Green v. Haaland, Civil Action 21-329 (RDM)

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.
Docket NumberCivil Action 21-329 (RDM)
PartiesCONNIE GREEN, Plaintiff, v. DEB HAALAND, et al, Defendants.
Decision Date28 March 2022

CONNIE GREEN, Plaintiff,

DEB HAALAND, et al, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 21-329 (RDM)

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 28, 2022


RANDOLPH D. MOSS United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Connie Green brings this action for age discrimination and retaliation, under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., against the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (“the Department”).[1] Dkt. 1. The Department has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to exhaust and for failure to state a claim. Dkt. 8. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT the Department's motion to dismiss.


A. Factual Background

Green joined the United States Park Police (“Park Police”), a component of the Department of the Interior, in 1985. Dkt 1 at 2 (Compl. ¶ 13). During the time relevant to this action, she served as a Financial Specialist. Id. She alleges that, while serving in that role, she was subjected to discrimination on the basis of age (she was over 40) and retaliation on the basis


of allegedly protected Title VII activity (she filed a “16E complaint” for a hostile work environment and sought reconsideration of an allegedly unfair employee performance appraisal plan). Id. at 10-11 (Compl. ¶¶ 55-68). For purposes of evaluating the Department's motion to dismiss, Dkt. 8, the following allegations, which are taken from Green's complaint, are accepted as true, see Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011).

1. Discrimination

Much of Green's complaint focuses on her alleged inability to secure a work-issued cell phone. She alleges, in particular, that on at least three occasions in 2018 and 2019 she requested such a phone. See Dkt. 1 at 3-5 (Compl. ¶¶ 23-24, 31). According to the complaint, the Park Police denied those requests, “[w]ith acrimony and without justification, ” even though other employees in her section were purportedly issued cell phones. Id. at 4 (Compl. ¶ 25). These denials, Green alleges, caused her “confusion, frustration, and insecurity” on account of “being treated differently than her colleagues.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 28).

Green also alleges that she was subjected to disparate and otherwise hostile treatment before, during, and after a medical procedure that she underwent in June 2018. Leading up to that surgery, Green's supervisor allegedly scheduled a meeting to discuss reassignment of certain “‘reviews' for which [Green] was responsible.” Id. at 5 (Compl. ¶ 34). Green alleges that her supervisor did not attend this meeting and instead “instructed [Green] to teach the others how to create the reviews.” Id. One of Green's colleagues allegedly became “agitated at [this] news and walked away in anger.” Id. Green also alleges that, following the surgery, she “attempted to telework and was having computer difficulties.” Id. at 5-6 (Compl. ¶ 35). When Green asked her supervisor for assistance, her supervisor instructed her to bring the computer into the office, even though (according to Green) that same supervisor delivered a computer to a different


colleague's home when that colleague was out on medical leave. Id. at 6 (Compl. ¶ 35). Finally, Green alleges that, “[u]pon [her] return to work on August 1, 2018, ” she “was greeted only by tension and made to feel unwelcome by [her] colleagues.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 36).

Sometime after her return to work, Green she was assigned to handle work that she contends fell outside her job description. Id. at 7 (Compl. ¶ 42). Her supervisors did this, Green alleges, “to further harass and undermine [her] working conditions.” Id. Green “requested . . . a meeting with management in order to address” this issue but “there was no resolution.” Id. Green later “attempted to meet with [the] Deputy Chief” of the Park Police and her acting supervisor “to address the harassment she was encountering within the Finance Section, ” but, after she “was verbally attacked by [the] Deputy Chief, ” she “ended the meeting.” Id. at 7-8 (Compl. ¶ 43). According to the complaint, Green then filed “a 16E Complaint, ” Id. at 8 (Compl. ¶ 44), which is the National Park Service's internal mechanism for reporting violations of its anti-harassment policy, see Nat'l Park Serv., Director's Order #16E: National Park Service Anti-Harassment Policy (Apr. 19, 2018), 2018rev.htm. Although Green filed this complaint in October 2018, she alleges that she was not told until May 2019 that 16E complaints were for claims of sexual harassment and that she needed to file her complaint regarding an allegedly hostile work environment with a different agency official. Dkt. 1 at 8 (Compl. ¶ 44). Even though she was allegedly promised that an agency official would “contact [her] to investigate” her claims, “[t]o date, [she] has not been contacted for an investigation.” Id.

