United States District Court, District of Columbia
B. WALTON United States District Judge
plaintiffs filed this civil action, using the pseudonyms Jane
Does 1 to 5, against George Washington University
(“GW”) and Kyle Renner, a GW employee being sued
in his capacity as GW's General Operations Manager and
the plaintiffs' supervisor (collectively, “the
defendants”), pursuant to the District of
Columbia's Human Rights Act (“D.C. Human Rights
Act”), D.C. Code §§ 2-1401-1404.04 (2001),
alleging that the defendants (1) created a hostile work
environment (“Count I”), (2) retaliated against
them for their complaints of sexual harassment (“Count
II”), (3) discriminated against them because of their
gender (“Count III”), and (4) aided and abetted
the discriminatory and retaliatory conduct (“Count
IV”). First Amended Complaint And Jury Demand
(“Am. Compl.”) ¶¶ 116, 123, 133, 140.
The plaintiffs bring an additional three claims against GW
for (1) negligent training and supervision (“Count
V”); (2) indifference to sexual harassment in violation
of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972
(“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681-88
(2018) (“Count VI”); and (3) retaliation in
violation of Title IX (“Count VII”). Am. Compl.
¶¶ 145, 149-50, 160. Currently before the Court are
(1) the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss All Claims of
Plaintiffs Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 3 and All Plaintiffs'
Claims in Counts III and V of the Complaint
(“Defs.' Mot.”), (2) the Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint
(“Defs.' 2d Mot.”), and (3) the
Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to Proceed with the
Pseudonyms Jane Does 1-5 (“Pls.' Mot.”). Upon
careful consideration of the parties' submissions,
Court concludes for the reasons below that the
defendants' motion to dismiss the Complaint must be
denied as moot,  the plaintiffs' motion for leave to
proceed pseudonymously should be granted, and the
defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint must
be granted in part and denied in part.
five plaintiffs are female undergraduate students who attend
GW. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 37, 46, 71, 83. During the
time period relevant to their claims against the defendants,
the plaintiffs worked in various roles at the Institute for
International Economic Policy (“IIEP”), see
id., which is located within the Elliott School of
International Affairs at GW, id. ¶ 17. Emerson
Jones, one of the alleged perpetrators of the harassing
conduct who is not a party to this action, was also employed
by the IIEP in a supervisory position. Id. ¶
19. When Jones began working at the IIEP, all of the
plaintiffs, with the exception of Jane Doe 1, were already
id. ¶¶ 24, 37, 71, 85. Later in the fall of
2017, Jane Doe 1 began her employment at the IIEP. See
id. ¶ 46. The following are the plaintiffs'
Jones's Alleged Conduct
to the plaintiffs, beginning in March 2017, IIEP staff
members complained to Renner about Jones's behavior.
See id. ¶ 91. These complaints were allegedly
largely ignored by Renner by his silencing of female
complainants. See id. In general, Jones would
purportedly “frequently brag in the workplace about his
sexual exploitation of the women in the workplace.”
Id. ¶ 34. For example, Jones allegedly
“publicly announced to the IIEP staff members his
sexual rating of the female coworkers from best to
worse.” Id. ¶ 32. On another occasion, he
purportedly described one of the women he raped as “a
dead fish because she was so drunk.” Id.
was also allegedly verbally abusive to women employed in the
IIEP. On one occasion, Jane Doe 2's coworker purportedly
informed her that “Jones had been ‘degrading'
Jane Doe 2.” Id. ¶ 33. In addition, Jane
Doe 5 contends that she personally “observed Jones shut
down a female coworker after the female coworker requested
that Jones stop verbally harassing her.” Id.
¶ 86. Jones allegedly became extremely aggressive,
belittled her, and told the female coworker that she needed
to stop being “emotional” and to get “used
to this type of behavior in a work environment.”
Id. Jane Doe 5 also contends that she heard
“Jones talk to other coworkers in the workplace about
women in a sexually demeaning way and has heard Jones brag
about his sexual experiences.” Id. ¶ 87.
female workers, including Jane Doe 5, felt extremely
uncomfortable around Jones due to his aggressive behavior and
misogynistic comments.” Id. ¶ 85.
