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McMillan v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 26, 2019

STEPHEN E. McMILLAN Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          EMMET G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In 2010, Plaintiff Stephen E. McMillan (“Mr. McMillan”), proceeding pro se, brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, arising out of the termination of his employment. In 2012, this Court granted WMATA's motion for summary judgment, finding, inter alia, that: (1) Mr. McMillan failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to several of his Title VII claims; (2) WMATA asserted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation for its discipline and termination of Mr. McMillan; (3) Mr. McMillan failed to demonstrate that WMATA's explanation was a pretext for discrimination, and no reasonable jury could find that WMATA's stated reasons for his termination were pretextual; and (4) WMATA was immune from Mr. McMillan's constitutional claims, which were construed as claims under 42 U.S.C § 1983. McMillan v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., 898 F.Supp.2d 64, 66, 68-72 (D.D.C. 2012) (“McMillan I”). Mr. McMillan appealed the Court's decision, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (“D.C. Circuit”) dismissed the appeal for lack of prosecution.

         Undeterred, Mr. McMillan brings a new Title VII action against WMATA, alleging employment discrimination and malfeasance. WMATA moves to dismiss the action with prejudice, arguing that Mr. McMillan cannot relitigate his termination. Upon careful consideration of the motion, opposition and reply thereto, the applicable law, and the entire record herein, the Court concludes that Mr. McMillan's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and that the doctrine of res judicata bars this action because it is another challenge to Mr. McMillan's termination. Accordingly, the Court GRANTS WMATA's motion to dismiss and DISMISSES WITH PREJUDICE the Complaint.

         I. Background

         The factual background in this case, which is set forth in greater detail in the prior Opinion, will not be repeated in full here.[1] See McMillan I, 898 F.Supp.2d at 66-68. In November 1999, WMATA hired Mr. McMillan as an elevator and escalator technician. Id. at 66. After his inquiry into the status and distribution of a bonus owed to another WMATA employee who recruited him to work at WMATA, Mr. McMillan allegedly experienced “negative consequences” for the rest of his career there. Id.; see also Def.'s Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute, McMillan I, Civil Action No. 10-1867, ECF No. 15-2 at 2 ¶ 3.[2] According to him, WMATA denied him career advancement opportunities. McMillan I, 898 F.Supp.2d at 66. And he observed WMATA exclusively hiring female employees for administrative job openings without regard to time-in-service or time-in-grade. Id.

         Mr. McMillan lodged a complaint with WMATA's Office of Civil Rights, alleging “mismanagement” and “discrimination, ” id., and he attempted to file one with WMATA's Inspector General's Office to allege fraud, waste, and abuse. Id. at 66-67. WMATA's Office of Civil Rights concluded that his complaint did not fall within the purview of Title VII because it failed to involve discrimination allegations, and recommended that Mr. McMillan contact his union representative or superintendent. Id. at 66.

         Between February 2007 and June 2008, Mr. McMillan was involved in at least four separate incidents at WMATA that resulted in disciplinary actions, including a written warning and three suspensions. Id. at 67, 72; see also Letter from David A. Lacosse, Director, Office of Elevator & Escalator Servs., to Mr. McMillan (Dec. 3, 2008), McMillan I, Civil Action No. 10-1867, ECF No. 15-3 at 3. Pending the outcome of an investigation into “annual and monthly preventive maintenance” work that he was tasked with performing at a Metrorail station escalator unit, WMATA placed Mr. McMillan on administrative leave in November 2008. Id. at 2. One month later, WMATA terminated Mr. McMillan, citing his work-related incidents and negligence in performing the maintenance work. Id. at 2-3.

         Mr. McMillan filed his first Title VII lawsuit against WMATA on November 2, 2010 after filing a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and receiving the EEOC's Dismissal and Notice of Rights. McMillan I, 898 F.Supp.2d at 72 at 67. Mr. McMillan alleged, inter alia, that WMATA retaliated against him from April 11, 2002 through June 10, 2008. Id. On October 12, 2012, this Court granted WMATA's motion for summary judgment, id. at 72, and entered final judgment in favor of WMATA, Order, McMillan I, Civil Action 10-1867, ECF No. 22 at 1. The Court found that: (1) WMATA was immune from Mr. McMillan's constitutional claims, which the Court construed as claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, McMillan I, 898 F.Supp.2d at 68-70; (2) Mr. McMillan failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to several of the Title VII claims, except his retaliation claim as to the termination, id. at 70-71; (3) WMATA asserted a legitimate, nondiscriminatory explanation for its discipline and termination of Mr. McMillan, id. at 72, and (4) Mr. McMillan failed to demonstrate that WMATA's explanation was pretextual, and a reasonable jury could not find that WMATA's stated reasons were pretextual, id. On October 31, 2012, Mr. McMillan filed a Notice of Appeal, Pl.'s Notice of Appeal, McMillan I, Civil Action 10-1867, ECF No. 24 at 1. The D.C. Circuit dismissed the appeal for lack of prosecution because Mr. McMillan failed to respond to an Order to Show Cause. Order, McMillan v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., No. 12-7117 (D.C. Cir. Feb. 14, 2013).

         More than five years later, Mr. McMillan, proceeding pro se, filed a new complaint against WMATA, alleging discrimination and “malfeasance” in WMATA's General Counsel's Office, the EEOC, and the United States District Court. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 1. WMATA filed a motion to dismiss on November 9, 2018. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 6 at 1. WMATA moves to dismiss Mr. McMillan's complaint on two grounds: (1) the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over this case because Mr. McMillan's complaint is barred by res judicata, id.; and (2) the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, Def.'s Mem. of Law in Support of Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (“Def.'s Mem.”), ECF No. 6-1 at 4. Mr. McMillan filed his opposition brief on December 13, 2018, Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 10 at 1, and WMATA filed its reply brief on December 18, 2018, see Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 11. The motion is ripe and ready for the Court's adjudication.

         II. Legal Standard

         The pleadings of pro se parties, such as the plaintiff in the instant action, are “to be liberally construed, . . . and a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Nevertheless, “[a]lthough a court will read a pro se plaintiff's complaint liberally, a pro se complaint must present a claim on which the court can grant relief.” Chandler v. Roche, 215 F.Supp.2d 166, 168 (D.D.C. 2002).

         A. Rule 12(b)(6)

         1. Failure to State a Claim

         “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). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), “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) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “[T]he complaint is construed liberally in the plaintiff['s] favor, and [the Court] grant[s] [the] plaintiff[ ] the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.” Kowal v. MCI Comm'cns Corp., ...


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