McAdams v. Reno

Decision Date19 July 1994
Docket NumberNo. 3-92 CIV 514.,3-92 CIV 514.
Citation858 F. Supp. 945
PartiesEvelyn McADAMS, Plaintiff, v. Janet RENO, United States Attorney General in her official capacity and as agency head; and United States of America, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

The Cooper Law Firm by Stephen W. Cooper, Minneapolis, MN, for plaintiff.

David L. Lillehaug, U.S. Dist. Atty. by Lonnie F. Bryan, Asst. U.S. Atty., Minneapolis, MN, for defendants.

ORDER

ALSOP, Senior District Judge.

This matter came before the Court on May 20, 1994 on the defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. In this employment discrimination action, Evelyn McAdams alleges that the United States Bureau of Prisons discriminated against her on the basis of her sex. McAdams further alleges that she was defamed by federal government employees. The government argues that each of these claims must be dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

I. BACKGROUND

Evelyn McAdams began working for the Bureau of Prisons (the "BOP"), a division of the Department of Justice (the "DOJ"), at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota on September 30, 1984. She was terminated on May 6, 1992. McAdams alleges that, throughout her employment with the BOP, she was subjected to harassment and other discriminatory treatment based upon her sex. She further alleges that BOP employees retaliated against her after she complained about the discriminatory treatment. McAdams responded to this alleged discriminatory treatment by filing complaints and pursuing relief through several different administrative agencies and procedures.

In August of 1991, McAdams received a fourteen-day suspension, allegedly for failing to appropriately respond to an emergency situation involving an altercation between inmates. On August 30, 1991, McAdams filed a grievance regarding the investigation that led to her suspension. An arbitration hearing was scheduled under a negotiated grievance procedure for August 12, 1992.

By letter dated November 8, 1991 from Warden Peter Carlson, McAdams was informed that she was being demoted from her position as Materials Handler Foreman to Senior Correctional Officer, effective November 16, for the following reasons: inattention to duty; showing favoritism toward an inmate; and failure to follow proper procedures in the performance of her duties as a Materials Handler Foreman.

On November 14, 1991, McAdams filed an EEO complaint (No. P-91-8056) with the DOJ1 alleging thirteen separate charges of discrimination and retaliation relating to her suspension and demotion (the "November 14, 1991 EEO Complaint").2 On December 2, 1991, McAdams also appealed her demotion to the Merit Systems Protection Board (the "MSPB") (Appeal No. CH-0432-92-0142-I-1) (the "Demotion Appeal"). Administrative Judge Ansorge dismissed this appeal without prejudice on December 30, 1991. Judge Ansorge found that McAdams's appeal was premature under MSPB regulations because a final decision had not been issued on McAdams's EEO complaint and 120 days had not passed since she filed the complaint.

On February 28, 1992, McAdams filed a second EEO complaint (No. P-92-8244) with the DOJ alleging further harassment and retaliation relating to her suspension, demotion, and the accompanying investigations (the "February 28, 1992 EEO Complaint").

McAdams refiled her Demotion Appeal (CH-0752-92-0142-I-2) with the MSPB on March 13, 1992, approximately 120 days after she filed her November 14, 1991 EEO Complaint. On May 15, 1992, Administrative Judge Miksa dismissed this appeal without prejudice. Judge Miksa found that, although the appeal had been timely filed, dismissal without prejudice was appropriate because McAdams's previously scheduled arbitration hearing regarding the fourteen-day suspension had not yet been resolved. Since the BOP had relied on the suspension in its decision to demote and then remove McAdams from her position, Judge Miksa dismissed the appeal in the interests of efficiency and judicial economy until after the arbitration was resolved. Judge Miksa also decided, however, that the MSPB had jurisdiction to adjudicate the appeal as a "mixed case." Therefore, the appeal was dismissed, and McAdams was given leave to refile the appeal within twenty days after the arbitrator's decision was issued, but no later than six months from the date Judge Miksa's decision became final. The DOJ's petition for review of this order was denied by the MSPB on August 25, 1992.

On May 6, 1992, McAdams was removed from her position and terminated. In a letter dated the same day, Warden Carlson set forth the following bases for this action: attempting to interfere, interfering and/or tampering with an official investigation; falsification of material facts in connection with an official investigation; carrying on an inappropriate relationship with inmates; and giving something of value to an inmate. McAdams appealed her removal to the MSPB on May 28, 1992 (Appeal No. CH-0752-92-0500-I-1) (the "Removal Appeal").

