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Windham v. Sessions

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Waycross Division

June 27, 2017

CONNIE L. WINDHAM, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF SESSIONS, Attorney General, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, and FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, Defendants.

          ORDER

          J. Randal Hall, Judge.

         In this case, which arises out of Plaintiff's employment with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against her for testifying against the BOP in a race-discrimination case and that Defendants discriminated against her because of her gender. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's claims, arguing (1) that Plaintiff did not exhaust all of her administrative remedies, (2) that she has not pleaded that she suffered any adverse employment actions, and (3) that she has not pleaded facts supporting her gender-discrimination claim. The Court GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Defendants' motion.

         I. Background

         Accepting the facts alleged in Plaintiffs complaint as true and viewing the allegations in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, as the Court must, see Am. United Life Ins. Co. v. Martinez, 480 F.3d 1043, 1057 (11th Cir. 2007), the facts of this case are as follows.[1] Plaintiff began working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons (the "BOP") in 2001. (Doc. 1, Compl. 12.) From 2001 until early 2014, Plaintiff worked at a correctional facility in Jesup, Georgia. (See id. ¶¶12-13, 28.)

         In November 2013, Plaintiff testified to an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") investigator on behalf of coworker, Rackey Pasley, who had filed a race-discrimination complaint against the BOP. (Id. ¶ 14.) A few days later, Plaintiff questioned her supervisor, Paul Wells, whether he had been skipping Plaintiff and Pasley when selecting employees for overtime opportunities. (Id. ¶ 20.) In response, Plaintiff alleges, Wells "became angry" and "started bullying her to intimidate her." (Compl. ¶ 21.) Around the same time, some of Plaintiff's coworkers began calling Plaintiff names. (Id. St 25.) They routinely called her "LT, " "unhappy camper/' and "Gestapo." (Id. ¶ 26.) In December 2013, the BOP notified Plaintiff that it was transferring her to a new facility in January 2014. (Id. ¶ 28.) The BOP then moved her two more times in January. (Id. ¶ 31.) And the workplace ridicule continued throughout the moves: in April, for example, a manager gave Plaintiff a whistle in front of inmates and other staff members, stating that the gift was "a whistle for a whistle-blower." (Id. ¶ 35.)

         Plaintiff filed this lawsuit in September 2016, alleging that Defendants retaliated and discriminated against her in violation of Title VII. Defendants now move to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint, arguing that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for one claim and that her complaint fails to state a claim for the others. (Doc. 9.)

         II. Legal Standard

         In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court must accept as true all facts alleged in the complaint and construe all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Hoffman-Pugh v. Ramsey, 312 F.3d 1222, 1225 (11th Cir. 2002). The Court, however, need not accept legal conclusions as true, only well-pleaded facts. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009).

         A complaint also must "contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Id. at 678 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A plaintiff is required to plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id.

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against her for speaking to the EEO investigator: she claims that Wells denied her overtime opportunities, that the BOP improperly transferred her, and that her coworkers ridiculed her. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants discriminated against her because of her gender. Defendants move to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint. They argue (1) that Plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to her allegations that Wells denied her overtime opportunities, (2) that Plaintiff's reassignments and allegations of name-calling were not adverse employment actions, and (3) that Plaintiff has failed to plead any facts supporting her gender-discrimination claim.[2]

         A. Whether Plaintiff Exhausted Her Administrative Remedies

         As noted, Plaintiff contends that Defendants retaliated against her in a number of ways, including by not allowing her to work overtime. Defendants argue that Plaintiff did not exhaust her administrative remedies for this claim because she did not contact the EEO office within 45 days from the date Wells denied her overtime opportunities in November 2013. See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.105 (a) (1) .

         Before filing suit under Title VII, a federal employee must exhaust her administrative remedies so that the agency has "the information it needs to investigate and resolve the dispute between the employee and the employer." Crawford v. Babbit, 18 6 F.3d 1322, 1326 (11th Cir. 1999) (citation omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). As part of the exhaustion requirement, a plaintiff must "initiate contact with [an EEO] Counselor within 45 days of the date of the" wrongful act. 29 C.F.R. ยง 1614.105(a)(1). And when a plaintiff does not initiate contact within the ...


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