United States District Court, District of Columbia
UNITED STATES EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, Defendant.
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC” or the “Commission”) has
brought this action to challenge alleged sex discrimination
by Defendant The George Washington University (the
“University”) pursuant to the Equal Pay Act of
1963, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) (“E PA
”), and Title VII of the Civil Rights of 1964, as
amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.
(“Title VII”). The director of the
University's Athletics Department allegedly gave
preferential treatment to a male staff member compared with a
female executive assistant.
pending is the University's motion to dismiss this case
for failure to state a claim. In the alternative, the
University requests an order compelling the Commission to
engage in further conciliation and a stay pending completion
of that process. Upon consideration of the briefing,
relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the
Court DENIES the  Motion of Defendant
The George Washington University to Dismiss the Complaint or,
Alternatively, Stay Proceedings.
Court shall rely on the allegations in the Commission's
 Complaint to summarize the pertinent factual background,
reserving further elaboration to pertinent portions of this
Williams was hired in August 2014 as the Executive Assistant
to Patrick Nero, the University's Director of Athletics.
Compl., ECF No. 1, ¶ 14. In this capacity, Ms.
Williams' work included, inter alia,
“providing high-level administrative support” to
Mr. Nero and “serving on the senior staff of the
Department of Athletics.” Id. ¶ 15.
gravamen of this case dates to September 2015, when Michael
Aresco “began performing work in the Administrative
Suite of the Office of the Director of Defendant's
Athletics Department.” Id. ¶ 18. Although
the briefing touches on Mr. Aresco's title at the time,
Complaint does not. Rather, the Commission simply states that
Mr. Aresco “had not [previously] been employed by
Defendant in any administrative position.” Id.
¶ 19. Once Mr. Aresco started contributing within the
Administrative Suite, Mr. Nero “treated [him] more
favorably than [Ms. Williams], because of sex, ” as
evidenced by opportunities given to him while Ms. Williams
was “minimiz[ed]” and “requir[ed] . . . to
train Aresco, ” “perform job duties that Aresco
either failed to perform or was incapable of performing,
” and do “tasks such as running personal
errands.” Id. ¶ 20.
January 2016, the University advertised a new position in its
Athletics Department. See Id. ¶¶ 22, 25.
Based on the job posting, this Special Assistant's duties
would consist of “work . . . substantially equal to the
work that [Ms. Williams] performed.” Id.
¶ 24. But unnamed “personnel” at the
University effectively informed Ms. Williams that the job was
off limits to her, for the “the Special Assistant
position had been created for Aresco, and . . . it already
had been decided to hire him for that position.”
Id. ¶ 25. Whether in that way or by unspecified
other means, the University “dissuaded and deterred
[Ms. Williams] from applying” for the job, despite her
qualifications therefor, and Mr. Aresco was indeed
“selected” that same month. Id.
¶¶ 26-28. Whereas Ms. Williams' annual salary
as Executive Assistant fell between $38, 500 and $40, 000,
Mr. Aresco initially was paid approximately $77, 500 per year
as Special Assistant and later was awarded raises.
Id. ¶¶ 17, 29.
Williams turned to the Commission to pursue EPA and Title VII
claims against the University. Id. ¶ 8. Upon
finding reasonable cause for her claims, the Commission
issued a Letter of Determination to the University and
proposed joint efforts to conciliate. Id. ¶ 9.
Despite communicating thereafter with the University, the
Commission ultimately determined that it “was unable to
secure from [the University] a conciliation agreement
acceptable to the Commission” and sent a Notice of
Failure of Conciliation on July 19, 2017. Id.
September 26, 2017, the Commission brought this lawsuit
against the University under the EPA and Title VII. Count I
alleges that the University paid Ms. Williams “lower
compensation than Defendant paid to males to perform
substantially equal work, ” in violation of the EPA.
Id. ¶ 32. Count II alleges that the University
violated Title VII by “engaging in disparate pay
practices based on sex”; “failing to provide [Ms.
Williams] with promotional opportunities”;
“subjecting [Ms. Williams] to disparate terms and
conditions of employment”; and “depriving [Ms.
