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Moore v. District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 14, 2018

Farisse Moore, Plaintiff,
District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, et al., Defendants.


          Amit P. Mehta United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff Farisse Moore filed this lawsuit against her employer, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (“D.C. Water”) and her direct supervisor, Jonathan Reeves. Moore alleges that she has been subjected to discriminatory, harassing, and retaliatory actions on the basis of her race and gender, leading to her disparate treatment and creation of a hostile work environment in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981.

         Before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. See generally Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss. Compl., ECF No. 6; Mem. in Support of Defs.' Mot. [hereinafter Defs.' Mem.], ECF No. 6-1. For the reasons that follow, the court denies Defendants' Motion.


         Many of the Defendants' arguments border on frivolous, therefore the court need not spend much time addressing them.[1]

         Defendants' argument that the court ought to ignore any alleged conduct that predates February 23, 2017, both misreads the Complaint and misunderstands the Supreme Court's decision in National R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan, 536 U.S. 101 (2002). First, Plaintiff has asserted a claim under 42 U.S.C.§ 1981. Such claims have either a three- or four-year limitations period. See Morris v. Carter Glob. Lee, Inc., 997 F.Supp.2d 27, 38 (D.D.C. 2013). Under either limitation period, Plaintiff's section 1981 claim forecloses the court from walling off events alleged to have occurred before February 23, 2017.

         Second, under Morgan, the alleged conduct pre-dating February 23, 2017, is relevant to Plaintiff's hostile work environment claims. Under Morgan, “[if] an act contributing to the [hostile work environment] claim occurs within the filing period, the entire time period of the hostile environment may be considered by a court for the purposes of determining liability.” Morgan, 536 U.S. at 117; accord Lively v. Flexible Packaging Ass'n, 830 A.2d 874, 890-93 (D.C. 2003) (applying Morgan to claims under the DCHRA). Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants subjected her to a hostile work environment because of her race and gender and in retaliation for the protected action of reporting Defendant Reeves's discriminatory treatment. See Not. of Removal, ECF No. 1, Ex. ECF No. 1-1 [hereinafter Compl.], ¶¶ 26-41. One of the final discriminatory acts Reeves is alleged to have taken against Plaintiff is removing her major job duties in December 2017, well within the one-year limitations period. See Compl. ¶ 23. Accordingly, under Morgan, the court cannot ignore the acts pre-dating February 23, 2017, even if they would be untimely as discrete acts of discrimination. See Lively, 830 A.2d at 890 (“It does not matter, for purposes of the [DCHRA], that some of the component acts of the hostile work environment fall outside the statutory time period.”) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).


         The court now turns to Defendants' various arguments as to why Plaintiff has failed to state a claim.


         To begin, Defendants' insistence that Plaintiff has failed to allege an adverse action to support her disparate treatment claims is wrong. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Reeves hired a Caucasian male, who was unqualified and known to come to work drunk, and then, on December 22, 2017, “assigned all of Ms. Moore's major duties” to him. Compl. ¶ 23. Stripping Plaintiff of her “major duties” is a legally cognizable adverse action. See Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 364 (D.C. Cir. 2007); cf. Baloch v. Kempthorne, 550 F.3d 1191, 1197 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (holding that the plaintiff had not suffered an adverse action when his “duties in the wake of [another's] hiring did not constitute a qualitatively inferior work requiring any less skill or knowledge”). Plaintiff has sufficiently pleaded facts that, if true, would satisfy the adversity requirement. See Compl. ¶ 23.

         Defendants' contention that “the Complaint is devoid of any allegations” of discriminatory animus is mystifying. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Reeves made a laundry list of derogatory and inflammatory comments directed to or around her throughout her employment, including intermittent use of the n***** word, Compl. ¶¶ 11, 18; use of the term “crackish” in reference to an all African-American employee team, id. ¶ 10; discussion of an African American employee's “hairy black ass” being on top of Plaintiff in a sexual manner, id. ΒΆ 14; and ...

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