United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta, United States District Judge
discrimination case, Plaintiff Deborah Barrett claims that
Defendant Pepco Holdings discriminated against her on the
basis of her race, gender, and age, as well as retaliated
against her for exercising her protected statutory rights.
Before the court are the following motions: (1)
Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment; (2)
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss; and (3) Plaintiff's
Motion for Leave to Amend. For the reasons herein, the court
denies Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment and grants
in part Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend. Given that
portions of the Second Amended Complaint are now the
operative pleading in this matter, the court denies as moot
Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended
the court here writes primarily for the parties, the court
assumes their familiarity with this matter and will reference
the procedural history and factual allegations only as
necessary to resolve their disputes.
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT
moves for entry of a “default judgment” on the
ground that Defendant filed its responsive pleading late.
See Pl.'s Mot. for Default J., ECF No. 6, at
1-2. A default judgment is appropriate only when a party is
“essentially unresponsive.” Jackson v.
Beech, 636 F.2d 831, 836 (D.C. Cir. 1980).
plainly has not been “essentially unresponsive, ”
as it engaged with Plaintiff shortly after receiving the
Amended Complaint and made an appearance in this matter soon
thereafter. Defendant received the Amended Complaint on
January 25, 2017, and agreed to accept service, even though
Defendant deemed it defective, on the condition that
Plaintiff would consent to an enlargement of time for
Defendant to respond. See Def.'s Opp'n to
Pl.'s Mot. for Default J., ECF No. 8 [Def.'s
Opp'n to Mot. for Default J.], at 1. Defendant drafted a
motion for an extension of time, sought Plaintiff's input
concerning the language, made the adjustments Plaintiff
requested, and then filed its motion on February 15, 2017,
which the court granted. See Id. at 1- 2; Def.'s
Consent Mot. for Ext. of Time, ECF No. 3; Minute Order, Feb.
16, 2017. Pursuant to that extension, Defendant filed its
opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment on
March 15, 2017. See Def.'s Opp'n to Mot. for
Default J. Although there may have been some breakdown in
communication concerning the consent motion for an extension
of time, see Id. at 2-3, that fact does not render
Defendant an “essentially unresponsive” party in
this litigation. To the contrary, the record reflects that
Defendant has actively participated in this litigation from
the time it received the Amended Complaint.
the court denies Plaintiff's Motion for Default Judgment.
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO AMEND
originally filed this matter pro se, but later retained
counsel. With counsel's assistance, Plaintiff filed an
opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended
Complaint, but before that Motion became ripe, she sought
leave of court to amend her complaint once more. See
Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 20
(filed June 16, 2017); Pl.'s Mot. for Leave to Am.
Compl., ECF No. 22 [hereinafter Pl.'s Mot. to Am.], at 1
(filed June 20, 2017). Defendant opposes Plaintiff's
Motion for Leave to Amend on the ground that amendment would
be futile because Plaintiff's proposed Second Amended
Complaint still fails to assert any claims upon which relief
can be granted. See Def.'s Reply in Supp. of
Mot. to Dismiss & Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Leave
to Am., ECF No. 24 [hereinafter Def.'s Reply &
Opp'n], at 2.
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure instruct courts
“to freely give leave” to a party who wishes to
amend a pleading, leave need not always be given.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2); Foman v.
Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962). A court can deny a
plaintiff leave to amend her complaint if granting leave
would be “futile, ” meaning the proposed pleading
would not survive a motion to dismiss. See Greer v. Bd.
of Trs. of Univ. of D.C., 113 F.Supp.3d 297, 312 (D.D.C.
proposed Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendant
discriminated against Plaintiff on account of her age, race,
and gender; denied her a promotion; created a hostile working
environment; and retaliated against her for complaining about
her working conditions. The proposed complaint avers that
Plaintiff is a 60-year-old African-American woman, who,
during the relevant time period, worked as a “Design
Technician-B” for Defendant. Pl.'s Mot. to Am.,
Proposed Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 22-2 [hereinafter Second
Am. Compl.], ¶ 10. In or around August 2014,
Plaintiff's supervisor, Travis Groff, a 35-year-old white
man, purportedly “directed” Plaintiff to mentor
and train her younger, white male colleagues. Id.
¶ 12. In light of her increased responsibilities,
Plaintiff asked Groff for a promotion to a “Design
Technician-A” position. Id. ¶¶
13-14. He allegedly laughed at her and rejected her request,
telling her that it takes 20 years to get promoted.
Id. ¶ 15. Groff then removed Plaintiff from her
mentoring duties; “segregated [her] from her colleagues
by instructing them not to ask her any questions”;
“chastised and intimidated” Plaintiff by
frequently commenting on her attendance, to the point that
she was fearful to leave her desk; and limited Plaintiff to
two, 15-minute breaks, while allowing her younger, white male
colleagues to take breaks of an hour or more. Id.
¶¶ 17, 25. The Design Technician-A position
remained open, and Defendant continued to evaluate younger,
white men for the position. Id. ¶ 16. In early
October 2014, Plaintiff complained to Human Resources
(“HR”) that Groff was discriminating against her
and creating a hostile work environment. Id. ¶
19. At a meeting with HR, Groff purportedly again denied
Plaintiff's request for a promotion and mocked her
qualifications. Id. ¶ 20. A few weeks later,
Plaintiff repeated her complaints to Groff's supervisor.
Id. ¶ 21. In May 2015, Groff gave Plaintiff a
low evaluation score, which Plaintiff attributes to her
filing a complaint about Groff with HR. Id. ¶
22. In April 2016, another of Plaintiff's supervisors,
Jerry Simms, called Plaintiff a “bitch” for
complaining about Groff and “threatened physical
intimidation or violence against her.” Id.
court addresses, in turn, the claims presented in
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. For the reasons
discussed below, the court will grant Plaintiff's Motion
for Leave to Amend in part, thereby making portions of the
Second Amended Complaint the operative pleading in this
matter and rendering moot Defendant's Motion to Dismiss
the Amended Complaint. See Dover v. Medstar Wash. Hosp.
Ctr., Inc., 989 F.Supp.2d 57, 62 & n.2 (D.D.C.
Age-Based Discrimination Claims
begin, the court denies Plaintiff leave to amend her Amended
Complaint to clarify her age-based discrimination claims
because those claims are procedurally barred. Plaintiff
cannot recover on her claim of discrimination (Count 3),
hostile work environment (Count 5), or retaliation (Count 7)
under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”) because she did not exhaust her
administrative remedies as to any of those claims. See
Achagzai v. Broad. Bd. of Governors, 170 F.Supp.3d 164,
172 (D.D.C.), reconsideration denied, 185 F.Supp.3d
135 (D.D.C.), appeal ...