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Christopher Powell v. John E. Potter

April 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge



Plaintiff Christopher Powell ("Powell") brings this action against defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General of the United States Postal Service ("Postal Service"), claiming that his rights were violated when an attorney representing the Postal Service allegedly gained unauthorized access to his medical files. Specifically, plaintiff claims that an attorney for the Postal Service obtained and disseminated his confidential medical records without his authorization in connection with a discrimination complaint filed against the Postal Service by the plaintiff. Powell contends that the unauthorized disclosure of medical records constitutes a violation of his rights under the Privacy Act, codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552(a). Plaintiff further alleges that the unauthorized disclosure of his medical records was intentional retaliation for his having complained of employment discrimination, in violation of the anti-retaliation provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq., and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, codified at 29 U.S.C. § 701 et. seq.

Defendant moves for summary judgment alleging that plaintiff's claims are time barred. Specifically, defendant contends that plaintiff's Privacy Act claim is barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to such claims. With respect to plaintiff's Title VII and Rehabilitation Act claims, defendant contends that because plaintiff failed to seek counseling within 45 days of the accrual of the claims, he has failed to comply with the administrative requirements of those acts, and is therefore barred from bringing such claims. Defendant also contends that to the extent plaintiff is alleging any other violation of Title VII, plaintiff has failed to bring such a claim within 90 days of the final administrative adjudication of that claim, and therefore, is barred from bringing any such claim in federal court.

Plaintiff opposes the defendant's motion and contends that his claims are not time barred. Plaintiff also alleges that the instant motion is premature, as the parties have not yet engaged in discovery. Plaintiff alleges that discovery on the limitations issue is necessary, and therefore contends that defendant's motion must be denied.

For the reasons set forth below, I grant defendant's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss plaintiff's claims with prejudice.


The following facts are derived from the plaintiff's Complaint and the defendant's statement of undisputed facts. Plaintiff John Powell began working for the U.S. Postal Service in 1993. In November, 2005, Powell filed an administrative complaint of discrimination against the Postal Service claiming that he was being sexually harassed by a female supervisor. In his administrative complaint, Powell claimed that he experienced "pain and suffering and mental anguish" as a result of the alleged discrimination. Thereafter, Joseph Sassi ("Sassi"), an attorney for the Postal Service who was assigned to defend the service, sought plaintiff's medical records for the purpose of investigating plaintiff's allegations of pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Although Sassi allegedly on numerous occasions requested that Powell furnish authorization to obtain his medical records, Powell allegedly never provided such authorization.

In May, 2006, Sassi requested plaintiff's medical file from Powell's Postal Service worksite. According to the Complaint, the records were provided to Sassi at that time despite plaintiff's failure to authorize release of the medical records. Because Plaintiff had not authorized the disclosure of his medical file, he claims that the defendant violated his rights under the Privacy Act. Powell also claims that the disclosure of his medical records constituted unlawful retaliation by the Postal Service due to his having previously complained of racial and gender discrimination.


I. Summary Judgment Standard

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment "should be rendered if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." When considering a motion for summary judgment, all genuinely disputed facts must be resolved in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). If, after considering the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the court finds that no rational jury could find in favor of that party, a grant of summary judgment is appropriate. Scott, 550 U.S. at 380 (citing Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-587 (1986)).

II. Privacy Act Claims

The Privacy Act provides in relevant ...

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