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Cooper v. American University

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 19, 2019

AAMIR COOPER, Plaintiff,
v.
AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In this employment discrimination action filed pro se, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant American University (“AU”) terminated his employment because of his race and gender. AU has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion will be GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Work Environment and Termination

         Cooper alleges the following facts, which for current purposes are accepted as true. Cooper is a 26-year-old African American male who, on July 28, 2017, was terminated from his job as an AU police dispatcher. Cooper's firing followed a sexual harassment investigation of him “by Police Director Philip Morse and Human Resource Investigator Santo Scremintti[.]” Compl. at 2.[1]

         Cooper claims that AU police officers and supporting staff were permitted to participate in an “exercise program . . . known as (LAWFIT), ” where they were “given 1 hour 2 days a week” to exercise “during their work day.” Id. Cooper “chose swimming in the AU indoor pool.” Id. In May 2017, he met with AU Police Captain Kevin Barrett on several occasions to discuss his activity at the pool and “some complaints about [him] from the pool.” Compl. at 3-4. On May 23, 2017, Barrett “notice[d]” Cooper's tattoo, shared that he had a tattoo as well, and stated: “Maybe somebody at the pool saw that you had a tattoo and was alarmed by that.” Id. at 3. Barrett suggested “nonchalantly” that Cooper “shouldn't go to the pool until things blow over.” Id. Barrett also told Cooper that he would let “AU Police Sgt. Salaazar and Lt. Greenlee” know “about our conversation and bring them up to date about what was going on[.]” Id.

         Baffled by Barrett's repeated questions regarding whether “anyone” had reached out to him about the complaints at the pool, Cooper “took it upon” himself “to refrain from going to the pool for 30 days. During that time, he reported to work, “business as usual.” Id. at 4. He did not receive a “written memo” from his supervisors or the Human Resources department “directing” him “not to go to the pool [or] concerning the substance of the complaint” Barrett had referenced. Cooper found out that “the AU gym fee was still being deducted” from his paycheck, so he returned to the pool on June 27, 2017. The next day, Cooper's supervisor directed him to Morse's office, where Morse “slammed a memo on the table” and demanded that Cooper read and sign it, “stating you were ordered not to go to the pool.” Id. at 4. Cooper was placed on administrative leave and escorted off AU's property. He was “ordered to . . . hand over” his employee ID and told that he was “not allowed back on [AU] property.” Id.

         After his termination, Cooper learned from Morse “that a white female life guard had filed a complaint with the AU Human Resource Department, ” claiming that Cooper “had commented to her that she was pretty” and “resembled a bay watch model, ” and “asked . . . if she had a social media account” and if “her boyfriend [was] black[.]” Compl. at 2. Morse told Cooper that he “had committed sexual harassment during [his] exercise break while swimming in the American University indoor pool.” Id.

         The termination letter, dated July 28, 2017, is based on “the findings of Human Resources investigation into allegations of inappropriate conduct.” It lists four specific allegations made by a student worker at the Reeves Aquatics Center and mentions “additional allegations of inappropriate comments and behavior” by “four other individuals” discovered during “the course of investigating” the initial complaint. Compl. Attachment, ECF No. 1 at 8. In a written response, Cooper refuted the specific allegations and claims he did not know about “the unknown white female['s] complaint” prior to his termination. Id. at 10.

         B. EEO Activity and Commencement of Lawsuit

         At some point, Cooper filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC), which mailed Cooper a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on May 25, 2018. Compl. Attachment, ECF No. 1-1. The EEOC was “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statute.” Id. at 1. Cooper filed this action on August 23, 2018. His five causes of action are captioned in the Complaint as follows:

Count 1, Race Discrimination in Violation of Title VII
Count 2, Sex Discrimination in Violation of Title VII
Count 3, Disparate Treatment in Violation of ...

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