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Chin-Young v. Esper

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 6, 2019

CHRISTOPHER CHIN-YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK T. ESPER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Randolph D. Moss, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Christopher Chin-Young, proceeding pro se, commenced this suit on August 21, 2018, alleging that, while deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as a civilian employee in the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense Advisors (“MoDA”) program, he was subject to discrimination on the basis of his race, color, sex, national origin, and age. See Dkt. 1 at 3-4, 6; Dkt. 15 at 4, Dkt. 15-1 at 2. Defendants move, with respect to the Secretary of the Air Force, to dismiss for failure to state a claim, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), and, with respect to the Secretary of Defense, to dismiss for improper venue, Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), or, in the alternative, to transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia. Dkt. 11 at 1. Because the alleged discrimination did not take place in the Air Force and because Plaintiff was not in an employment relationship with the Air Force, the Court will dismiss all claims against the Secretary of the Air Force; and because the District of Columbia is the improper venue for Plaintiff's Title VII claims, the Court will transfer all remaining claims to the Eastern District of Virginia.

         I. BACKGROUND

         For the purpose of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or to Transfer Venue, Dkt. 11, the Court must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam); James v. Booz-Allen, 227 F.Supp.2d 16, 20 (D.D.C. 2002). Moreover, district courts may “generally . . . ‘consider supplemental material filed by a pro se litigant in order to clarify the precise claims being urged' in [his] complaint.” Crawford v. Duke, 867 F.3d 103, 108 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Greenhill v. Spellings, 482 F.3d 569, 572 (D.C. Cir. 2007)). In an effort to understand Plaintiff's claims, the Court has therefore considered all of the materials he submitted along with his complaint and his explication of the complaint in his opposition brief. See Fillmore v. AT & T Mobility Servs. LLC, 140 F.Supp.3d 1, 2 (D.D.C. 2015) (citing Brown v. Whole Foods, 789 F.3d 146, 152 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (noting that courts should consider “the facts alleged in all of [a pro se plaintiff's] pleadings” when evaluating a defendant's motion to dismiss) (emphasis in original)).

         From July 3, 2014 until August 29, 2014, Plaintiff was deployed to Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the Department of Defense's MoDA program. Dkt. 1-2 at 1, 2, 21, 34; Dkt. 15 at 4; Dkt. 15-1 at 1. He served as a Senior Information Communications Technology advisor. Dkt. 15 at 4. The deployment was intended to continue for one year but could have been extended for up to two years. Dkt. 15 at 4-5; see also Dkt. 1-2 at 2, 34; Dkt. 1 at 4. Plaintiff alleges that two individuals with whom he served in Afghanistan-Dr. Warner, a civilian employee of the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency, and Colonel Gale, a United States Air Force officer-discriminated against him on the basis of his race, color, sex, national origin, and age, which led to the premature curtailment of his deployment after only two months. Dkt. 1 at 5; Dkt. 1-2 at 14, 35; Dkt. 15 at 5.

         Plaintiff filed two separate Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) complaints about the alleged discrimination and his early return from Afghanistan-one with the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency, and one with the Air Force, presumably as the employers, respectively, of Dr. Warner and Colonel Gale. Dkt. 1-2 at 2-3; Dkt. 15 at 6. The Air Force referred the matter to the Army, and the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency docketed the matter. Dkt. 1-2 at 7. Plaintiff brought his EEO complaint against the Army to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), id. at 2, 7, 32, and the EEOC administrative judge (“AJ”) joined the Departments of Defense and the Air Force as respondent agencies on March 24, 2017, id. at 2, 32. Plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing before the EEOC on the EEO complaint that he had filed against the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency. Id. at 2. The AJ dismissed that case on January 5, 2018, on the ground that it was the subject of the other EEOC proceeding, and Plaintiff appealed the dismissal. Id. at 3. In the meantime, the AJ issued her order and decision in the initial EEOC proceeding on April 6, 2018. Id. at 31-37. She specifically addressed the actions of Dr. Warner and Colonel Gale and granted summary judgment to the agencies, finding “no evidence to suggest a connection between Complainant's race, color, national origin, sex, and/or age and the events underlying his complaint.” Id. at 35-36.

         On May 16, 2018, the Army issued its Final Agency Action, in which it informed Plaintiff that it had “decided to implement [the EEOC AJ's decision].” Id. at 7-12. The Final Agency Action advised Plaintiff of his right to appeal to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations or to file an action in federal court. Id. A few weeks later, the EEOC Office of Federal Operations affirmed the dismissal of Plaintiff's EEO complaint against the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency, on the ground that the claims had already been addressed. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff filed a pro se complaint for employment discrimination against the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Air Force in this Court on August 21, 2018. Dkt. 1. In response, Defendants moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and improper venue, or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. Dkt. 11.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Failure to State a Claim

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), 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, 551 U.S. at 93. Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, 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. Instead, the complaint's “[f]actual allegations 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).” Id. (citations omitted).

         B. Improper Venue

         A similar standard governs a defendant's motion to dismiss for improper venue. The Court must “accept[ ] the plaintiff's well-pled factual allegations regarding venue as true;” must “draw[ ] all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor;” and must “resolve[ ] any factual conflicts in the plaintiff's favor.” Darby v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 231 F.Supp.2d 274, 276 (D.D.C. 2002) (citation omitted). The plaintiff, however, “‘bears the burden of establishing that venue is proper, '” Varma v. Gutierrez, 421 F.Supp.2d 110, 113 (D.D.C. 2006) (quoting Freeman v. Fallin, 254 F.Supp.2d 52, 56 (D.D.C. 2003)), and must offer more than mere legal conclusions.

         III. ...


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