United States District Court, District of Columbia
CONSTANTE P. BAROT et al., Plaintiffs,
ALDON MANAGEMENT, Defendant.
TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Constante and Dolores Barot, proceeding pro se, sued
Defendant Aldon Management (“Aldon”) in the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia. They assert a
scattershot array of claims under federal and District of
Columbia law stemming from Constante Barot's employment
as a custodian at a building managed by Aldon, and their
tenancy in employee housing related to that employment. See
ECF No. 1-2 at 7-16 (“Compl.”). Specifically,
they appear to bring claims under Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act, the Age Discrimination and Employment Act (ADEA),
the Fair Housing Act, the District of Columbia Human Rights
Act (DCHRA), and several provisions of District of Columbia
landlord-tenant law. See Id. at 16. Aldon removed
the case to this Court, ECF No. 1, and moved to dismiss the
complaint for failure to state a claim, ECF No. 12. For the
reasons explained below, Aldon's motion will be granted
in part and denied in part.
* * *
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) “tests whether a
plaintiff has properly stated a claim.” BEG Invs.,
LLC v. Alberti, 85 F.Supp.3d 13, 24 (D.D.C. 2015).
“A court considering such a motion presumes that the
complaint's factual allegations are true and construes
them liberally in the plaintiff's favor.”
Id. Nonetheless, the complaint must set forth enough
facts to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). “Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements . . . do not suffice.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “[A]lthough a pro se complaint
‘must be construed liberally, the complaint must still
present a claim on which the Court can grant
relief.'” Untalasco v. Lockheed Martin
Corp., 249 F.Supp.3d 318, 322 (D.D.C. 2017) (quoting
Budik v. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Med. Ctr., 937
F.Supp.2d 5, 11 (D.D.C. 2013)). “A court considering a
pro se plaintiff's complaint should look to ‘all
filings, including filings responsive to a motion to
dismiss,' to discern whether the plaintiff has
‘nudged [her] claim[s] across the line from conceivable
to plausible.'” Mehrbach v. Citibank,
N.A., 316 F.Supp.3d 264, 268 (D.D.C. 2018) (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted) (first quoting Brown v.
Whole Foods Mkt. Grp., Inc., 789 F.3d 146, 152 (D.C.
Cir. 2015); then quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
* * *
moves to dismiss each of the identifiable claims in the
complaint for failure to state a claim. The Court considers
each claim in turn.
VII of the Civil Rights Act
first asserts that Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim
for employment discrimination based on national origin under
Title VII because they have not alleged that
“[Aldon's] decisions with regard to employment (or
housing as a condition of employment) were made with any
discriminatory intent or animus, or that a discriminatory
motive was even at play.” MTD at 6. But Aldon far
overstates the requirements to sufficiently plead a claim of
discrimination under Title VII. “To state a prima facie
case of discrimination, a plaintiff must allege that she is
part of a protected class under Title VII, she suffered a
cognizable adverse employment action, and the action gives
rise to an inference of discrimination.” Walker v.
Johnson, 798 F.3d 1085, 1091 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (emphasis
added). Aldon does not dispute the first two requirements.
And Plaintiffs have, though barely, “plead[ed]
sufficient facts, if accepted as true, to [at least] create a
plausible inference of discrimination.” Thomas v.
Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 305 F.Supp.3d 77, 86
their complaint, they allege that Aldon, on account of
Plaintiffs' Filipino national origin, provided them with
living quarters in the building where Constante Barot
worked-a condition of each custodian's employment-that
were smaller and otherwise inferior to his
“American” counterparts. See Compl. ¶¶
1, 22, 29-30. They allege that these “similarly
situated co-employee[s]” were given “real two
bedroom apartments while Plaintiffs were provided a DIFFERENT
TYPE” where the “[second] Bedroom was illegaly
[sic] constructed from part of the Laundry Room.”
