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Dawson v. Delta Air Lines, Inc.

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

October 26, 2018



          Leonie M. Brinkema United States District Judge

         Before the Court is defendant Delta Air Lines, Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. No. 20] to which plaintiff, with the assistance of counsel, has replied. Dkt. No. 24. For the reasons that follow, the defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Initially proceeding pro se, plaintiff Jennifer Suzanne Dawson ("Dawson" or "plaintiff) first filed a Complaint for Employment Discrimination [Dkt. No. 1] on March 5, 2018, alleging that defendant Delta Air Lines, Inc. ("Delta" or "defendant") failed to promote her and subjected her to unequal treatment based on her gender and mental disability in violation Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et sea., and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12112 et sea. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1-2. She also stated that, according to her "best recollection," she filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on November 1, 2017. Dkt. No. 1 at 5. For relief, she sought $750, 000 in damages and "retiree status to include lifetime flight benefits." Id. at 6. On July 23, 2018, Dawson filed an Amended Complaint ("Compl.") [Dkt. No. 17], again alleging Title VII and ADA violations, including claims of failure to promote and unequal conditions of employment, but adding a claim of retaliation. Plaintiff is now seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at 15.

         As alleged in her Amended Complaint, Dawson began her employment with Delta as a Ready Reserve Agent on June 29, 2009. Compl. at l.[1] She was later promoted to the positions of Sky Club Agent and Safety and Environmental Coordinator. Id. On March 3, 2014, Dawson reported to Delta her awareness of an allegedly illegal dumping of Glycol into an open storm drain at Reagan National Airport ("DCA"). Id. at 2. Dawson alleges that her immediate supervisor, Willie Whitley ("Whitley"), attempted to cover up the dumping and to prevent Delta's corporate headquarters from learning about the incident. Id. Beginning in March 2014, after learning that Dawson had reported the violation to Delta's corporate offices, Whitley and his team began a pattern of harassment and retaliation due to plaintiff being an "informant." Id. at 3. She alleges that her work was "intentionally sabotaged" because she was not given the accurate reports necessary for her assignments, and when she sought corrections, she was reprimanded. Id. at 3-4.[2]

         According to the Amended Complaint, the first incident of sex discrimination or hostile work environment began in 2014 when Jason Joyner ("Joyner"), a supervisor in a different department, "sexually harassed [plaintiff] on several occasions" and would "constantly ask [her] questions about [her] underwear and breasts almost on a daily basis [sic]." Id. at 4. In June 2014, Joyner allegedly "trapped [plaintiff] in a room asking if [she] was wearing a thong ...."Id.

         In May 2014, Dawson sought professional help for major depressive disorder and anxiety and told Whitley and her immediate supervisor, Vanessa Battle ("Battle"), that she would be using her personal time for medical appointments. Id. at 4. She also reported Joyner's sexual harassment to Whitley by showing him text messages, but "[n]othing was done." Id. The Amended Complaint alleges that from May 2014 to September 2016, Dawson reported to Human Resources that Whitley was retroactively editing her payroll to prevent her from receiving the overtime pay she was due. Id. at 5.[3] She alleges that she reported this problem to the Department of Labor and received some compensation but also a notice from Human Resources in August 2016 that she would receive nothing further. Id. She further alleges that, on an unspecified date, a "lesser qualified male," Greg Bricker, was hired, and she was required to train him. Id. at 5-6.

         In August 2014, Dawson took time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"). Id. at 6. She alleges that Delta denied her benefits, including health insurance, during this time. She also complains that she was not allowed to travel without prior approval, a policy she claims was not in place at DCA for other employees. Id. Delta alleges, and plaintiff has not disputed, that Dawson has been "on disability leave and has not been in the work environment" since October 2014. Defendant's Memo at 2.[4] Although Dawson was hospitalized in December 2014 for mental health reasons, she alleges that Battle denied her leave for the holidays, which she had taken every year previously, and refused to pay Dawson vacation time that she allegedly was owed. Compl. at 6-7. Dawson also complains that, from 2016 to 2017, Battle "tried to gain [Dawson's] personal information through ... harassing e-mails," and when that was unsuccessful, she contacted Dawson's insurance provider, who did not provide Battle with Dawson's health information. Id. In May 2017, Dawson reported an on-the-job injury that allegedly was never reported to OSHA. Id.[5]

         Dawson claims she reached out to Human Resources in August and October of 2017 to complain about Battle still being her supervisor but received no response. Id. at 8. On November 1, 2017, she filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Virginia Division of Human Rights. Dkt. No. 1-1 at 1. In her EEOC charge, plaintiff alleged that since August 2016 she has been subjected to a hostile work environment by Joyner, who has made "derogatory comments of a sexual nature through text messages," and that her complaints to her supervisor and to Human Resources went unanswered. Id.

         She also alleged that she was subjected to a hostile work environment "based on protected class"[6] by her current supervisor, Battle. The only incident contributing to a hostile work environment was receiving "constant e-mails asking for personal information." Id. The charge also states plaintiff was denied a promotion without providing a date plaintiff applied for the promotion, the type of promotion, or any details about the person who received the promotion, other than that the person was "less qualified." Id. The charge does not make any claim of retaliation.

         Plaintiff received a Notice of Right to Sue Letter from the EEOC on December 5, 2017,[7] and filed her initial prose complaint with this Court on March 5, 2018. Dkt. No. 1.


         Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), defendant has moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Specifically, Delta argues that Dawson's Amended Complaint should be dismissed because her claims fall outside the scope of the EEOC charge, are time-barred, and fail to allege sufficient facts to support claims for discrimination or hostile work environment based on her gender or disability.

         A. Stand ...

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