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Ross v. Georgetown University

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 12, 2019

GREGORY ROSS, Plaintiff,
GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.


          AMY BERMAN JACKSON United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Gregory Ross is a member of the Georgetown University Police Department (“GUPD”). Am. Compl. [Dkt. # 10] ¶ 2. He claims that his employer, Georgetown University, and his supervisor, Captain Glenette M. Hilton, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq. (2012), and the D.C. Human Rights Act (“DCHRA”) of 1977, D.C. Code § 2-1402.11, when they allegedly discriminated against him and subjected him to a hostile work environment. Id. ¶ 1.

         Defendants moved to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing that (1) plaintiff failed to state a timely claim under both Title VII and the DCHRA; (2) he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under Title VII; (3) he failed to make the requisite election of remedies under the DCHRA; and (4) he failed to sufficiently plead a hostile work environment claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 12] (“Defs.' Mot.”); Defs.' Mem. of P. & A. in Supp. of Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 12-1] (“Defs.' Mem.”) at 5-11. Defendants also argue that the claims against Captain Hilton should be dismissed entirely because they are barred or otherwise without foundation. Defs.' Mem. at 11-14.

         The Court will grant the motion in part and remand the remainder of the case to the D.C. Superior Court. Plaintiff's Title VII claims for discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment will be dismissed because they are untimely and fail to state a claim. Since the federal claims will be dismissed, the Court will not exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claim, and it will be remanded to the Superior Court for further proceedings.


         Plaintiff Gregory Ross began working at Georgetown University on November 6, 1996 as a Patrol Officer with the University's Police Department. Am. Compl. ¶ 7. In 2009, he was promoted to Patrol Sergeant. Id. ¶ 9.

         In 2012, GUPD hired Captain Glenette Hilton, who became plaintiff's supervisor. Am. Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff asserts that the department then increased its emphasis on racial profiling, “particularly of African Americans.” Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiff refused to participate in this practice, and he asserts that his refusal “has resulted in continued negative performance reviews and reprimands, creating a hostile work environment for him.” Id. ¶ 12. The complaint recounts a number of incidents that plaintiff alleges were animated by racial discrimination and retaliation:

1. On March 2, 2012, plaintiff “was involved in an accident involving a university vehicle while exiting a University parking lot, ” and while it was only a “minor scrape, ” and he immediately reported it, “he was nevertheless reprimanded.” Am. Compl. ¶ 13. He notes that other officers involved in similar accidents were not similarly reprimanded. Id. ¶ 14.
2. On October 24, 2012, plaintiff “was suspended for one (1) day without pay for insubordination” because he allegedly worked overtime without authorization on October 7, 2012. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. The suspension was overturned, and on January 23, 2013, his related pay was restored. Id.
3. On August 18, 2014, plaintiff was involved in apprehending a bicycle thief. The other officers involved received recognition for the arrest, but he did not. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 16-17.
4. In September 2014, plaintiff refused to arrest three young African American men who were sitting outside one of the University's libraries. Am. Compl. ¶ 18. Someone had made a report concerning the men, and plaintiff responded to the scene, but when he arrived, “he observed no indication of wrongdoing, ” and he took no action because, according to plaintiff, he lacked probable cause. Id. On November 24, 2014, plaintiff was suspended for three days as a result of his inaction. Id. ¶ 19. He claims that Captain Hilton reprimanded him, stating: “You knew what they were. You grew up in D.C. They should have been arrested.” Id. ¶ 20.
5. On January 8, 2015, plaintiff supervised a team of officers making an arrest, but he did not receive recognition for it. Am. Compl. ¶ 21.
6. On March 15, 2015, during that year's NCAA Men's Basketball Annual Tournament Selection Sunday, an African-American man was “apparently attempting, uninvited, to speak with Coach John Thompson III.” Am. Compl. ¶ 22. GUPD was called, and according to plaintiff, the event coordinator instructed the officers not to arrest the man. Id. ¶¶ 23-24. Plaintiff “assessed the situation, and assigned one of his Officers to monitor the individual.” Id. He then left the scene to resume his campus patrol. Id. At some point, the same individual renewed his unwelcome attempts to contact Coach Thompson, and the assigned officer escorted him to the police station where he was issued a “Banning Order.” Id. ¶ 25. On May 27, 2015, plaintiff was demoted to Special Police Officer by Chief of Police Jay Gruber, on the recommendation of Captain Hilton, for “poor work performance and failure to adhere to operational guidelines” because he failed to stay at the event and arrest the man. Id. ¶¶ 28-31. Plaintiff asserts he was following “a written policy of de-escalation.” Id. ¶ 28.
7. On January 20, 2016, Captain Hilton allowed the University's SafeRide program to continue operating despite a snow storm, and when plaintiff's vehicle slid down the road into another car, he was blamed for the accident. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32-34.

         On December 1, 2015, [1] plaintiff submitted an “Intake Questionnaire” to the D.C. Office of Human Rights (“DCOHR”) alleging that the University had subjected him to discrimination and retaliation on the basis of his race. Am. Compl. ¶ 37; Intake Questionnaire, Ex. 2 to Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 15-1]. On May 19, 2016, a Charge of Discrimination was filed with the DCOHR. See Charge of Discrimination, Ex. A to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 12-2] (“Disc. Charge”). The face of the charge indicates that it was cross-filed with the EEOC. Id.

         On January 29, 2018, plaintiff initiated a civil action in the Superior Court of D.C. against Georgetown University, Captain Hilton, University President John J. DeGioia, and Chief of Police Jay Gruber for violations of Title VII and the D.C. Human Rights Act. See Notice of Removal [Dkt. # 1] (“Removal Notice”) at 1. Defendants removed the action to this Court on March 23, 2018 on the basis of federal question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). Id. at 2-3. On April 26, 2018, plaintiff filed an amended complaint asserting the same claims against Georgetown University and Captain Hilton (collectively, “defendants”); the parties stipulated to the dismissal of the other two defendants on May 4, 2018. See generally Am. Compl.; Stipulation of Dismissal [Dkt. # 11].

         On May 10, 2018, defendants moved to dismiss the complaint. See Defs.' Mot.; Defs.' Mem. Plaintiff opposed the motion on June 11, 2018, see Pl.'s Mem. of P. & A. in Opp. to Defs.' Mot. [Dkt. # 15] (“Pl.'s Mem.”), and defendants replied on June 22, 2018. See Defs.' Reply to Pl.'s Mem. [Dkt. # 17] (“Defs.' Reply”).


         “To survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] 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), quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the two principles underlying its decision in Twombly: “First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. And “[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 679, citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

         A claim is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content “allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. A pleading must offer more than “labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id.

         In evaluating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant plaintiff ‘the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'” Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal citation omitted), quoting Schuler v. United States, 617 F.2d 605, 608 (D.C. Cir. 1979); see also Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011), quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Therefore, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court must construe a complaint liberally in the plaintiff's favor. Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). Nevertheless, the court need not accept inferences drawn by the plaintiff if those inferences are unsupported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the court accept plaintiff's legal conclusions. Id.; see also Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In ruling upon a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a court may ordinarily consider only “the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached as exhibits or incorporated by reference in the complaint and matters about which the Court may take judicial notice.” Gustave-Schmidt v. Chao, 226 F.Supp.2d 191, 196 (D.D.C. 2002), citing EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624-25 (D.C. Cir. 1997).


         I. Title VII Discrimination ...

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