United States District Court, District of Columbia
STEVEN H. HALL, Plaintiff,
ELAINE C. DUKE, ACTING SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY; UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY, Defendants.
S. CHUTKAN United States District Judge
Steven Hall, proceeding pro se, is a former employee
of the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”).
He brings this suit challenging the rescission of his
Workers' Compensation benefits and his termination from
federal service. (ECF No. 9 (“Am. Compl.”)
¶¶ 2-3.) Defendants have moved to dismiss
Plaintiff's amended complaint in its entirety (ECF No.
17); and Plaintiff has filed two “motions not to
dismiss” the case (ECF Nos. 21 and 22). On March 31,
2019, this court issued an Order GRANTING
Defendants' motion to dismiss and
DENYING Plaintiff's motions not to
dismiss. (ECF. No. 29.) This Memorandum Opinion explains the
court's reasons for that Order.
an African-American male and a disabled veteran, began
working for DHS on August 2, 2010. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.)
August 2012, Plaintiff suffered from
“illnesses/injuries” at a construction site at
St. Elizabeth's Hospital, where he presumably was
assigned to work. (Id. ¶ 2.) On November 20,
2012, he filed a claim with the Department of Labor's
Office of Workers' Compensation Programs
(“OWCP”). (Id. ¶ 1.) His request
for benefits was approved in January 2013. (Id.)
letter dated January 22, 2013, Gary Myers, a DHS Program
Manager/Policy Advisor, requested that the OWCP overturn its
decision and preclude Plaintiff from receiving benefits due
to an insufficient causal link between Plaintiff's job
placement at St. Elizabeth's and his respiratory issues.
(Id. Ex. 6.) Plaintiff alleges that attached to
Myers' letter was an air quality report that was
“biased, untimely, and inconclusive.”
(Id. ¶¶ 2, 5.)
February 2013, Plaintiff again suffered from
“illnesses/injuries” at the St. Elizabeth's
construction site. (Id. ¶ 2.) In April 2013,
OWCP awarded Plaintiff $30, 000 as compensation for the
“work-related injury/illness.” (Id.
¶ 1.) In May 2013, DHS again challenged the benefits
paid to Plaintiff, and on June 10, 2013, OWCP rescinded
Plaintiff's benefits, and Plaintiff's status with DHS
changed to Absent Without Leave (“AWOL”).
(Id. ¶¶ 1, 2, 5.) On November 18, 2013,
Plaintiff was terminated because he had been marked as AWOL
for an extended period of time. (Id. ¶¶ 3,
to his termination, on May 20, 2013, Plaintiff filed a
complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”). (Id. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff
alleges that from the time he filed his complaint until the
date he was terminated, the EEOC took no action to address
his complaint. (Id. ¶ 4.a.) In response to the
EEOC's inaction, on March 22, 2015, Plaintiff sent an
addendum as a “courtesy to inform the agency that no
actions were taken to resolve his EEO complaints.”
(Id. ¶ 4.b.) On August 28, 2015, the EEOC
dismissed Plaintiff's complaint as untimely.
(Id. ¶ 4.c.)
to documents submitted with a supplement to Plaintiff's
response, Plaintiff settled his claims against DHS in an
agreement dated November 23, 2015. (See ECF No. 22
(“Pl.'s Corrected Mot. Not to Dismiss”) Ex.
14.) It appears that, since that date, notwithstanding the
settlement, Plaintiff has continued to challenge the
EEOC's determination that his complaint was untimely in
several forums. (See e.g., Am. Compl. ¶¶
4.e.-j; Exs. AA, 7, 8.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint
contain “a short and plain statement of the
claim” and “the grounds for the court's
jurisdiction” so that a defendant has fair notice of
the claim and the grounds upon which it rests. Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007)
(per curiam) (citing cases). Rule 12(b)(6) permits a party to
move to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint fails
“to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion
“tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint.”
Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir.
2002). To withstand a motion to dismiss, “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)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
plaintiff's factual allegations need not establish all
elements of a prima facie case, see Swierkiewicz v.
Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 511-14 (2002); Bryant v.
Pepco, 730 F.Supp.2d 25, 28-29 (D.D.C. 2010), but they
“must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations
in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007) (citations omitted). A complaint containing only
“[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements” cannot
survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
In addition, the presumption of truth accorded factual
allegations at this stage does not apply to a plaintiff's
legal conclusions in the complaint, including those
“couched” as factual allegations. Id.
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).
ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court may consider not
only the facts alleged in the complaint, but also documents
attached to or incorporated by reference in the complaint and
documents attached to a motion to dismiss for which no party
contests authenticity.” Demissie v. Starbucks Corp.
Office & Headquarters, 19 F.Supp.3d 321, 324 (D.D.C.
2014). Therefore, “‘where a document is referred
to in the complaint and is central to the plaintiff's
claim, such a document attached to the motion papers may be
considered without converting the motion to one for summary
judgment. . . Otherwise, a plaintiff with a legally deficient
claim could survive a motion to dismiss simply by failing to
attach a dispositive document on which it relied. . .
Moreover, a document need not be mentioned by name to be
considered ‘referred to' or ‘incorporated by
reference' into the complaint.” Strumsky v.
Washington Post Co., 842 F.Supp.2d 215, 217-18 (D.D.C.
2012) (citations and quotations omitted); see also Long
v. Safeway, Inc., 842 F.Supp.2d 141, 144-45 (D.D.C.
2012), aff'd, 483 Fed.Appx. 576 (D.C. Cir.
the court is mindful that pro se pleadings must be
liberally construed, as they are held to “less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by trained
lawyers.” Budik v. Dartmouth- Hitchcock Med.
Ctr., 937 F.Supp.2d 5, 11 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94) (internal quotation marks
omitted). However, this liberal standard “is not . . .
a license to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure.” Neuman v. United States, 70
F.Supp.3d 416, 422 (D.D.C. 2014) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, “[a] pro se