BURFORD v. YELLEN et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. Signed by Judge Rosemary M. Collyer on 3/31/2017. (lcrmc1)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Case No. 15-cv-2074 (RMC)
JANET L. YELLEN, CHAIR,
BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE
FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM
DeBora Burford was a law enforcement officer in the Law Enforcement Unit of
the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2002 until February 2012. Ms.
Burford alleges that she suffered discrimination due to her sex and age and was retaliated against
after she asked the Board to investigate the alleged discrimination. She also complains that she
was discharged because of false retaliatory charges. She sues Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the Board
of Governors, in her official capacity. The Board moves to dismiss the Amended Complaint or,
alternatively, for summary judgment.
At the relevant time, Ms. Burford was approximately 50 years old. As a result,
she was, and is, protected from employment discrimination based on her sex by Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 (2012), and from discrimination
based on her age by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et
seq. Both laws also protect employees from retaliation because they engaged in activities in
furtherance of equal employment opportunities. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3(a) (“Discrimination for
making charges, testifying, assisting, or participating in enforcement proceedings”); GomezPerez v. Potter, 553 U.S. 474, 479 (2008) (holding ADEA 29 U.S.C. § 633(a) precludes
retaliation based on the filing of an age discrimination complaint).
Ms. Burford was hired as an officer in the Law Enforcement Unit (LEU) of the
Board in December 2002, after a reduction in force at the District of Columbia Department of
Corrections (DC DOC) where she had previously been employed as a corrections officer. She
gained the rank of senior law enforcement officer and served as a “lead” officer in 2009. While
she had earlier filed charges alleging a lack of equal employment opportunity (EEO), this case
concerns a series of workplace incidents that began in late 2009 and which Ms. Burford alleges
constituted discrimination because of her sex, age, and EEO activity.
Starting in December 2009, Ms. Burford complains that she was repeatedly
confronted by a probationary female officer, Shandra Love, who put Ms. Burford in fear for her
physical safety. The first of those incidents occurred on December 1, 2009, when Ms. Love, “in
a seemingly unprovoked verbal assault,” called Ms. Burford a “b_tch.” Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Ms.
Love has admitted using the epithet to address Ms. Burford at a time when Ms. Love was talking
to LEU Sergeant Frank Williams on her cell phone. Id. ¶ 13. “With her cell phone to her ear,
Love took what appeared to be an aggressive fighter’s stance while [Ms. Burford] sat inside the
guard booth bracing for what could have [led] to a physical assault against her.” Id. ¶ 15. On a
later date, Ms. Love “made unprovoked false accusations that [Ms. Burford] bumped her in the
back . . . .” Id. ¶ 24. Ms. Burford alleges that a subsequent incident occurred when Ms. Love
falsely claimed that when the two women were in the locker room, Ms. Burford “intentionally
brushed [Ms. Love’s] hair with her buttocks as Love leaned over her purse,” and that Ms. Love
then “engaged in a barrage of aggressive obscenities against [Ms. Burford], who in fear of
physical attack, continued to face her locker and prepare for dayshift roll call.” Id. ¶¶ 28, 30.
The Amended Complaint alleges that these “false accusations came after [Ms. Burford] wrote a
statement to [the dayshift watch commander, Lieutenant Larence] Dublin alleging that Love was
not checking the identifications of vehicle occupants [who] were attempting to enter the Board
through the East Court, which was Love’s primary responsibility.” Id. ¶ 25. Lt. Dublin allegedly
did not investigate Ms. Burford’s complaints about Ms. Love, and provided false testimony in
the later EEO investigation. Id. ¶¶ 21, 22, 23. He also failed to discipline Ms. Love in a manner
that Ms. Burford felt appropriate. See id. ¶¶ 18, 21, 23, 33. Both Lt. Dublin and Ms. Love were
younger than 40 at the time of these incidents. Ms. Burford alleges that unidentified harassing
conduct towards her from Ms. Love and/or Lt. Dublin “became a condition of [her] continued
employment.” Id. ¶ 35.
These confrontations with Ms. Love and Lt. Dublin’s inaction led Ms. Burford to
initiate internal EEO proceedings in August 2010, in which she alleged discrimination due to her
sex and age. Id. ¶ 26. See also id. ¶ 120 (alleging that “she filed her EEO complaint after LEU
managers failed to address Love’s aggressive and potentially violent behaviors”). These
conflicts continued after Ms. Burford contacted an EEO Counselor at the Board. See Id. ¶ 36.
The Amended Complaint alleges that Ms. Love and Lt. Dublin made false allegations against
Ms. Burford during the EEO investigation, during which EEO Counselor Johanna Bruce also
interviewed LEU Chief Billy Sauls and Senior Employee Relations Specialist Keisha Hargo,
both of whom also allegedly gave false testimony detrimental to Ms. Burford. Id. ¶¶ 25, 26, 27,
28, 29, 38, 39. Ms. Burford further alleges that Ms. Love “admitted that she and Dublin were in
constant communication with one another with regard to [Ms. Burford], and that the
communication was personal in nature.” Id. ¶ 129.
For approximately two months between August and October 2010, LEU
Administrative Sergeant Michelle Tillery-Fuller consistently assigned Ms. Burford to daily posts
that required Ms. Burford to stand for her work shift, carrying “the hefty UP-40 submachine gun,
with the weapon’s strap painfully digging into Plaintiff’s shoulder, when no other LEU officers
were forced to endure such abuse.” Id. ¶ 44. Ms. Burford alleges that, as a lead officer and one
of only two women LEU leads, she was entitled to seated posts typically filled by lead officers,
but which Sgt Tillery-Fuller assigned to male non-lead officers. Id. ¶¶ 46, 48. These standing
assignments did not result in any decrease in Ms. Burford’s pay or other benefits and did not
constitute a demotion. Standing assignments are part of lead officer duties; Ms. Burford alleges,
however, that she was assigned a disproportionate number of them on every shift for
approximately two months, which “was not normal for any LEU officer.” Id. ¶ 44. She further
alleges that she was “the only female lead officer meeting the ADEA’s age limit criteria who had
been removed from her lead officer position” and replaced with men who were not lead officers.
