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Williams v. Brennan

United States District Court, District of Columbia

August 15, 2018

MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General, et al., Defendants.


          RANDOLPH D. MOSS, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Paulette Williams, proceeding pro se, brought this action against sixteen defendants alleging a host of claims relating to her tenure as an employee of the United States Postal Service. In a previous memorandum opinion and order, the Court dismissed almost all of Williams's claims but left intact her Rehabilitation Act claims against Meghan Brennan, in her official capacity as Postmaster General of the United States. See Williams v. Brennan, 285 F.Supp.3d 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2017) (“Williams I”). The Postal Service has now moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Dkt. 41. Because Williams has failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, the Court will GRANT the Postal Service's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Williams's Remaining Claims

         Paulette Williams, an employee of the Postal Service, filed this action in June 2017. Dkt. 1. The Court dismissed her initial complaint for failure to comply with the pleading requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a). Dkt. 4. Williams then moved for reconsideration and to reopen the case, and, at the same time, she filed an amended complaint. Dkt. 6; Dkt. 7. After the Court granted her motion and reopened the case, Dkt. 9, fifteen of the defendants moved to dismiss on various grounds, Dkt. 21; Dkt. 29. There is no evidence that the remaining defendant was ever served. Williams I, 285 F.Supp.3d at 4 n.3. The Court granted one of those motions and sua sponte dismissed the remaining claims, with the exception of Williams's Rehabilitation Act claims against the Postal Service. Id. at 1-9. Although not a picture of clarity, those claims appear to have four components:

         First, Williams alleges that Tony Johnson, the Postmaster for Fort Belvoir, Virginia, denied her November 2015 request that the Post Office accommodate her physical disability. Dkt. 7 at 2 (Am. Compl. ¶ 1). Then, when Williams was ready to return to work, Johnson denied her request to do so, even though her doctor had “lift[ed] all restrictions” on her ability to work. Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 2). And, when Williams had returned to work about two months later, Johnson “creat[ed] a hostile work environment” by making “crude remarks . . . pertaining to [her] disability” and her “homelessness.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3).

         Second, Williams avers that Preston Phillips, the manager of the Diamond Farms Post Office in Gaithersburg, Maryland, retaliated against her in February 2016 due to her “pending grievance” pertaining to the events occurring at the Fort Belvoir Post Office. Id. at 3 (Am. Compl. ¶ 4). Over a year later, according to Williams, Phillips denied her April 2017 request that the Post Office accommodate her “mental health issues.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 5).

         Third, Williams alleges that in June 2017, Patrice Shaw, the Officer in Charge of the Gaithersburg, Maryland Post Office, threatened to “expos[e] her . . . personal business”-which the Court understands to refer to her disabilities-unless she met with Shaw “without a steward present.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6). According to the amended complaint, Shaw again “victimized” and “harass[ed]” Williams in July 2017, “when [Shaw] had the floor supervisor . . . serve [Williams] with a memo[] stating that [Williams's] job would be . . . abolished.” Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8).

         Fourth, Williams avers that from February 2017 to the present, the Postal Service has denied her requests to transfer to other positions and her requests for promotion in retaliation for her “intent to bring civil litigation” against the Postal Service, id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 7), and, finally, laid her off on July 3, 2017, “due to [her] disability, ” id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9). Although Williams was told that this layoff was “expected to last” only two weeks, by the time she filed her amended complaint almost a month later, she had not yet been reinstated. Id. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9).

         B. Administrative Proceedings

         On December 3, 2015, Williams filed an administrative Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) complaint with the Postal Service. See Dkt. 1-4 at 4. Although the parties have not provided the Court with a copy of that administrative complaint, the Court assumes for present purposes that it challenged the Postal Service's November 30, 2015 decision declining to accommodate Williams's physical disability. Indeed, that is the only conduct that Williams now challenges that preceded the December 3, 2015 administrative complaint, Dkt. 7 at 2, and a later administrative notice confirms that Williams, in fact, filed an administrative complaint challenging the November 30, 2015 decision, Dkt. 41-7 at 4.

         A week after filing that administrative complaint, Williams's union, the American Postal Workers' Union (“APWU”), filed a grievance on her behalf that raised the same substantive complaint, although in the context of a labor-management dispute. Dkt. 41-3. That grievance, filed on December 10, 2015, alleged that Williams “was denied” the opportunity to work “after requesting reasonable accommodations due to her work limitations and permanent medical condition, ” and, in particular, that Johnson informed her that “she would no longer be scheduled to work due to her work restrictions.” Id. at 1.

         On February 4, 2016, Williams withdrew her EEO complaint, prior to issuance of a decision by the EEO Office and prior to expiration of the 180-day period of time for the EEO Office to act on the complaint. In a letter to the Postmaster General attached to Williams's initial complaint in this matter, she explains that she withdrew her EEO complaint “because Dana Claybrooks, ” the Postal Service's EEO counselor, “convinced” her that her union grievance process “would help [her] the same way, if not better, than what [Claybrooks] could, considering [Williams's union grievance] was already up for arbitration.”[1] Dkt. 1-2 at 4.

         Over ten months later, on April 20, 2017, the union and the Postal Service reached a settlement of Williams's grievance. Dkt. 41-4 at 2. Williams was awarded a cash payment to cover her lost wages for her “denial of light duty [work] from December 15, 2015 until she returned to work on February 1, 2016.” Id. Although this award covers a period of time after she filed her administrative complaint (on December 3, 2015) and after the union initiated the grievance process (on December 10, 2015), it appears that the Postal ...

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