According to Jane Doe 5, Jones would intentionally refer to
the female employees by “the incorrect names claiming
that all the women in the office are the same.”
Id. ¶ 88. He also allegedly referred to new
female staff members as his “new office
crush[es].” Id. ¶ 42.
Jane Doe 1
than a month after Jane Doe 1 started working at the IIEP,
Jones allegedly began harassing her. On October 1, 2017, she
contends that Jones sent her a text message stating,
“oh my god you're so hot.” Id.
¶ 48. Within a week, on October 6, 2017, Jones allegedly
asked Jane Doe 1 to come to his house, but she refused.
Id. ¶ 49. According to Jane Doe 1, later that
month, “[o]n October 26, 2017, [she] learned that Jones
had threatened to kill her female coworker, ” which
made Jane Doe 1 fearful of Jones. Id. ¶ 50. And
on November 9, 2017, Jane Doe 1 contends that she received a
text message from a female coworker, asking Jane Doe 1 if
Jones had left the office. See id. ¶ 51. Jane
Doe 1 represents that the coworker told her that she was
hiding from Jones in fear that he would sexually assault her.
days prior to an upcoming performance,  Jane Doe 1
contends that she told Jones that she was “stressed
about her [ ] performance.” Id. ¶ 52.
Jones allegedly asked if he could attend the performance, but
Jane Doe 1 represents that she told him no. See id.
On December 9, 2017, Jones allegedly sent Jane Doe 1 a text
message, “containing a picture of [Jane Doe 1] during
her performance.” Id. ¶ 53. Apparently,
despite Jane Doe 1's objections, Jones had attended the
performance. See id. Three days later, Jones
purportedly again asked Jane Doe 1 on a date, which she
refused. Id. ¶ 54.
December 19, 2017, Jane Doe 1 filed a complaint with Renner
regarding Jones's behavior. See id. ¶ 58.
After Jane Doe 1 “described Jones'[s] behavior
toward her, and [ ] stated that one of her female coworkers
had been raped[, ] Renner responded, ‘sometimes you
need to work with people that you don't necessarily get
along with.'” Id. On December 21, 2017, a
Title IX investigator contacted Jane Doe 1 by email in
response to her complaint, but allegedly “took no
action beyond that email and failed to conduct any
independent investigation beyond reaching out to the
complainant.” Id. ¶ 63. On January 30,
2018, Jane Doe 1 allegedly heard “Jones openly
discuss[ing] his sexual exploits in the workplace, ”
and began “demean[ing] the women he ‘slept
with.'” Id. ¶ 64.
Jane Doe 1's December 19, 2017 initial complaint to
Renner, she contends that Jones “deliberately and
intentionally increased his hostility towards her.”
Id. ¶ 66. For example, on February 1, 2018,
Jane Doe 1 contends that “Jones treat[ed her] with
hostility and harassed her as she quietly did her
work.” Id. Immediately thereafter, Jane Doe 1
represents that she observed Jones and Renner discussing
something in Renner's office. See id. “As
a result, Jane Doe 1's supervisor told her that she was
not allowed to work the event that evening even though the
event was understaffed.” Id.
February 7, 2018, “Jane Doe 1 requested that she be
demoted to [e]vent staff so that she would not have to
interact with Jones anymore.” Id. ¶ 67.
“Jane Doe 1 was also given the option of working from
home.” Id. ¶ 68. Two days later, Jane Doe
1 met with the GW's Assistant Director for Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response for the Office for Diversity, Equity,
and Community Engagement (“ODECE”), and reported
“Jones'[s] sexual harassment and sexual assault of
Jane Doe 5.” Id. ¶ 99. On March 6, 2018,
Jane Doe 1 learned that her complaint to the ODECE would be
treated as “student-on-student harassment, ”
“rather than ‘staff-on-staff harassment' even
though the harassment was occurring in the IIEP
workplace.” Id. ¶¶ 99, 105.
April 2, 2018, Jane Doe 1 contends that she was
constructively discharged, having been “forced to
resign out of her fear of interacting with Jones in the IIEP
office.” Id. ¶ 69.
