United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS; REMANDING REMAINING
STATE LAW CLAIMS TO D.C. SUPERIOR COURT
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Catherine Woytowicz filed this suit to challenge both the
process and outcome of an investigation into her alleged
violation of Title IX while she was employed as a part-time
professor at The George Washington University
(“University”). She has brought constitutional
claims against the University and several of its employees
for violations of her rights under the First and Fifth
Amendments to the United States Constitution, a federal claim
under the Ku Klux Klan Act, as well as common law and
District of Columbia statutory claims for breach of contract,
intentional infliction of emotional distress, discrimination,
retaliation, and harassment. Defendants have moved to dismiss
her complaint for failure to state a claim, arguing that the
University and its employees cannot be liable to Professor
Woytowicz for constitutional violations because the
University and its employees are not government actors, that
her contract claim is preempted by the Labor Management
Relations Act (“LMRA”) and has not been properly
exhausted, and that her remaining state law claims are
insufficiently pleaded to survive Defendants' motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim. For the reasons given
below, the Court dismisses Professor Woytowicz's
constitutional claims because she has not sufficiently
alleged that the University and its employees were government
actors or performing a governmental function when they
investigated and disciplined her. The Court also dismisses
one of her breach of contract claims as preempted by the LMRA
and insufficiently exhausted. Finally, finding that the
circumstances of this case do not warrant the exercise of
supplemental jurisdiction, the Court remands Professor
Woytowicz's remaining state law claims to D.C. Superior
Catherine Woytowicz served as a part-time faculty member at
The George Washington University from 2000 to 2017, teaching
both in the Department of Chemistry and at the Elliott School
of International Affairs. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9-13.
Professor Woytowicz was recognized both by the University and
her students for her excellence in teaching. See id.
¶¶ 44- 55. In 2013, she received an award for her
teaching in a “Writing in the Discipline” course
and was also nominated by students for several other teaching
awards. Id. In addition to teaching numerous courses
at the University, see Id. ¶¶ 10-13,
Professor Woytowicz actively mentored students on a personal
and professional basis, and as a result, often received thank
you emails and notes. See Id. ¶¶ 56-57;
see also Am. Compl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 9-2 (fifty-nine
thank you emails from students expressing their appreciation
toward Professor Woytowicz for her teaching, guidance, and
assistance with various applications).
part-time faculty member at the University, Professor
Woytowicz was a member of the Service Employees International
Union, Local 500, CTW (“Union”), which had a
Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) with the
University at all times relevant to this case. Id.
¶¶ 34- 35. Because Professor Woytowicz had held
each of her teaching assignments for more than five academic
years, she was entitled to receive “good faith
consideration for appointment to teach the same
course[s]” under Article V, Part C of the CBA.
Id. ¶¶ 35-37.
March 17, 2016, Rory Muhammad, the University's Director
for Diversity and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator,
notified Professor Woytowicz via email that a male student
had filed a complaint against her under the University's
Title IX Policy, and that the University intended to
investigate the complaint. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 61, 78.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal
civil rights statute enforced by the U.S. Department of
Education's Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”).
See generally 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-88. Title
IX provides that “[n]o person in the United States
shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation
in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to
discrimination under any education program or activity
receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C.
§ 1681(a). OCR enforces Title IX by evaluating,
investigating, and resolving complaints alleging sex
discrimination, and also “conducts proactive
investigations, called compliance reviews, to examine
potential systemic violations based on sources of information
other than complaints.” U.S. Dep't of Educ., Title
IX and Sex Discrimination,
(last visited August 20, 2018). OCR also publishes
informational and guidance documents to assist schools,
universities, and other agencies in complying with Title IX
regulations govern the enforcement of Title IX. See
generally 34 C.F.R. § 106. Among other
requirements, the regulations mandate that (1) “[e]ach
recipient . . . designate at least one employee to coordinate
its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities
under this part, including any investigation of any complaint
communicated to such recipient alleging its noncompliance
with this part, ” and (2) “adopt and publish
grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable
resolution of student and employee complaints alleging any
action which would be prohibited by this part.” 34
C.F.R. § 106.8. As a recipient of federal funds, Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 302-04, the University was subject to the
requirements of Title IX at all times relevant to this case.
Id. ¶ 306. To comply with OCR regulations, the
University assigned Rory Muhammad as its Title IX
coordinator; his responsibilities included investigating
complaints and carrying out grievance procedures adopted by
the University. Id. ¶¶ 309-12;
see 34 C.F.R. § 106.8(a).
2011, the University entered into a Voluntary Resolution
Agreement with OCR in order to resolve an OCR investigation
into the University's compliance with Title IX.
