Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hylton v. Watt

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 13, 2018

LANIER HYLTON, Plaintiff,
v.
MELVIN WATT, Director, Federal Housing Finance Agency, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Lanier Hylton, proceeding pro se, alleges that the Federal Housing Finance Agency (“FHFA”) discriminated against him based on his race, age, and disability in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. With respect to each of these claims, moreover, Hylton relies on both a disparate treatment and disparate impact theory of liability. The FHFA, in turn, moves to dismiss all of Hylton's claims, arguing that the complaint lacks sufficient detail to state a claim. Dkt. 4. For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that Hylton has, in effect, moved to amend or to supplement his complaint in his opposition brief and that, with the benefit of the additional detail he has provided, his disparate treatment claims survive the FHFA's motion to dismiss. His disparate impact claims, however, fail to clear this modest threshold. The Court will, accordingly, GRANT in part and DENY in part the FHFA's motion to dismiss.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Lanier Hylton has worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development for approximately 25 years. Dkt. 1 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 9). On October 3, 2010, he filed an application for the position of Ombudsman with the FHFA, a vacancy posted through a public announcement. Id. at 3 (Compl. ¶ 10). Hylton, who was 55 years old, African-American, and paraplegic, Dkt. 6-1 at 34, applied for the position under “Schedule A, ” Dkt. 1 at 3 (Compl. ¶ 10), an excepted service hiring process for federal employees with disabilities, Dkt. 6-1 at 21. He alleges that the FHFA discriminated against him by evaluating his application in a competitive process along with non-disabled candidates, Dkt. 6 at 8, and then, once Hylton was in the pool of competitive applicants, by giving him “less favorable treatment than it would have given an identical applicant without a disability, ” id. at 9. Specifically, Hylton alleges that his application for the Ombudsman position received a score of 94 out of 100 from the Office of Personnel Management but that, despite his rating, he was not selected for an interview while two individuals with scores of 94 and 88, respectively, advanced to the second round of the application process. Id. at 10; see also Dkt. 6-1 at 40-41.

         At some point after the hiring process began, but before it was completed, the FHFA underwent a “major agency-wide reorganization” and, ultimately, none of the candidates who applied through the vacancy announcement was hired as Ombudsman. Dkt. 6-1 at 41. Instead, the FHFA re-assigned an existing “Agency Executive” to fill the position. Dkt. 1 at 5 (Compl. ¶ 15). Hylton alleges that the FHFA “use[d] [this] personnel procedure to re-assign an existing Agency Executive, ” id., in order “to circumvent his selection for the position of Ombudsman, ” Dkt. 6-1 at 39.

         On September 21, 2011, Hylton filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) alleging that “he was discriminated against on the basis of his race (African-American), age [55], and/or disability (Paraplegic/Wheelchair).” Id. at 34; Dkt. 1 at 8 (Compl. Ex. A). After the EEOC accepted his complaint for investigation, an administrative judge ruled for the FHFA on summary judgment, and Hylton appealed the administrative judge's decision to the EEOC's Office of Federal Operations (“OFO”). Id. On June 29, 2017, the OFO affirmed the administrative judge's determination that Hylton failed to establish that he had been “discriminated against by [the FHFA] as alleged, ” and it notified Hylton of his right to file a civil action within 90 days of receipt of the OFO decision. Id. at 9- 10. Hylton timely commenced this suit on October 2, 2017. Dkt. 1.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         On a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court must “treat ‘the complaint's factual allegations as true'” and must grant the plaintiff “the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.” Brown v. Whole Foods Mkt. Grp. Inc., 789 F.3d 146, 150 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Atherton v. D.C. Office of Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009)). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face, '” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). While the Court need not accept as true either a “legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” or an inference drawn by the plaintiff “if such inference is unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint, ” Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted), a claim is “plausible” if the plaintiff “pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged, ” Harris v. D.C. Water & Sewer Auth., 791 F.3d 65, 68 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Hylton asserts-or, at least, seeks to assert-disparate treatment and disparate impact claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq.[1] According to the FHFA, he has failed to satisfy the minimal pleading requirements for doing so. The Court will first address Hylton's disparate treatment claims and will then turn to his disparate impact claims.

         A. Disparate Treatment

         The FHFA argues that Hylton's complaint lacks sufficient detail to state a claim under Title VII, the ADEA, or the Rehabilitation Act. For disparate treatment claims brought in the absence of direct evidence of discrimination, “[a] single analytical framework applies” under all three statutes: the familiar burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Etokie v. Duncan, 202 F.Supp.3d 139, 148 (D.D.C. 2016), aff'd sub nom. Etokie v. DeVos, No. 16-5243, 2017 WL 3725634 (D.C. Cir. May 31, 2017). “Under this test, ‘[a] plaintiff makes out a prima facie case of disparate-treatment discrimination by establishing that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination.'” Achagzai v. Broad. Bd. of Governors, 170 F.Supp.3d 164, 180-81 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting George v. Leavitt, 407 F.3d 405, 412 (D.C. Cir. 2005)). One way for a party to raise an inference of discrimination is to show that the plaintiff “was treated differently from similarly situated employees who are not part of the protected class.” Leavitt, 407 F.3d at 412. The Court must be mindful, however, that the McDonnell Douglas test is “an evidentiary standard, not a pleading requirement, ” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 510 (2002), and “an employment discrimination plaintiff is not required to plead every fact necessary to establish a prima facie case to survive a motion to dismiss, ” Jones v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, Int'l, 642 F.3d 1100, 1104 (D.C. Cir. 2011). Instead, Hylton's “claim must simply ‘give the defendant fair notice of what [his] . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'” Kangethe v. District of Columbia, 953 F.Supp.2d 194, 199 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

         According to the FHFA, Hylton's complaint fails to satisfy even this liberal pleading standard. The Court need not decide that question, however, because the D.C. Circuit requires “a district court . . . to consider a pro se litigant's complaint ‘in light of' all filings, including filings responsive to a motion to dismiss.” Brown, 789 F.3d at 152. This is particularly true where, as here, the defendant “will suffer no prejudice by allowing” the pro se plaintiff “to, in effect, supplement his complaint with the allegations included in his opposition.” Id.; see also Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Anyanwutaku v. Moore, 151 F.3d 1053, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Applying this principle, the Court concludes that Hylton's complaint, opposition brief, and the exhibits that are “attached to” those filings, EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997), provide sufficient “factual matter (taken as true) to” support Hylton's disparate treatment claims, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         Hylton avers-or must be deemed to have averred-that he “fulfilled the mandatory requirements” for selection as a candidate for Ombudsman, but that the FHFA failed to put his name forward in the same manner as equally or less-qualified applicants because of his race, age, and/or disability. Dkt. 6-1 at 40. He further alleges that his application to the Ombudsman position received a score of 94 out of 100 from OPM but, despite this rating, he was not selected for an interview while two individuals with scores of 94 or 88 advanced to the second round of the application process. Dkt. 6 at 10. That allegation lacks detail-particularly detail about the races, ages, or disability status of his comparators-but, at this preliminary stage of the litigation, Hylton is “not required to plead every fact necessary to establish a prima facie case to survive a motion to dismiss.” Jones, 642 F.3d at 1104. Nor does the fact that the FHFA ultimately opted to fill the Ombudsman position from the ranks of then-current “Agency Executive[s], ” Dkt. 1 at 5 (Compl. ¶ 15), defeat Hylton's claims as a matter of law. Although the FHFA contends that the hiring process changed due to an agency reorganization, Hylton alleges that the change was a subterfuge used “to circumvent his selection for the position.” Id. at 39. For present purposes, the question is not who is ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.