Jane Doe 2
2017, “Jones [allegedly] asked Jane Doe 2 to come over
to his apartment.” Id. ¶ 26. According to
Jane Doe 2, “[o]nce there, Jones ignored Jane Doe
2's objections [to sexual activity] and sexually
assaulted her.” Id. “Jane Doe 2
[contends that although she] tried to push Jones off of her .
. . [and] told him to stop multiple times, . . . Jones raped
Jane Doe 2.” Id.
the fall of 2017, “Jones [allegedly] continued to
torment Jane Doe 2.” Id. ¶ 31. On one
occasion, Jane Doe 2 contends that Jones told her that he
would “never stick[ his] dick into the pool of IIEP
ever again.” Id. Jones also purportedly
“told Jane Doe 2's faculty supervisors and her
coworkers” that he and Jane Doe 2 had sex. Id.
February 2, 2018, Jane Does 2 and 3 met with Renner. See
id. ¶ 97. “Jane Doe 2 told Renner . . . that
Jones had raped her” and two other girls in the IIEP
office. Id. Jane Doe 2 “also gave Renner a
written statement that detailed Jones'[s] sexually
hostile conduct and misogynistic comments in the
workplace.” Id. Renner responded that he would
“talk to the Title IX office to see what he should
do.” Id. Renner then “recommended that
Jane Doe 2 work from home.” Id. On February
11, 2018, Jane Doe 2 observed Jones in the office and emailed
Renner, stating, “I was wondering if we could have a
follow-up meeting. Let me know if you are free soon.”
Id. ¶ 100. However, Renner purportedly never
responded to Jane Doe 2's email. See id.
Instead, during Jane Doe 2's professional development
meeting with Renner on February 23, 2018, she contends that
“Renner told [her] that to ‘follow-up' on her
complaint about Jones, there was nothing [he] could do
because his ‘hands were tied.'” Id.
¶ 101. Jane Doe 2 represents that she requested that
Renner fire Jones, but Renner repeatedly responded that his
“hands were tied” and that “Jane Doe 2 had
to file an ‘official complaint with the Title IX
office.'” Id. According to Jane Doe 2, she
“complained that it was unacceptable that . . . she had
to work beside the man [who] raped her.” Id.
Renner allegedly concluded the meeting by “stating that
Jane Doe 2 should work from home and go to therapy.”
March 7, 2018, Jane Doe 2 informed Renner in writing that
“four female employees ‘and I want to discuss how
we feel unsafe in the office.'” Id. ¶
106. Two days later, the plaintiffs, including Jane Doe 2,
met with Renner. See id. ¶ 107.
During this meeting, each of the [p]laintiffs detailed the
sexual harassment they were exposed to in the workplace,
Jones'[s] sexual assaults on female staff members,
Jones'[s] demeaning treatment of the female staff
members, and Jones'[s] threat to kill a female staff
member. The [p]laintiffs also read written statements
prepared by two other girls. The [p]laintiffs told Renner
that at least 11 female staff members had been impacted by
Jones'[s] hostile conduct. The [p]laintiffs told Renner
that they felt unsafe working with Jones.
Id. Renner allegedly responded that “he needed
to utilize the ‘correct mechanisms' to terminate
Jones, ” but when pressed by the plaintiffs, he could
not identify the “mechanisms.” Id.
Renner allegedly “stated that he did not want to ask
Jones to work from home, ” id., and
“instead asked the [p]laintiffs to work from home,
” id. Jane Does 1, 3, 4, and 5 provide
consistent accounts of what Jane Doe 2 said transpired at the
March 9, 2017 meeting with Renner.
March 26, 2018, Jane Doe 2 [contends that she] was
constructively discharged by GW.” Id. ¶
35. In her resignation letter to Renner, Jane Doe 2 wrote
that “[w]orking in the recent months at [the] IIEP has
been a terrible experience, ” that the IIEP's
“inability or unwillingness to protect [her] . . . from
a clear and imminent threat has been disheartening, ”
and that “after putting forth so many months of
fighting for my safety and seeing little to nothing
happening, I am no longer willing to work under the
[IIEP].” Id. ¶ 109.
next day, Jane Doe 2 received a phone call from the Director
of the IIEP, Maggie Chen. Id. ¶ 110. Director
Chen allegedly told Jane Doe 2 that she “asked Renner
what he did to fire Jones, and Renner said
‘nothing.'” Id. According to
Director Chen, after she requested human resources to fire
Jones, human resources responded that “this is not a
[human resources] issue, it is a Title IX issue.”
