Desai v. Dejoy

Decision Date18 May 2023
Docket NumberCivil Action 1:22-cv-846 (RDA/WEF)
PartiesSONAL N. DESAI, Plaintiff, v. LOUIS DEJOY, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Virginia

Rossie D. Alston, Jr United States District Judge

This matter comes before the Court on Defendants Louis DeJoy and Erika Campbell-Harris's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction and Failure to State a Claim (Motion to Dismiss). Dkt. 6. The Court has dispensed with oral argument as it would not aid in the decisional process. Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b); Loc. Civ. R. 7(J). This matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition. Having considered the Motion to Dismiss together with Defendants' Memorandum in Support (Dkt. 7) Plaintiff's Opposition (Dkt. 18), and Defendants' Reply (Dkt. 20), the Court GRANTS the Motion to Dismiss.

A. Factual Background[1]

Plaintiff Sonal N. Desai (Plaintiff) is a 60-year-old woman of East-Asian Indian national origin. Dkt. 1 ¶ 1. In bringing suit in this Court against Defendant Louis DeJoy, in his official capacity as the United States Postmaster General, and Defendant Erika Campbell-Harris, an attorney for the United States Postal Service (“USPS”), Plaintiff alleges an array of grievances from her time as an employee with the USPS, where she has worked since May 14, 1994. Id. ¶ 3.

Plaintiff explains that she suffered three work-related injuries during her tenure at the USPS, which have left her disabled. Id. ¶¶ 4-8, 11. In particular, Plaintiff claims that she suffered an injury affecting “her bilateral shoulders due to repetitive work” in 2004; an injury to her back in 2010; and an injury affecting “her neck, lower back, left hand, and bilateral upper extremities” “sustained . . . due to a lack of safety measures by the USPS” in 2017. Id. ¶¶ 5-8.

Plaintiff first appears to take issue with how her claims for compensation for these injuries have been treated and addressed both within the USPS and within the Office of Workers' Compensation Program (“OWCP”). She alleges that: she was not provided with forms for her claim for “workman's compensation”; her claims were closed “due to inactivity”; her appeals for wage loss and medical treatment have been “unsuccessful”; her forms for workplace compensation have not been properly stored by the USPS; and her supervisors at the USPS have not filled out forms necessary for Plaintiff's disability compensation. Id. ¶¶ 9, 15-17.

In a second set of complaints, Plaintiff alleges that the USPS has not accommodated her injuries and disabilities in the workplace. Plaintiff asserts that, in December of 2012, while she was working at the Merrifield Consumer Affairs Office, she received no training for her work responsibilities and that the work required repetitive movement, which aggravated her lower back injury. Id. ¶ 21. Plaintiff further claims that, on August 14, 2018, following her latest injury, she “was not provided a medically required chair.” Id. ¶ 49. Specifically, Plaintiff explains that when she “request[ed] the chair to be moved from the ‘Unique Zip' to the ‘Nixie Area,' two of her coworkers refused to do so. Id. Plaintiff also asserts that, despite submitting two reasonable accommodation requests (in 2010 and 2014), she was denied accommodation while two of her coworkers were granted similar accommodation requests in 2014. Id. ¶ 52.

Plaintiff further alleges issues relating to her work assignments. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that, on April 1, 2013, she was offered a position at the Merrifield Passport Office and was told that if she did not accept the position, her benefits would stop. Id. ¶ 24. Plaintiff asked to review the position before she decided to accept and claims that she was not given the opportunity to do so. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Because Plaintiff refused to accept that job, her OWCP benefits were terminated. Id. ¶ 26. Later, on December 4, 2013, Plaintiff was offered a position as a “Nixie Clerk” that required her to work 8 hours a day, which she accepted with protest because of the hours required. Id. ¶¶ 29, 30. Plaintiff further asserts that when she returned to work in August of 2017, she was not permitted to return to a prior modified assignment. Id. ¶ 47. Plaintiff additionally alleges that, in 2017, other employees received a letter informing them of a required shift start time change from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. Id. ¶ 39. But when Plaintiff asked her supervisors if the change applied to her, they told her that they did not know, and Plaintiff was never notified regarding whether the change applied to her. Id.

