Said v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp.

Decision Date18 July 2019
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 15-1289 (RBW)
Parties Cheryl Renee SAID, Plaintiff, v. NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Columbia

Charity Swift, Pro Hac Vice, Stephen Christopher Swift, Swift & Swift, P.L.L.C., Alexandria, VA, for Plaintiff.

Eunju Park, Joshua B. Waxman, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Washington, DC, for Defendant.


REGGIE B. WALTON, United States District Judge

The plaintiff, Cheryl Renee Said, initiated this civil action against the defendant, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation ("Amtrak"), alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17 (2012), the Civil Rights Act of 1866, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (" § 1981"), the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 to 1404.04 (2012), the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, District of Columbia public policy, and District of Columbia common law. See Complaint ("Compl.") ¶¶ 3, 64. On July 10, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part Amtrak's motion for summary judgment (the "July 10, 2018 Memorandum Opinion"). See Said v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger Corp. (Said III ), 317 F. Supp. 3d 304, 311, 343 (D.D.C. 2018) (Walton, J.). Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's Order Denying, in Part, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot."). The Court held oral argument on Amtrak's motion on June 12, 2019. Upon careful consideration of the parties' oral argument and written submissions,1 the Court concludes that it must grant Amtrak's motion for reconsideration.


The Court discussed the factual background and statutory authority pertinent to this case in the July 10, 2018 Memorandum Opinion, see Said III, 317 F. Supp. 3d at 311–17, and will not reiterate those facts and authorities again here. In that opinion, the Court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims of race discrimination under § 1981 (Count II) and race and gender discrimination under the DCHRA (Count III) (collectively, the "race and gender discrimination claims"), but granted Amtrak's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's remaining claims. See id. at 343. The plaintiff's race and gender discrimination claims assert that Amtrak unlawfully terminated her employment because of her race and gender. See id. at 313, 317. In its summary judgment motion, Amtrak denied that it discriminated against the plaintiff, asserting to the contrary that it terminated the plaintiff for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons pursuant to the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") between Amtrak and the plaintiff's Union. See Def.'s Summ. J. Mem. at 6. Specifically, Amtrak asserted:

[The] [p]laintiff was terminated pursuant to Rule 24 of the [ ] CBA [ (‘CBA Rule 24) ] after failing to communicate with Amtrak during her extended leave of absence, failing to advise Amtrak of the reason she continued to be on leave or her expected return date, and failing to respond to correspondence from Amtrak regarding the same.

Id. CBA Rule 24 states that "[e]mployees who are absent from work for ten [ ] days without notifying [Amtrak] shall be considered as having resigned from the service, unless [Amtrak] is furnished satisfactory evidence that circumstances beyond their control prevented such notification." Said III, 317 F. Supp. 3d at 326 (citation omitted).

Upon considering Amtrak's proffered reasons for the plaintiff's termination and the evidence in the record, the Court concluded:

[T]he plaintiff has identified facts in the record sufficient to cast doubt on two of [Amtrak's] proffered reasons for her termination—that the plaintiff failed to communicate with [Amtrak] during her extended leave of absence and failed to notify [Amtrak] of the reason for her extended leave of absence—and to make a reasonable jury "quite suspicious" of [Amtrak's] application of [CBA] Rule 24 to the plaintiff and the circumstances surrounding [Amtrak's CBA] Rule 24 correspondence[.]

Id. at 334 (internal citations omitted). The Court further concluded that this evidence, combined with "the plaintiff's testimony that [one of her supervisors, Patrick] Ryan[,] made a racially discriminatory statement to her of the type that [the District of Columbia] Circuit has warned district courts not to ignore, ... [wa]s sufficient to allow the plaintiff to survive summary judgment." Id. (internal citation omitted).

On July 30, 2018, Amtrak filed its motion for reconsideration, see Def.'s Mot. at 1, which seeks reconsideration of the Court's July 10, 2018 Memorandum Opinion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), see Def.'s Mem. at 1. That motion is the subject of this Memorandum Opinion.


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), any order or decision that does not constitute a final judgment "may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities." Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b). Although "district court[s] ha[ve] ‘broad discretion to hear a motion for reconsideration brought under Rule 54(b),’ " Univ. of Colo. Health at Mem'l Hosp. v. Burwell, 164 F. Supp. 3d 56, 62 (D.D.C. 2016) (quoting Isse v. Am. Univ., 544 F. Supp. 2d 25, 29 (D.D.C. 2008) ), district courts grant motions for reconsideration of interlocutory orders only "as justice requires," Capitol Sprinkler Inspection, Inc. v. Guest Servs., Inc., 630 F.3d 217, 227 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Greene v. Union Mut. Life Ins. Co. of Am., 764 F.2d 19, 22–23 (1st Cir. 1985) ).

