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Lucas v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 2, 2019

ALLAN EARL LUCAS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Thomas F. Hogan, Senior United States District Judge

         Pending before the Court is the District of Columbia's motion to dismiss plaintiff Allan Earl Lucas, Jr.'s Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”). [ECF No. 56]. The plaintiff seeks to recover financial damages stemming from the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department's (“MPD”) alleged failure to treat his induction into the United States Marine Corps as a military furlough and to reemploy him upon his discharge from military service. In his Second Amended Complaint, the plaintiff alleges federal and common law claims. In Count One, the plaintiff claims that he is entitled to back pay pursuant to the Back Pay Act, 5 U.S.C. § 5596. SAC ¶¶ 40-43. In Count Two, he claims that he is entitled to compensation for lost wages and benefits pursuant to the Veterans' Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. § 2021 (1992). Id. ¶¶ 44-48. In Counts Three and Four, he asserts claims for breach of contract and negligence, respectively. Id. ¶¶ 49-61.

         In its motion to dismiss, the District contends that the section of the Veterans' Reemployment Rights Act that the plaintiff cites does not exist, and that the plaintiff has failed to allege the elements of a Back Pay Act claim. The District also argues that the plaintiff's common law claims are preempted by the Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act, and that they are barred by the statute of limitations.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         In May 1972, the plaintiff began employment with the Metropolitan Police Department. SAC ¶ 4. He was “inducted” into the military to serve in the Vietnam War in December 1972. Id. ¶ 5. Although he gave MPD notice of his induction, he was “never offered or provided any separation counseling” or information regarding his employment rights. Id. ¶ 6. He was also “never informed of his employment right to a military furlough.” Id. Instead of being offered a military furlough, Mr. Lucas was “coerced into submitting his resignation” from MPD in January 1973. Id. ¶ 7. The personnel form documenting his departure from MPD stated that he resigned “to enter the armed services.” Id. He entered the United States Marine Corps in February 1973, id., and was honorably discharged in February 1978, id ¶ 9.

         Within days of his discharge, the plaintiff wrote to MPD requesting that he be reinstated to his previous position. Id. ¶ 10. MPD denied his request and told him that it did not have a record of his employment. Id. ¶ 11. The plaintiff then obtained work with the United States Marshals Service. Id. ¶ 14.

         MPD reemployed the plaintiff in September 1982. He was hired on a probationary status and was placed into the District's “post-home rule” municipal retirement plan instead of the federal retirement plan. Id. ¶ 16. In 1994, Mr. Lucas obtained employment with the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and was reinstated to the federal civil service law enforcement retirement system. Id. ¶¶ 17-28. He retired on May 16, 2005. Id. ¶ 19.

         On the date of his retirement, he met with Ms. Wanda Moncrieff, a Human Resources Specialist from the District of Columbia Office of Personnel. Id. ¶ 20. During the meeting, he learned that his previous service with MPD had been recorded by the Department of Human Resources and the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”). Id. He alleges that his “total service computation sheet” was changed to reflect a military furlough. Id. His federal retirement benefits were approved by the Department of Human Resources in May 2005 and reflected his initial employment with MPD. Id. ¶ 21.

         On February 3, 2007, the plaintiff received correspondence from OPM informing him that “[22] years of his previously credited federal service would not be eligible for annuity unless he paid $55, 419 plus interest” into the federal Civil Service Retirement System. Id. ¶ 24. OPM informed him that his military service time “should have been redeposited and paid before retiring, and would be deducted from his retirement.” Id. He asserts that this letter was his “first indication an error had possibly occurred when calculating his federal benefits.” Id. ¶ 24. On February 9, 2007, he received an additional letter from OPM stating that he owed $5, 955.87 because of overpayments due to the District's erroneous calculations. Id. ¶ 25. OPM then began to withhold $165 from his monthly annuity. Id. ¶ 26. The plaintiff responded to OPM's letters and requested that an investigation be conducted. Id. ¶ 26. He does not know whether OPM conducted an investigation. Id. On March 1, 2007, his “retirement deposit” was “drastically reduced without explanation.” Id. ¶ 28.

         On March 7, 2007, he sent a letter to Ms. Moncrieff at the District of Columbia Office of Personnel telling her that his retirement payments were drastically reduced and that he “was told” that because he received a military furlough, he needed to be “restored” to receive his original federal benefits. Id. ¶ 29, Ex. 1. Because he was not restored to MPD in 1978, “none of his years of public service” since 1973 were creditable to his retirement. Id. He then asked Ms. Moncrieff “what [was] going on, ” and further asked her “[w]hat does OPM mean by saying that [he] received a furlough but was not restored” when she had already reviewed and approved his benefits. Id. He asserted that “something [was] terribly wrong, ” then formally requested that the D.C. Office of Personnel investigate his “grievance.” Id.

         Between March 2007 and March 2010, the plaintiff contacted OPM and the District of Columbia Retirement Board approximately 52 times. Id. ¶ 30. He received “nothing but the run-around.” Id. On March 26, 2010, the plaintiff wrote to the District of Columbia Retirement Board requesting the correction and restoration of his benefits. SAC ¶ 31, Ex. 2. Around April 27, 2010, he received a response from the District of Columbia Retirement Board acknowledging his grievance, but concluding that it had no responsibility to determine eligibility for retirement, which was the responsibility of the Police and Firefighters' Retirement and Relief Board (“the Board”), or to determine employment rights with MPD. The District of Columbia Retirement Board forwarded Mr. Lucas' letter and attachments to the Board and to MPD's Human Resources Office. SAC ¶ 32, Ex. 3.

         On August 18, 2010, the plaintiff met with Ms. Moncrieff, Sheila-Ford Haynes, an MPD Human Resources Specialist, and Pamela Brown, an attorney who represented the Board. During the meeting, Ms. Moncrieff “acknowledged that [the plaintiff] had not received proper separation counseling, ” and Ms. Brown then “conceded” that he should have received such counseling. SAC ¶ 33. Ms. Brown and Ms. Ford-Hayes also acknowledged that he left employment for military duty and had been eligible for a military furlough. Id. Ms. Brown ultimately “demanded” that Ms. Ford-Haynes stop speaking and ended the meeting to further investigate the grievance. Id.

         Plaintiff's counsel wrote follow-up letters to Ms. Brown on February 7, March 6, March 28, and September 20, 2012. SAC ¶ 34. The plaintiff received a 14-page legal opinion from the Board dated October 9, 2012 that concluded, after conducting “an investigation of the matter, ” that “[t]he doctrine of laches bar[red] any claim in this matter because of Mr. Lucas' unreasonable delay, ” and that the Board had “no jurisdiction” to resolve his claims. Id. ¶ 35, Ex. 4 at 13-14. The plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on February 4, 2013. [ECF No. 1].

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         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). Under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To survive a motion to dismiss based on Rule 12(b)(6), “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) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim “has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the Court must “accept all the well-pleaded factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences from those allegations in the plaintiff's favor.” Banneker Ventures, 798 F.3d at 1129. The Court may consider facts alleged in the complaint, as well as “any documents either attached to or incorporated in the complaint and matters of which the court may take judicial notice.” Hurd v. District of Columbia, 864 F.3d 671, 678 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted and edits accepted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A.The Plaintiff's ...


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