MANIVANNAN v. THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
MEMORANDUM OPINION re Motion for Reconsideration Signed by Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly on 1/7/21. (ndf)
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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
U. S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY,
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Civil Action No. 18-297
Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
Re: ECF No. 75
Civil Action No. 19-828
Plaintiff Ayyakkannu Manivannan (“Manivannan”) has filed a Motion for Reconsideration
of the Order of Court dated October 7, 2020, ECF No. 74, granting the Motion to Dismiss filed on
behalf of Defendants the U.S. Department of Energy (“DOE”) and the United States of America
(collectively, “Defendants”). ECF No. 75. Manivannan contends that reconsideration is warranted
to correct the Court’s factual and legal errors. ECF No. 77. For the following reasons, the Court
denies the motion.
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PROCEDURAL HISTORY 1
This action is one of several lawsuits filed by Manivannan arising out of the DOE’s
employee disciplinary and removal proceedings. In this case, Manivannan seeks an award of
compensatory and injunctive relief against the DOE for alleged violations of the Privacy Act of
1975 (“Privacy Act”), 5 U.S.C. § 552a, during and following a concurrent state criminal
investigation of workplace misconduct. Manivannan also brings negligence and intentional tort
claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b) and 2671 et seq., for
the DOE’s alleged invasion of his privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, failure to
amend personnel records, and failure to return personal property after he resigned in lieu of
termination. ECF No. 59.
The DOE moved to dismiss the Consolidated Second Amended Complaint raising the lack
of subject matter jurisdiction over Manivannan’s claims and, alternatively, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. ECF No. 63. The Court granted the Motion to Dismiss. 2
ECF No. 73. Manivannan timely filed the pending Motion for Reconsideration pursuant to Rule
59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF No. 75. The DOE has filed a Response in
Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Reconsideration. ECF No. 78. The motion is now ripe for
The factual background is set forth in the Court’s Opinion on the Motion to Dismiss the
Consolidated Second Amended Complaint. ECF No. 73. Thus, the Court does not recount the
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the jurisdiction of a United States
Magistrate Judge to conduct all proceedings in this case. ECF Nos. 58 and 62.
On November 4, 2020, Manivannan timely filed the pending Motion for Reconsideration from
the Court’s October 7, 2020 Order. On December 4, 2020, Manivannan followed with the filing
of a Notice of Appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. This Court
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STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motions for reconsideration are appropriate only “to correct manifest errors of law or fact
or to present newly discovered evidence.” Max’s Seafood Café ex rel. Lou–Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros,
176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999) (citation omitted). To succeed on a motion for reconsideration,
the movant must show that one or more of the following circumstances exist: (1) an intervening
change in the controlling law; (2) new evidence is available that was unavailable when the court
made the prior decision; or (3) there is a need to correct a manifest injustice or a clear legal or
factual error in the prior decision. U.S. ex rel. Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharm. L.P., 769 F.3d
837, 848–49 (3d Cir. 2014).
A court may not grant a motion for reconsideration when the motion simply restyles or
rehashes issues previously presented. Pahler v. City of Wilkes Barre, 207 F. Supp. 2d 341, 355
(M.D. Pa. 2001); see also Carroll v. Manning, 414 F. App’x. 396, 398 (3d Cir. 2011) (affirming
denial of “motion for reconsideration and ‘petition’ in support thereof that appears to merely
reiterate the allegations made in the . . . petition and does not set forth any basis justifying
reconsideration.”); and Grigorian v. Attorney General of U.S., 282 F. App’x. 180, 182 (3d Cir.
2008) (affirming denial of Motion to Reconsider because it “does nothing more than reiterate the
arguments underlying his motion to reinstate the appeal.”).
A motion for reconsideration “addresses only factual and legal matters that the Court may
have overlooked …. It is improper on a motion for reconsideration to ask the Court to rethink
what [it] had already thought through – rightly or wrongly.” Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of
Glendon, 836 F. Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (internal citation and quotes omitted). Because
retains jurisdiction over this matter to consider the pending Motion for Reconsideration. See
F.R.A.P. 4(a)(4)(A)(iv); and see ECF No. 81 (Order staying appeal).
