” Pl.'s Opp'n at 3 (internal citations omitted). As support for her position, the plaintiff relies on two exhibits, id., which are a civil cover sheet with a time stamp of June 8, 2016, see id., Ex. A (Civil Cover Sheet) at 1, and a complaint that contains an illegible time stamp, see id., Ex. C (Complaint) at 1, but was signed by the plaintiff on June 20, 2016, see id., Ex. C (Complaint) at 16.

         The plaintiff clearly filed a civil cover sheet on June 8, 2016, see id., Ex. A (Civil Cover Sheet) at 1-2, prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations period on June 14, 2016. The plaintiff provides no evidence, however, that she attached a complaint to that civil cover sheet, or that the Clerk of the Court opened a case as a result of the filing of that civil cover sheet. See id., Ex. A (Civil Cover Sheet) (filed without a complaint). A civil cover sheet filed alone is insufficient to satisfy the requirement of notice pleading, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), because, even though pleadings by pro se litigants must be liberally construed, see Atherton, 567 F.3d at 681-82, a plaintiff must still “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (omission in original) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555); see also Moore, 994 F.2d at 876 (“[Latitude given to pro se litigants] does not constitute license for a plaintiff filing pro se to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”). The civil cover sheet itself states that it is not a substitute for a complaint, but merely serves as an attachment that aids the Clerk of the Court in assigning the case once a complaint is filed. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Civil Cover Sheet) at 2 (“The JS-44 civil cover sheet and the information contained herein neither replaces nor supplements the filings and services of pleadings or other papers as required by law . . . . Consequently, a civil cover sheet is submitted to the Clerk of the Court for each civil complaint filed.”); see also United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Clerk's Office General Information & Civil Filing Procedures 6 (2016) (“Each new civil action is assigned using our automated case assignment system. For the new case clerk to complete the assignment, you must be sure to select the appropriate case category on the Civil Cover Sheet.”). Therefore, the plaintiff did not file a complaint prior to the expiration of the Title VII and ADEA statute of limitations period on June 14, 2016.

         In regards to the complaint that the plaintiff attached to her opposition to the defendant's motion to dismiss, that complaint has an illegible time stamp, see Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. C (Complaint) at 1, and was not signed by the plaintiff until June 20, 2016, see id., Ex. C (Complaint) at 16. Because that complaint could not possibly have been filed prior to the date that it was signed, the Court must conclude ...


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.