Green's complaint in this action also focuses on the performance reviews (also known as Employee Performance Appraisal Plans, or “EPAPs”) that she received in 2018 and 2019. She alleges that on August 2, 2018 she received an “incomplete” EPAP for “work not completed


while out on medical leave, ” even though her supervisor had assured her that she did not need to “worry about completing [that] work.” Id. (Compl. ¶¶ 37-38). Green ultimately received a “Fully Successful” rating of 4.0 (out of 5.0) on her 2018 EPAP, although her supervisor allegedly refused to “provide supporting documentation for each of the critical elements as required” and declined to include a “list of [Green's] accomplishments, ” which Green had submitted. Id. (Compl. ¶ 38). Green alleges that she requested reconsideration of her 2018 EPAP on five different occasions-on August 5, 2018, November 20, 2018, March 4, 2019, September 21, 2019, and October 17, 2019. Id. at 7 (Compl. ¶¶ 39-40). According to Green, the Park Police “fail[ed] to address” these requests, and one Park Police official “sent [her] intimidating and threatening emails.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 41).

Green received an “Exceeds Expectations” rating of 4.0 (out of 5.0) on her 2019 EPAP, and she alleges that her supervisors, once again, failed to include the required “supporting documentation” and declined to include a “list of [Green's] accomplishments, ” which Green had provided. Id. at 9 (Compl. ¶ 51). One of Green's colleagues received a 5.0 rating, according to the complaint, which entitled that colleague to “financial and time awards.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 52). Green avers that her own evaluation was “the only evaluation of Finance Section employees that was tremendously underrated.” Id. As with her 2018 EPAP, Green sought reconsideration of her 2019 EPAP, including in a request that she sent to the Park Police Human Resources Department on December 17, 2019. Id. at 10 (Compl. ¶¶ 53-54). In response to her December 2019 request for reconsideration, she merely “received a generic email stating that the reconsideration request was received.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 54).


2. Retaliation

Green further alleges that the Park Police retaliated against her for seeking reconsideration of her 2018 EPAP and for filing her 16E complaint in October 2018. Id. at 8 (Compl. ¶¶ 44-45). According to Green, agency officials reacted to her request for reconsideration and her 16E complaint “by cutting off communications with her” and “fail[ing] to acknowledge [her].” Id. (Compl. ¶ 45). One such official, the Deputy Chief who Green maintains displayed “hostility” towards her during a meeting, Id. (Compl. ¶ 43), allegedly told one of Green's colleagues “that he would never speak to [Green] again, ” Id. (Compl. ¶ 45). Green went on to file a “formal complaint” with the Department's Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) but, Green alleges, the retaliation against her only “increased” as those against whom she filed the OIG complaint “shunned” and “ignored” her, or spoke to her “in a harsh and demeaning manner.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 46).

Green further alleges that, “[t]hroughout the next year, ” she “continued to be harassed.” Id. at 9 (Compl. ¶ 47). Her colleagues allegedly “held meetings . . . without inviting [her], acted as if she did not exist . . ., continued to foist work onto her that was not her responsibility, and failed to treat her the same as others with regard to basic conditions of employment, including [by] denying her the usage of a [Park Police] vehicle that her colleagues often used.” Id. In addition, Green's supervisors allegedly “ignored” her correspondence regarding her 16E complaint, Id. (Compl. ¶48) and “advised [her] that they were monitoring her, ” Id. (Compl. ¶ 49). According to Green, “she was singled out for retaliation and underrated” on her 2019 EPAP, which caused her “financial harm and emotional distress.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 52).


B. Procedural History

Green avers that she first contacted the Department's Equal Employment Office (“EEO”) counselor “[i]n or about January[] 2020” and that she was interviewed by the EEO counselor on January 21, 2020. Id. at 2 (Compl. ¶¶ 6-7). Although a “Report of Counseling” issued “on or about June 19, 2020, ” the Department “has taken no further action.” Id. (Compl. ¶ 11). Because “[m]ore than 180 days . . . passed” and the Department did “not complete[] its investigation, ” Green filed suit on February 5, 2021. Id. (Compl. ¶ 12).

Green's complaint includes two claims. In Count One, she alleges that the Department discriminated against her “based on age, ” in violation of the ADEA, Id. at 10-11 (Compl. ¶¶ 57, 60-62), and, in Count Two, she alleges that the Department unlawfully retaliated against her, in violation of Title VII, based on her “16E complaint and requests for reconsideration of her EPAPs, ” Id. at 11 (Compl. ¶¶ 64-67). Green seeks $100, 000 in economic damages and $300, 000 in...

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