Id. ¶ 48, and that she was “the only lead officer who had engaged in protected activity at the time
of her removal from the Lead Officer Program.” Id. ¶ 49. Additionally, the Amended Complaint
alleges that Sgt. Tillery-Fuller “stated in her deposition that she doesn’t know why [Ms. Burford]
wasn’t assigned to lead posts” and “only admits to discriminating against [Ms. Burford] after
[Sgt. Tillery-Fuller] bec[ame] aggressive and disturbingly upset with Ellen Opper-Weiner,” thencounsel to Ms. Burford, during the Sergeant’s deposition. Id. ¶ 50. Sgt. Tillery-Fuller “angrily”
testified in deposition that she removed Ms. Burford “from the Lead Officer Program . . .
because [Ms. Burford] was not communicating with officers, which were false allegations made
only by Love and Dublin.” Id. ¶ 51. It is alleged that Sgt. Tillery-Fuller knew of Ms. Burford’s
EEO activities at that time. Id. ¶ 40.
In addition to the standing shift assignments, Ms. Burford alleges that she was
discriminated and retaliated against when she was blamed for the release of a confidential
document she had written for the Board’s use to an outside attorney representing an employee
suing the Agency. Id. ¶ 60. On August 26, 2010, Ms. Burford was aggressively questioned by
Chief Sauls and Ms. Hardo for approximately an hour. Id. ¶ 66, 72. Both interrogators “claimed
that it was [Ms. Burford] who released the document to the non Board [sic] attorney.” Id. Ms.
Burford complains that Mr. Sauls and Ms. Hargo “threatened to obtain a warrant to seize [Ms.
Burford’s] home computer. [She] was also threatened with disciplinary action if she did not
confess to disclosing the document to the non Board [sic] attorney when Sauls and Hargo both
were aware that it was Sauls that committed the act he and Hargo were accusing [Ms. Burford]
of committing.” Id. ¶ 67. Ms. Burford was not placed on administrative leave or otherwise
disciplined following the interview and she was ultimately exonerated. Id. ¶ 75. She alleges,
however, that it was Chief Sauls who had released the document to the Legal Department which,
in turn, handed it over to the employee’s outside counsel, and that Chief Sauls therefore had prior
knowledge that Ms. Burford was not the source of the “leak” when he questioned her severely.
According to the Amended Complaint, Ms. Burford “was a reasonable employee who found the
retaliatory actions taken against her to be materially adverse” and therefore violative of Title VII
and the ADEA. Id. ¶ 92.
Ms. Burford requested EEO investigations of the above instances of alleged
discrimination, and all were ultimately considered, but rejected, by the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on September 13, 2015, in its review of an Administrative
Judge’s grant of summary judgment to the Agency. See Mot. to Dismiss Ex. A (EEOC Dec.)
[Dkt. 17-1] at 2 (“Upon the required de novo review of the record, we find that the grant of
summary judgment was proper.”).
Ms. Burford alleges additional instances of discrimination beyond those
considered by the EEOC. She alleges that her car was vandalized in September 2010 at her
home in Waldorf, Maryland and a note was found that explicitly told her to stop her EEO
activity. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 83, 84; see also Opp. [Dkt. 19] Ex. D (sign reading “B_tch your car is
just the beginning!!!! Stop the complaints at the Federal Reserve or else you will be next! I hope
we are clear on this!”). A second car in Waldorf was also vandalized in September 2010; the
second car belonged to former LEU Master Senior Officer Sabrina Bullock, who also had
ongoing EEO activity at the Board. Am. Compl. ¶ 85. Ms. Burford alleges that Chief Sauls
falsely reported to the Board’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) and to Employee Relations that
Ms. Burford had herself vandalized both vehicles. Id. ¶ 90.
According to the Amended Complaint, Chief Sauls and OIG Senior Special Agent
Albert Pleasant conspired “with malicious intent” in September 2010 to allege that Ms. Burford
“had engaged in a fictitious cell phone spoofing scandal,” that had caused her to be named as a
suspect by law enforcement. Id. ¶ 91. As part of this conspiracy, Agent Pleasant is alleged to
have unlawfully obtained Ms. Burford’s personal cellular phone records that he and Chief Sauls
then shared with non-law-enforcement personnel at the Board. It is further alleged that Agent
Pleasant and Charles Country Sheriff’s Detective Higgs banged on Ms. Burford’s door at about
10:00 p.m. on May 23, 2011; Agent Pleasant attempted to enter by tugging on the storm door;
Agent Pleasant reported this incident to the OIG by email; and Agent Pleasant unsuccessfully
attempted to have Ms. Burford falsely prosecuted in Stafford County, the District of Columbia,
and the District of Maryland “for the fictitiously alleged spoofing scandal.” Id. ¶¶ 97-101.
Ms. Burford was terminated on December 8, 2011 for her purported involvement
in the cell phone spoofing scandal and for the vandalism on her car and Ms. Bullock’s vehicle.
Id. ¶¶ 103&104. Her termination was carried out as an alleged “intentional act to humiliate” Ms.
Burford, as it occurred where LEU officers reporting for roll call might have observed it. Id. ¶¶
112-114. The stated reasons for her termination are alleged to be pretextual to hide retaliation.
Id. ¶ 103. Although she was immediately placed on leave on December 8, 2011, the effective
date of Ms. Burford’s termination was February 29, 2012.
Additionally, Ms. Burford argues that Board Senior Counsel John Kuray
prevented Mses. Burford and Bullock from adding retaliatory car vandalism to their ongoing
EEO complaints “due to the threatening notes referencing the Board that were found at the crime
scenes.” Id. ¶ 109. She adds that Mr. Kuray “also prevented” her timely claim of wrongful
termination “from being added to her ongoing EEO activity” even though it was “submitted to
the Board by [her counsel] Ellen Opper-Weiner.” Id. ¶ 111.
Finally, Ms. Burford alleges that Board employees retaliated against her by
entering false and defamatory allegations in Ms. Burford’s personnel file and then providing
copies of that file, including the false and defamatory statements, to DC DOC, which prevented
Ms. Burford from returning to employment with the Department of Corrections. Id. ¶¶ 115-119.