On June 26, the DOJ canceled McAdams's November 14, 1991 EEO Complaint. The DOJ determined that, because McAdams had filed a grievance under the negotiated grievance procedure, she had elected to pursue her discrimination complaint in that forum. Therefore, she was not entitled to a parallel EEO proceeding.

On June 30, 1992, McAdams filed this lawsuit in federal court. In her complaint, McAdams alleges federal discrimination and common law defamation claims relating to her suspension, demotion and removal. McAdams also refiled her Demotion Appeal with the MSPB on September 4, 1992 (Appeal No. CH-0752-92-0142-I-3).

After McAdams filed this lawsuit, the DOJ moved to dismiss her Demotion and Removal Appeals before the MSPB. In support of this motion, the DOJ argued that the discrimination and defamation claims alleged by McAdams in this lawsuit necessarily relate to the demotion and removal actions that McAdams was appealing to the MSPB. In opposing the motion to dismiss, McAdams's counsel argued that the discrimination claims alleged in this lawsuit preceded both the demotion and the removal actions that were before the MSPB.3

Judge Miksa denied the DOJ's motion to dismiss on September 10, 1992. In his decision, Judge Miksa found that both the Demotion Appeal and the Removal Appeal were properly before the MSPB and that the MSPB had jurisdiction to adjudicate the issues raised in those appeals. Judge Miksa further found that McAdams's defamation claims were irrelevant to the issues raised in her MSPB appeals. Accordingly, the DOJ's motion to dismiss was denied.

McAdams's appeals came on for a hearing before Judge Miksa on October 26 and 27, 1992. On February 19, 1993, Judge Miksa issued his "Initial Decision," which reversed the DOJ's actions and ordered the agency to reinstate McAdams to her former position with full backpay. The DOJ's petition for review of Judge Miksa's decision was denied by the MSPB on June 14, 1993.

On July 6, 1993, the DOJ dismissed McAdams's February 28, 1992 EEO Complaint because it found that the claims McAdams alleged in this lawsuit incorporated the allegations in her EEO complaint. McAdams appealed this decision to the EEOC, which affirmed the DOJ's dismissal.

In summary, the procedural history of this lawsuit involves three separate adverse employment actions suffered by McAdams during her tenure at the BOP. First, McAdams received a fourteen-day suspension. She grieved this suspension through her union under a negotiated grievance procedure. The record does not reflect the outcome of the arbitration hearing. Second, McAdams was demoted to Senior Correctional Officer. She appealed this action as a mixed case to the MSPB. Third, McAdams was removed from her position and terminated. She also appealed this action as a mixed case to the MSPB. The MSPB found for McAdams on both appeals, reversed her demotion and removal, and ordered the DOJ to reinstate her with full backpay.

The government argues in this motion that McAdams's Title VII claim must be dismissed because the issues presented by that claim were adjudicated by the MSPB and have not been properly presented to this Court for judicial review. In response, McAdams contends that her Title VII claim should survive, independent of the MSPB decision, because it involves conduct and seeks relief that the MSPB did not and could not address.

The government further argues that McAdams's defamation claim must be dismissed because it is barred under the Federal Tort Claims Act. In response, McAdams contends that her defamation claim involves statements made outside the scope of the declarants' employment, and therefore the claim does not fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

II. ANALYSIS
A. Title VII

The MSPB is an independent, quasi-judicial, federal administrative agency established under the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. See 5 U.S.C. § 1201. The MSPB provides a forum in which federal employees can appeal significant adverse employment actions taken against them. See 5 U.S.C. § 7701. In a "mixed case" appeal, an employee "alleges that an appealable agency action was effected, in whole or in part, because of discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, or age." 29 C.F.R. § 1614.302(a)(2). A mixed case appeal is adjudicated under 5 U.S.C. § 7702. This statute and its accompanying regulations4 provide that, in a mixed case appeal, the MSPB is authorized, and in fact required, to "decide both the issue of discrimination and the appealable action." 5 U.S.C. § 7702(a)(1). The MSPB must make its decision within 120 days. The employee may then file an action in federal district court or seek administrative review with the EEOC. 5 U.S.C. § 7702(a)(3).

If the employee seeks administrative review with the EEOC, the EEOC has 30 days to decide whether to hear the case. 5 U.S.C. § 7702(b)(1). If the EEOC declines review, or if the EEOC accepts...

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