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Following remand, ex-employee’s complaint dismissed again

Where the Fourth Circuit remanded certain claims made by an employee terminated by the Army Contracting Command that were previously dismissed for further consideration, those claims were dismissed again for a variety of reasons, including res judicata, failure to state a claim, collateral estoppel, lack of jurisdiction and failure to exhaust administrative remedies.

Background

On July 11, 2017, this court dismissed plaintiff’s complaint based on res judicata. The Fourth Circuit affirmed this court to the extent that it dismissed plaintiff’s claims relating to his settlement and 2011 termination from the Army Contracting Command, or ACC, as barred by res judicata.

However, the Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded to the extent that plaintiff’s complaint contained claims that were not related to or which otherwise post­dated his 2011 termination and settlement from his ACC employment. The Fourth Circuit remanded to this court to consider whether, based on the issues raised and decided in a prior lawsuit brought by plaintiff, the doctrine of collateral estoppel may bar plaintiff’s non-ACC related claims in this court.

After the Fourth Circuit’s remand, defendants moved to dismiss. Defendants identify a number of non-ACC related claims in plaintiff’s operative complaint and argue that those non-ACC related claims are not supported by sufficient factual allegations or are otherwise barred by collateral estoppel based on Judge Lee’s 2016 decision.

Analysis

The court agrees with defendants that none of plaintiff’s non-ACC related claims are supported by allegations sufficient “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” The seven non­ACC related claims merely state, in conclusory fashion, that certain laws were violated without providing any factual support. Because these remaining claims do no more than state legal conclusions, they fail to assert plausible claims for relief.

Plaintiff’s non-ACC related claims must also be dismissed for the following additional reasons. First, the Fourth Circuit’s opinion identified claims under the FMLA and HIPPA that were not barred by res judicata because they did not relate to Plaintiff’s ACC employment. However, plaintiff has now clarified that those claims arise solely from his ACC employment. Plaintiff’s clarification that his FMLA and HIPPA claims relate solely to his ACC employment means that they must be barred by res judicata.

Next, the factual basis of plaintiff’s ADA claim – that he was denied accommodation after his 2014 Afghanistan deployment – was fully litigated and decided in the prior case. As a result, plaintiff’s ADA claim cannot be relitigated here.

Plaintiff’s claim for “criminal assault” fails for several reasons, the most problematic of which is that violations of criminal law do not normally give rise to a civil cause of action. And because the exact same facts supporting the “criminal assault” claim alleged here were previously litigated and dismissed by Judge Lee, his attempt to relitigate those same factual issues here is barred by collateral estoppel.

Third,plaintiff’s discrimination claims relating to a wrongful termination in July 31, 2015, a denial of a promotion in November 2012, a demotion in April/May 2012 and two disciplinary incidents in 2014 all appear to be made with reference to violations of Title VII and the ADEA.

But in addition to being insufficiently alleged, plaintiff’s complaint does not contain any allegations or references to any administrative exhaustion of these post-ACC employment discrimination claims, and it is well-established that before seeking relief under an anti-discrimination statute in federal court, a plaintiff must first exhaust his administrative remedies.

Fourth, this court does not have jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claims for misfeasance, malfeasance and violations of the Federal Tort Claims Act. Based on this court’s liberal review of plaintiff’s complaint, these tort claims arise directly out of his federal employment relationship. Under the Civil Service Reform Act, any tort claims brought under the FTCA arising out of a federal employment relationship are not subject to district court review. And because the exact same factual issues underlying these claims were fully litigated and dismissed in the prior case, these claims are also barred by collateral estoppel.

Defendants’ post-remand motion to dismiss granted.

Chin-Young v. United States, Case No. 16-cv-1454, Dec. 16, 2019. EDVA at Alexandria (Hilton). VLW 019-3-601. 14 pp.

VLW 019-3-601

Virginia Lawyers Weekly