Acting pro se, Ms. Burford now brings all claims before the Court. The Amended
Complaint advances the following counts:
(Count 1) Violations of the ADEA, including harassment and retaliation allegedly
committed by Ms. Love and Lt. Dublin (younger than age 40) and Admin. Sgt. Tillery-Fuller
(over age 40), and discharge;
(Count 2) Sex-Based Discrimination in violation of Title VII, including
harassment and retaliation allegedly committed by Ms. Love, Lt. Dublin and Admin. Sgt.
Tillerly-Fuller, and discharge;
(Count 3) Disparate Treatment in violation of both Title VII and the ADEA,
including a hostile work environment created by Ms. Love, Chief Dublin and Admin. Sgt.
Tillery-Fuller; hostile interrogation by Chief Sauls and Ms. Hargo; release of her cell phone
records by Chief Sauls and Agent Pleasant to other Board employees; and termination due to
false allegations that Ms. Burford vandalized her own automobile and the automobile of a former
(Count 4) Disparate Impact in violation of both Title VII and ADEA involving
harsh name calling and various other illegal workplace hostilities;
(Count 5) Pervasive and Objectively Hostile Working Environment, involving
deliberate aggression and hostility by Ms. Love, Lt. Dublin and Admin. Sgt. Tillery-Fuller;
hostile interrogation by Chief Sauls and Ms. Hargo; dissemination of Ms. Burford’s cellular
records by Chief Sauls and Agent Pleasant; an effort by Agent Pleasant to force his way into Ms.
Burford’s home; vandalism of Ms. Burford’s car; dissemination of confidential records by Ms.
Hargo and Jade Mills-Little to the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and other
prospective employers; and dissemination of Ms. Burford’s confidential EEO file within the
Board by Ms. Hargo and Ms. Mills-Little;
(Count 6) Retaliation Violations Under Title VII and ADEA, including false
allegations by Ms. Love and Lt. Dublin;
(Count 7) Whistleblower Retaliation Under 18 U.S.C. § 1831j, involving Ms.
Burford’s disclosures of violations of clearly established law and abuses of authority that
prompted “all of Plaintiff’s allegations of retaliation contained within the complaint,” Am.
Compl. ¶ 258; and
(Count 8) Violations of the District of Columbia’s Human Rights Act (DCHRA),
DC Code § 2-1402.62 (2012), by numerous named and unnamed Board employees aiding and
abetting one another “in orchestrating and executing a massive discriminatory and retaliatory
scheme.” Am. Compl. ¶ 265.
The Court construes Count 1 to allege age discrimination, id. ¶¶ 161, 171, 175;
hostile work environment due to age, id. ¶¶ 163, 164, 165; and retaliation due to age, id., ¶ 175.
The Court construes Count 2 to allege a hostile work environment due to sex, id., ¶¶ 182, 183,
184, 185, 188, 189, 191; retaliation due to sex id.; and wrongful termination due to sex. Id. ¶
193. The Court construes Count 3 to allege disparate (less favorable) treatment due to age
(ADEA), sex (Title VII), and retaliation, id. ¶ 199. The Court construes Count 4 to allege
disparate impact because of age (ADEA) and sex (Title VII). The Court construes Count 5 to
allege a hostile working environment because of age (ADEA), sex (Title VII), and retaliation.
Id. ¶¶ 245, 246, 247, 248. The Court construes Count 6 to allege retaliation due to complaints of
a hostile work environment under Title VII and the ADEA. Id. ¶ 229. The Court construes
Count 7 to allege retaliation for whistleblower activities. Id. ¶¶ 257, 258. The Court construes
Count 8 to allege that named and unnamed Board employees aided and abetted one another to
discriminate and retaliate against Ms. Burford in violation of the DCHRA. Id. ¶¶ 265, 266.
Defendant has filed a motion to dismiss. See Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt 17]. Ms.
Burford opposes the motion [Dkt. 19] and the Board has replied [Dkt. 20]. Ms. Burford has also
moved to strike the Board’s Motion to Dismiss, [Dkt. 18], which the Board has opposed [Dkt.
21] and to which Ms. Burford has replied [Dkt. 23].
II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW
A. Failure to State a Claim Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1)
Defendant moves to dismiss Count 81 for lack of jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1).
Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and the law begins with the assumption that “a
cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction.” Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S.
Defendant fails to articulate which counts she moves to dismiss under 12(b)(1) and which
under 12(b)(6). The structure of Defendant’s Motion implies that she moves to dismiss Counts
1-6 under 12(b)(6). See Mot. at 3 (stating that Counts I-VI “fail as a matter of law.”). Defendant
also appears to be moving to dismiss Count 8, the DCHRA claim, for lack of jurisdiction under
12(b)(1). See Mot. at 16 (moving to dismiss because federal government has not waived
sovereign immunity from suit under the DCHRA).
Count 7 is a harder question. Defendant moves to dismiss because the statute of limitations to
bring claims under 12 U.S.C. § 1831j has expired. See Mot. at 15. When a statute involves a
waiver of sovereign immunity, determining whether a related statute of limitations is
jurisdictional, and subject to 12(b)(1), or substantive, and subject to 12(b)(6), requires a
complicated analysis of the intent of Congress and the nature of the immunity waiver. See
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin v. United States, 614 F.3d 519, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2010). A
court has no authority to equitably toll a statute of limitations if that limitation is jurisdictional.
John R. Sand & Gravel Co. v. United States, 552 U.S. 130, 134 (2008). Defendant only states
that “[t]here is no basis whatsoever to support tolling” § 1831j’s statute of limitations, and does
not assert that this Court lacks jurisdictional authority to do so. Accordingly, the Court will
construe the Defendant’s Motion to be moving to dismiss Count VII under 12(b)(6). In any
event, the Court finds that there is no basis for equitable tolling and that the statute of limitations
has expired; the outcome under 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) is the same. See Smith-Penny v. SEC, No.
16-1045, 2016 WL 7438657, at *1 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 14, 2016) (dismissing SEC whistleblower
appeal filed after time limit without considering jurisdictional issue because “[e]ven if the time
limit is not jurisdictional, petitioner has not presented any circumstances warranting equitable
tolling” (internal citations omitted)).
Therefore, the Court construes Defendant to be moving to dismiss Counts 1-7 under 12(b)(6),
and Count 8 under 12(b)(1).