Williams] of employment opportunities and advancement because
of her sex.” Id. ¶¶ 37, 38. The
Commission seeks a variety of remedies, including an
injunction against any similar treatment of the
University's other female employees, an order that the
University put into place policies that ensure equal
employment opportunities for women, and compensation for Ms.
Williams. Id. (Prayer for Relief).
University responded to these claims with the pending motion
to dismiss. After briefing had concluded, and while the
motion remained under advisement, the Court granted the
Commission's request for a stay during a partial
government shutdown. Min. Order of Dec. 26, 2018. Some time
after proceedings resumed, the Court sought an update as to
any pertinent developments and/or case law that post-dated
briefing of the pending motion. See Min. Orders of
Jan. 30, 2019, and Apr. 23, 2019. At the Court's
instruction, the parties focused on the University's
alternative request for a stay pending further conciliation;
they did not bring any other developments or case law to the
Court's attention. See Joint Notice Regarding
Case Update, ECF No. 21.
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a complaint must
contain “‘a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,' in
order to ‘give the defendant fair notice of what the .
. . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'”
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957));
accord Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007).
“detailed factual allegations” are not necessary
to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide
the “grounds” of “entitle[ment] to relief,
” a plaintiff must furnish “more than labels and
conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555 (citing, e.g., Papasan v. Allain, 478
U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 570;
Erickson, 551 U.S. at 93. “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 alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The complaint must
establish “more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (citing
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[W]here the
well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than
the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has
alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'- ‘that the
pleader is entitled to relief.'” Id. at
679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
determining whether a complaint fails to state a claim, [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.” Hurd v. District of Columbia,
Gov't, 864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting
EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d
621, 624 (D.C. Cir. 1997)) (internal quotation marks omitted)
(alterations in original). “If the district court
considers other facts, it must convert the motion to dismiss
into a motion for summary judgment and ‘provide the
parties with notice and an opportunity to present evidence in
support of their respective positions.'”
Id. (quoting Kim v. United States, 632 F.3d
713, 719 (D.C. Cir. 2011); citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)).
considering a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
“construe[s] the complaint liberally, grant[ing]
plaintiff[ ] the benefit of all inferences that can
[reasonably] be derived from the facts alleged.”
Sickle v. Torres Advanced Enterprise Sols., LLC, 884
F.3d 338, 345 (D.C. Cir. 2018) (quoting Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002)) (each
alteration, except first, in original) (internal quotation
Motion to Stay Proceedings
power to stay proceedings is incidental to the power inherent
in every court to control the disposition of the causes on
its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for
counsel, and for litigants. How this can best be done calls
for the exercise of judgment, which must weigh competing
interests and maintain an even balance.” Air Line
Pilots Ass'n v. Miller, 523 U.S. 866, 879 n.6 (1998)
(quoting Landis v. North Am. Co., 299 U.S. 248,
254-55 (1936)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 706-07 (1997)
(“The District Court has broad discretion to stay
proceedings as an incident to its power to control its own
requesting a stay of proceedings “must make out a clear
case of hardship or inequity in being required to go forward,
if there is even a fair possibility that the stay for which
he prays will work damage to some one else.”
Landis, 299 U.S. at 255.
is no dispute as to the Court's subject-matter
jurisdiction, which is attributable, at the least, to federal
questions under the EPA and Title VII. See Compl.,
ECF No. 1, ¶ 1 (citing these grounds, among others); 28
U.S.C. § 1331; 29 U.S.C. § 206(d); 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-2(a)(1). Each of those statutory regimes expressly
recognizes jurisdiction in federal district court.
See 29 U.S.C. §§ 215(a)(2), 217; 42 U.S.C.
the University challenges an aspect of the conciliation
process, neither of the parties has framed conciliation as a
jurisdictional issue, and the Court is satisfied that it is
not. See EEOC v. MVM, Inc., Civil Action No.
TDC-17-2881, 2018 WL 1882715, at *2 (D. Md. Apr. 19, 2018)
(citing Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500,
516 (2006); EEOC v. Agro Distribution, LLC, 555 F.3d
462, 469 (5th Cir. 2009)); EEOC v. MJC, Inc., 306
F.Supp.3d 1204, 1211-12 (D. Haw. 2018) (discussing, e.g.,
Arbaugh, 546 U.S. at 515-16). Accordingly, the Court
shall not examine any aspect of the Commission's
compliance with ...