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Daniels v. Wilkie

United States District Court, District of Columbia

May 22, 2018

REGINALD S. DANIELS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT WILKIE, [1] ACTING SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE RE DOCUMENT NO.: 9

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Reginald Daniels brings this action against Robert Wilkie, in his official capacity as Acting Secretary of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”); the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”); the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”); the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (“VEVRAA”); the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 (“WPA”); the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”); defamation; and the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Defendant has moved to dismiss this case for improper venue pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3) or, alternatively, to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia or the Central District of Illinois. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Defendant's motion to dismiss, but grants its motion to transfer the case to the Central District of Illinois.

         II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff Reginald Daniels is an African-American veteran with multiple psychological diagnoses. See Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 1. After serving as a U.S. Navy chaplain for approximately eighteen years, Mr. Daniels was hired as a chaplain by Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System (“VA-IHCS”) in Danville, Illinois. See id. ¶ 1.

         Mr. Daniels suffers from Borderline Asperger Syndrome, a developmental disorder that limits his ability to effectively socialize and communicate. See id. ¶ 2. Due to this disorder, during his time as a chaplain, Mr. Daniels often offended people by involuntarily using unfiltered words and phrases, such as “seductive, ” “extra-marital affairs, ” “sensual, ” “whorehouse, ” “brothel, ” and “wet T-shirt.” Id. at 11-12. Mr. Daniels's supervisor advised him not to use profanity when talking with other staff members, and especially with female staff members. Id. at 11.

         Mr. Daniels alleges that during his employment Defendant failed to provide him with reasonable accommodations for his “abnormal” mode of communication. See id. at 4, 6. He explains that Defendant had a “moral and legal” obligation to place him on a Performance Improvement Plan or refer him to a Veterans' Employment and Training Service Program before firing him, so that he could properly assimilate into the civilian work environment. Id. at 7. Instead, Defendant admonished and forbade Mr. Daniels from using profane language, and later fired him. See id. at 12.

         A few days before receiving his letter of termination from the VA, Mr. Daniels contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Office in Danville, Illinois, and complained that he was experiencing discrimination and a hostile work-environment. See id. ¶¶ 8-9. Mr. Daniels also informed his supervisor about inappropriate sexual relationships taking place in the workplace. See id. at 12. The VA initiated no further investigation into the matter in response to Mr. Daniels's “whistle blowing statement[s], ” and soon thereafter fired him. Id. at 13.

         In Mr. Daniels's termination packet, the VA explained that Mr. Daniels had been exhibiting “profane language, ” “disruptive behavior, ” and “[n]egative or threatening body language.” Id. at 10. At the time of his termination, Mr. Daniels was also being investigated for claims of sexual harassment. Id. ¶ 9.

         After being fired, Mr. Daniels filed an EEO complaint regarding his termination to Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Resolution Management (“VA-ORM”) in Hines, Illinois. See id. ¶ 14. Seventeen months after filing his initial complaint, Mr. Daniels had still not received a final decision from VA-ORM. See id. ¶ 18. Therefore, he filed a claim of his dissatisfaction with the delayed proceedings to VA-ORM's Deputy Assistant Secretary for Resolution Management in Washington, D.C. See id. ¶¶ 18-19. Two months after filing the claim of dissatisfaction, Mr. Daniels received an unfavorable final agency decision from VA-ORM. Id. ¶¶ 19, 22. Mr. Daniels then brought suit in this court for the alleged wrongful termination of his employment at VA-IHCS and for VA-ORM's deficient investigation. See id. ¶¶ 21-22. Mr. Daniels currently resides in Richmond, Virginia. See id. at 1. Defendant has moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer, claiming that venue in this district is improper. See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss or Alt. Transfer (“Def.'s Mot.”) at 1, ECF No. 9.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         When “considering a Rule 12(b)(3) motion [to dismiss for improper venue], the court accepts the plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue as true, draws all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor, and resolves any factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor. The court, however, need not accept the plaintiff's legal conclusions as true.” Darby, 231 F.Supp.2d at 276-77 (citation omitted).

         The party objecting to venue must present sufficient facts to put the plaintiff on notice that there is a defect in venue. See McCain v. Bank of Am., 13 F.Supp.3d 45, 51 (D.D.C. 2014), aff'd 602 Fed. App'x 836 (D.C. Cir. 2015). “Nevertheless, the burden remains on the plaintiff to establish that venue is proper since it is the plaintiff's obligation to institute the action in a permissible forum.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “The court may resolve the motion on the basis of the complaint alone, or, as necessary, examine facts outside the complaint that are presented by the parties, while drawing reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Id. (citation omitted). “Unless there are pertinent factual disputes to resolve, a challenge to venue presents a pure question of law.” Williams v. GEICO Corp., 792 F.Supp.2d 58, 62 (D.D.C. 2011). “If a plaintiff brings suit in a district that does not satisfy the venue requirements . . ., venue is improper and [the] court must dismiss the case, or if it is in the interest of justice, transfer the case to a proper venue under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).” Vasser v. McDonald, 72 F.Supp.3d 269, 277 (D.D.C. 2014).

         IV. ...


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