375, 377 (1994); see also Gen. Motors Corp. v. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 363 F.3d 442, 448 (D.C.
Cir. 2004) (noting that “[a]s a court of limited jurisdiction, we begin, and end, with an
examination of our jurisdiction”).
Because “subject-matter jurisdiction is an ‘Art. III as well as a statutory
requirement[,] no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal
court.’” Akinseye v. District of Columbia, 339 F.3d 970, 971 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Ins. Corp.
of Ir., Ltd. v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 (1982)). On a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing by a
preponderance of the evidence that the court has subject matter jurisdiction. Marcus v. Geithner,
813 F. Supp. 2d 11, 15 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561
“Because subject matter jurisdiction focuses on the court’s power to hear the
claim, however, the court must give the Plaintiff’s factual allegations closer scrutiny when
resolving a Rule 12(b)(1) motion than would be required for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to
state a claim.” Id. (citing Macharia v. United States, 334 F.3d 61, 64, 69 (D.C. Cir. 2003)).
B. Failure to State a Claim Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)
Defendant also moves to dismiss Counts 1-7 for a failure to state a claim under
Rule 12(b)(6). A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face. 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 (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.” Id. at 570. A court must treat the complaint’s factual
allegations as true, “even if doubtful in fact.” Id. at 555. But a court need not accept as true legal
conclusions set forth in a complaint. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (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.
C. Summary Judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 56
In the alternative to its motion to dismiss, the Board moves for summary
judgment. Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment shall be
granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); accord Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d 303, 308 (D.C. Cir.
2011). Summary judgment is properly granted against a party who “after adequate time for
discovery and upon motion . . . fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an
element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at
trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court gives the non-movant the
benefit of all permissible inferences that may be drawn from the facts alleged in the complaint,
and accepts the nonmoving party’s evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Talavera, 638
F.3d at 308. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than “[t]he mere existence of a
scintilla of evidence” in support of its position. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 252. In addition, the
nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton,
164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Rather, the nonmoving party must present specific facts that
would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Id. If the evidence “is merely colorable, or is
not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
Turning to what is certainly litigable, Ms. Burford timely alleged discrimination
under Title VII and the ADEA. Both statutes, and others, recognize that discrimination can be
shown by disparate treatment, which subjects an employee to unfavorable treatment compared to
others due to her race, color, creed, national origin, sex or age. Discrimination can also occur
when a facially-neutral policy unfairly affects (“impacts”) one or more employees, because of
race, color, creed, national origin, sex or age. Ms. Burford asserts discrimination based on her
sex under Title VII and discrimination based on her age under the ADEA, relying on both
theories of disparate treatment and disparate impact. However, there are insufficient factual
allegations in the Amended Complaint to support either theory under Title VII or the ADEA.
In contrast, there are many material facts in dispute which preclude a decision on
Ms. Burford’s claims of retaliation after she initiated EEO proceedings in August 2010.
Therefore, the Board’s motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.
A. Disparate Treatment Under Title VII and the ADEA
1. Legal Standard
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by Equal Employment
Opportunity Act of 1972, prohibits discrimination in the federal workplace, because of an
individual’s race, color, sex, religion or nationality.2 Title VII prohibits a federal employer from
making any “personnel decision” based on one or more of these attributes. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e-16; Baird v. Gotbaum, 792 F.3d 166, 168 (D.C. Cir. 2015). The “two essential elements
of a discrimination claim” under Title VII are “that (1) the plaintiff suffered an adverse
employment action (2) because of the plaintiff's race, color, religion, sex, [or] national origin.”
Baloch v. Kempthorne, 550 F.3d 1191, 1196 (D.C. Cir. 2008). In addition, Title VII was
amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(m), specifically to provide a
statutory basis for cases of “mixed-motive” discrimination (described below), albeit with limited
Similarly, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits
discrimination against federal employees based on age. See 29 U.S.C. § 623 (making it unlawful
“to discharge or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation,
terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age”); 29 U.S.C. §
633a (extending ADEA protections to most federal employees). The “two essential elements of
a discrimination claim” under the ADEA are “that  the plaintiff suffered an adverse
employment action  because of the plaintiff’s . . . age.” Baloch, 550 F.3d at 1196. Under both
Title VII and the ADEA, a plaintiff can prove her case with either direct or circumstantial
evidence. Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S. 167, 177-78 (2009)
However, there can be significant differences between proving a Title VII case
and proving an ADEA case. Title VII recognizes a “mixed-motive” theory of violation in which
an employer had both permissible and impermissible reasons for its discriminatory action. See
See Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, Pub. L. 92-261, sec. 10, § 715, 86 Stat. 103,
111 (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16).
Univ. of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 133 S. Ct. 2517, 2526 (2013) (discussing Price
Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989) and the effect of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-2(m)). A mixed-motive is one in which the employee’s protected class (race,
color, sex, etc.) “was a motivating factor for [the] employment practice, even though other
factors also motivated the practice.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(m) (emphasis added). Under Title VII,
therefore, there are both “single-motive” and “mixed-motive” theories of discrimination. See
Fogg v. Gonzales, 492 F.3d 447, 451 (D.C. Cir. 2007).
The ADEA is more complicated. The ADEA includes both a general
antidiscrimination section, § 623, and a section that covers federal employees, § 633a. The
Supreme Court interpreted § 623 in 2009 to preclude a mixed-motive theory of recovery and to
require a plaintiff to prove that her age was the “but for” cause of the alleged discrimination.
Gross, 557 U.S. at 175-80. The Court noted that the ADEA was not changed in 1991, when
Title VII was amended to codify a mixed-motive theory; the Court, therefore, interpreted the
ADEA statutory language to bar a mixed-motive cause of action for age discrimination. Id. at
174. Specifically, § 623 forbids an adverse employment action “because of” an individual’s age.
29 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1); see Gross, 557 U.S. at 176. The Supreme Court interpreted this to mean
that the employee’s age must be the “but for” reason (or “because of” reason) for the adverse
action. Gross, 557 at 177. As a result, “[i]t follows, then, that under § 623(a)(1), the plaintiff
retains the burden of persuasion to establish that age was the ‘but-for’ cause of the employer’s
adverse action.” Id.
