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Stewart v. Bowser

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 6, 2017

MURIEL BOWSER, et al., Defendants



         Plaintiff in this case alleges that her former employer, the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights (“OHR”), discriminated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”). Presently before the Court is Defendants' [5] Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court will GRANT-IN-PART and DENY-IN-PART Defendants' motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Georgia A. Stewart, an African American female, was an employee of the OHR from 1967 to 2016. Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶¶ 4, 6. In 2013, Plaintiff filed a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that, despite her many years of distinguished service, the OHR had begun to discriminate against her on the basis of her age. Id. ¶¶ 12-13. The discriminatory acts Plaintiff claims her supervisors subjected her to include hiring and firing employees in Plaintiff's department without allowing her any input in the decision, refusing to allow the unit she supervised to have a full staff, depriving that unit of proper tools and equipment, assigning work within the unit without notice to or input from Plaintiff, and giving preferential treatment to other, younger, employees in her department. Id. ¶ 19. Plaintiff was terminated on September 30, 2016 and allegedly told she had 15 minutes to exit the building. Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Plaintiff alleges that when she asked her supervisor why she was firing her, the supervisor responded “Because I can.” Id. ¶ 22.

         Plaintiff asserted three causes of action in her Complaint: reprisal under Title VII, age discrimination under the ADEA, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. ¶¶ 27-34. Defendants have moved to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).


         Pursuant to Rule 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).


         A. Plaintiff's Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim

         The Court begins by noting that Plaintiff concedes that her intentional infliction of emotional distress claim should be dismissed and withdraws that claim. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. That claim is accordingly dismissed.

         B. The Proper Defendant

         Next, Defendants urge the Court to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint in its entirety because she has named the wrong Defendants. Defs.' Mot. at 4. “There is little dispute that the proper defendant in an action by a District employee for employment discrimination is the District of Columbia itself.” Cooper v. Henderson, 174 F.Supp.3d 193, 199 (D.D.C. 2016). Plaintiff, however, has not named the District of Columbia as a Defendant. She has instead named Mayor Muriel Bowser and Plaintiff's supervisor as Defendants in their official capacities.

         The Court is not persuaded that this mistake warrants the draconian result of dismissal. “Where a plaintiff, through unknowing mistake, names an improper defendant in her complaint, many courts in this district have sua sponte ordered substitution of the proper defendant.” Id. at 200 (collecting cases). A court may correct such a mistake regardless of whether the plaintiff is appearing pro se or is represented by counsel. Id. The Court will simply do so here. In lieu of dismissing Plaintiff's complaint, the Court will order that the individual Defendants be dismissed and replaced with the District of Columbia as the Defendant in this action. Pursuant to this substitution, the “complaint will be construed as one alleging claims against the District of Columbia.” Sampson v. D.C. Dep't of Corrections, 20 F.Supp.3d 282, 285 (D.D.C. 2014).

         C. Plaintiff's Title ...

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