Plaintiff also raises a series of complaints regarding her pay and benefits, including that: her pay under her charge card does not reflect her paychecks; the USPS did not approve her FMLA leave; she has been denied union time; she had annual leave and sick leave taken from her paychecks without crediting in March of 2017; she has not been credited for two holidays worked; she has not been selected to work holidays since January 15, 2018; and the USPS failed to fill out short-term disability forms which has resulted in Plaintiff not receiving disability compensation. Id. ¶¶ 31, 43, 51, 53-54, 56, 58.

And finally, Plaintiff appears to allege that her employer found fault with her conduct. Id. ¶¶ 34-35. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she received a removal notice on May 4, 2015 for misconduct and received a fourteen-day suspension on an unspecified date. Id.

B. Procedural Background

Prior to filing suit in this Court, Plaintiff sought resolution of some of her claims before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”). In a December 21, 2017 Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) complaint, which was given the hearing number identifier 5702019-00350X, Plaintiff brought claims of discrimination and retaliation, alleging that: (1) on August 14, 2017, she was not allowed to return to her modified work assignment; (2) on August 15, 2017, she was not provided enough union time; (3) on August 14, 2017, she had not been provided with a medically approved chair; and (4) on March 25, 2017, her claim for leave had not been approved and she was not credited for annual leave and sick leave. Dkt. 1-4 at 2 (April 28, 2022 EEOC Decision on Request for Reconsideration).[2] And in a March 30, 2018 EEO complaint, which was given the hearing number 570-2019-00001X, Plaintiff realleged her claims that (1) she was not allowed to return to her modified work assignment and (2) that she was not credited for annual leave and sick leave, and added allegations that (3) she had become aware that management was deducting money from her paycheck to repay a debt; (4) she was not permitted to work certain holidays; and (5) on March 17, 2018, her shift start time was not changed whereas other employees' start times had been changed. Id. The EEOC ultimately resolved these claims in the agency's favor and then denied Plaintiff's request for reconsideration of its decision on April 28, 2022. Id. at 3.

After receiving a Right to Sue Notice on April 28, 2022, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court on July 27, 2022. Dkt. 1 ¶ IV. On September 22, 2022, Defendants jointly filed the instant Motion to Dismiss, dkt. 6, along with a Memorandum in Support thereof, dkt. 7, moving the Court to dismiss the Complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. On October 31, 2022, Plaintiff filed her Opposition to Defendants' Motion, dkt. 18, and on November 4, 2022, Defendants filed a Reply in support of their Motion, dkt. 20.

On April 20, 2023, the Court ordered Plaintiff to show cause as to why Defendant Erika Campbell-Harris should not be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m) (“Show Cause Order”). Dkt. 24. On April 27, 2023, Plaintiff responded to the Court's Show Cause Order, writing that she has “no objection” to the Court dismissing Defendant Erika Campbell-Harris from the instant case. Dkt. 25. Consequently, on May 2, 2023, the Court dismissed Defendant Erika Campbell-Harris from this matter, dkt. 28, and Louis DeJoy is now the only remaining Defendant.

A. Rule 12(b)(1) Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 12(b)(1) provides for the dismissal of an action if the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. In considering a 12(b)(1) motion to dismiss the burden is on the plaintiff to prove that subject-matter jurisdiction is proper. Adams v. Bain, 697 F.2d 1213, 1219 (4th Cir. 1982)). “It is the responsibility of the complainant clearly to allege facts demonstrating that he is a proper party to invoke judicial resolution of the dispute and the exercise of the court's remedial powers.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 518 (1975).

There are two ways in which a defendant may prevail on a 12(b)(1) motion. First, a defendant may attack the complaint on its face when the complaint “fails to allege facts upon which subject-matter jurisdiction may be based.” Adams, 697 F.2d at 1219. Under this method of attack, all facts as alleged by the plaintiff are assumed to be true. Id. However, conclusory statements and legal conclusions in a complaint are not entitled to a presumption of truth. Beck v. McDonald, 848 F.3d 262, 270 (4th Cir. 2017). Alternatively, a defendant may attack the existence of subjectmatter jurisdiction over the case apart from the pleadings. Williams v. United States, 50 F.3d 299, 304 (4th Cir. 1995). Under this latter approach, [n]o presumptive truthfulness attaches to the plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.” Mortensen v. First Fed Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549...

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