In determining whether "justice requires" reversal of a prior interlocutory order, courts assess circumstances such as "whether the court ‘patently’ misunderstood the parties, made a decision beyond the adversarial issues presented, made an error in failing to consider controlling decisions or data, or whether a controlling or significant change in the law has occurred." In Def. of Animals v. Nat'l Insts. of Health, 543 F. Supp. 2d 70, 75 (D.D.C. 2008) (quoting Singh v. George Wash. Univ., 383 F. Supp. 2d 99, 101 (D.D.C. 2005) ); see Davis v. Joseph J. Magnolia, Inc., 893 F. Supp. 2d 165, 168 (D.D.C. 2012) ("[A] motion for reconsideration is discretionary and should not be granted unless the movant presents either newly discovered evidence or errors of law or fact that need correction."). "The burden is on the moving party to show that reconsideration is appropriate and that harm or injustice would result if reconsideration were denied." United States ex rel. Westrick v. Second Chance Body Armor, Inc., 893 F. Supp. 2d 258, 268 (D.D.C. 2012) (citing Husayn v. Gates, 588 F. Supp. 2d 7, 10 (D.D.C. 2008) ). And, motions for reconsideration are not vehicles for either reasserting arguments previously raised and rejected by the court or presenting arguments that should have been raised previously with the court. See Estate of Gaither ex rel. Gaither v. District of Columbia, 771 F. Supp. 2d 5, 10 & n.4 (D.D.C. 2011).


Amtrak urges the Court to reconsider its denial of Amtrak's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's race and gender discrimination claims because "[t]he Court's basis for denying [summary judgment] ... raises issues of preemption and preclusion under the Railway Labor Act (‘RLA’), 45 U.S.C. § 151, et seq." Def.'s Mem. at 1. Specifically, Amtrak argues that the Court's conclusion "requires interpretation of [the] ... [ ]CBA[,]" id., and that the "mandatory arbitral mechanism" contained in the RLA "prohibits the interpretation of a CBA in a judicial forum," id. at 2. Amtrak further argues that "[i]f the Court accepts Amtrak's interpretation of the CBA and its customary policies and procedures, then insufficient evidence of pretext exists for a reasonable jury to find that Amtrak's proffered reason for [the] [p]laintiff's termination was pretext for discrimination." Id. at 9.2

The plaintiff responds that Amtrak "ha[s] failed to carry its burden" to show that reconsideration is appropriate under Rule 54(b). Pl.'s Opp'n at 3. Additionally, she asserts that, even if reconsideration were appropriate, "[a]djudicating [her] § 1981 and DCHRA [c]laims[ ] does not require interpretation of a CBA[,] [a]nd as such, the Court's ruling raises no issues of [p]reemption/[p]reclusion." Id. at 8. The Court first addresses whether reconsideration is appropriate under Rule 54(b) and then turns to whether Amtrak is correct that the plaintiff's race and gender discrimination claims are barred by the RLA.

A. Whether Reconsideration of the Court's July 10, 2018 Decision Is Appropriate

Amtrak asserts that the Court committed legal error by "interpret[ing] the CBA" in violation of the RLA and controlling decisions interpreting the RLA. Def.'s Mem. at 1. It argues that, as a result, "the RLA has come into play and either preempts or precludes [the] [p]laintiff's claims entirely or functions to exclude evidence that the Court relied upon in denying Amtrak's motion" (the "RLA preemption/preclusion argument").3 Id. Although Amtrak concedes that it did not raise its RLA preemption/preclusion argument in its summary judgment motion, it claims that it did not do so "because[ ] ... [its] interpretation of the CBA was not challenged, [and thus,] the RLA was not at issue." Id. The plaintiff responds that Amtrak has "[f]ailed to [i]dentify [a]ny [v]alid [b]asis [f]or [r]econsideration," Pl.'s Opp'n at 3, because it, inter alia, "does not contend[ ] ... that the Court's conclusion ... was clear error of law or fact," id. at 4, or "that the Court[ ] failed to consider any controlling decision or law," id. at 5, and it "cannot use its [m]otion for [r]econsideration as a vehicle ... for presenting ... arguments that it could have advanced earlier," id. at 7.

As an initial matter, the Court agrees with the plaintiff...

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