Section 633a, however, does not include this “because of” language, and instead
simply states that “[a]ll personnel actions . . . shall be made free from any discrimination based
on age.” The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has interpreted
that language to allow a mixed-motive theory under § 633a. Ford v. Mabus, 629 F.3d 198, 207
(D.C. Cir. 2010).3 However, while a plaintiff “may establish § 633a liability by proving that age
was a factor in [her employer’s] decision, thus entitling [her] to declaratory and possibly
injunctive relief, it is insufficient to merit instatement and backpay. For those types of remedies,
a but-for standard of causation is necessary.” Id. This limitation is consistent with the law
concerning mixed-motive Title VII claims. See Ginger v. District of Columbia, 527 F.3d 1340,
1345 (D.C. Cir. 2008).
If a plaintiff cannot provide direct evidence of discrimination, courts apply the
burden-shifting framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802
(1973). The McDonnell Douglas framework applies as follows: The plaintiff must first make a
prima facie case (1) that she is a member of a protected class; (2) that she suffered an adverse
employment action; and (3) that the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of
discrimination. Youssef v. FBI, 687 F.3d 397, 401-02 (D.C. Cir. 2012). The burden then shifts
to the defendant, which must “articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for its
action. Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981). If it does, then the
plaintiff must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the reason advanced by the
employer was merely a pretext to hide discrimination. Id. If a jury does not credit the
employer’s permissible motive and finds that the real reason was discrimination, the employee
has proved direct discrimination and is entitled to a full award of damages, including backpay,
Some courts have questioned Ford’s continued applicability in light of the Supreme Court’s
subsequently-decided University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 133 S. Ct.
2517 (2013). See Reynolds v. Tangherlini, 737 F.3d 1093, 1104 (7th Cir. 2013). However, Ford
remains good law in the D.C. Circuit. See, e.g., Joyce v. Office of Architect of Capitol, 106 F.
Supp. 3d 163, 168 (D.D.C. 2015) (applying Ford framework to § 633a claim).
reinstatement, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, and the like. If, however, the jury credits
both parties and finds that the employer discriminated against the plaintiff but that it also had a
legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its action, the Civil Rights Act of 1991 limits the
plaintiff’s recovery to a declaratory judgment of discrimination and attorney fees and costs, but
no backpay, compensatory damages or reinstatement. Ginger, 527 F.3d at 1345.
To prove a claim of disparate treatment, a plaintiff must first show that she
suffered an adverse employment action; and, as relevant here, that the adverse employment
action was based on her sex or age. An “adverse employment action” is an established legal
term meaning “a significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to
promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing
significant change in benefits.” Taylor v. Small, 350 F.3d 1286, 1293 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citing
Burlington Indus., Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 761 (1998)). “[N]ot everything that makes an
employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action.” Russell v. Principi, 257 F.3d 815, 818
(D.C. Cir. 2001). An employee must “experience materially adverse consequences affecting
the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment or future employment opportunities such that
a reasonable trier of fact could find objectively tangible harm.” Forkkio v. Powell, 306 F.3d
1127, 1131 (D.C. Cir. 2002); see also Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 902 (D.C. Cir. 2006)
(distinguishing between non-actionable “purely subjective injuries,” and actionable “objectively
tangible harm”). An actionable adverse action “in most cases inflicts direct economic harm.”
Burlington Indus., 524 U.S. at 762.
“If a plaintiff is able to produce direct evidence of discrimination, he may prevail
without proving all the elements of a prima facie case.” Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S.
506, 511 (2002) (citing Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 121 (1985)).
Direct evidence of discrimination may entitle a plaintiff to a jury trial irrespective of the
2. Retaliation Standard
Title VII and the ADEA also protect federal employees from retaliation for
having asserted their rights. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(a); Gomez-Perez v. Potter, 553 U.S. 474,
491 (2008) (“§ 633a(a) prohibits retaliation against a federal employee who complains of age
discrimination.”). Ms. Burford alleges that she was retaliated against because of her protected
EEO activities under both statutes. To prove retaliation for protected EEO activities under either
statute, an employee must establish three elements: that (1) she made a charge or opposed a
practice made unlawful by Title VII or the ADEA; (2) the employer took a materially adverse
action against her; and (3) the employer acted “because of” her protected conduct. Allen v.
Johnson, 795 F.3d 34, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (citing McGrath v. Clinton, 666 F.3d 1377, 1380
(D.C. Cir. 2012)). After Plaintiff establishes the prima facie case of retaliation, the burden shifts
to the employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action.
McDonnell Douglas Corp., 411 U.S. at 802; see Allen v. Johnson, 795 F.3d 34, 39
(D.C. Cir. 2015) (“A Title VII plaintiff [asserting unlawful retaliation] may raise a preliminary,
circumstantial inference of prohibited motive through the burden-shifting framework of
McDonnell Douglas Corp.”)
Ms. Burford alleges that she engaged in “protected activity” when she complained
of discrimination, starting in August 2010, irrespective of whether the discrimination was based
on her sex or her age. At the point of a motion to dismiss, the Court need not decide whether an
employee must allege, or a jury find, that a specific materially adverse action in retaliation for
protected activities was based solely on EEO claims of sex discrimination, solely on EEO claims
of age discrimination, or solely on claims of protected EEO activities for any protected status.
What is clear is that retaliatory conduct need not reach the same level of adversity
as discriminatory conduct to be actionable. See Mogenhan v. Napolitano, 613 F.3d 1162, 116566 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (citing Burlington N. & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 60-61
(2006)). “Title VII’s substantive [discrimination] provision and its anti-retaliation provision are
not coterminous” because the “scope of the anti-retaliation provision extends beyond workplacerelated or employment-related retaliatory acts and harm.” Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 695
(D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Burlington N., 548 U.S. at 67). Retaliatory conduct need be material
enough to “dissuade . . . a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of
discrimination.” Mogenhan, 613 F.3d at 1166 (quoting Burlington N., 548 U.S. at 68).
However, material adversity requires “more than ‘those petty slights or minor annoyances that
often take place at work and that all employees experience,’” because the EEO statutes are not
general laws of civil behavior in the workplace. Bridgeforth v. Jewell, 721 F.3d 661, 663 (D.C.
