McAdams v. Reno

Decision Date30 August 1995
Docket NumberNo. 94-4073,94-4073
Citation64 F.3d 1137
PartiesEvelyn McADAMS, Appellant, v. Janet RENO, United States Attorney General, in her official capacity and as agency head; United States of America, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit

Stephen W. Cooper, Minneapolis, MN, argued (Kathryn J. Cima, on the brief), for appellant.

Patricia R. Cangemi, Asst. U.S. Atty., argued, Minneapolis, MN, for appellees.

Before BEAM, Circuit Judge, BRIGHT, Senior Circuit Judge, and MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

MURPHY, Circuit Judge.

Evelyn McAdams, an employee of the United States Bureau of Prisons, appeals from a judgment dismissing her claims for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for defamation. The district court 1 dismissed her discrimination claims for lack of jurisdiction because she had not raised them in related administrative proceedings and her defamation claim because of sovereign immunity. We affirm.


In 1984, McAdams was hired by the Bureau of Prisons as a secretary at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Minnesota. She was promoted in 1986 to Materials Handler Foreman. In the spring of 1991 the Bureau began an investigation into her conduct. The investigation was apparently initiated in response to her intervention in an altercation between two inmates, but it focused on the nature of her relationship with one of them.

The Bureau's investigation continued for over a year, during which McAdams was disciplined several times. In August 1991, she was suspended for fourteen days, allegedly for failing to respond appropriately to the inmate altercation. She was demoted to Senior Correctional Officer, which meant a reduction in pay, effective November 16, 1991, based on charges of inattention to duty and showing favoritism to an inmate. She was later removed from her position and terminated on May 6, 1992, allegedly for interfering with an official investigation, falsifying facts in connection with the investigation, carrying on an inappropriate relationship with an inmate, and giving something of value to an inmate.

In this action, McAdams alleges that she was subjected to harassment and other discriminatory treatment based on her sex and that Bureau employees retaliated against her after she complained. Her complaint cites the Bureau's investigation, the manner in which it was conducted, and the resulting disciplinary measures as examples of the discriminatory and retaliatory behavior that made up a hostile work environment.

Prior to filing this lawsuit, McAdams pursued several administrative remedies related to the discrimination claims she asserts here. She filed a grievance with her union regarding her suspension and the nature of the investigation that led up to it. While the grievance was pending, on November 14, 1991, she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ), alleging sex discrimination and retaliation relating to the ongoing investigation, her suspension, and her demotion. She filed a second EEO complaint, alleging similar claims on February 28, 1992. At the same time, she sought relief from the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), to which she appealed both her demotion and her removal.

McAdams' attempt to pursue her administrative claims in several places simultaneously led to complications. Her union grievance went to arbitration, but the record does not reveal the details of the claim or its outcome. Her two EEO complaints were each ultimately dismissed because the issues raised in them were being addressed elsewhere. The DOJ investigated her first EEO complaint, but did not issue a decision within 120 days. After 120 days had passed, McAdams asserted similar claims in an appeal to the MSPB. On June 26, 1992, the DOJ cancelled the initial EEO complaint because it determined that McAdams had elected to pursue her suspension claims under the negotiated grievance procedure and her demotion claims as a mixed case under the MSPB appeal process.

McAdams filed a second EEO complaint with the DOJ, alleging further harassment and retaliation relating to her demotion and the continuing investigation. This complaint was dismissed on September 25, 1993, because the DOJ determined that the claims alleged in this lawsuit, which had been filed on July 30, 1992, incorporated the allegations in the EEO complaint. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) affirmed the DOJ's dismissal on March 22, 1994.

Ultimately the MSPB accepted jurisdiction over McAdams' claims. She had first appealed her demotion to the MSPB on December 3, 1991, but that appeal had been dismissed without prejudice because of her pending EEO complaint. On March 14, 1992, after 120 days had passed from the time she filed her EEO claim, McAdams had refiled her demotion appeal with the MSPB. The MSPB then accepted jurisdiction over that appeal, but dismissed it without prejudice because her suspension grievance, the outcome of which might have had relevance to the demotion issues, had not yet been resolved. She appealed her removal to the MSPB on May 28, 1992, and timely refiled her demotion appeal on September 4, 1992.

