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Hambrick v. Esper

United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division

February 14, 2018

MARK T. ESPER, in his official capacity as Secretary of the Army, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Robert Hambrick brings this employment discrimination action against Mark T. Esper in his official capacity as Secretary of the Army.[1] Mr. Hambrick asserts claims for race and gender retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964. Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Secretary Esper asks the Court to dismiss count two and part of count three of Mr. Hambrick's third amended complaint because the Court may not review as part of this action the Army's decisions concerning security clearance matters. (Doc. 28). For the reasons explained below, the Court grants the motion.


         Rule 12(b)(6) enables a defendant to move to dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When evaluating a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, a district court accepts as true the allegations in the complaint and construes the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Brophy v. Jiangbo Pharms. Inc., 781 F.3d 1296, 1301 (11th Cir. 2015). The Court presents Mr. Hambrick's factual allegations accordingly.


         Since June 20, 2002, Mr. Hambrick, an African-American man, has worked for the United States Army at the Redstone Army Garrison in Huntsville, Alabama. (Doc. 27, ¶¶ 1, 4). From October 2012 until February 2014, Mr. Hambrick worked in a GS-11 position as an EEO Specialist. (Doc. 27, ¶¶ 1, 2, 38).

         As an EEO Specialist, Mr. Hambrick was responsible for receiving, processing, and investigating claims of employment discrimination at Redstone Arsenal and counseling employees who made allegations of workplace discrimination. (Doc. 27, ¶ 2). Mr. Hambrick reported to Jacqueline Williams and Martha Miller. (Doc. 27, ¶ 1). Mr. Hambrick received “top performance ratings and was considered a very dependable employee.” (Doc. 27, ¶ 5). Supervisors praised Mr. Hambrick for “frequently exceed[ing] standards, ” and Mr. Hambrick's last performance evaluation before his EEO activity states that Mr. Hambrick's “co-workers have a high regard for his knowledge and will seek him out when they need a second opinion.” (Doc. 27, ¶ 5).

         In November 2011 and November 2013, Mr. Hambrick filed EEO complaints against his supervisors. (Doc. 27, ¶ 8). Mr. Hambrick has not provided details about the nature of these complaints.

         At some point during Mr. Hambrick's employment, the agency placed a GS-12 program analyst in the EEO office. (Doc. 27, ¶ 10). Mr. Hambrick did not qualify for the GS-12 program analyst position because the position was available only through management's intern program. (Doc. 27, ¶ 10). Therefore, Mr. Hambrick believed that he could not advance beyond a GS-11 position. (Doc. 27, ¶ 10). According to Mr. Hambrick, “[h]is GS-11 status was his career ceiling in the EEO office.” (Doc. 27, ¶ 10).

         In December 2013, after management placed the GS-12 program analyst in the EEO office, Mr. Hambrick sent emails to his supervisors and “complained that he was performing the same duties as a high level Caucasian female intern, Ms. Corlew, who as a GS-12, was receiving substantially more pay than Mr. Hambrick.” (Doc. 27, ¶ 11). Mr. Hambrick contends that from 2010 through December 2013, supervisors assigned him more work and less favorable work assignments than Ms. Corlew. (Doc. 27, ¶ 14). In a December 18, 2013 email to Ms. Williams, Ms. Miller, and Deputy Commander Curtis Clark, Mr. Hambrick stated:

I show more initiative th[a]n your analyst and yet my pay grade is less . . . not fair or right. Without an explanation of these disparities, I consider this subtle discrimination. Like I've said time and time before, I would like to be treated the same as all of the other folks.

(Doc. 27, ¶ 12). In his email, Mr. Hambrick also stated that the job duties that he and Ms. Corlew performed required the same knowledge, skill, and responsibility, but Ms. Corlew had no previous EEO experience that justified a $14, 500 salary difference. (Doc. 27, ¶ 13).

         In January 2014, Mr. Hambrick filed an EEO complaint. (Doc. 27, ¶ 22). Mr. Hambrick has not provided details about the nature of the January 2014 EEO complaint.

         Mr. Hambrick alleges that after he complained about the agency placing Ms. Corlew in the GS-12 position, his working relationship with Ms. Miller and Ms. Williams became “very strained.” (Doc. 27, ¶ 15). Ms. Miller and Ms. Williams “constantly . . . harassed” Mr. Hambrick for “extremely minor issues.” (Doc. 27, ¶ 16). According to Mr. Hambrick, the “constant degrading” and “verbal abuse” continued on a daily basis, and Mr. Hambrick believed that Ms. Miller and Ms. Williams were belittling him to try to force him to resign. (Doc. 27, ¶ 17). In addition, Ms. Miller asked Redstone police to provide “close patrol” near the EEO office and to walk through the building occasionally. (Doc. 27, ¶ 29).

         On February 4, 2014, Ms. Williams called Mr. Hambrick into the conference room in the EEO office and gave him a letter of counseling. (Doc. 27, ¶ 7). According to Mr. Hambrick, the letter:

criticized [him] for a series of email inquiries he had made in December 2013 regarding the handling of a new GS-12 position in the EEO office, which would have constituted a promotion for him, and his feeling that he was being treated in a discriminatory fashion due to his race and sex as it relates to job duties and pay.

(Doc. 27, ¶ 9). The counseling letter revoked Mr. Hambrick's access to the internet and a job-related database, both of which Mr. Hambrick needed to do his job. (Doc. 27, ¶19). Before he received the counseling letter on February 4, 2014, Mr. Hambrick had not been disciplined. (Doc. 27, ¶ 6). Mr. Hambrick believes that Ms. Williams issued the February 4, 2014 counseling letter in retaliation for his complaints of race, sex, and pay discrimination because Ms. Williams and Ms. Miller knew about Mr. Hambrick's prior EEO activity. (Doc. 27, ¶ 20).

         Mr. Hambrick acknowledged the counseling, signed the letter, and went to his office. (Doc. 27, ¶ 20). Ms. Williams asked Mr. Hambrick to return to her office. Mr. Hambrick refused, and Ms. Miller ordered Mr. Hambrick to leave the office and take the rest of the day off. (Doc. 27, ¶ 23). Mr. Hambrick had parked his car in a lot off base that ...

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