According to his complaint, Dr. Krishna Murthy worked at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for twenty-seven years, most recently as a GS-14, step 10 veterinarian in Food Safety and Inspection Services. Throughout his tenure, despite his “exemplary” performance, he was “repeatedly” denied promotions to GS-15 and has consequently filed equal employment opportunity (“EEO”) complaints against the Department. Cmplt. ¶ 5. He also was “instrumental” in initiating a class charge filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) by Asian/Pacific Islander employees alleging discrimination by the Department in denying promotions. Cmplt. ¶ 6. A settlement agreement of the class charge was approved by the EEOC in December 2004. Arun C. Basu, et al. v. Veneman, Dep’t of Agriculture, EEOC No. 100-A1-7863X. However, Murthy did not learn the settlement had been approved until after the thirty-day period to object had passed. Three of the six class agents received “significant individual relief, including retroactive promotions and payments of $100,000 to $300,000,” while he, although also a class agent, “was designated to receive only $40,000 and a two step increase at his current grade 14 step 8 position.” Cmplt. ¶ 10. Murthy filed a notice of breach of the settlement agreement with the Department and later complained to the EEOC contesting the fairness of the settlement agreement. The EEOC denied his petition and request for reconsideration.
Murthy then filed two charges with the EEOC: on June 28, 2006 seeking promotion to GS-15, and on August 17, 2006 alleging a violation of the settlement agreement and discrimination and reprisal when he was not selected for a GS-15 Associate Deputy Administrator position. On December 26, 2006 — 131 days after filing his August 17, 2006 EEOC charge — Murthy filed a complaint in the federal district court. In count one, he alleged discrimination in violation of Title VII when the Department denied him promotions to GS-15 in June and August 2006. He also alleged discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII when he was provided “significantly less relief” under the settlement agreement than other class agents and was not provided timely notice of his right to object. Cmplt. ¶ 17. He sought placement in a GS-15 or comparable position and compensatory damages, including front and back pay and benefits. In count two, he alleged breach of contract because he was provided “significantly less” under the settlement agreement than other class agents and was not provided timely notice of his right to object. Cmplt. ¶ 18. He sought rescission of the settlement agreement as it applied to him, damages equal to his accumulated lost wages and benefits as well as future lost wages, and damages for financial and emotional harm.
The district court transferred Murthy’s breach of the settlement agreement claims in count 2 and also the non-promotion claims in count 1 determined to arise under the settlement agreement to the Court of Federal Claims, which has exclusive jurisdiction over contract claims against the United States for more than $10,000, see 28 U.S.C. § 1491(a)(1); Greenhill v. Spellings, 482 F.3d 569, 572 (D.C. Cir. 2007). The district court reasoned that Murthy’s claims of discrimination and retaliation relative to the other class agents were primarily contract claims for breach of the settlement agreement. The district court granted summary judgment on Murthy’s remaining Title VII non-selection claim because he failed to exhaust his administrative remedies when he filed his lawsuit prior to the expiration of Title VII’s 180-day waiting period. Murthy v. Schafer, 579 F. Supp. 2d 110 (D.D.C. 2008).
Judge(s): Griffith, Rogers, and Tatel
Jurisdiction: U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. Circuit
Related Categories: Employment
|Circuit Court Judge(s)|
|Plaintiff Lawyer(s)||Plaintiff Law Firm(s)|
|David Branch||Law Office of David A. Branch & Associates PLLC|
|Defendant Lawyer(s)||Defendant Law Firm(s)|
|Alan Burch||U.S. Department of Justice|
|Craig Lawrence||U.S. Department of Justice|
|Ronald Machen, Jr.||U.S. Department of Justice|