The demotion and removal appeals were consolidated for hearing on October 26 and 27, 1992. At the hearing McAdams raised an affirmative defense of retaliation, but she did not pursue her other discrimination claims. The administrative law judge (ALJ) issued an initial decision in February 1993, which became final on June 11, 1993. He found that the agency had failed to produce sufficient evidence to support its reasons for acting and also determined that McAdams had produced sufficient evidence to support her affirmative defense of retaliation. He reversed McAdams's demotion, reassignment, and removal, and ordered reinstatement with full backpay.

After her success before the MSPB, McAdams continued to pursue this action, seeking additional Title VII compensatory damages. On July 14, 1994, the district court dismissed her discrimination claims for lack of jurisdiction, holding that they should have been raised as part of the MSPB appeal.


The basic issue here is whether plaintiff's discrimination claims should have been raised in her MSPB appeal or whether she is entitled to pursue them independently in a federal court action. McAdams argues that the issues in her Title VII claim are distinct from those raised in her MSPB appeal, and in fact could not have been addressed in that forum. The government responds that the district court properly dismissed the claim because the MSPB had jurisdiction over all issues related to plaintiff's demotion and removal, including her Title VII sex discrimination claims. The district court's dismissal for lack of jurisdiction is reviewed de novo. See Vinieratos v. United States Dept. of the Air Force, 939 F.2d 762, 768 (9th Cir.1991).

Federal employees asserting Title VII claims must exhaust their administrative remedies as a precondition to filing a civil action in federal district court. See Brown v. General Servs. Admin., 425 U.S. 820, 832, 96 S.Ct. 1961, 1967, 48 L.Ed.2d 402 (1976). The requirements for processing employment discrimination claims are complex and merit careful attention by a claimant. Generally, the employee must seek relief from the Equal Employment Opportunity department of the employing agency, as required by the procedures outlined in Section 717(c) of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. Sec. 2000e-16(c). Id. In some cases, federal employees affected by particular adverse employment actions may instead assert their related Title VII claims in connection with an appeal to the MSPB, an independent, quasi-judicial federal administrative agency established to review civil service decisions. 2 See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7701. These are considered "mixed cases" and are governed by specific procedures outlined in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702. The statute describes the preconditions for filing a federal lawsuit in mixed cases.

A comprehensive statutory and regulatory scheme governs the processing of mixed cases. See 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702; 29 C.F.R. Secs. 1613.401--1613.421 3; 5 C.F.R. Secs. 1201.151--1201.175. A mixed case may be filed as a complaint with the agency's EEO department or as an appeal to the MSPB, but not both. 4 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702; 29 C.F.R. Sec. 1613.403. Either agency is authorized, and required, to address both the discrimination issues and the civil service issues that arise in a mixed case. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702(a). An employee who initially chooses to file an EEO mixed case complaint may after 120 days have passed without a judicially reviewable action by the agency, appeal the matter to the MSPB, 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702(e)(2), and transfer the administrative review to that agency. EEOC regulations provide for the cancellation of a mixed case complaint if such an appeal is timely filed. 29 C.F.R. Sec. 405(b).

Congress has identified specific circumstances under which a federal employee pursuing a mixed case can seek judicial review of an administrative decision or initiate a civil action based on the issues raised in the administrative proceeding. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702. Employees pursuing relief though an EEO mixed case complaint may file a civil discrimination action in federal district court within 30 days of a final decision by the agency or after 120 days have passed without a decision, but only if no appeal to the MSPB is pursued at that time. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7702(e)(1)(A); 29 C.F.R. Sec. 1613.421(g). A civil discrimination action may be filed within 30 days of a final decision by the MSPB if the employee has not petitioned for EEOC review of the decision or after 120 days have passed without a final decision. 5 U.S.C. Secs. 7702(e)(1)(B), 7703(2).

In this case, McAdams' action began as a mixed case complaint filed with the EEO department of the DOJ. When she later attempted to appeal her demotion to the MSPB, it...

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