Saunders v. Mills, Case No. 11–cv–486 (RMC).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtROSEMARY M. COLLYER
Citation842 F.Supp.2d 284
Docket NumberCase No. 11–cv–486 (RMC).
Decision Date08 February 2012
PartiesKarla SAUNDERS, Plaintiff, v. Karen G. MILLS, Administrator, Small Business Administration, Defendant.

842 F.Supp.2d 284

Karla SAUNDERS, Plaintiff,
v.
Karen G. MILLS, Administrator, Small Business Administration, Defendant.

Case No. 11–cv–486 (RMC).

United States District Court,
District of Columbia.

Feb. 8, 2012.


[842 F.Supp.2d 287]


Omar Vincent Melehy, Michael K. Amster, Melehy & Associates LLC, Silver Spring, MD, for Plaintiff.

Alexander Daniel Shoaibi, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.


MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, District Judge.

Karla Saunders is a long-time federal employee currently employed with the Small Business Administration (“SBA” or “Agency”). She complains here of discrimination based on her sex (female) and race (African American); retaliation for protected Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) activity; and a hostile work environment. Karen Mills is sued in her official capacity as the Administrator of the SBA. The SBA has moved for partial dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint, arguing that Ms. Saunders has failed to state a claim for relief. The Court will grant in part and deny in part Defendant's motion.

I. FACTS

Karla Saunders is a Black female employed with the SBA. In October 2005, Ms. Saunders applied for and was selected as the Chief of the Training and Benefits Division (“Training Chief”) in the Agency's Office of Human Capital Management. As Training Chief, Ms. Saunders managed the Agency's centralized training and benefits program. She supervised a total of seven subordinates, including one GS–14 Training Specialist, three GS–13 Training Specialists, one GS–12 Benefits Specialist, and one GS–4 Administrative Assistant. Richard Brechbiel, the Chief Human Capital Officer, selected Ms. Saunders for the position and became her supervisor. Mr. Brechbiel consistently rated Ms. Saunders as “Highly Successful” or “Outstanding” and promoted her to the GS–15 level after she had been serving as Training Chief for approximately one month.

Sometime in 2005, Janice Chiverton, an African American female employee, applied for a position within the SBA under Mr. Brechbiel. Mr. Brechbiel did not select Ms. Chiverton for the position and instead hired Sharon Brown, a Caucasian female. Ms. Chiverton initiated a discrimination complaint against the Agency based upon her nonselection. Ms. Saunders supported Ms. Chiverton's complaint by filing an affidavit and giving deposition testimony indicating that Ms. Brown was not qualified for the position and was selected because she was romantically involved with Mr. Brechbiel.

Ms. Saunders claims that shortly after her deposition testimony (in January 2007) Mr. Brechbiel began to harass her in retaliation for her testimony. On April 9, 2007, Ms. Saunders and two co-workers filed a “request for intervention” alleging that Mr. Brechbiel and his supervisors had committed illegal, discriminatory, and retaliatory acts and requesting help from the Small Business Administrator. After receiving the request, the SBA hired Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, LLP (“Paul Hastings”) to investigate the claims. After the investigation began, Ms. Saunders filed a formal EEO complaint with the

[842 F.Supp.2d 288]

Agency on July 6, 2007 alleging discrimination and retaliation by Mr. Brechbiel.

Paul Hastings completed its investigation in the fall of 2007. Shortly thereafter, both Mr. Brechbiel and his supervisor were transferred to other positions within the SBA. Napoleon Avery took over Mr. Brechbiel's position on November 2, 2007. Two months later, Ms. Saunders was informed that she would be detailed to the Department of Labor (“DOL”). Ms. Saunders' detail extended from February 11, 2008 to July 30, 2008. Mr. Avery detailed Dionne Martin (a Black female) to replace Ms. Saunders as Training Chief. When Ms. Saunders left for the DOL detail, she was supervising five Training Specialists: one GS–14, one GS–13, one GS–12, and two GS–11.

On July 30, 2008, Ms. Saunders sent an email to Mr. Avery indicating that her detail to the DOL was ending and asking when she could return to her position as Training Chief. Mr. Avery did not respond. Ms. Saunders went in person to the SBA on July 31, 2008 and spoke with Mr. Avery. Mr. Avery indicated that Ms. Martin was still detailed to the Training Chief position, and he told Ms. Saunders that she would be detailed to the Agency's Office of Entrepreneurial Development (“OED”). Ms. Saunders opposed the second detail but was given no choice in the matter.

Ms. Saunders began the detail to the OED on August 11, 2008. Seven months later, Ms. Saunders sent an email to Mr. Avery indicating that her OED detail had ended and asking whether she could return to her former position as Training Chief. Mr. Avery responded that the Agency was still trying to determine where her skills could best be utilized. Shortly thereafter, the SBA reassigned Ms. Saunders to the Agency's Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives as a Senior Advisor. Ms. Saunders opposed the reassignment because the position was not managerial or supervisory and was thus inferior to her position as Training Chief. Plaintiff subsequently contacted the EEO Office charging that the reassignment to the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives was discriminatory and retaliatory.

Ms. Saunders reported to her new position with the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives on May 24, 2009. She served in this position for one year. She complains here that she had no work during most of that time, that she had no performance standards, and that she did not receive a performance evaluation.