Id. Director Chen also “complained to GW's
Title IX [o]ffice[, ] which stated ‘[it] would need
formal complaints from each of the victims,' and that it
could not take any action until after the judiciary council
completed its investigation.” Id. Finally,
Director Chen “complained to GW's Office of the
General Counsel, which reiterated that the complaints would
need to be processed by the Title IX [o]ffice.”
Id. When Director Chen indicated that “she had
‘cause to terminate [Jones],' the General
Counsel's Office said ‘that's not fair to
Jones.'” Id. Director Chen “was told
that until [Jones] ha[d] his due process, there [was] nothing
[she] could do.” Id. (first alteration in
original). Director Chen also allegedly informed Jane Doe 2
“that there is ‘absolutely no training' on
sexual harassment.” Id.
April 2, 2018, Jane Doe 2 met with Jen Alexander-Smith from
the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities at GW
(‘Student Rights Office').” Id.
¶ 113. According to Jane Doe 2, “[t]he Student
Rights Office stated that it had learned of the
[p]laintiffs' complaints on March 31, 2018.”
Id. The Student Rights Office allegedly stated that
“it is prohibited from becoming involved in [workplace]
problems, ” and that it has “no policies in place
regarding student problems in the workplace” and
“absolutely no policy for harassment of students in the
workplace.” Id. “The Student Rights
Office further admitted that it had never received any
complaint from [the] Title IX [office] or Renner about
Jones'[s] misconduct.” Id. The Student
Rights Office stated “that according to [the] Title IX
[office], it had not yet started an investigation because it
had not received a ‘formal' complaint.”
Jane Doe 3
to Jane Doe 3, a number of her coworkers confided in her
about Jones's “sexual misconduct and inappropriate
conduct in the office, ” id. ¶ 77, and in
her position as Digital Communications and Social Media Team
Lead, Jane Doe 3 contends that she became aware that Jones
had assaulted three female employees in the office, see
id. Jane Doe 3 represents that she received two written
complaints in a suggestion box about Jones's
“sexually hostile behavior.” Id. One
female employee purportedly complained to Jane Doe 3 that
“Jones had been asking underage female workers to
‘get drunk' with him after work.”
Id. Jane Doe 3 also allegedly received complaints
“that Jones had been discussing his sexual encounter
with Jane Doe 2 [ ] in the IIEP office.” Id.
Doe 3 contends that she filed at least four formal complaints
with her supervisors about Jones's sexual harassment and
assaults. See id. ¶ 79. On February 2, 2018,
Jane Does 2 and 3 met with Renner to discuss Jones's
conduct toward Jane Doe 2. See id. ¶ 97. On
February 28, 2018, Jane Doe 3 met with Renner and told him
that “she believed Jane Doe 2 would be quitting [the]
IIEP because [Renner] would not take action in response to
her complaint.” Id. ¶ 103. Renner
allegedly responded that “his ‘hands were
tied'” and “it was ‘a difficult
March 30, 2018, Jane Doe 3 “encountered Renner on
GW's campus.” Id. ¶ 112. According to
Jane Doe 3, “Renner stated that he was ‘very
concerned that [the plaintiffs'] group chat with the
eleven [victims] was spreading misinformation and that [the
plaintiffs] were making the situation worse.'”
Jane Doe 4
September 30, 2017, Jane Doe 4 was at a nightclub with other
IIEP staff when “Jones [allegedly] bought . . . Jane
Doe 4 an excessive number of alcoholic drinks.”
Id. ¶ 43. Later, Jones allegedly asked Jane Doe
4 to come back to his apartment, and because he “was
older than her and her boss at [the] IIEP, [Jane Doe 4
contends that she] felt she had no choice.”
Id. “At Jones'[s] apartment, Jane Doe 4
slipped in and out of consciousness, as she was [ ] grossly
intoxicated.” Id. According to While Jane Doe
4, while she was “inebriated and unresponsive [ ],
Jones took off her clothes, climbed on top of her[, ] and
raped [her].” Id. She also contends that
“[t]he next morning, she awoke to Jones, again,
attempting to rape her.” Id.
purportedly raping Jane Doe 4, the Amended Complaint
represents that “Jones bragged in the workplace about
his encounter to Jane Doe 4's coworkers.”
