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Eastridge v. Brost

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 14, 2019

CHRISTOPHER EASTRIDGE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLINA BROST, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM ORDER

          Theodore D. Chuang, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Christopher Eastridge, who is self-represented, has filed this civil action against Carolina Brost alleging discrimination and tort claims arising out of his federal employment on Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. The Court construes his Complaint as raising claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17 (2012), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701-796 (2012), and the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. §§ 1346(b), 2671-80 (2012). Pending before the Court is a Motion to Substitute the United States as Defendant and Dismiss the Complaint filed by the United States of America ("the Government"). Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion shall be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         Eastridge is a federal employee at Joint Base Andrews. On September 17, 2018, Eastridge made an inquiry to the Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Office at Joint Base Andrews about filing a complaint of employment discrimination. He then filed the instant action in the District Court of Maryland for Prince George's County on October 23, 2018. Eastridge labeled his Complaint a tort action and alleges that Brost, his supervisor, engaged in:

Sexual harassment, bullying, hostile work environment, violating ADA rights. Not allowing me to go to work to a safe environment to do my job and earn money to provide for my family. Threats have been made on my safety and also when asked for accommodations I was denied which are my right by Federal & State Law. Loss of wages due to discrimination.

         Compl.1, ECF No.1-4.

         One week later, on October 30, 2018, Eastridge filed a formal EEO complaint with the United States Department of Defense ("DOD") which lists substantively the same allegations as those in the lawsuit he had filed in state court. In his EEO complaint, Eastridge checked the boxes for discrimination the basis of race (Hispanic), color (olive), sex (male), age (born in 1985), disability (mental), sexual harassment, and reprisal for previous EEO activity. DOD accepted the EEO complaint for investigation on November 7, 2018 and stated that it would complete its investigation within 180 days, or by April 29, 2018.

         On December 7, 2018, while the DOD investigation was still pending, the Government removed Eastridge's state court case to this Court. After Eastridge failed to appear at a case management conference, the Court granted the Government leave to file the pending Motion. Eastridge never filed a memorandum in opposition to the Motion.

         DISCUSSION

         In its Motion, the Government argues that: (1) the Government should be substituted for Brost as the proper Defendant; (2) Eastridge's FTCA claims are barred by the Civil Service Reform Act ("CSRA"), 5 U.S.C. §§ 1201 et seq. (2012); and (3) Eastridge's Title VII and Rehabilitation Act claims should be dismissed because Eastridge has not exhausted available administrative remedies.

         I. Substitution of Parties

         The Government argues that the United States should be substituted in place of Brost, who should be dismissed from the case. For FTCA claims, a substitution is warranted when the Attorney General has certified that a defendant employee was acting within the scope of employment at the time of the incident in question. See 28 U.S.C. § 2679(d)(.). The Attorney General has delegated the authority to make such a certification to the United States Attorneys. See 28 C.F.R. § 15.4(a) (2018). The Government has attached such a certification by the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland to its Motion. For Title VII claims based on employment discrimination, supervisors are not liable in their individual capacities. See Lissau v. S. Food Serv., Inc., 159 F.3d 177, 180 (4th Cir. 1998). Thus, both Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act permit a federal employee to file a civil action asserting employment discrimination claims against only "the head of the department, agency, or unit." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c); 29 U.S.C. § 794a(a)(1) (applying Title VII's procedures set forth in 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c) to Rehabilitation Act claims). Accordingly, the Court will grant the Government's request to substitute the United States as the proper Defendant for the tort claims and the Secretary of Defense as the proper Defendant for the employment discrimination claims.

         II. FTCA Claims

         The Government moves to dismiss Eastridge's FTCA claims pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(I) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It is the plaintiffs burden to show that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., Div. of Standex Int'l Corp., 166 F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(I) allows a defendant to move for dismissal when it believes that the plaintiff has failed to make that showing. When a defendant asserts that the plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, the allegations in the complaint are assumed to be true under the same standard as in a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, and "the motion must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction"" Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). When a defendant asserts that facts outside of the complaint deprive the court of jurisdiction, the Court "may consider evidence outside the pleadings without converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment." Velasco v. Gov't of Indonesia,370 F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. The court should grant a Rule 12(b)(1) motion based on a factual challenge ...


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