See U.S. Dep't of Educ., Resolution Agreement,
OCR Complaint No. 11-11-2079,
(last visited August 20, 2018). As part of the Agreement, the
University agreed that by a certain date it would
“submit to OCR for its review and approval draft
revised procedures that provide for prompt and equitable
resolution of complaints of sexual violence consistent with
Title IX.” See Resolution Agreement ¶ 1.
The Agreement also included instructions for providing notice
of approved procedures and developing training programs to
help employees “recogniz[e] and appropriately address
complaints of sex harassment.” See Resolution
Agreement ¶¶ 6-9.
March 23, 2016, Professor Woytowicz met with Mr. Muhammad in
person. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 79-81. At this meeting, Mr.
Muhammad told Professor Woytowicz that there had been
“an allegation of sexual harassment based on unequal
power.” Id. ¶ 84. Because she found the
allegations to be vague, Professor Woytowicz requested that
Mr. Muhammad provide further details of the accusations
against her and the documents on which he was relying, but he
did not comply with her requests. Id. ¶¶
85, 94. Mr. Muhammad expressed his desire to resolve the
complaint through an informal resolution, which he suggested
would only result in a written reprimand, but Professor
Woytowicz did not acquiesce. Id. ¶ 94.
Professor Woytowicz alleges that Mr. Muhammad also asked her
inappropriate questions during the meeting. Id.
March 24, 2016, Mr. Muhammad sent Professor Woytowicz a list
of eighteen quotations from text messages she had purportedly
exchanged with the complaining student and asked her to
respond. Id. ¶¶ 111-18. Mr. Muhammad
stated that these texts “could be interpreted as sexual
innuendo.” Id. ¶ 118. Professor Woytowicz
believed that Mr. Muhammad quoted these messages out of
context. Id. ¶¶ 115-18. On May 20, 2016,
Professor Woytowicz sent to Mr. Muhammad, through her
counsel, a 74-page response to the complaint against her, in
which she sought to give context to the aforementioned text
messages. Id. ¶ 133. Mr. Muhammad did not
respond to this document. Id. ¶ 140.
2016, Mr. Muhammad emailed Professor Woytowicz and her
counsel a nine-line written outline of the accusations
against her, which she again found to be conclusory and
vague. Id. ¶¶ 141-48. In July, Professor
Woytowicz sent an 81-page response, arguing that the
accusations in the June email were “materially
different from the allegations Mr. Muhammad told Dr.
Woytowicz about [orally], ” and also that without
seeing the “actual allegations, ” she would not
be able to properly respond. Id. ¶¶ 149,
153. Mr. Muhammad did not respond to this document either.
Id. ¶ 153.
September 2016, Mr. Muhammad sent two emails indicating that
after discussions between him, Dr. Michael King, Chair of the
Chemistry Department, and Eric Arnesen, Vice Dean for Faculty
and Administration in the University's College of Arts
and Sciences, the Chemistry Department had decided to seek an
informal resolution to the complaint. Id.
¶¶ 154- 55. In a November 2016 meeting, Mr.
Muhammad stated that “he did not find evidence
sufficient to support the complaint of sexual harassment,
” but that he had evidence of inappropriate behavior
under the “Consensual Relationships” section of
the University's Title IX Policy. Id.
¶¶ 159, 162. Mr. Muhammad told Professor Woytowicz
that he believed there was evidence of a “verbal or
physical” sexual relationship between Professor
Woytowicz and the complainant, which violated the
Policy's prohibition against “faculty member[s] . .
. hav[ing] a sexual relationship with a student who is
currently in his/her course or is subject to his/her
supervision or evaluation.” Id. ¶¶
63, 163. Mr. Muhammad again proposed an informal resolution
where Professor Woytowicz would not have to admit to
violating the Title IX Policy, but would still likely receive
a written reprimand and have to participate in training.
Id. ¶ 170. Professor Woytowicz did not agree to
an informal resolution because she was afraid of losing her
contractual right of first refusal to teach her various
courses. Id. ¶¶ 174-75.
January 2017 meeting, Mr. Muhammad reiterated his belief that
the phrase “sexual relationship” in the
Policy's Consensual Relationships provision included
“verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, ”
and that Professor Woytowicz had engaged in an improper
sexual relationship with the complainant based on texts and
emails mentioned in previous exchanges. Id.
¶¶ 186, 210. Dr. King stated in that meeting that
he would “consider” allowing Professor Woytowicz
to teach again if she agreed to an “informal
resolution, ” but “did not say that he would
appoint Professor Woytowicz to teach . . . or that Defendants
would forego their power to bar her from teaching [in the
future].” Id. ¶ 197. Professor Woytowicz
objected to what she perceived as retaliatory behavior by the
University and denied violating the Policy. Id.