Id. ¶ 44. “He [allegedly] made
humiliating, derogatory sexual comments about Jane Doe 4 to
her coworkers and the faculty members working in the
IIEP.” Id. Purportedly, Jones “publicly
ranked Jane Doe 4 among the other females in the office that
he had victimized.” Id. ¶ 44.
Jane Doe 5
April 2017, “Jane Doe 5 [represents that she] attended
a party in a GW dorm room that was hosted by her IIEP
coworker.” Id. ¶ 90. When the party
ended, Jones allegedly “pressured Jane Doe 5 to leave
with him, ” and “Jones began [to] assault [her]
in the car.” Id. According to Jane Doe 5, when
she arrived at Jones's house, “she ‘blacked
out' and lost consciousness. She then came in and out of
consciousness as Jones aggressively raped her.”
Renner's Alleged Conduct
the individual purportedly “authorized to receive
complaint[s] regarding workplace misconduct and [to]
institute corrective measures, ” id. ¶
57, allegedly “was also involved in his own workplace
misconduct.” Id. ¶ 61. He purportedly
made misogynistic and “derogatory comments about women
in the workplace, such as disparaging ‘women's
studies.'” Id. ¶ 62. In addition,
Renner allegedly tried to cover up Jones's misconduct by
“brush[ing] aside the complaints made by [the
p]laintiffs and others” rather than “report[ing]
Jones to the police or to the University” because Jones
and Renner were allegedly “close friends.”
Id. ¶ 60.
Renner would allegedly touch Jane Doe 1 and 3. According to
Jane Doe 1, during her employment, on multiple occasions,
“Renner touch[ed] the small of Jane Doe 1's back
while in the workplace, without her permission.”
Id. ¶ 61. Renner would also allegedly subject
Jane Doe 3 to sexually hostile conduct. See id.
¶ 73. He would purportedly “touch Jane Doe 3's
arm or shoulder” while walking beside her, and while
Jane Doe 3 was working at her computer, “Renner [would]
frequently reach[ ] over [ ] Jane Doe 3 to type on her
keyboard while she remain[ed] seated.” Id. He
also allegedly “routinely commented on  Jane Doe
3's clothing in the office.” Id. The
plaintiffs also contend that “Renner gave preferential
treatment to Jane Doe 3's co-team leader, ”
id., and “would dismiss Jane Doe 3's
recommendations in front of the staff, and instead request
input from [her] male co-team leader, ” id.
¶ 75. On one occasion, “during Jane Doe 3's
professional development meeting, Renner [allegedly] asked
Jane Doe 3 when she intended to get married and have
kids.” Id. ¶ 76. He also allegedly
“asked several female employees this question during
their professional development meetings.” Id.
10, 2018, the plaintiffs filed their Complaint in the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia. On June 13, 2018,
the defendants removed the case to this Court pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1441(a), (c) (2018). See Notice of
Removal (Corrected) at 2-4. Thereafter, the defendants filed
their motion to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a
claim. See generally Defs.' Mot. Instead of
opposing the motion, the plaintiffs amended their Complaint.
See generally Am. Compl. The defendants have now
moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a
claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and lack
of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) on the basis that the plaintiffs failed to
obtain leave to sue using pseudonyms. See Defs.'
2d Mem. at 13-15. The plaintiffs subsequently filed their
motion seeking leave from the Court “to continue to
proceed anonymously as Jane Does 1-5 throughout the remainder
of this case.” Pls.' Mem. at 1. These last two
filings are the subject of this memorandum opinion.
Motion For Leave To Proceed with Pseudonyms
Rule of Civil Procedure 10(a) requires that a complaint state
all of the names of the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 10(a).
