United States District Court, District of Columbia
PAULETTE A. WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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. On October 24, 2017, 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, 6-7
(D.D.C. 2017) (“Williams I”). On August
15, 2018, the Court dismissed Williams's remaining claim
under the Rehabilitation Act for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See Williams v. Brennan, No. 17-1285,
2018 WL 3910832, at *7 (D.D.C. Aug. 15, 2018)
(“Williams II”). As explained in that
memorandum opinion, the Court determined that Williams had
not exhausted her administrative remedies because, at the
time she commenced the lawsuit, Williams had either never
filed-or, had filed and then prematurely withdrawn-an EEO
administrative complaint regarding her remaining
Rehabilitation Act allegations. Id. at *6.
Concluding that filing a formal complaint was a
jurisdictional prerequisite to filing suit under the
Rehabilitation Act, the Court dismissed Williams's
remaining claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Id. Williams has now moved for reconsideration of
that dismissal. Dkt. 49. For the reasons stated below, the
Court will DENY her motion for
Williams does not identify which of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure she relies upon, “a motion to
reconsider a final judgment is generally treated as a Rule
59(e) or Rule 60(b) motion.” West v. Holder,
309 F.R.D. 54, 55 (D.D.C. 2015). Under either rule, however,
a “[m]otion for reconsideration . . . [is] ‘not
simply an opportunity to reargue facts and theories upon
which a court has already ruled, '” Black v.
Tomlinson, 235 F.R.D. 532, 533 (D.D.C. 2006) (quoting
New York v. United States, 880 F.Supp. 37, 38
(D.D.C. 1995)), or to “present theories or arguments
that could have been advanced earlier, ” Ali v.
Carnegie Inst. of Wash., 309 F.R.D. 77, 81 (D.D.C. 2015)
(quoting Estate of Gaither ex rel. Gaither v. District of
Columbia, 771 F.Supp.2d 5, 10 (D.D.C. 2011)). Relief
under Rule 59(e) “is discretionary and need not be
granted unless the district court finds that there is an
intervening change of controlling law, the availability of
new evidence, or the need to correct a clear error or prevent
manifest injustice.” Ciralsky v. CIA, 355 F.3d
661, 671 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (quoting Firestone v.
Firestone, 76 F.3d 1205, 1208 (D.C. Cir. 1996)).
“[T]he decision to grant or deny a [R]ule 60(b) motion
is, ” likewise, “committed to the discretion of
the [d]istrict [c]ourt, ” United Mine Workers of
Am. 1974 Pension v. Pittston Co., 984 F.2d 469, 476
(D.C. Cir. 1993), and requires that the movant make a showing
of “extraordinary circumstances, ” Cohen v.
Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of D.C., 819 F.3d 476, 485
(D.C. Cir. 2016) (quoting Kramer v. Gates, 481 F.3d
788, 790 (D.C. Cir. 2007)). Under either standard, Williams
has failed to carry her burden of demonstrating that
reconsideration is warranted.
motion for reconsideration, Williams argues that “she
did satisfy [the requirement of] exhausting [her]
administrative remedies” by “filing another
complaint against [the Postal Service] before the startup of
this case.” Dkt. 49 at 2. Williams contends that her
August 9, 2017 formal complaint-which she did not file until
after commencing this action-was “a
continuation” of the pre-complaint counseling that she
began in May 2017, which “every Postal Service employee
must utilize in order to begin the process of filing an EEO
complaint.” Id. at 1. Williams contends that
she did not file a formal complaint sooner than August 9,
2017 because, prior to that date, the EEO counselor had not
sent her a formal complaint form, which the counselor can
only issue “should the counselor see fit for a valid
charge to be lodged against the employer.” Id.
Because that request for pre-complaint counseling, Dkt. 41-5,
bears the same case number as her formal complaint from
August 9, 2017, Williams appears to argue that she exhausted
her administrative remedies because she “had already
processed this case” via her “previous
conversation” with an EEO counselor during their
informal consultation in May 2017. Dkt. 49 at 2.
this alters the Court's conclusion that Williams failed
to exhaust her administrative remedies before bringing suit.
As the Court understands Williams's description of
events, she initiated mandatory counseling with the EEO
Office in May 2017. The problem, however, is that
“[f]iling a formal complaint is a prerequisite to
exhaustion.” Hamilton v. Geithner, 666 F.3d
1344, 1350 (D.C. Cir. 2012). Nothing that Williams has
presented in her motion for reconsideration alters the
Court's jurisdictional analysis: Spinelli v.
Goss “held that federal court ‘jurisdiction
depended on the “final disposition of [an
administrative] complaint.”'” Doak v.
Johnson, 798 F.3d 1096, 1103-04 (D.C. Cir. 2015)
(alteration in original) (quoting Spinelli v. Goss,
446 F.3d 159, 162 (D.C. Cir. 2006)). Because Williams had not
filed an administrative complaint-or had filed and then
withdrawn a complaint-before commencing this action, there
was no “final disposition” or failure to act
sufficient to sustain this Court's jurisdiction.
even if the Court were to take May 15, 2017 as the date on
which Williams filed an administrative complaint-as opposed
to the date she commenced the counseling process- she still
would not have exhausted her administrative remedies. Once an
employee files a formal grievance, the agency then has 180
days to provide the aggrieved party with a copy of the
investigative file and to notify her that she has a right to
request a hearing or a final agency decision. 29 C.F.R.
§ 1614.108(f). Only after 180 days have passed,
regardless of whether the agency has issued a report or
rendered a decision, can the aggrieved party file suit. 29
C.F.R. §§ 1614.108(g), 1614.407(b). On June 29,
2017-the date Williams commenced this action- 180 days had
not passed since May 15, 2017.
D.C. Circuit has described the process of pursuing an
individual EEO complaint as “labyrinthine, ” and
a federal employee seeking redress for alleged discrimination
must “navigate a maze of administrative processes
before they can bring a claim to federal court.”
Niskey v. Kelly, 859 F.3d 1, 5 (D.C. Cir.),
cert. denied sub nom. Niskey v. Duke, 138 S.Ct. 427
(2017). But at the same time, the D.C. Circuit has clearly
spoken to the jurisdictional requirement for bringing suit
under the Rehabilitation Act. See Doak, 798 F.3d at
1103. Because Williams has not raised any previously
unavailable facts or intervening changes in the law that
might alter the Court's conclusion that it lacked
jurisdiction over Williams's suit, the Court must deny
her motion for reconsideration.
it is hereby ORDERED that Williams's
motion for reconsideration, Dkt. 49, is