Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harrigan v. Carson

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 28, 2019

CLARE HARRIGAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BENJAMIN S. CARSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          TIMOTHY J. KELLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Clare Harrigan brings this lawsuit alleging that her supervisors discriminated and retaliated against her while she was an attorney in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of General Counsel (OGC). In her amended complaint, Harrigan asserts nine counts alleging various theories of gender discrimination and retaliation under Title VII. Defendant Benjamin S. Carson, named in his official capacity as head of the Department, has moved to dismiss seven counts in full and two in part. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant Defendant’s motion in part and deny it in part: Counts I, VII, VIII, and IX will proceed, and the Court will dismiss Counts III through VI in full and Count II in part.

         I. Legal Standard

         “To survive a 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)). “A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss tests the legal sufficiency of a plaintiffs complaint; it does not require a court to ‘assess the truth of what is asserted or determine whether a plaintiff has any evidence to back up what is in the complaint.’” Herron v. Fannie Mae, 861 F.3d 160, 173 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002)). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court construes the complaint in favor of the plaintiff and grants her the benefit of all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged. Hettinga v. United States, 677 F.3d 471, 476 (D.C. Cir. 2012).[1]

         II. Analysis

         A. Gender Discrimination (Count I)

         In Count I of her amended complaint, Harrigan alleges that her supervisors discriminated against her because of her gender by denying her the chance to detail or transfer to other federal government offices. See ECF No. 8 (“Compl.”) ¶¶ 86-109. Defendant moves to dismiss this count in part, to the extent that it is based on a detail opportunity she was allegedly denied in February 2007. ECF No. 11 (“Def’s Mot.”) at 5-7. Harrigan alleges that at that time her supervisors denied her a detail to a different section of the OGC, where she would “learn a new and interesting area of the law, ” receive “career enhancing opportunities, ” and “avoid further discrimination” by her supervisors. Compl. ¶¶ 18, 88.

         Defendant argues that denial of a detail opportunity cannot be the basis of a discrimination or retaliation claim because it is not, under D.C. Circuit precedent, adverse enough to state a Title VII claim. Def’s Mot. at 6. But the two cases Defendant cites for this proposition do not reflect such an ironclad rule. Rather, those cases-Maramark v. Spellings, No. 06-5099, 2007 WL 2935411 at *1 (D.C. Cir. Sept. 20, 2007), and Kangethe v. District of Columbia, 206 F.Supp.3d 661, 670 (D.D.C. 2016)-hold that denial of a temporary position can support a Title VII discrimination or retaliation claim when the plaintiff alleges it deprived her of an objective, tangible benefit. See also Ortiz-Diaz v. U.S. Dep ’t of Hous. & Urban Dev., 867 F.3d 70, 73 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (using the “objectively tangible harm” standard for adversity).

         Harrigan asserts that, when her supervisors denied her the detail, she lost out on “career enhancing opportunities” and the ability to “avoid further discrimination” by her supervisors. Compl. ¶ 88. The two cases cited by Defendant suggest that the former allegation, standing alone, might well be too generalized and speculative to meet the pleading standard. Def.’s Mot. at 7–8. But when combined with the latter allegation, it appears to be same type of “adverse impact on the employee’s potential for career advancement” that the Circuit found adverse enough to support a discrimination claim in Ortiz-Diaz, which postdates them. 867 F.3d at 74. The Court thus concludes that Harrigan has adequately pleaded her denial of a detail as an adverse action undergirding her discrimination claim in Count I.

         B. Retaliation (Count II)

         Count II involves some of the same factual allegations in Count I, this time cast as a retaliation claim. Again, Harrigan alleges that her supervisors denied her a detail opportunity in February 2007, a chance to transfer to another office in April 2007, and another detail opportunity in August 2010. Compl. ¶¶ 97–106. As with Count I, Defendant moves to dismiss this count in part, to the extent that it is based on her supervisors’ denial of her detail opportunities. Def.’s Mot. at 5–6. Defendant also asserts that any denial of Harrigan’s February 2007 detail could not have been retaliatory because it predated her protected activity. Def.’s Mot. at 5–6, 9.

         Defendant also correctly points out that in Harrigan’s opposition, she failed to respond to any of his arguments about Count II. ECF No. 18 (“Def.’s Reply”) at 6; see also ECF No. 13 (“Pl.’s Opp’n”) at 8–15 (addressing arguments only as to Count I). Harrigan has thus conceded Defendant’s motion to dismiss part of Count II. Wannall v. Honeywell, Inc., 775 F.3d 425, 428 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (“[I]f a party files an opposition to a motion and therein addresses only some of the movant’s arguments, the court may treat the unaddressed arguments as conceded.”). The Court will therefore dismiss Count II to the extent that it is based on her supervisors allegedly denying Harrigan detail opportunities in February 2007 and August 2010.

         C. Discriminatory and Retaliatory Hostile Work Environment (Counts V and VI) and Forced Transfer (Counts III and IV)

         In Counts V and VI, Harrigan alleges that her supervisors discriminated against her because of her gender and retaliated against her by creating a hostile work environment. Compl. ¶¶ 124–36. And in Counts III and IV, Harrigan alleges that her supervisors forced her to transfer to another section within the OGC to escape that hostile work environment. Id. ¶¶ 110–23; Pl.’s Opp’n at 18, 27. Defendant moves to dismiss all these claims ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.