In June 2009, Ms. Martin's detail as Training Chief ended. The SBA issued an announcement that the position was vacant and that it was accepting applications. Ms. Saunders applied for the position but was not interviewed or selected.

A hearing was held on Ms. Saunders' original discrimination complaint in February 2010. The Administrative Judge ultimately held that Mr. Brechbiel had not discriminated against Ms. Saunders and did not retaliate against her after she testified in support of Ms. Chiverton's discrimination claim. Before this ruling issued, however, the Office of Special Counsel and the SBA entered into an oral agreement under which Ms. Saunders was to be returned to her position as Training Chief. Ms. Saunders alleges here that the Agency restored her job title but severely diminished her responsibilities. Specifically, Ms. Saunders alleges that the SBA reduced the number of employees she supervised and assigned oversight of many programs from her to other employees within the SBA. Additionally, a few months after returning to the position, Ms. Saunders received a letter of counseling from Kevin Mahoney, her direct supervisor. Ms.

[842 F.Supp.2d 289]

Saunders claims that the letter was retaliatory and “based on bogus, inaccurate and contradictory information....” Compl. ¶ 100.

In December 2010, Plaintiff learned that she received a performance rating of “4” (“Highly Successful”) for fiscal year 2009. Ms. Saunders complains that this evaluation was discriminatory and retaliatory. She filed an EEO complaint with respect to this evaluation on January 24, 2011.

Ms. Saunders filed the present Complaint on March 7, 2011. She complains of numerous instances of retaliation and discrimination based upon her gender, race, and protected EEO activities. The SBA moves to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint in part. Specifically, it moves to dismiss: (1) Plaintiff's claims regarding her details to the DOL and OED because the claims are time barred; (2) Plaintiff's claim regarding her 2009 performance evaluation because it is premature; (3) Plaintiff's claim that her responsibilities and duties were improperly diminished after she returned to the Training Chief position because the alleged diminished duties are not “adverse actions;” (4) Plaintiff's claim that she received a “bogus” letter of counseling because the letter is not an “adverse action;” and (5) Plaintiff's hostile work environment claim because Plaintiff's allegations do not meet the legal definition of a hostile work environment.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must be sufficient “to give a defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955.

A court must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true “even if doubtful in fact.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955. But a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C.Cir.2007).

III. ANALYSIS
A. DOL and OED Details

Ms. Saunders complains that her detail to the DOL on February 6, 2008 and her detail to the OED on August 6, 2008 were discriminatory and retaliatory. Ms. Saunders' claims fail, however, because she did not exhaust her administrative remedies by contacting an EEO counselor within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory actions.

“Because timely exhaustion of administrative...

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  • Slate v. Pub. Defender Serv. for the Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No. 13–00798(BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 2, 2014
    ...judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Saunders v. Mills, 842 F.Supp.2d 284, 293 n. 2 (D.D.C.2012) (considered “Letter of Counseling attached to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without converting the motion to one fo......
  • Slate v. Pub. Defender Serv. for D.C., Civil Action No. 13–00798BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 2, 2014
    ...judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Saunders v. Mills, 842 F.Supp.2d 284, 293 n. 2 (D.D.C.2012) (considered “Letter of Counseling attached to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without converting the motion to one fo......
  • Slate v. Pub. Defender Serv. for D.C., Civil Action No. 13-00798 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 2, 2014
    ...judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Saunders v. Mills, 842 F. Supp. 2d 284, 293 n.2 (D.D.C. 2012) (considered "Letter of Counseling attached to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without converting the motion to one ......
  • Coon v. Wood, Civil Action No. 13–1400 BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 18, 2014
    ...Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C.Cir.2007) ; Stewart v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C.Cir.2006) ; Saunders v. Mills, 842 F.Supp.2d 284, 293 n. 2 (D.D.C.2012) ; Pearson v. Dist. of Columbia, 644 F.Supp.2d 23, 29 n. 1 (D.D.C.2009). The Court may properly consider the documen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Slate v. Pub. Defender Serv. for the Dist. of Columbia, Civil Action No. 13–00798(BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 2, 2014
    ...judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Saunders v. Mills, 842 F.Supp.2d 284, 293 n. 2 (D.D.C.2012) (considered “Letter of Counseling attached to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without converting the motion to one fo......
  • Slate v. Pub. Defender Serv. for D.C., Civil Action No. 13–00798BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 2, 2014
    ...judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Saunders v. Mills, 842 F.Supp.2d 284, 293 n. 2 (D.D.C.2012) (considered “Letter of Counseling attached to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without converting the motion to one fo......
  • Slate v. Pub. Defender Serv. for D.C., Civil Action No. 13-00798 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • April 2, 2014
    ...judgment when the documents were referenced in the Complaint and were central to the plaintiff's claims. See, e.g., Saunders v. Mills, 842 F. Supp. 2d 284, 293 n.2 (D.D.C. 2012) (considered "Letter of Counseling attached to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss without converting the motion to one ......
  • Coon v. Wood, Civil Action No. 13–1400 BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 18, 2014
    ...Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C.Cir.2007) ; Stewart v. Nat'l Educ. Ass'n, 471 F.3d 169, 173 (D.C.Cir.2006) ; Saunders v. Mills, 842 F.Supp.2d 284, 293 n. 2 (D.D.C.2012) ; Pearson v. Dist. of Columbia, 644 F.Supp.2d 23, 29 n. 1 (D.D.C.2009). The Court may properly consider the documen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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