United States District Court, District of Columbia
L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Stephens brings this Title VII action against her former
employer, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, asserting that
it discriminated against her based on race and gender,
subjected her to a hostile work environment, and retaliated
against her for engaging in protected activity. Before the
Court is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's Partial
Motion to Dismiss. Dkt. 9. For the reasons that follow, the
Court will grant the motion.
Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, a bureau within
the Treasury Department, hired Stephens as a Bank Examiner
and Shared National Credit Program Manager on July 1, 2012.
Compl ¶ 6; Dkt. 9-1 at 5. Stephens worked for the
Treasury Department for nearly one year. Compl. ¶ 35.
During that time, Stephens' supervisor was Vance Price,
the Deputy Comptroller for Large Bank Supervision.
Id. ¶ 7. According to the complaint, Price did
not adequately explain Stephens' managerial duties, and
he did not provide Stephens with necessary training,
documents, performance plans, assistance, and feedback.
Id. ¶¶ 7-11, 25, 29, 32. Also, Stephens
“was forced to supervise” Jamie-Jo Perry,
“an insubordinate and disgruntled employee.”
Id. ¶¶ 7, 13, 21-22. The Treasury
Department failed to address the insubordination, id.
¶ 13, and Price undermined Stephens' authority
over Perry when, for example, he granted Perry's leave
request without consulting Stephens and when he reassigned
tasks to Perry that Stephens had previously removed from
Perry, id. ¶¶ 16, 24.
5, 2013, Stephens received a negative performance review,
id. ¶ 33, and on June 12-shortly before her
one-year probationary period ended-Stephens received a notice
of termination, id. ¶ 34. Stephens then
resigned in lieu of termination on June 28, the day before
her termination would have taken effect. Id.
¶¶ 34-35. On July 16, Stephens initiated contact
with an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Counselor. The
Counselor ultimately issued a Report of Counseling. Dkt. 9-1;
see also Compl. ¶ 2. On August 26, 2013,
Stephens submitted an individual complaint to the Treasury
Department. Dkt. 9-2; see also Compl. ¶ 2.
After the Treasury Department completed an investigation,
Stephens opted for a hearing before an administrative judge
of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The
administrative judge conducted an initial teleconference that
discussed the nature of Stephens' claims, then issued an
order identifying the issues to be adjudicated and setting a
schedule for discovery and dispositive motions. See
Dkt. 9-4. After discovery was completed and after the
Treasury Department's motion for a decision had been
pending before the administrative judge for approximately one
year, Stephens withdrew her individual complaint.
See Dkt. 9-5.
then filed this case, asserting three claims under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act: disparate-treatment discrimination
based on race and gender, hostile work environment, and
retaliation. Compl. ¶¶ 36-54. The Treasury
Department answered the complaint, see Dkt. 4, but
in the parties' ensuing meet and confer statement, the
Department stated that it “intend[ed] to file a
dispositive motion on [Stephens'] failure to exhaust
administrative remedies as to at least one of her
claims.” Dkt. 6 at 2. Because exhaustion is a question
that can be resolved on the pleadings and the administrative
record, the Court permitted the Treasury Department to file a
dispositive motion as to exhaustion of administrative
remedies. Dkt. 7 at 2; Dkt. 8 at 1. But because the motion
would not dispose of the entire case, the Court also
permitted initial discovery to begin while specifying that
further discovery was stayed pending resolution of the
exhaustion motion. Dkt. 7 at 2; Dkt. 8 at 1-2.
motion to dismiss Title VII claims for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies is properly analyzed under Rule
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Jones
v. Bush, 160 F.Supp.3d 325, 337 (D.D.C. 2016),
aff'd, No. 16-5103, 2017 WL 2332595 (D.C. Cir.
Feb. 21, 2017); Mount v. Johnson, 36 F.Supp.3d 74,
80 (D.D.C. 2014). Rule 12(b)(6) allows a defendant to move to
dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must contain factual matter
sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A facially plausible
claim is one that “allows the court to draw the
reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). This standard does not amount to a
specific probability requirement, but it does require
“more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Id. A complaint need not
contain “detailed factual allegations, ” but
alleging facts that are “merely consistent with a
defendant's liability . . . stops short of the line
between possibility and plausibility.” Id.
(internal quotation marks omitted).
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider only
the complaint itself, documents attached to the complaint,
documents incorporated by reference in the complaint, and
judicially noticeable materials. EEOC v. St. Francis
Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir.
1997). Relevant here, the Court may consider Stephens'
EEO documents. See Bowden v. United States, 106 F.3d
433, 437 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (considering “the pleadings
and undisputed documents in the record” while reaching
the merits on a motion to dismiss); Vasser v.
McDonald, 228 F.Supp.3d 1, 11 (D.D.C. 2016) (taking
judicial notice of informal and formal administrative
complaints on a motion to dismiss); Williams v. Chu,
641 F.Supp.2d 31, 35 (D.D.C. 2009) (“A plaintiff's
EEOC charge and the agency's determination are both
public records, of which this Court may take judicial
notice.” (quotation marks and alteration omitted)).
Finally, Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal for failure to state a claim
“is a resolution on the merits and is ordinarily
prejudicial.” Okusami v. Psychiatric Inst. of
Wash., Inc., 959 F.2d 1062, 1066 (D.C. Cir. 1992).
VII complainants must timely exhaust their administrative
remedies before bringing their claims to court.”
Payne v. Salazar, 619 F.3d 56, 65 (D.C. Cir. 2010)
(internal quotation marks and alterations omitted); see
also 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c). The exhaustion
requirement “serves the important purposes of giving
the charged party notice of the claim and narrowing the
issues for prompt adjudication and decision, ” Park
v. Howard Univ., 71 F.3d 904, 907 (D.C. Cir. 1995)
(internal quotation marks and alteration omitted), and it
“ensure[s] that the federal courts are burdened only
when reasonably necessary, ” Brown v. Marsh,
777 F.2d 8, 14 (D.C. Cir. 1985). In the Title VII context,
failure to exhaust is an affirmative defense, and thus
“the defendant bears the burden of pleading and proving
it.” Bowden v. United States, 106 F.3d 433,
437 (D.C. Cir. 1997); see also Smith-Haynie v. District
of Columbia, 155 F.3d 575, 578 (D.C. Cir. 1998)
(“[A]n affirmative defense may be raised by pre-answer
motion under Rule 12(b) when the facts that give rise to the
defense are clear from the face of the complaint.”).
to Title VII, the EEOC has promulgated detailed procedures
for the administrative resolution of employment
discrimination claims against federal agencies. See
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(b); 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105. The
relevant procedures are as follows:
[E]mployees who believe they have been discriminated against
must first consult an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
Counselor within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory acts.
29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(a)(1). Should the employee and the
Counselor fail to resolve the discrimination claim within 30
days, the Counselor sends the employee a notice explaining
the administrative complaint procedure. Id. §
1614.105(d). The employee then has 15 days to file an
individual and/or class complaint with the employing agency.
Id. § 1614.106 (regulations governing
individual complaints); id. § 1614.204
(regulations governing class complaints); see also
Id. § 1614.103 (noting types of complaints governed
by agency processing procedures outlined in regulations).
In re James, 444 F.3d 643, 644 (D.C. Cir. 2006);
accord Panarello v. Zinke, 254 F.Supp.3d 85, 96