United States District Court, District of Columbia
RANDOLPH D. MOSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Monal Patel, proceeding pro se, brings this action
against The Ambit Group (“Ambit”) and the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and its
Administrator, (collectively “NOAA”). Liberally
construed, Patel's complaint alleges claims for (1)
breach of an express or implied contract, (2) wrongful
termination, and (3) violations of the Administrative
Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et
seq. See Dkt. 1 at 5 (Compl. § III). Ambit
moves to dismiss on the ground that the complaint fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, Dkt. 3, and
NOAA moves to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
and for failure to state a claim, Dkt. 8. For the following
reasons, the Court will GRANT both motions.
purposes of the pending motions, the Court must accept the
non-conclusory factual allegations set forth in the complaint
as true, and will also consider Ambit's offer letter to
Patel, which is referenced in the complaint. See Dentons
U.S. LLP v. Republic of Guinea, 208 F.Supp.3d 330,
334-35 (D.D.C. 2016).
Ambit Group is a data analytics company that has contracts to
perform work for government agencies, including NOAA.
See Dkt. 3-1 at 2. On August 17, 2018, Ambit emailed
Patel a letter offering him full time employment as a
“CPIC Program Management consultant.” Dkt. 11-1
at 13 (“Offer Letter”). The Offer Letter states
that Patel's starting salary would be “$4, 583.33
per pay period, ” with “24 pay periods per
year.” Id. The offer was contingent on
Patel's “successful completion” of a
“security and badging process, ” which was
presumably necessary to allow Patel to perform services at
NOAA. Id. The Offer Letter lists the anticipated
work location, the benefits Patel would receive, and other
requirements, including execution of a
Non-Compete/Confidentiality Agreement. Id. at 13-14.
particular importance to the present dispute, the Offer
At Will Employment: This letter shall not be construed as an
agreement, either expressed or implied, to employ you for any
stated term, and shall in no way alter the Company's
policy of employment at will, under which both you and
the Company remain free to terminate the employment
relationship, with or without cause, at any time, with or
without notice. Similarly, nothing in this letter shall
be construed as an agreement, either express or implied, to
pay you any compensation or grant you any benefit beyond the
end of your employment with the Company.
Id. at 14 (emphasis added).
to the complaint, Patel attended the required Department of
Commerce training and provided his fingerprints to NOAA. Dkt.
1 at 5 (Compl. § III). After he completed these steps,
however, Patel was notified that NOAA had
“pulled” the position. Id. He alleges
that, even though the offer was for employment at-will,
events occurring after he received the Offer Letter,
including his participation in the Department of Commerce
training, gave rise to “an implied contract
agreement.” Id. He further alleges, moreover,
the NOAA violated the APA when it decided to
“in-source” the job and when it failed to inform
Ambit about “the role change, ” if, in fact, it
failed to do so. Id. Finally, Patel alleges that
NOAA was his “joint employer” because “it
would have” been able “to assert control over
[his] work and schedule, ” and that he was
“wrongful[ly terminat[ed]” due to Ambit's
“bad faith” and NOAA's arbitrary and
capricious action. Id.
now moves to dismiss Patel's complaint for failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, Dkt. 3-1, and
NOAA moves to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction
and failure to state a claim, Dkt. 8.
motion to dismiss brought under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) is designed to “test the legal
sufficiency of a complaint.” Browning v.
Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). In
evaluating such a motion, the Court “must first
‘tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
state [the] claim' to relief, and then determine whether
the plaintiff has pleaded those elements with adequate
factual support to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Blue v. District of
Columbia, 811 F.3d 14, 20 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)).
Although “detailed factual allegations” are not
necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), the facts
alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a
right to relief above the speculative level, ”
id. at 555-56.
matter is also before the Court on NOAA's motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1). A plaintiff bears the burden of
establishing that the court has subject-matter jurisdiction.
See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561
(1992). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion, the court
“may consider materials outside the pleadings, ”
but “must still accept all of the factual allegations
in the complaint as true.” Jerome Stevens Pharm.,
Inc. v. Food & Drug Admin., 402 F.3d 1249, 1253-54
(D.C. Cir. 2005) (citation and alteration omitted). Because
subject-matter jurisdiction focuses on the Court's power
to adjudicate the plaintiff's claim, a Rule 12(b)(1)
motion imposes on the Court “an ‘affirmative
obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of
its jurisdictional authority.” Statewide Bonding,
Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., No. 18-2115,
2019 WL 2477407, at *3 (D.D.C. June 13, 2019) (quoting
Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v.
Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001)). As such,
“‘the plaintiff's factual allegations in the
complaint will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1)
motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure
to state a claim. ” Id. (quoting 5A Charles A.
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Civ. 2d
pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded,
must be held to less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erick son v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). “This benefit is
not, however, a license to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, ” Sturdza v. United Arab Emirates,
658 F.Supp.2d 135, 137 (D.D.C. 2009) (citation omitted), and
thus a pro se complaint must “still
‘present a claim on which the Court can grant
relief' to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) challenge, ”
Smith v. Scalia, 44 F.Supp.3d 28, 36 (D.D.C. 2014)
(citations omitted). Moreover, as with any other ...