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federal courts have a strong interest in the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should
be granted sparingly. Rossi v. Schlarbaum, 600 F. Supp. 2d 650, 670 (E.D. Pa. 2009).
Manivannan moves for reconsideration on the basis that the Court made three legal errors
and at least one factual error: (1) the Court’s opinion effectively reads federal statutory rights,
including those provided in the Privacy Act, out of existence for federal employees; (2) the Court
overlooks precedential opinions applying the Privacy Act to claims by federal employees; (3) the
Court erred in holding that jurisdiction for Manivannan’s claims is available in the Federal Circuit;
and (4) the Court erred in stating that a DOE Management Directed Inquiry determined that
“Manivannan conducted an inappropriate sexual relationship with an intern and then stalked and
otherwise physically and psychologically abused her when she tried to end the relationship.” ECF
No. 77 at 3-4 (citing ECF No. 74 at 1-3). The Court will address each alleged error in turn.
1. Federal Employee Statutory Rights
Manivannan mischaracterizes the Court’s Opinion and posits that the Court “applies a
‘but-for’ test to determine CSRA preclusion.” In recasting the Court’s ruling, he argues,
If a current or former employee’s statutory claim would not have arisen but for his
at some point deciding to accept employment with the federal government, then
that employee’s claim is precluded by the CSRA.
ECF No. 77 at 5. Manivannan misstates the Court’s holding, certainly not novel, that the Civil
Service Reform Act (“CSRA”), 5 U.S.C. § 1201, provides the exclusive vehicle to remedy claims
arising out of agency disciplinary or termination proceedings or resulting from retaliation for
whistleblowing activities. See, e.g., U.S. v. Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 446 (1988) (“[Chapter 23 of the
CSRA] forbids an agency to engage in certain ‘prohibited personnel practices,’ including unlawful
discrimination, coercion of political activity, nepotism, and reprisal against so-called
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whistleblowers. § 2302.”).
Furthermore, guiding precedent cautions against permitting a
disciplined federal employee from splitting claims unrelated to unlawful discrimination arising out
In both Elgin v. Department of Treasury, 567 U.S. 1, 132 S. Ct. 2126, 183 L. Ed.
2d 1 (2012), and United States v. Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 108 S. Ct. 668, 98 L. Ed.
2d 830 (1988), we rejected employees’ attempts to divide particular issues or claims
among review forums. In Elgin, a federal employee opted not to seek review of an
MSPB ALJ’s decision, either before the full Board or in the Federal Circuit; he
instead brought in District Court, in the first instance, a constitutional challenge to
an agency personnel action. 567 U.S., at 7-8, 132 S. Ct. 2126. We concluded that
an employee with civil-service claims must follow the CSRA’s procedures and may
not bring a standalone constitutional challenge in district court. Id., at 8, 132 S. Ct.
2126. In Fausto, a federal employee with CSRA claims filed an action in the United
States Claims Court under the Back Pay Act of 1966. 484 U.S., at 443, 108 S. Ct.
668. We determined that the employee could not bring his action under the Back
Pay Act because the CSRA provided “the comprehensive and integrated review
scheme.” See id., at 454, 108 S. Ct. 668 …. [n]either case indicated that the Federal
Circuit, as opposed to district court, is the preferred forum for judicial review of all
CSRA claims. Rather, both decisions emphasized the benefits of an integrated
review scheme and the problems associated with bifurcating consideration of a
single matter in different forums. See 567 U.S., at 13–14, 132 S.Ct. 2126, 484 U.S.,
at 444–445, 108 S.Ct. 668.
Perry v. Merit Sys. Protection Bd., ___ U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1975, 1988 n. 12 (2017).
