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Haynes v. Library of Congress

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 13, 2019

MARCUS HAYNES, Plaintiff,
v.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          TREVOR N. MCFADDEN, U.S.D.J.

         The Library of Congress did not hire Marcus Haynes when he applied for a reference librarian position. Mr. Haynes alleges that, in rejecting his application, the Library discriminated against him based on his disability and retaliated against him based on earlier Equal Employment Opportunity complaints he filed against the Library. The Library has moved for a judgment on the pleadings. For reasons given below, the Court will grant the Library's motion in part.

         I.

         Mr. Haynes worked for the Library for nine years before the Library fired him in 2001 for performance issues. Compl. at 5; ECF No. 1. In 2017, Mr. Haynes re-applied for a Library position as a reference librarian, specializing in music. Id. The Library did not hire him. Id. at 1. Alleging discrimination and retaliation, Mr. Haynes filed an informal complaint and then a formal complaint with the Library's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Office. Id. at 2.

         Mr. Haynes, proceeding pro se, now seeks relief in federal court, alleging that the Library refused to hire him as a “reprisal for [his] prior complaint and to discriminate against [his] disability.” Compl. at 1. While far from clear, it seems that he is alleging that when he worked for the Library before, he sought accommodations based on disability, but the Library denied his requests. See generally Compl. at 1. In response, he filed complaints against the Library in 2000 and again in 2012. Id. at 2. So, according to Mr. Haynes, the Library rejected his 2017 application to retaliate against him because of these earlier complaints. Id. at 1.[1]

         II.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c) states that “[a]fter the pleadings are closed but within such time as not to delay the trial, any party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The Court evaluates a Rule 12(c) motion for judgment on the pleadings under the same standard as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Rollins v. Wackenhut Servs., Inc., 703 F.3d 122, 130 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (treating a Rule 12(c) motion as “functionally equivalent to a Rule 12(b)(6) motion”).

         To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a complaint must contain enough factual allegations that, if true, “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Plausibility requires that a complaint raise “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Pleading facts that are “merely consistent with” a defendant's liability “stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545-46. Thus, courts do not accept the truth of legal conclusions or “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         But courts must accept the nonmovant's allegations as true and view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. See Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Clinton, 880 F.Supp. 1, 7 (D.D.C. 1995). Consideration is limited to “the facts alleged in the complaint, any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which the court may take judicial notice.” Hurd v. D.C., Gov't, 864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017). And the moving party bears the burden of showing the complaint's insufficiency. Cohen v. Bd. of Trs. of the Distr. of Columbia, 819 F.3d 476, 481 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

         III.

         A.

         The Library urges the Court to dismiss Mr. Haynes's Complaint, arguing that Mr. Haynes failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. Mot. for Judgment on the Pleadings (“Mot.”) at 6- 9; ECF No. 16. According to the Library, it rejected Mr. Haynes's job application on November 21, 2017 because it determined that he did not have the knowledge, skills, and abilities for the position. Mot. at 4. Under the Library's regulations, staff members and qualified applicants[2]must file an administrative complaint with the EEO Office within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory event.[3] See Library of Congress Regulation (“LCR”) 11-310, Resolving Complaints of Discrimination at 3; ECF No. 16-1. The Library argues that Mr. Haynes, thus, missed his deadline by four days because he did not file his complaint until January 9, 2018. Mot. at 5.

         Before filing a lawsuit under Title VII, plaintiffs must exhaust their administrative remedies. See Park v. Howard University, 71 F.3d 904, 907 (D.C. Cir. 1995). As the Library acknowledges, “untimely exhaustion of Title VII administrative remedies is an affirmative defense, [so] the defendant bears the burden of pleading and proving it.” Rosier v. Holder, 833 F.Supp.2d 1, 5 (D.D.C. 2011) (quoting Bowden v. United States, 106 F.3d 433, 437 (D.C. Cir. 1997)).

         As the Library points out, its regulation largely mirrors EEOC's regulation: “An aggrieved person must initiate contact with a Counselor within 45 days of the date of the matter alleged to be discriminatory or, in the case of personnel action, within 45 days of the effective date of the action.” 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105(a)(1). But the deadline tolls if the aggrieved person “did not know and reasonably ...


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