Cir. 2013) (quoting Burlington N., 548 U.S. at 68).
Despite this lessor standard, an employee must prove a retaliation claim according
to traditional principles of but-for causation. Univ. of Tex. SW Med. Ctr., 133 S. Ct. at 2534
(holding that “a plaintiff making a retaliation claim . . . must establish that his or her protected
activity was a but-for cause of the alleged adverse action by the employer”). Thus, there is no
“mixed motive” retaliation. Plaintiff is not, however, required to show that the protected activity
was the sole reason for her termination. See McDonald v. Santa Fe Trail Transp. Co., 427 U.S.
273, 282 n.10 (1976) (holding that Title VII does not require plaintiff to “show that he would
have in any event been rejected or discharged solely on the basis of” the protected
characteristic); Ponce v. Billington, 679 F.3d 840, 846 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (finding “nothing in Title
VII requires a plaintiff to show that illegal discrimination was the sole cause of an adverse
3. Plaintiff’s Alleged Disparate Treatment
Ms. Burford’s claims of disparate treatment fall into two separate categories of
alleged activities: those considered by the EEOC and those not.
Ms. Burford alleges discriminatory behavior arising from the conflicts with Ms.
Love. These interactions were deeply troubling to Ms. Burford, who attributes many of her later
issues to the failure of Lt. Dublin to take any disciplinary action against Ms. Love. See Am.
Compl. ¶¶ 18, 19 (“It was unknown to Plaintiff at the time of her disclosure that Love and
Dublin had conspired with one another to intentionally create a pervasive and objectively hostile
working environment in an effort to force Plaintiff into a constructive discharge due to Plaintiff’s
sex and age.”). Nonetheless, the Amended Complaint contains no factual allegations that these
conflicts, or the Board’s handling of them, resulted in any “firing, failing to promote,
reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing significant
change in benefits.” Taylor, 350 F.3d at 1293. Ms. Love was a probationary officer with no
authority over Ms. Burford, who was a Senior Lead, and neither their conflict, nor any alleged
poor handing of the situation by supervisors, resulted in an adverse action affecting Ms. Burford.
Ms. Burford appears to argue that the seven weeks of daily standing assignments
made by Sgt. Tillery-Fuller constituted “significantly different responsibilities,” but she also
acknowledges that standing posts are part of the normal duties of Senior Leads who must share
the burden of those assignments. These assignments do not support a charge of disparate
treatment due to Ms. Burford’s age or sex.
Employers may be liable for discrimination in the workplace if they are advised
of discriminatory conduct and do nothing to stop it. Cromer-Kendall v. D.C., 326 F. Supp. 2d
50, 63 (D.D.C. 2004) (denying summary judgment where employer knew of disruptive conduct
but did not investigate). Therefore, for purposes of the legal analysis of Ms. Burford’s
allegations of discrimination, the legal issue is whether the Board, through its supervisors,
properly handled complaints of discriminatory friction between two employees of different ages.
But the Amended Complaint contains no factual allegations that might explain why the incidents
between a junior and senior officer constituted more than inter-personal friction. Further, even if
Lt. Dublin’s handling of the conflict were sufficiently harmful to qualify as an adverse
employment action, for which facts are not alleged, the Amended Complaint contains no fact
allegations that would tie that his inaction to Ms. Burford’s age or the difference between her age
and his.4 Ms. Burford attests that the incidents with Ms. Love, and her supervisors’ failure to
address them, were the onset of her discriminatory treatment, but, again, no alleged facts support
an inference that either the antagonism exhibited by Ms. Love or Lt. Dublin’s inactions were
motivated by Ms. Burford’s sex, age, or protected activity. The mere fact that Ms. Love and Lt.
Dublin were younger than 40 while Ms. Burfurd was 50 is insufficient to make a causal
connection as a matter of law. Accord Howie v. Office of Eddie Bernice Johnson, 570 F. Supp.
2d 115, 123 (D.D.C. 2008) (“[T]he mere fact that an older employee is replaced by a younger
one does not permit an inference that the replacement was motivated by age discrimination.”
(quoting La Montagne v. Am. Convenience Products, Inc., 750 F.2d 1405 (7th Cir. 1984)).
To the contrary, the Amended Complaint itself suggests alternative motives—that Ms. Love
was popular among LEU officers and that she and Lt. Dublin might have had a personal
relationship. See Am. Compl. ¶ 19.
After alleged conflicts with Ms. Love over a period of months, Ms. Burford
initiated EEO proceedings, whereupon she alleges she faced retaliation from her supervisors,
most particularly Sgt. Michelle Tillary-Fuller. Ms. Burford alleges that her post assignments
between August and October 2010 obligated her to stand with a machine gun for her shifts,
rather than work at seated posts that, as a lead officer, she was entitled to receive. Ms. Burford’s
salary was not diminished, she was not demoted, and she was not required to perform duties
outside the scope of her position. “Purely subjective injuries, such as dissatisfaction with a
reassignment, or public humiliation or loss of reputation, are not adverse actions.” Forkkio v.
Powell, 306 F.3d 1127, 1130-31 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). Ms. Burford has supplied
no facts that would suggest that these assignments were motivated in any way by her sex or age,
and therefore makes no cognizable claim of discrimination for this issue. However, Ms. Burford
alleges that Ms. Fuller knew of Ms. Burford’s EEO activity prior to assigning Ms. Burford to
these posts. Am. Compl. ¶ 40. Granting Ms. Buford, as non-movant, the benefit of all
reasonable inferences from her Amended Complaint, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 255 (1986), it cannot be said that these standing assignments, over many weeks just
after protected activity, were not potentially retaliatory. The Court therefore will not dismiss
claims of retaliation based on the duration of the standing assignments.
Ms. Burford also alleges that she faced further discrimination during the
investigation into the alleged “leak” of a memo which she had written for the Board’s purposes.