“Disclosure of the parties' identities furthers the
public interest in knowing the facts surrounding judicial
proceedings.” Doe v. Cabrera, 307 F.R.D. 1, 4
(D.D.C. 2014) (Walton, J.) (quoting Nat'l Ass'n
of Waterfront Emp'rs v. Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d 90, 99
The “rare dispensation” of allowing parties to
proceed pseudonymously is only justified in the
“critical case, ” or the “unusual case,
” . . . include[ing] those in which
“identification creates a risk of retaliatory physical
or mental harm, ” those in which “anonymity is
necessary to preserve privacy in a matter of [a] sensitive
and highly personal nature, ” and those in which the
anonymous party would be compelled to admit criminal behavior
or be subject to punishment by the state.
Qualls v. Rumsfeld, 228 F.R.D. 8, 10-11 (D.D.C.
2005); accord W. Coast Prods., Inc. v. Does 1-
5829, 275 F.R.D. 9, 12 (D.D.C. 2011)
(“[F]ederal courts generally allow parties to proceed
anonymously . . . when anonymity is necessary to protect a
person from harassment, injury, ridicule, or personal
embarrassment.”). Personal embarrassment is normally
not a sufficient basis for permitting anonymous litigation.
See Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d at 100.
is within the discretion of the district court to grant the
‘rare dispensation' of anonymity.” United
States v. Microsoft Corp., 56 F.3d 1448, 1464 (D.C. Cir.
1995) (quoting James v. Jacobson, 6 F.3d 233, 238
(4th Cir. 1993)). In exercising this discretion, the Court
has “a judicial duty to inquire into the circumstances
of particular cases to determine whether the dispensation is
warranted.” Id. “As part of this
inquiry, the court should take into account the risk of
unfairness to the opposing party, as well as the customary
and constitutionally-embedded presumption of openness in
judicial proceedings.” Id. (internal quotation
marks omitted). “[I]t is the litigant seeking to
proceed under pseudonym that bears the burden to demonstrate
a legitimate basis for proceeding in that manner, ”
Qualls, 228 F.R.D. at 13, and “motions to
proceed under pseudonym should be granted sparingly, ”
Doe v. U.S. Dep't of State, Civ. Action No.
1:15-01971, 2015 WL 9647660, at *2 (D.D.C. Nov. 3, 2015).
Motion to Dismiss
12(b)(6) motion tests whether a complaint “state[s] a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). “To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule
12(b)(6)], 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)). A claim is
facially plausible “when the plaintiff pleads factual
content that allows the court to draw [a] reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550
U.S. at 556).
evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6),
“the Court must construe the complaint in favor of the
plaintiff, who must be granted the benefit of all inferences
that can be derived from the facts alleged.”
Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C.
Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks omitted). While the
Court must “assume [the] veracity” of any
“well-pleaded factual allegations” in a
complaint, conclusory allegations “are not entitled to
the assumption of truth.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679. Thus, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a
cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do
not suffice.” Id. at 678 (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Also, the Court need not
accept “legal conclusions cast as factual allegations,
” or “inferences drawn by [the] plaintiff if
those inferences are not supported by the facts set out in
the complaint.” Hettinga, 677 F.3d at 476. The
Court “may consider only 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.” E.E.O.C. v. St. Francis
Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624 (D.C. Cir.
The Plaintiffs' Motion For Leave To Proceed with the
Pseudonyms Jane Does 1 to 5
the District of Columbia Circuit has not yet adopted a test
for evaluating a request to proceed pseudonymously, members
of this Court have adopted a five-factor test “in
balancing the interests involved.” See, e.g.,
Sandberg v. Vincent, 319 F.Supp.3d 422, 426 (D.D.C.
2018); see also Roe v. Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC,
85 F.Supp.3d 89, 96 (D.D.C. 2015); Cabrera, 307
F.R.D. at 5; Chao, 587 F.Supp.2d at 99. These
[(1)] [w]hether the justification asserted by the requesting
party is merely to avoid the annoyance and criticism that may
attend any litigation or is to preserve privacy in a matter
of a sensitive and highly personal nature; [(2)] whether
identification poses a risk of retaliatory physical or mental
harm to the requesting party or even more critically, to
innocent non-parties; [(3)] the ages of the persons whose
privacy interests are sought to be protected; [(4)] whether
the action is against a governmental or private party; and
[(5)] the risk of unfairness to the opposing party from
allowing an action against it to proceed anonymously.
