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Kamatta v. Burwell

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Northern Division

July 27, 2015

SYLVIA BURWELL, SECRETARY, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Defendant.


WILLIAM D. QUARLES, Jr., District Judge.

Michele Kamatta sued Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, for employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII")[1] and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA").[2] Pending is Burwell's motion to dismiss Counts I and III of the complaint for failure to state a claim. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the following reasons, the motion will be granted.

I. Background[3]

A. The Plaintiff's Employment and Termination

In 2000, Kamatta began working for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ("HHS").[4] ECF No. 1 at ¶ 18. In 2009, Kamatta worked for HHS as a "Committee Management Specialist [] National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Division of Extramural Activities." Id. at ¶ 13. Mary Nuss was Kamatta's first level supervisor. Id. at ¶ 21.

Kamatta alleges that "[w]hile [she] was employed by HHS, she was continually subjected to discrimination by [] Nuss because of her race" and "age". Id. at ¶¶ 23-24. "Nuss regularly yelled at [] Kamatta when [] Kamatta would ask questions concerning her employment duties." Id. at ¶ 25. In December 2009, Nuss yelled, "[Y]ou are not performing well and just wait until we go over your performance plan!" Id. at ¶ 26. In "late September-early October 2010, " Nuss "slammed a stack of papers against a desk and yelled at [] Kamatta for an error in copying records." Id. at ¶ 27. On another occasion during that time, Nuss "pounded on her desk with her fist and yelled at [] Kamatta[, ] threatening her that If this happens again you are DEAD MEAT!'" Id. at ¶ 28. "When [] Nuss would yell at [] Kamatta, she would clench her body tightly, roll her eyes, and clench her mouth... [like] Nuss was getting ready for a physical fight." Id. at ¶ 29.

On or about October 16, 2010, Kamatta met with her second level supervisor, Dr. Marvin Kalt, to complain about Nuss's behavior. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 30. On January 13, 2011, Kamatta's 2010 performance review rated her as "Fully Successful" in performing her duties. Id. at ¶ 31. On July 17, 2011, Kamatta "received a within-grade increase based on her work performance being deemed at an acceptable level of competence." Id. at ¶ 31. On February 10, 2012, Kamatta received a rating of "Fully Successful" on her 2011 performance review. Id. at ¶ 34. On April 15, 2012, Kamatta "received a ratings based' individual cash award." Id. at ¶ 35.

In May 2012, Kamatta complained to Dr. Matthew Fenton[5] about Nuss's hostile behavior and that Nuss was "treating her differently than other staff."[6] ECF No. 1 at ¶ 36. In June 2012, Kamatta told Fenton that "Nuss was yelling at her and harassing her on a daily basis."

On November 5, 2012, after Kamatta "ma[de] an error, " Nuss yelled, "You are lucky you did not come in earlier this morning or else you would've been out the door!" ECF No. 1 at ¶ 38. On November 6, 2012, Kamatta made an informal complaint with an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") officer "raising allegations of discrimination and hostile work environment." Id. at ¶¶ 10, 39. On November 13, 2012, Nuss told Kamatta "in a threatening manner that another Committee member who was performing poorly would be asked to resign or otherwise management would think of a way of getting rid of him.'" Id. at ¶ 40.

On December 5, 2012, Kamatta filed a formal complaint of discrimination. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 10, 41. On December 13, 2012, Nuss "placed [Kamatta] in a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") where [Kamatta] was told she could be terminated for future poor performance." Id. at ¶ 42. On December 21, 2012, Kamatta sent a letter to Nuss, "stating that the PIP was a form of harassment and intimidation.'" Id. at ¶ 43. On March 1, 2013, Nuss issued a Proposed Notice of Removal to Kamatta. Id. at ¶ 44. On March 5, 2013, Kamatta complained to management officials about "Nuss's harassment, intimidation, and discrimination...." Id. at ¶ 45.

On April 23, 2013, John McGowan[7] "rendered a notice of termination" to Kamatta after "Nuss recommended... that [] Kamatta be terminated. ECF No. 1 at ¶¶ 46-47. Kamatta was immediately placed on administrative leave. Id. at ¶ 47. On May 3, 2013, "Kamatta was officially terminated." Id. at ¶ 48. "As a result of continued harassment and hostile work environment, [] Kamatta is being treated for high blood pressure, loss of sleep, anxiety, and stress." Id. at ¶ 51.

On May 29, 2013, Kamatta "petitioned the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a hearing on her discrimination and retaliation claims." ECF No. 1 at ¶ 10. On July 25, 2013, Kamatta moved to amend her complaint to include allegations that her termination was the result of retaliation. See ECF No. 22-1 at 5. "When [] HHS opposed Kamatta's motion to amend as untimely, ... Kamatta withdrew her request for a hearing and sought instead a final agency decision on the merits of her complaint...." Id. at 6. On June 16, 2014, HHS issued a Final Agency Decision. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 10.

B. Procedural History

On September 12, 2014, Kamatta sued Burwell in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. ECF No. 1. Kamatta alleged five causes of action: discriminatory termination based on race (Count I), hostile work environment based on race (Count II), discriminatory termination based on age (Count III), hostile work environment based on age (Count IV), and retaliation ...

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