Jones v. Bush, Civil Action No. 07-2164 (RWR)

Citation160 F.Supp.3d 325
Decision Date14 February 2016
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 07-2164 (RWR)
Parties Laura C. Jones, Plaintiff, v. George W. Bush, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)

Laura C. Jones, Mechanicsville, MD, pro se.

Damon William Taaffe, Judith A. Kidwell, U.S. Attorney's Office for The District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.



, Chief Judge

Pro se plaintiff Laura Jones brought this employment discrimination action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ,

as amended, and the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, against former President Bush, the Director of the Office of Administration (“OA”) in the Executive Office of the President (“EOP”), and nine other White House employees. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Because plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies regarding certain claims, to demonstrate that adverse employment actions have been taken, to establish a First Amendment violation, and to rebut sufficiently defendants' non-discriminatory reasons for their employment actions, the Court granted defendants' motion by minute order. This Memorandum Opinion sets forth the reasons for the decision.


Plaintiff Jones (White) was employed by the [OA-EOP], assigned to the mailroom” in the West Wing of the White House, Amended Complaint for Damages and Equitable Relief (“Am. Compl.”) at 3 (page numbers designated by the Court), and “was the only white employee in a predominantly non-white mailroom.” Id . at 7. Her official title was Lead Mail Assistant, Grade 8. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (“Defs.' Mem.”), Ex. B (Position Description) at 1. The major duties of her position were to:

Perform[ ] mail and administrative functions to deliver and meter mail, to solicit and forward feedback from customers, to offer suggestions to improve work processes, to assist and educate customers, and to plan and record daily work activities.

Id. , Ex. B at 2. Plaintiff's work hours were 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. See id. , Ex. E (Information for Informal Complaint dated June 21, 2004) at 1. Her immediate supervisor was Restituto (“Rusty”) Francisco (Asian American/Pacific Islander male); her second-line supervisor was Kenneth Haskins (African American male); her third-line supervisor was Kenneth Miller (white male); and her fourth-line supervisor was Jon Laurich (white male). See id ., Ex. C (Laurich Aff.) at 1, Ex. Q (Motion for Findings and Conclusions Without a Hearing) at 5 & Ex. Z (Report of Investigation dated January 28, 2005) at 2, 10 and 13.

A. The March 24, 2004 Unscreened Box Incident

According to plaintiff, on March 24, 2004, the following events occurred:

[A]n unsecured box entered the White House mailroom en route to President Bush and his immediate staff. [Plaintiff] noticed that the box had not been processed according to stringent security procedures, which required that all packages addressed to the White House be radiated to prevent contamination by chemical or biological agents. In the wake of the Ricin attacks on the US Capitol just two months earlier and the Anthrax attacks of 2001-02, the plaintiff and her co-workers were taking [Ciprofloxacin] as a precautionary measure, and a premium was placed on the importance of security, particularly in mail and package handling.
When [plaintiff] saw the unsecured box, [she] informed her supervisor, Rusty Francisco (Asian), and was told that he had authorized Barbara Swan (Black) to allow the box to bypass security at the request of [a] White House staffer ... who wanted to deliver the box to President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the entire Executive staff. Plaintiff expressed concern over the security threat and was told by a subordinate to leave the matter alone. When she emailed Ken Haskins (Black), the mailroom branch chief, she was told to drop the matter. Haskins dismissively said, “When I see a red bull, you see a red bull.”

Am. Compl. at 3-4.

Plaintiff believed that “the response[s] from her subordinate and her supervisor [were] disrespectful,” and attributed the responses to “the fact that she was the only white staff member in the mailroom.” Id . at 4. She reported this incident to Linda Sites (white female), the OA-EOP's Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Director, on April 6, 2004.1 Id. ; Defs.' Mem., Ex. W (Information for Informal Complaint dated April 15, 2004) at 1. Plaintiff alleged discrimination based on color, race and sex, Defs.' Mem., Ex. W at 2, and she requested the following relief:

Return to job in West Wing mailroom as lead clerk; printer installed in West Wing mailroom; have in writing that [plaintiff and Haskins] will be the only ones with the password for billing and[ ] wants to be treated with respect, not hear comments about [illegible and] wants [coworkers] to take on more responsibility (such as printing their own [illegible] ) left alone.