In Yu v. U.S. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 528 F. App’x 181, 184 (3d Cir. 2013), a nonprecedential opinion authored by Chief Judge Brooks D. Smith, the United States Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit held that judicial disposition of Bivens, Privacy Act, and APA claims
“depends on whether our review of the defendants’ misconduct alleged in these claims would be
sufficiently distinct from review of personnel decisions under the Civil Service Reform Act. This
Act provides an exclusive method for federal civil servants to obtain damages for personnel
decisions for federal civil servants to obtain damages for personnel decisions that violate statutory,
regulatory, or constitutional rights.” Id. at 184 (citing, among others, Kleiman v. Dep’t of Energy,
956 F.2d 335, 337-38 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (“This court has refused to allow the exhaustive remedial
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scheme of the CSRA to be impermissibly frustrated … by granting litigants, under the aegis of the
Privacy Act or otherwise, district court review of personnel decisions judicially unreviewable
under the CSRA.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)). Thus, the Court’s jurisdiction
is foreclosed over alleged agency misconduct that “occurred only as a result of the employment
relationship.” Yu v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, 528 F. App’x at 184-85.
Manivannan seeks to split his Privacy Act and Bivens claims from CSRA-covered
personnel decisions but the origin of his claims precludes this action. The CSRA applies to
“disciplinary or corrective action” as well as “any other significant change in duties,
responsibilities, or working conditions….” 5 U.S.C. § 2302(a)(2)(A). Alleged retaliation, in the
form of cooperation with prosecutors investigating workplace misconduct or retention of contested
property, amounts to a “significant change” in “working conditions.” Fausto, 484 U.S. 439; Sarullo
v. U.S. Postal Service, 352 F.3d 789, 795-96 (3d Cir. 2003). The allegations in the Complaint and,
most recently, in Manivannan’s appeal to the Federal Circuit, confirm Manivannan’s belief that
the disputed conduct arose out of alleged retaliatory animus against him: “[i]n particular, the AJ
did not systematically consider Manivannan’s evidence of retaliatory motive or Manivannan’s
evidence that the Agency did not treat initiate (sic) the same personnel actions against other
employees accused of harassment.” Brief for Appellant, ECF No. 23-2 at 43-45, and 63,
Manivannan v. Dep’t of Energy (No. 20-1804) (Fed. Cir.) (filed Nov. 24, 2020). Under these
circumstances, DOE’s alleged misconduct arises “as a result of the employment relationship” and
must be raised (as he has) pursuant to the exclusive remedial measures afforded by the CSRA.
2. Precedential Opinions Resolving Privacy Act Claims
Alternatively, Manivannan argues that the Court failed to consider Third Circuit decisions
resolving federal employee Privacy Act and FTCA claims. Despite this concern, the cases relied
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on by Manivannan were reviewed by the Court and found to arise from the conduct of a nonemploying agency or unrelated to agency termination and disciplinary proceedings, or to predate
decisions of the United States Supreme Court and the Third Circuit concluding that absent a CSRA
statutorily-authorized “mixed case” involving discrimination, claim splitting to avoid the CSRA
is disfavored. 4 See, generally, Fausto, Elgin, Perry, Sarullo, and Yu. Accordingly, the existence
of prior decisions recognizing a federal employee’s right to commence a Privacy Act in district
court does not warrant reconsideration.
3. Federal Circuit Jurisdiction
Manivannan contends that the Court improperly concluded that his claims may be
considered in the Federal Circuit, “despite authority to the contrary and despite none of the parties
to this litigation arguing as much.” ECF No. 77 at 3, 8-10. For this proposition, Manivannan relies
on the Merit Systems Protection Board (“MSPB”) scope of review and the MSPB Administrative
Judge’s handbook, which states that the MSPB lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate Privacy Act claims.
Id. This argument presents no change in law or facts on which reconsideration properly rests.
That said, as explained by the United States Supreme Court in Elgin, the MSPB’s limited
jurisdiction is of no moment where an employee has multiple claims arising out whistleblowing,
employee discipline, or termination. Elgin, 567 U.S. at 10. While pursuing resolution of claims
Spade v. United States, 763 F. App’x 294 (3d Cir. 2019) (FTCA claim arose from agency’s disclosure of federal
corrections officer’s personal information to an inmate while responding to inmate’s Freedom of Information Act
request, unrelated to employee discipline or termination); Britt v. Naval Investigation Service, 886 F.2d 544 (3d Cir.
