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Kaplan v. James

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

June 6, 2014

KATHLEEN M. KAPLAN, Plaintiff,
v.
DEBORAH JAMES, Secretary of the Air Force, Defendant

Kathleen M. Kaplan, Plaintiff, Pro se, Arlington, VA.

For Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force, Defendant: Nina Marie Elliot, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office (Alexandria-NA), Alexandria, VA.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Gerald Bruce Lee, United States District Judge.

THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Deborah James' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction filed on April 3, 2014. (Doc. 12.) This case arises from the Air Force's alleged breach of an administrative settlement agreement resolving Plaintiff's underlying discrimination claims. The issue before the Court is whether it has subject matter jurisdiction to hear claims for the breach of an administrative settlement agreement. The Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion to Dismiss because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the United States has not expressly waived sovereign immunity to allow it to be sued for breach of an administrative settlement agreement even where it relates to an underlying claim of discrimination.

I. Background

Plaintiff is Dr. Kathleen M. Kaplan, an employee of the United States Air Force. Defendant is Deborah James, the Secretary of the Air Force. On May 10, 2010 and October 6, 2010, Plaintiff filed administrative complaints of employment discrimination with the Air Force. (Doc. 13, at 1.) On December 16, 2010, Plaintiff and the Air Force resolved the discrimination claims through the execution of a settlement agreement which involved the withdrawal of the discrimination complaints, monetary compensation, and placement in a specific permanent position (Deputy Director of Physics and Electronics, Principal Computer Scientist). (Doc. 1, at 17-19.) The settlement agreement incorporates Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (" EEOC" ) Regulation 29 CFR § 1614.504 which sets forth the process for an administrative review of any alleged noncompliance with a settlement agreement. (Doc. 13, at 3.) Plaintiff's settlement agreement limits the relief which may be sought through this administrative review process to specific performance. ( Id. )

Around October 18, 2012, the position of the Deputy Director of Physics and Electronics was eliminated through an agency-wide reorganization. (Doc. 1, at 3-4.) On February 10, 2013, Defendant reassigned Plaintiff to a different organization. ( Id. ) Plaintiff notified the Chief EEO Counselor of the Air Force that she believed the Air Force breached the settlement agreement in essentially three ways: 1) Plaintiff

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claimed that she was never properly reassigned to the position listed in settlement agreement; 2) Plaintiff claimed that Defendant planned to eliminate the position four months before the settlement agreement was executed and did not disclose that to Plaintiff, therefore settling in bad faith; and 3) Plaintiff claimed that to the extent she was given a new position, she was only allowed to perform limited duties and only for two years even though Air Force Instruction 38-308 defines a permanent position as work that is projected to last more than four years. (Doc. 1, at 5-6; Doc. 13-2; Doc. 13-3.) In her letters to the Chief EEO Counselor, Plaintiff sought specific performance of the terms of the settlement agreement. ( Id. )

On October 5, 2012 and December 18, 2012, after conducting an investigation, the Air Force issued its Final Agency Decision regarding Plaintiff's breach of settlement agreement claims, finding that the settlement was not breached. (Doc 13-4; Doc. 13-5.) Plaintiff subsequently appealed this finding to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations (" OFO" ), again requesting specific performance of the terms of the agreement. (Doc. 13.) The EEOC OFO conducted an independent investigation and determined that the Air Force had not breached the agreement. (Doc. 13, at 1-2.) Plaintiff sought reconsideration of this determination and on October 31, 2013, the OFO issued a denial of Plaintiff's claims of bad faith settlement and breach of settlement agreement. (Doc. 1, at 1.) The OFO denial stated that " You have the right to file a civil action in an appropriate United States District Court within ninety (90) calendar days from the date that you receive this decision." (Doc. 1-1, at 4-5.)

On January 24, 2014, Plaintiff, who appears pro se, filed the present complaint (" Complaint" ) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia requesting, for the first time, the reinstatement and hearing of her original administrative complaints, $300,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, and fees and expenses. (Doc. 1.) In the present Complaint, Plaintiff states that the Court has jurisdiction to reinstate the original administrative complaints pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 206 [1] and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e and to award damages for intentional discrimination pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981a.

On April 3, 2014, Defendant filed its Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction arguing that Congress has not waived the United States' sovereign immunity with respect to claims for breach of an administrative settlement agreement. (Doc. 12.) On April 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed her Objection to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 19), putting forth twelve grounds which she argued entitled her grievances to be heard by this Court:

I. Court has Jurisdiction: Congress Authorized Court to Manage EEOC Processes; Processes Culminate with Civil Action;

II. Court has Jurisdiction: Plaintiff has Exhausted all Administrative Remedies;

III. Court has Jurisdiction: To Reinstate the Original Discrimination Complaint;
IV. Court has Jurisdiction: Said Settlement Agreement States Judicial Forum for ...

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