Id ., Ex. W at 4.2

On April 15, 2004, EEO Director Sites met with plaintiff, Haskins, Francisco and an EEO counselor, Shalini Benson, allegedly “to discuss the situation and try to dissuade [p]laintiff from filing an EEO complaint.” Am. Compl. at 4. Sites allegedly instructed Benson to counsel plaintiff, “and Benson did so, eventually advising [p]laintiff of her right[ ] to bring an EEO complaint.” Id.3

B. Assignment to Work on June 11, 2004 and Letter of Reprimand

According to plaintiff, on June 9, 2004, she “told Haskins she was willing to volunteer to work her usual shift on June 11, [2004,] a National Day of Mourning in honour of the dead [sic] of President Reagan.” Id . at 5. She stated that Haskins “would not confirm the shift she was expected to work,” and, because of other commitments she could not work a shift other than her usual shift and “told Haskins to disregard her volunteer request.” Id. “Haskins subsequently assigned [p]laintiff to a shift other than her usual one, such that she was unable to work.” Id.

According to defendants, on June 9, 2004, plaintiff “volunteered to work on Friday, June 11, 2004, ... [was] placed on the work schedule for Friday, June 11, 2004, ... [and was] notified to report for [her] regular scheduled tour of duty which [was] 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.” Defs.' Mem., Ex. D (June 16, 2004 Letter of Reprimand) at 1. Plaintiff neither submitted a request for leave for Friday, June 11, 2004, nor reported for duty as assigned, nor telephoned the office to request leave for the day, thus violating established leave procedures and OA Disciplinary Guidelines. Id. , Ex. D at 1; see id. , Ex. M (Haskins Aff.) at 2-3.

Also on June 9, 2004, plaintiff had a telephone conversation with Haskins about several matters, including an incident where two of her co-workers “were engaged in ... a personal conversation, with [plaintiff] present ... in Spanish,” making plaintiff “feel uncomfortable.” Defs.' Mem., Ex. D at 2. Plaintiff alleged that management was “attempting to force [her] to leave by placing a great deal of pressure on [her] and that [she was] the ‘last one around.’ Id. , Ex. D at 2. Plaintiff concluded the conversation “by stating that ‘no spic is going to make [her] leave’ or words to that effect.” Id ., Ex. D at 2. For this reason, plaintiff was charged with using offensive language, another violation of OA Disciplinary Guidelines. Id. , Ex. D at 2; see id. , Ex. M at 2.

On June 16, 2004, plaintiff received a Letter of Reprimand for her failure to follow established leave procedures and for her use of offensive language. Defs.' Mem., Ex. D at 1-2. It was “a formal disciplinary action” made part of plaintiff's “Official Personnel Folder ... for a period not to exceed one (1) year from June 11, 2004,” the date on which plaintiff violated the OA-EOP leave procedures. Id. , Ex. D at 2. This action prompted plaintiff to pursue an informal complaint of discrimination based on her color (Caucasian), race (Caucasian), sex (female), and reprisal for participation in protected EEO activity in April 2004. Id ., Ex. E at 1-2.

C. Reassignment and Three-Day Suspension

According to plaintiff, she was “reassigned from the ‘West Wing’ mailroom [to another mailroom at] 1800 G Street[, N.W.], a move that came with a rescission of her security clearance, a reduction in assignment prestige, and a change in work hours.” Am. Compl. at 5. In addition, [p]laintiff received a three-day suspension for ‘insolent behavior towards her supervisor’ on July 15, 2004, and a Letter of Reprimand (LOR) was placed in her file.”4 Id.

According to defendants, on July 15, 2004, Miller and Haskins informed plaintiff of her reassignment from the mailroom in the West Wing of the White House to another mailroom two blocks away at 1800 G Street, N.W., and of a one-hour adjustment of her work hours, from 10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., to 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Defs.' Mem., Ex. F (Miller Aff.) at 1; id. , Ex. G (Notice of Proposed Suspension dated July 27, 2004) at 1. Miller explained the reassignment as follows:

We reassigned the [plaintiff] to the same position in a different mailroom ... [as] part of an ongoing series of personnel reassignments in [OA-EOP] Mail Messenger Operations which were intended to make our operations more effective and efficient, and to provide our customers with the best possible service. We explained to the [plaintiff] that we were reassigning her to the same position in a different, larger mailroom to provide [her] with opportunities to: (1) cross-train with other employees, ensuring continuity of operations in the event that the [plaintiff] or one of her co-workers was on leave; (2) learn different, career-enhancing skills, which in turn add value to the entire organization; and, (3) lead a larger mailroom, given that the [plaintiff] had indicated her desire to qualify for a

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