In this instance, the alleged disparate treatment lay in aggressive questioning by Chief Sauls and
Ms. Hargo. Indeed, their questions and accusations may have been uncomfortable. Despite that
discomfort, there is no evidence of an adverse employment action associated with, or resulting
from, that interview. It did not result in administrative leave for Ms. Burford, demotion,
discipline, or any other adverse action. Thus, albeit unpleasant, the one-hour interview session
did not constitute discriminatory action by the Board on account of Ms. Burford’s age, sex or
Finally, Ms. Burford alleges a number of further activities that were not
considered by the EEOC prior this suit.5 They include: (1) that her car was vandalized and a
note left on it that referenced her then-pending EEO activity; (2) that she was falsely accused of
vandalizing her own car; (3) that she was falsely reported to federal and state prosecutors for
alleged involvement in criminal activity; and (4) that she was falsely terminated for her alleged
involvement in criminal activity.
Discriminatory vandalism of Ms. Burford’s car at her home, malicious
prosecution, and termination could well qualify as adverse employment actions, particularly as
the first and second seem to have led to the third. However, the question is moot. Ms. Burford
did not exhaust her administrative remedies before presenting these claims in court. “Each
incident of discrimination and each retaliatory adverse employment decision constitutes a
separate actionable ‘unlawful employment practice.’” Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v. Morgan,
536 U.S. 101, 114 (2002). This Court has followed the majority holding in this district that
“[d]iscrete acts of discrimination and retaliation require discrete charges and an opportunity for
investigation before litigation” and that “plaintiffs alleging discrete acts of discrimination or
retaliation ‘must exhaust the administrative process regardless of any relationship that may exist
between those discrete claims and any others.’” Rashad v. Washington Metro. Area Transit
Ms. Burford acknowledges that the EEOC did not consider her termination. She complains that
Board Attorney Kuray prevented her from raising her termination to the EEOC. Despite the
argument, the exhibits attached to her Opposition fail to demonstrate timely contact to an EEO
Auth., 945 F. Supp. 2d 152, 166 (D.D.C. 2013) (Collyer, J.) (quoting Coleman-Adebayo v.
Leavitt, 326 F. Supp. 2d 132, 137-38 (D.D.C.2004)); see also Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp. v.
Morgan, 536 U.S. 101, 113-14 (2002). As Ms. Burford has not exhausted the administrative
process for these claims, the Court is without jurisdiction to consider them here.
Finally, Ms. Buford brings a separate count based on a hostile work environment.
A hostile environment consists of multiple acts that “may not be actionable on [their] own” but
become actionable due to their “cumulative effect.” Nat’l R.R. Passenger Corp., 536 U.S. at 115.
The constituent acts must be “adequately linked” so that they form “a coherent hostile
environment claim.” Baird v. Gotbaum, 662 F.3d 1246, 1251 (D.C. Cir. 2011). For example,
they might “involve the same type of employment actions, occur relatively frequently, and [be]
perpetrated by the same managers.” Id. In addition, the acts must be “of such severity or
pervasiveness as to alter the conditions of . . . employment and create an abusive working
environment.” Hussain, 435 F.3d at 366. Severity and pervasiveness are determined by
reference to “all the circumstances,” including “the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its
severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and
whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance.” Harris v. Forklift
Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993). The standard is an objective one. Id. at 21.
When considering the administratively-exhausted claims addressed by the EEOC,
the alleged on-going conflicts between Ms. Love and Ms. Burford do not constitute an illegal
hostile work environment. The Amended Complaint presents no facts to tie these difficult
interpersonal events to age or sex. In addition, the allegations present a series of separate
personal conflicts with different employees of the Board, none of which contains a germ of a
connection to Ms. Burford’s age or gender. While these experiences may have been frustrating
for Ms. Burford, the Amended Complaint does not allege legally-cognizable actions that would
give rise to a hostile work environment.
Because Ms. Burford has not met her pleading burden for her claims based on
disparate treatment and a hostile work environment, Counts 1-3 and 5 will be dismissed.
B. Disparate Impact
Facially neutral policies that have a disparate effect on particular groups of
employees due, as relevant, to their sex or age can violate Title VII or the ADEA.6 “In order to
establish disparate-impact discrimination, [a p]laintiff must show that a facially neutral
employment policy or practice has a significant disparate impact on a protected class of which he
is a member.” Jianqing Wu v. Special Counsel, Inc., 54 F. Supp. 3d 48, 53 (D.D.C. 2014), aff'd,
No. 14-7159, 2015 WL 10761295 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 22, 2015). “‘[C]ommon sense and fairness
dictate that [a plaintiff] must, at a minimum, allege some statistical disparity, however
elementary, in order for the defense to have any sense of the nature and scope of the allegation.”
Id. (quoting Brady v. Livingood, 360 F. Supp. 2d 94, 100 (D.D.C. 2004)). See Krodel v. Young,
748 F.2d 701, 709 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (“Statistical evidence is crucial in disparate impact cases,
where plaintiffs need not prove discriminatory intent but must show that specific employment
practices” affect certain groups of employees differently); cf. Schuler v.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 421 F. App’x 1, 2 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (“Finally, Schuler's disparate
While private-sector plaintiffs typically bring disparate impact claims under the ADEA, there is
uncertainty as to whether such claims are available against federal employers. Aliotta v. Bair,
614 F.3d 556, 570 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (“Although neither this court nor the Supreme Court has
addressed the question whether the ADEA authorizes disparate impact claims against federal
employers, we need not resolve the issue in this case . . . .”). The Board has not argued that it is
not liable for discrimination due to alleged disparate impact. For the reasons described infra, the
Court need not opine on this issue.
impact claim fails . . . because Schuler has not adequately alleged a facially neutral employment
policy and thus his claim sounds only in terms of disparate treatment.”).
The Amended Complaint does not identify a facially neutral policy or practice
that allegedly led to a disparate impact on a protected class of Board of employees of which Ms.
Burford is a member, or articulated what category(ies) of individuals are adversely impacted or
in what fashion. Instead, the Amended Complaint alleges discrete instances of negative
treatment towards Ms. Burford. As a pro se plaintiff, Ms. Burford may not appreciate the
intricacies of Title VII law. Nonetheless, the allegation of disparate impact in the Amended
Complaint, Count IV contains neither factual or legal support and must be dismissed.
