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Makowiec v. U.S. Department of Defense

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 21, 2016

Sara Makowiec, Plaintiff,
v.
U.S. Department of Defense, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

This action is brought by Sara Makowiec (“Makowiec” or “plaintiff”) against the United States Department of Defense (“the Department of Defense”) and three divisions of that Department (collectively “defendants”). Makowiec alleges that defendants wrongfully required her to repay tuition assistance she received from them to attend graduate school.

Pending before the Court is defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be denied, and this action will be transferred to the United States Court of Federal Claims.

I. Background and procedural history

A. The parties

Plaintiff Makowiec is a resident of Massachusetts. She was an intern and later became a full-time employee at the United States Army Research Development and Engineering Command (“ARDEC”). While employed, Makowiec attended graduate school courses at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (“RPI”) for which she received tuition assistance from ARDEC.

The Department of Defense is the government agency by which Makowiec was employed. ARDEC is the particular division within the Department of Defense to which Makowiec was assigned and it approved and paid for Makowiec’s graduate courses. Defendant Benet Laboratories (“Benet Labs”) is the subdivision of ARDEC where Makowiec physically worked. Its principal place of business is in Watervilet, New York.

Defendant Defense Finance and Accounting Services (“DFAS”) is the division of the Department of Defense which seeks reimbursement of the tuition payments ARDEC made to RPI for Makowiec’s graduate courses.

B. The alleged conduct

The Court accepts as true the following allegations made by Makowiec for the purpose of resolving the motion to dismiss.

In January, 2010, Makowiec started working for defendant ARDEC as an intern in its Engineers and Scientists Career Program. In January, 2012, before becoming a full-time employee, Makowiec signed an Employment and Training Agreement (“the Agreement”) which provided that

[i]f the intern accepts funding assistance for educational expenses, a service obligation is created.

It also required Makowiec to remain with her employer for a period of time required by regulations. Plaintiff asserts that, aside from that Agreement, she received no documents explaining the terms of the service obligation or the regulations referenced in the January, 2012 Agreement. In February, 2012, Makowiec became a full-time employee of defendant ARDEC.

From January 23, 2012 through August 9, 2013, Makowiec received tuition assistance from ARDEC to pay for ...


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