¶¶ 198, 207.
February 7, 2017, Professor Woytowicz noticed that her name
was not on the Chemistry Department's summer teaching
schedule. Id. ¶ 224. Professor Woytowicz spoke
with Dr. King, who explained that “[h]e was barring her
from teaching these courses because of what she had
done” and that “he would never let her teach
again while he was Chair of the Chemistry Department.”
Id. ¶ 227. The next day, Professor Woytowicz
objected to this action through counsel, but Dr. King did not
change his mind. Id. ¶¶ 228-31.
February 14, 2017, Professor Woytowicz sent a 26-page
response to Mr. Muhammad countering the allegations presented
during the January 2017 meeting and objecting to any finding
of misconduct. Id. ¶ 233. The response included
a declaration from a former roommate of the complainant
“stating that he never saw or heard anything to
indicate that there had been a sexual relationship between
Professor Woytowicz and the student complainant.”
Id. ¶¶ 234-35. In addition, she requested
that Dr. King allow her to continue teaching Chemistry
courses and that the University reimburse her for
attorney's fees and expenses. Id. ¶ 235. On
February 24, 2017, Professor Woytowicz officially rejected
the informal resolution proposed at the January meeting.
Id. ¶ 237.
March 5, 2017, Dean Arnesen notified Professor Woytowicz by
email that Mr. Muhammad had concluded his administrative
review of the complaint and that Dean Arnesen had decided not
to initiate formal proceedings against her under the
University Policy. Id. ¶ 240. On March 10,
2017, Professor Woytowicz and her counsel met with Dr. King,
Dean Arnesen, and counsel for the University. Id.
¶ 242. Dr. King and Dean Arnesen represented that this
meeting was a “supervisor-subordinate”
conversation outside of the scope of Title IX proceedings.
Id. ¶ 243. However, Dr. King and Dean Arnesen
repeatedly suggested that Professor Woytowicz had engaged in
“inappropriate” conduct and refused to answer her
questions regarding the allegations against her. Id.
March 15, 2017, Dr. King issued a written reprimand of
Professor Woytowicz, which again stated that she would not be
reappointed to teach summer courses in the Chemistry
Department. Id. ¶¶ 286-87. In May,
Professor Christopher Bracey, Vice Provost of Faculty Affairs
at the Elliott School of International Affairs, notified
Professor Woytowicz that, after conversations with Dr. King
and Dean Arnesen and after reviewing Dr. King's written
reprimand, he was also barring her from teaching a spring
semester course at the Elliott School. Id.
¶¶ 289-92. Professor Woytowicz communicated her
objection to this decision to Vice Provost Bracey, but he
refused to reconsider his decision or meet with her per her
request. Id. ¶¶ 296-97.
November 15, 2017, Professor Woytowicz filed suit in D.C.
Superior Court, see Notice of Removal ¶ 1, ECF
No. 1, and Defendants removed the case to this Court, see
Id. ¶¶ 3-7. Professor Woytowicz has since
amended her complaint to bring her constitutional claims
against Defendants Muhammad, King, Arnesen, and Bracey under
a Bivens cause of action instead of 42 U.S.C. §
1983, Am. Compl. ¶ 4, but has otherwise preserved her
original claims that the University violated her First and
Fifth Amendment rights; and that all Defendants violated her
right to freedom from conspiracy under the Ku Klux Klan Act,
42 U.S.C. § 1985; violated her rights to freedom from
sex discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and
retaliatory harassment under the District of Columbia Human
Rights Act; breached her contractual rights under the
University's Collective Bargaining Agreement, its Title
IX policy, and an agreement it had made with her to teach a
writing seminar; and intentionally inflicted emotional
distress on her. Compare Compl. ¶¶ 3,
463-540, ECF No. 1-1 with Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4,
583-667. She seeks back pay, compensatory damages, punitive
damages, and injunctive relief. See Am. Compl.
¶¶ 550-574. Defendants have moved to dismiss
Professor Woytowicz's Amended Complaint, and their motion
is now ripe for decision.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain “a short and plain statement of the
claim” in order to give the defendant fair notice of
the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2); accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93
(2007) (per curiam). A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)
does not test a plaintiff's ultimate likelihood of
success on the merits, but rather tests whether a plaintiff
has properly stated a claim for which relief can be granted.
It is not necessary for the plaintiff to plead all elements
of her prima facie case in the complaint. See
Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-14
(2002); Bryant v. Pepco, 730 F.Supp.2d 25, 28-29
(D.D.C. 2010). Nevertheless, “[t]o survive a motion to
dismiss, 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)). This means
that a plaintiff's factual allegations “must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the
complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (citations omitted).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause ...