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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Nonprofit Suing Library of Congress Loses Appeal

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Library of Congress should not face claims over its refusal to recognize a nonprofit as an employee organization, the D.C. Circuit ruled.

The Howard R.L. Cook & Tommy Shaw Foundation for Black Employees of the Library of Congress sued a librarian at the Library of Congress after he denied recognizing them as an employee organization in 2008.

The decision denied the group benefits that are afforded to recognized employee organizations, which include the right to host activities using Library facilities and posting materials on the Library's bulletin boards.

The librarian explained the foundation's purpose of helping employees bring and maintain lawsuits against the library is "inconsistent with the Library's policy that recognized employee organizations be concerned only with welfare, financial assistance, recreational, cultural, or professional activities."

The foundation alleged the Library's refusal to recognize it "constituted retaliation against the Foundation because of its activities - in particular, the assistance that the Foundation provides to employees in connection with discrimination complaints."

A federal judge in Washington found the allegations in the foundation's complaint failed to state a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which "permits a person claiming to be aggrieved by an unlawful employment practice to pursue a charge."

The court dismissed the case earlier this year, noting that the group "couldn't name an example of an employee who engaged in statutorily protected activity such as filing a discrimination charge and, as a result of engaging in that activity, suffered retaliation in the form of the Library's denial of recognition to the Foundation."

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit affirmed dismissal Friday.

"Even accepting the facts recited in their complaint as true, plaintiffs have failed to allege the first element of a Title VII retaliation claim: that an employee engaged in statutorily protected activity," Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote for the panel.

Kavanaugh added that "nowhere does the complaint allege that a particular Library employee opposed ... an unlawful employment practice or made a charge, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing."

The judges did however note that the complaint "does allege that the Foundation engaged in certain activities that led to retaliation by the Library" and that "perhaps such allegations could have formed the makings of a First Amendment claim by the Foundation."

Nevertheless, they affirmed the dismissal of the complaint based on the Title VII claim, also noting that "Title VII claimants must be individuals, not organizations."

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