C. Whistleblower Protection
Ms. Burford brings a whistleblower protection claim under the 12 U.S.C. §
1831j(b), which was passed as a component of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and
Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and that applies specifically to federal bank regulatory
employees. It operates separately from the primary federal Whistleblower Protection Act, 5
U.S.C. § 2302(b)(8). This bank regulator whistleblower protection statute provides that “an
employee or former employee who believes he has been discharged or discriminated against in
violation of the statute may file a civil action in the appropriate United States district court before
the close of the 2-year period beginning on the date of such discharge or discrimination.” 12
U.S.C. § 1831j(b) (2012).
Unlike Ms. Burford’s Title VII and ADEA claims, § 1831j does not require
administrative exhaustion, and a plaintiff may sue at any time before the expiration of the twoyear statute of limitations. As it is appropriate when considering a motion to dismiss, the Court
gives the factual allegations in Ms. Burford’s Amended Complaint the most favorable
interpretation. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Nonetheless, § 1831j is explicit that an affected
employee must file her complaint within two years of the date of any retaliatory action due to
whistleblowing activity. As relevant here, Ms. Burford needed to allege whistleblower
retaliation, at the latest, no later than March 1, 2014, which was two years after the effective date
of her termination.7 Whistleblower claims under § 1831j are not tolled pending an EEOC
administrative proceeding. See Richardson v. Yellen, 167 F. Supp. 3d 105, 117 (D.D.C. 2016)
(dismissing § 1831j claim as time-barred); District of Columbia v. Proctor, 74 F. Supp. 3d. 436,
458 n.11 (D.D.C. 2014) (“The Supreme Court has held that the statute of limitations continues to
run on a claim that requires no administrative exhaustion even while the plaintiff pursues
administrative remedies on a separate claim that requires exhaustion.” (citing Johnson v. Ry.
Express Agency, Inc., 421 U.S. 454, 465-66 (1975))). Because Ms. Burford’s initial complaint in
this Court was filed on December 1, 2015, long after the statutory deadline, the Court will
dismiss her whistleblower claim under § 1831j.
D. District of Columbia Human Rights Act
Finally, Ms. Burford alleges a violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights
Act (DCHRA). See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 264-270. Her claims notwithstanding, “[s]overeign
immunity bars DCHRA claims against the federal government. The D.C. Council, not Congress,
The Defendant asserts that the appropriate date to start the clock is the date of the Plaintiff’s
notice of termination, December 8, 2011, not the termination’s effective date. See Mot. to
Dismiss at 15-16. The Plaintiff herself states in her Amended Complaint that she was
“wrongfully terminated on December 8, 2011,” Am. Compl. ¶ 103, and only in her Opposition
asserts that she was terminated on February 29, 2012, Opp. at 1. The Supreme Court has held
that “an ordinary wrongful-discharge claim accrues—and the limitations period begins to run—
when the employer notifies the employee he is fired, not on the last day of his employment.”
Green v. Brennan, 136 S. Ct. 1769, 1782 (2016). The correct date is therefore the date Ms.
Burford received notice of her termination, December 8, 2011. However, the statute of
limitations has lapsed under both dates.
enacted the DCHRA, and there is no federal statute that evinces Congress’s intent to waive the
United States’ immunity from suit under the DCHRA.” Marcus v. Geithner, 813 F. Supp. 2d 11,
17 (D.D.C. 2011). This Court agrees.
Accordingly, the Board, which is a federal entity, has moved to dismiss Ms.
Burford’s DCHRA claim for lack of jurisdiction, which the Court will grant.
IV. MOTION TO STRIKE
In addition to her Opposition, Ms. Burford filed a Motion to Strike Defendant’s
Motion to Dismiss in its entirety, citing Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f) [Dkt. 18]. Rule
12(f) states that the Court “may strike from a pleading an insufficient defense or any redundant,
immaterial, impertinent, or scandalous matter.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(f). Ms. Burford argues that
“each of the Board’s defenses is insufficient and is solely based on redundant, immaterial,
impertinent, and scandalous matter.” See Pl.’s Mem. of Points and Authorities in Support of
Plaintiff’s Mot. to Strike [Dkt. 18] at 1. The Board opposes the motion, [Dkt. 21] and Ms.
Burford has replied [Dkt. 23]. “‘The decision to grant or deny a motion to strike is committed to
the trial judge’s sound discretion.’” NCB Mgmt. Servs., Inc. v. FDIC, 843 F.Supp.2d 62, 72
(D.D.C. 2012) (quoting FTC v. Cantkier, 767 F.Supp.2d 147, 159-60 (D.D.C. 2011)). “A court
has broad discretion in ruling on a motion to strike; however, striking portions of a pleading is a
drastic remedy, and motions to strike are disfavored.” Uzlyan v. Solis, 706 F. Supp. 2d 44, 51
The critical question under the Rule is whether it applies to Defendant’s motion to
dismiss at all. Rule 12(f) states that a court may, where appropriate (but is not obligated to),
strike “pleadings.” “Pleadings” are defined in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7(a) as various
iterations of complaints, answers and replies to answers. The definitions contained in Rule 7 do
not admit motions to dismiss as “pleadings.” Accordingly, federal courts in this District have
ruled that Rule 12(f) does not apply to such motions. “‘[M]otions, affidavits, briefs and other
documents are outside of the pleadings’ and are not subject to being stricken.” Henok v. Chase
Home Fin., LLC, 925 F. Supp. 2d 46, 52-53 (D.D.C. 2013) (quoting 5C Charles Alan Wright et
al., Federal Practice & Procedure § 1380 (3d ed. Supp. 2012)). Even if the Board’s motion to
dismiss were subject to Rule 12(f), Ms. Burford’s motion is largely duplicative of her Opposition
and presents no independent basis to strike the motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the Motion to
Strike will be denied.
For the reasons stated above, the Board’s Motion to Dismiss will be granted in
part and denied in part. Allegations in Counts 1-3, discrimination and disparate treatment under
Title VII and ADEA; Count 4, disparate impact under Title VII and ADEA; Count 5, hostile
work environment treatment under Title VII; Count 7, whistleblower protection under 29 U.S.C.
1831j; and Count 8, protection under the DC Human Rights Act, DC Code § 2-1402.62, will be
dismissed. The allegations of retaliation in Count 6 based on Ms. Burford’s weeks of assignment
to standing posts will proceed to discovery. Ms. Burford’s Motion to Strike will be denied.
A memorializing Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.
Date: March 31, 2017
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER
United States District Court
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