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Schneider v. Brennan

United States District Court, E.D. Wisconsin

January 4, 2016

DANIEL R. SCHNEIDER, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, and UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE, Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

JAMES D. PETERSON District Judge

Plaintiff Daniel R. Schneider contends that while working for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in Franklin, Wisconsin, he faced discrimination and harassment because of his disability and that his employer disseminated information regarding his disability to other employees. He brings this suit against the USPS and Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan alleging violations of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794a, and the Privacy Act, 5 U.S.C. § 552a. (The court will refer to the defendants together as “USPS.”)

The issue before the court is where this case should be litigated. Franklin is in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and Schneider lives in Florida. USPS has moved to transfer the case to the Eastern District. USPS contends that venue in the Western District is improper under the Privacy Act’s venue statute, and that although venue for the Rehabilitation Act claim would be proper in either district, the Eastern District is a more convenient forum and the only district where the claims could be heard together. Schneider opposes the transfer. Defendants’ motion will be granted, and the case will be transferred to the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

The Privacy Act has a venue statute that allows suit in four locations: where the plaintiff resides; where the plaintiff has his principal place of business; where the agency records are situated; or the District of Columbia. 5 U.S.C. § 522a(g). Under the facts of this case, venue would be proper only in the Eastern District or in the District of Columbia. Venue for Schneider’s Rehabilitation Act claim would be proper in either the Western or the Eastern District. But the interests of justice and the balance of convenience strongly favor transfer of both claims to the Eastern District, where Schneider’s claims can be resolved together.

ALLEGATIONS OF FACT

On a motion to dismiss for improper venue, the court may consider the allegations of complaint and information submitted by affidavits. See Cont’l Cas. Co. v. Am. Nat. Ins. Co., 417 F.3d 727, 733 (7th Cir. 2005). The court will accept as true the allegations in the complaint unless they are contradicted by affidavits. See Faulkenberg v. CB Tax Franchise Sys., LP, 637 F.3d 801, 809-10 (7th Cir. 2011). The court resolves all factual disputes and draws all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor. Id. at 806. In this case, although USPS disputes the substantive allegations, the facts relevant to the transfer analysis are undisputed.

Schneider worked for USPS in various positions and locations since 1988. In 2009, he lived and worked in Madison, Wisconsin. Schneider suffered from depression, which in 2011 led him to take a less stressful position with USPS in Franklin, Wisconsin. He commuted approximately 80 miles from his Madison home to his work in Franklin. The commute itself was stressful, and Schneider applied for lateral positions in Madison, but his applications were unsuccessful. Schneider alleges that he sought other reasonable accommodations of his disability, but that his requests were denied and that he was met with harassment and retaliation. He also alleges that during the course of this conflict, his USPS supervisors improperly disclosed his confidential health information to other USPS employees. Schneider took a disability retirement in 2013 (unwillingly, he alleges). In 2014, he moved to Florida, where he currently resides.

Schneider’s daughter lives in Janesville, Wisconsin, which Schneider regards as his “second home.” Dkt. 12. Schneider spent approximately five weeks in Wisconsin in the year after he moved to Florida, which Schneider concedes is his “primary residence.” Schneider plans to stay with his daughter if his presence is required for this litigation, and he contends that a commute from Janesville to Milwaukee, rather than to Madison, would cause him “additional stress.” (The court takes judicial notice that the distance from Janesville to Milwaukee is approximately 70 miles; Janesville to Madison is approximately 40 miles.) Schneider lists six medical providers and six friends who live in the Madison area who may testify on his behalf, although he does not describe the subject of their testimony in detail.

USPS manages most of its Wisconsin postal operations from the Lakeland District Office in Milwaukee. Dkt. 8. The records pertinent to this case are maintained either at the Lakeland District Office, the Franklin post office, or a centralized record facility in Greensboro, North Carolina. The majority of the USPS employees most involved in this matter are still employed by USPS in the Milwaukee area; some have left USPS; none are located in the Western District of Wisconsin.

This court has subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the action arises under federal law.

ANALYSIS

Schneider’s complaint alleges violations of the Rehabilitation Act and the Privacy Act. Both acts have venue statutes. USPS contends that the venue provision of the Privacy Act would not allow this suit in the Western District, and thus it has moved to dismiss or transfer that claim for improper venue, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). For the Rehabilitation Act claims, USPS agrees that venue would proper in the Western District, but it has moved to transfer those claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a).

A. Privacy Act Claim

For claims under the Privacy Act, venue is proper in “the district in which the complainant resides, or has his principal place of business, or in which the agency records are situated, or in the District of Columbia.” 5 U.S.C. § 552a(g)(5). Schneider contends, without citing any authority, that because he was a resident of the Western District at the time the cause of action ...


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