Id. ¶¶ 29-30. And they further allege that
their “discounted rent is higher than [Barot's]
American and younger counterpart whose apartment unit is a
regular two bedroom apartment.” Id. ¶ 36;
see also ECF No. 1-2 at 74-78 (lease addendums for Constante
Barot and a non-Filipino custodian in another of Aldon's
buildings). Those allegations are sufficient to create a
plausible inference that Aldon's actions were
discriminatorily motivated and thereby “raise
[Plaintiffs'] right to relief above the speculative
level, '” all that is required at this stage.
Brown v. Sessions, 774 F.3d 1016, 1023 (D.C. Cir.
2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
Age Discrimination in Employment Act
similar reasons, Plaintiffs' claim of age discrimination
under the ADEA also survives Aldon's motion to dismiss.
Aldon argues that Plaintiffs' complaint “contains
no mention of how [Aldon's] alleged conduct constitutes
age discrimination” and “[n]o allegations [that]
are ever tied to any adverse actions of which Plaintiffs
complain.” MTD at 6. But again, Aldon demands too much
of the complaint. As with a claim of national-origin
discrimination under Title VII, the “essential
elements” of an age discrimination claim are that
“the plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action .
. . because of the plaintiff's . . . age.”
Baloch v. Kempthorne, 550 F.3d 1191, 1196 (D.C. Cir.
2008). Plaintiffs, noting that Constante Barot is 67 years
old, allege that Aldon provided Plaintiffs with inferior
living quarters on account of his age. See Compl.
¶¶ 3, 22, 29, 36. They note that Constante Barot is
the “oldest among his counterparts, ” who each
allegedly were provided superior housing arrangements, and in
at least one case at a lower rent, and that this disparate
treatment was due to his comparatively older age. See ECF No.
14 (“Opp'n”) at 7; Compl. ¶ 36. Though
admittedly minimal, those allegations, particularly
“when considered through the liberal lens afforded pro
se filings, ” Fennel v. AARP, 770 F.Supp.2d
118, 131 (D.D.C. 2011), are sufficient to plausibly allege an
inference of age discrimination.
argues that Plaintiffs' claims under the Fair Housing Act
and the DCHRA for housing discrimination on the basis of
their national origin should be dismissed for the same
deficiencies it identified with Plaintiffs' Title VII
claims. See MTD at 10-12 & n.5. As with a claim for
employment discrimination, to state a claim for disparate
treatment under the Fair Housing Act on the basis of race,
the plaintiff must allege “that the defendant
intentionally discriminated against [him] on the basis of
[his national origin].” 2922 Sherman Ave.
Tenants' Ass'n v. District of Columbia, 444 F.3d
673, 682 (D.C. Cir. 2006). For the reasons already explained,
however, Plaintiffs' allegations that Aldon discriminated
against him on account of his national origin just barely
Aldon alternatively argues that Plaintiffs' Fair Housing
Act claim fails as a matter of law because Plaintiffs only
allege “post-acquisition housing discrimination,
” which, it contends, 42 U.S.C. § 3604(b) of the
Act does not prohibit. See Id. at 12-13. While some
courts have found that § 3604(b) does not extend to
discriminatory conduct interfering with an individual's
use of property after the property was leased or sold,
see, e.g., Halprin v. Prairie Single Family Homes of
Dearborn Park Ass'n,388 F.3d 327, 329 (7th Cir.
2004); see also Clifton Terrace Assocs., Ltd. v. United
Techs. Corp.,929 F.2d 714, 719 (D.C. Cir. 1991)
(finding that the Fair Housing Act “reach[es] only
discrimination that adversely affects the availability of
housing, ” and not “matter[s] of
habitability”), the Court need not address the scope of
§ 3604(b) here. Plaintiffs have alleged in their
complaint that Aldon discriminated against them in the
provision of housing; specifically, they allege that
Plaintiffs were provided with inferior housing on account of
their national origin when Constante Barot was hired as a
custodian. See Compl. ¶ 22 (“[Aldon] provided
Plaintiffs a DIFFERENT APARTMENT UNIT than ...