1989) (Privacy Act claim against non-employing agency for inter-agency disclosure to plaintiff’s employer certain
information related to pending criminal investigation; criminal proceeding was concluded and employing agency did
not act to plaintiff’s detriment based on information received); Quinones v. United States, 492 F.2d 1269 (3d Cir.
1974) (FTCA claim predated enactment of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), 5 U.S.C. § 1101 et seq.,
and the acknowledgment that “for federal employees seeking relief for violations of their federal statutory rights or
money damages for violations of their constitutional rights, ‘what you get under the CSRA is what you get,’ even if
the CSRA gives you no review at all.” Bridges v. Colvin, 136 F. Supp. 3d 620, 639 (E.D. Pa. 2015), aff’d sub nom.
Bridges v. Comm’r Soc. Sec., 672 F. App’x 162 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing Fornaro v. James, 416 F.3d 63, 67 (D.C. Cir.
2005) (Roberts, J.)).
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properly before the MSPB, a plaintiff may compile the necessary record and seek review of any
remaining claims in the Federal Circuit. Thus, no legal error is apparent.
4. Stalking Claim
Manivannan also challenges the Court’s statement that a DOE Management Directed
Inquiry led to a finding that Manivannan violated workplace rules when he stalked and otherwise
psychologically and physically harassed and abused an intern assigned to work with him. The
basis for Manivannan’s challenge appears to rely on the fact that the jury in his state criminal trial
did not convict him of stalking. 5 ECF No. 77 at 3-4. Setting aside obvious differences in the
burden of proof in a state criminal trial versus civil agency proceedings, the DOE’s proposed notice
of removal includes several charges, set forth in the MSPB initial decision, and speaks for itself.
The MSPB decision also unequivocally concludes that “the agency showed it would have taken
the same action [removal] by clear and convincing evidence.” Ph.d, Ayyakkannu Manivannan, v.
Dep’t of Energy, No. PH-1221-18-0230-W-3, 2020 WL 1130149 (Mar. 4, 2020). This Court
acknowledged that Manivannan denies the intern’s allegations and disputes the MSPB and agency
findings. Manivannan v. U.S. Dep’t of Energy, No. CV 18-297, 2020 WL 5946876, at *1 (W.D.
Pa. Oct. 7, 2020). Accordingly, no factual error lies in stating that the DOE found Manivannan
“conducted an inappropriate sexual relationship with the intern and then stalked and otherwise
physically and psychologically abused her when she tried to end the relationship.”
Of note, the jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Centre County, Pennsylvania (Criminal Division) did convict
Manivannan of related charges, including five counts of unlawful use of a computer and one count of harassment.
Commonwealth of Pa. v. Manivannan, 186 A.3d 472, 475-476 (Pa. Super. 2018). As explained in this Court’s
Opinion, “Manivannan appealed the judgment of sentence and the Pennsylvania Superior Court found that it was
‘constrained to agree’ that the trial court abused its discretion in permitting lay, rather than expert, testimony to
introduce the evidence connecting an internet service provider to an IP address, and then to an approximate ‘real world
location’ that coincided with Manivannan’s Morgantown address. The Superior Court concluded that the absence of
expert testimony resulted in prejudicial error and so vacated the convictions and remanded the case for a new trial. Id.
The criminal record after remand is unavailable to the Court but agency proceedings reveal that ‘the prosecutor elected
not to go forward with the new trial.’ Manivannan v. Dep’t of Energy, 2020 WL 1130149.” Manivannan v. U.S. Dep't
of Energy, No. CV 18-297, 2020 WL 5946876, at *5 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 7, 2020)
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For the foregoing reasons, the Motion for Reconsideration of the Court’s Opinion and
Order dated October 7, 2020, filed on behalf of Plaintiff Ayyakkannu Manivannan, ECF No. 75,
is DENIED. An appropriate Order follows.
Dated: January 7, 2021
BY THE COURT:
_/s/ Maureen P. Kelly____________
MAUREEN P. KELLY
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
All counsel of record via CM/ECF
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