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Perez v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 6, 2018

VIRGINIA GUILLEN PEREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES et al., Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge

         Virginia Guillen Perez began working as a clerical assistant in the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services in 2012. When she was terminated in October 2016, she brought suit against her former employer, alleging that it had discriminated and retaliated against her in violation of an assortment of federal laws. The defendants have filed a partial motion to dismiss several of the claims Guillen raised as well as two of the defendants she sued. The Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. Factual Background

         The following factual background is drawn from Guillen's amended complaint, taking her well-pled factual allegations as true as the Court must at this point in the case, see Doe v. Rumsfeld, 683 F.3d 390, 391 (D.C. Cir. 2012). On September 4, 2012, Guillen was hired as a Clerical Assistant by the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services (“the Department”). Am. Compl. ¶ 10. Guillen is a Hispanic woman who immigrated to the United States from the Dominican Republic. Id. ¶ 7.

         In or around August 2014, Guillen informed the Department that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Id. ¶ 11. A few months later, in October 2014, Guillen underwent surgery for her cancer and received authorization to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for her procedure and recovery. Id. ¶¶ 13-16. Due to complications, Guillen was unable to return to work until December 2014. Id. ¶¶ 17-22.[1] When she returned, she had a new supervisor, Quinett Warrick. Id. ¶ 22. According to Guillen, Warrick was unhappy that she had taken and continued to take leave for her medical issues and instituted a series of retaliatory actions, including giving Guillen negative performance reviews in weekly reports and altering Guillen's time cards. Id. ¶¶ 23, 25, 30.

         Around that time, Guillen also began complaining about receiving less pay than her African-American coworkers, and filed a complaint alleging racial discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). Id. ¶¶ 26-27, 41. Guillen also complained to Warrick about other perceived double standards in the workplace, including that Warrick would allow African-American coworkers to show up late to work or to take unscheduled breaks but required Guillen to strictly follow the work schedule. Id. ¶¶ 33-39. When Warrick told Guillen she could not do anything about the unequal pay, Guillen wrote to another Department employee (the complaint does not specify her position), Monnikka Madison, seeking a raise. Id. ¶ 48.

         After speaking to Madison, Guillen received a letter from the Director of the Department providing her advance notice of a proposed 10-day suspension. Id. ¶ 54. This suspension was allegedly based on Guillen mishandling two client phone calls. Id. ¶ 55. Guillen mediated the proposed suspension through her union's procedure. Id. ¶¶ 57-60. The next month, on September 28, 2015, Guillen filed a grievance with the District of Columbia (the complaint does not indicate which department) alleging discrimination by the Department on the basis of her race and national origin. Id. ¶ 69. She was ultimately terminated from her job effective October 9, 2015. Id. ¶ 70.

         Following her termination, Guillen filed a charge with the D.C. Office of Human Rights (which was deemed cross-filed with the EEOC due to the work-share agreement between the two agencies) alleging various violations of District and federal law by the Department. After receiving a right to sue letter from the EEOC, Guillen brought suit in this Court against the Department, the District of Columbia, and District Mayor Muriel Bowser. She charged the defendants with violating: (1) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, by discriminating against her on the basis of race and national origin and retaliating against her, Am. Compl. Counts 1-5; (2) the Federal Equal Pay Act, by paying her less than her coworkers, id. Count 6; (3) the Americans with Disabilities Act, by discriminating against her on the basis of her disability, id. Count 7; (4) the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, by interfering with her exercise of her rights under that act and retaliating against her, id. Counts 8-9; and (5) the District's Family and Medical Leave Act, id. Count 10. The District filed a partial motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) in response.

         II. Legal Standard

         In order to adequately state a claim for relief, 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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. In determining whether a complaint does so, the Court “must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, ” id., and “constru[e] the complaint liberally in the plaintiff's favor with the benefit of all reasonable inferences derived from the facts alleged.” Stewart v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2006). In its analysis, 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.” Id.

         A motion to dismiss for a plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies is “properly addressed as [a] motion[ ] to dismiss for failure to state a claim.” Scott v. Dist. Hosp. Partners, 60 F.Supp.3d 156, 161 (D.D.C. 2014). Since failure to exhaust remedies is an affirmative defense, “the defendant bears the burden of pleading and proving it.” Bowden v. United States, 106 F.3d 433, 437 (D.C. Cir. 1997). As relevant here, to exhaust administrative remedies under Title VII a plaintiff must file a charge of unlawful discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the allegedly unlawful act. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). This deadline is extended to 300 days when there is a work-sharing agreement between the EEOC and the relevant state anti-discrimination agency (in this case, the D.C. Office of Human Rights). Id.; see also Byrd v. District of Columbia, 807 F.Supp.2d 37, 58 (D.D.C. 2011) (explaining that because of the work-sharing agreement between the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the EEOC, the deadline to file an administrative charge is 300 days).

         III. Analysis

         The District seeks the dismissal of two of the defendants in this case as well as a handful of the claims that Guillen has raised. The Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part, as detailed below.

         A. Dismissal of defendants ...


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