United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTINE M. MILLS, Plaintiff,
CARLA HAYDEN, in her official capacity as Librarian of Congress, Defendant.
E. BOASBERG United States District Judge
se Plaintiff Christine M. Mills, a long-time employee of
the Library of Congress's Collection Access, Loan
Management (CALM) Division, brings this suit alleging
violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-16, and of the Civil Rights Act of 1991,
42 U.S.C. § 1981a. She principally claims that the
Library passed her up for a promotion on the basis of her
race, national origin, color, and sex, and in retaliation for
engaging in protected activity. Librarian Carla Hayden now
moves to dismiss on two grounds. First, she argues that
Plaintiff's entire suit is time-barred; second, she
alternatively asserts that Mills failed to properly exhaust
her national-origin claim. Disagreeing on both scores, the
Court must deny the Motion.
to her Complaint, which the Court must presume true at this
stage, Mills is a 34-year veteran of the (somewhat inaptly
named) CALM Division. See Compl. at 5. Starting in
2007, she repeatedly applied for - and was denied -
promotions, watching the Library fill each position with
employees from outside the Division. Id. at 4-5.
Finally, in 2016, she sought one of two open positions as a
Reference Library Technician within CALM, but the Library
once again tapped out-of-house employees for the slots.
Id. at 5.
reaching a tipping point after having been denied at least
eight positions in ten years, Mills filed an informal
complaint with the Library on June 16, 2017, attributing her
non-selection to her race, sex, and age, and to retaliation.
See Compl., Exh. A (Informal Complaint). Shortly
thereafter, she followed up with a formal complaint along the
same lines, tacking on color and national origin as
additional bases for the alleged discrimination. See
MTD, Exh. 3 (EEO Complaint). After an investigation, the
Designee of the Chief of the Library's Equal Employment
Office/Diversity Program (EEO/DP) issued a Decision Letter,
dated February 3, 2017, finding insufficient evidence to
support Plaintiff's claims. See MTD, Exh. 1
(Decision Letter) at 1, 8. Consistent with the Library of
Congress's internal regulations, the letter advised Mills
that she would have five workdays after receipt to request
reconsideration or fifteen workdays to request a hearing or a
Final Agency Decision without a hearing. Id. at 8
(citing LCR 2010-3.1 § 10). Finally, it alerted her:
“If you do not timely seek a hearing or Final Decision
from the Librarian without a hearing, this decision shall
constitute the Library's Final Agency Decision.”
Id. at 8.
failed to meet either deadline. Her request for
reconsideration came due on February 10, but she waited until
February 24 to ask for an extension. See Compl.,
Exh. B at 1. The agency declined to excuse the delay,
informing her as much on two separate occasions. Id.
at 2, 4. Likewise, Mills needed to request a hearing (or a
Final Decision without a hearing) by February 27 but took no
such action until March 21. Id. at 5. Once again,
the agency denied her request as untimely. Id. at 7.
She ultimately brought this suit on June 27. See ECF
Librarian first argues that Plaintiff's suit is untimely
and the Court should thus dismiss it under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). That Rule provides for the
dismissal of an action where a complaint fails to
“state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Although “detailed factual allegations” are not
necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “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) (internal quotation omitted).
weighing a motion to dismiss, a 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.” Equal
Employment Opportunity Comm'n v. St. Francis Xavier
Parochial School, 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997).
The Court “must treat the complaint's factual
allegations as true and must grant [the] plaintiff ‘the
benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts
alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines,
Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (quoting
Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C.
Cir. 1979)) (citation omitted). It need not accept as true,
however, “a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation” or an inference unsupported by the facts
set forth in the Complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d
178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
the Rule 12(b)(6) stage, a Court can review “documents
attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the
complaint, ” or “documents upon which the
plaintiff's complaint necessarily relies even if the
document is produced not by the plaintiff in the complaint
but by the defendant in a motion to dismiss.” Ward
v. D.C. Dep't of Youth Rehab. Servs., 768 F.Supp.2d
117, 119 (D.D.C. 2011) (citations omitted); see also
Banneker Ventures, LLC v. Graham, 798 F.3d 1119, 1134
(D.C. Cir. 2015) (“A district court may consider a
document that a complaint specifically references without
converting the motion into one for summary judgment.”).
In this case, Mills has failed to attach the Decision Letter
to her Complaint, but her exhibits frequently nod to it.
Defendant has included a valid copy with its Motion to
Dismiss, see MTD, Exh. 1, so the Court may properly
consider that document.
alternatively moves to dismiss at least one of
Plaintiff's claims for lack of jurisdiction, under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). To survive such a
motion, Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the Court
has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear her claims. See
DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, 547 U.S. 332, 342 &
n.3 (2006); Arpaio v. Obama, 797 F.3d 11, 19 (D.C.
Cir. 2015). A court has an “affirmative obligation to
ensure that it is acting within the scope of its
jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal
Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C.
2001). Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss under
Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “may consider materials
outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion
to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction. . . .” Jerome
Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C.
Cir. 2005); see also Venetian Casino Resort, L.L.C. v.
EEOC, 409 F.3d 359, 366 (D.C. Cir. 2005).
Librarian maintains that because Plaintiff failed to timely
file suit, this case must be dismissed. At a minimum, she
contends that the Court should toss Mills's
national-origin claim for failure to exhaust. The Court
addresses each argument in turn.