Sandberg, 319 F.Supp.3d at 426 (quoting
James, 6 F.3d at 238). The Court will address each
factor in turn in assessing whether to grant the
Whether the Use of Pseudonyms Will Preserve Privacy in a
Matter of a Sensitive and Highly Personal Nature
plaintiffs maintain that “[b]ecause this case involves
claims of multiple sexual assaults, involving multiple
plaintiffs, this case is sensitive and highly personal in
nature for the [p]laintiffs.” Pls.' Mem. at 3
(quoting Cabrera, 307 F.R.D. at 6). The defendants
respond that this case does not involve a matter of a
sensitive and highly personal nature for two reasons: (1)
“Jane Does 1 and 3 do not allege that they were
sexually assaulted” or that Jones “ever touched
them improperly, or threatened them, ” Defs.'
Opp'n at 6; and (2) although the remaining plaintiffs
have alleged they have been raped, this lawsuit does not
involve a “brutal rape” involving “graphic
details, ” id. at 7.
initial matter, the Court agrees with the defendants that
“[s]exual harassment is not typically considered a
matter so highly personal as to warrant proceeding by
pseudonym.” Bernabei, 85 F.Supp.3d at 96.
However, although Jane Does 1 and 3 were subjected to sexual
harassment and not assault, the remaining plaintiffs do in
fact allege that they were sexually assaulted. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 26, 43, 90. Therefore, because courts generally
allow a plaintiff to litigate under a pseudonym in cases
containing allegations of sexual assault on the basis that
they concern highly sensitive and personal subjects, see
Cabrera, 307 F.R.D. at 5; Doe v. De Amigos,
LLC, Civ. Action No. 11-1755 (ABJ), 2012 WL 13047579, at
*2 (D.D.C. Apr. 30, 2012), the need for anonymity is
particularly great in this case because the IIEP is a
“small” office, Pls.' Mem. at 3, and
“[d]isclosure of the identity of any of the
[p]laintiffs would necessarily lead to the disclosure of the
identities [of all the plaintiffs], ” id.
defendants claim that because “all five [p]laintiffs
are already well known in the IIEP office through [the
p]laintiffs' own communications at meetings and on social
media, ” Defs' Opp'n at 7, “the use of
the true names of Jane Doe 1 and Jane Doe 3 in the lawsuit
would [not] allow anyone to better guess the true identities
of the other [p]laintiffs beyond the information already
available, ” id. However, because the
“extent of [these] disclosures does not reel in the
public at large, ” Cabrera, 307 F.R.D. at 9
n.14 (citation omitted), the Court must “grant[ ]
anonymity to protect against [public] disclosure” and
preserve the privacy of sexual assault victims. De
Amigos, LLC, 2012 WL 13047579, at *2.
defendants also contend that “this case is unlike
Bernabei because that was a suit against the alleged
perpetrator of a brutal rape, in which the complaint included
‘highly personal' matter[s] such as ‘graphic
details of the alleged rape, including multiple references to
the plaintiff's genitalia and her hospital examination,
'” Defs.' Opp'n at 7, while “the
claims in this case are not made against the alleged
perpetrator . . .; no similarly ‘graphic' details
of the alleged sexual assaults are pled in the [Amended]
Complaint; and the primary issue is not liability for the
alleged rapes themselves, ” id. at 7-8.
Although the Court acknowledges that the plaintiffs'
Amended Complaint “is not against [their] assailant . .
. but is instead at least one step removed” from the
alleged incidents of sexual assault, Bernabei, 85
F.Supp.3d at 97, the Court agrees with the plaintiffs that it
is “anticipated that the details of the sexual assaults
will be relevant to this lawsuit in light of [the
p]laintiffs' Title IX claims, ” Pls.' Reply at
2; but see Bernabei, 85 F.Supp.3d at 97, and
nevertheless recognizes the “strong [public] interest
in protecting the identities of sexual assault victims so
that other victims will not be deterred from reporting such
crimes, ” De Amigos, LLC, 2012 WL 13047579, at
*2; see also Doe v. Penzato, Civ. Action No. 10-5154
(MEJ), 2011 WL 1833007, at *3 (N.D. Cal. May 13, 2011)
(“Given [the p]laintiff's allegations of sexual
assault, the Court finds that ...