Higbie v. United States, No. 14-5042 (Fed. Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Higbie, a Criminal Investigator for the U.S. State Department, contacted equal employment opportunity (EEO) counsel to complain of alleged reprisal by the Department for his activities, which he claimed were protected under the Civil Rights Act. Higbie successfully requested that his complaint be processed through the Department’s alternative dispute resolution program. Higbie repeatedly inquired whether the mediation proceedings would be confidential. State Department representatives confirmed that they would be. Higbie’s supervisors, including Cotter and Thomas, signed the mediation agreement, which included a confidentiality provision. The parties did not resolve their dispute through mediation. Cotter and Thomas provided affidavits to the EEO investigator that discussed Higbie’s statements in the mediation and cast his participation in a negative light. Higbie filed suit, claiming retaliation, discrimination, and violation of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Act. The district court dismissed the ADRA claim. Amending his complaint, Higbie alleged a claim sounding in contract for breach of the confidentiality provision. The Court of Federal Claims concluded that Higbie had not established that the agreement could be fairly read to contemplate money damages, and dismissed his complaint for lack of jurisdiction under the Tucker Act. The Federal Circuit affirmed.