Monday, December 14, 2009

State Dept in Court: Two Title VII Cases

The U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia recently granted summary judgment on two civil action cases filed against the Department of State/HRC in her capacity as Secretary of State. A summary judgment for the Secretary was denied without prejudice in one case pending plaintiff’s opportunity to conduct discovery.

Civil Action No. 2005-2011
Doc No. 49 (memorandum opinion)
by Judge Reggie B. Walton

Plaintiff Matthew McGrath brings this action against Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her official capacity as the Secretary of State,1 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17 (2006), for “reprisal for engaging in protected activity,” Complaint (“Compl.”) ¶ 1. Currently before the Court is the defendant’s motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. After carefully considering the party’s pleadings, the defendant’s motion, and all memoranda of law and exhibits submitted with these filings,2 and for the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that it must grant the defendant’s motion.

The plaintiff, a white male, “began his service as a Foreign Service Officer [(“FS Officer”)] on June 10, 1984” and “was terminated by [the] defendant effective on November 30, 2004,” after “serv[ing] in a variety of responsible posts in numerous countries throughout the world . . . .” Id. ¶ 11. The plaintiff “achieved Grade 1 – the highest level for a regular [FS Officer] – in a time period much faster than the usual FS Officer [and] . . . [h]is performance ratings from 1984 through 1999 were outstanding.” Id. ¶ 12. The plaintiff assumed his position as the Chief of the Division of Cultural Programs for the Department of State (the “Chief”) on September 10, 2001, which was under the supervision of S. Van Wunder. Id. ¶ 13. According to the plaintiff, “[w]ithin the first weeks of [his] employment in his new position . . . [Mr.] Wunder[] began to attempt to undermine [the plaintiff’s] authority as Chief,” id., “by going directly to [his subordinates] about assignments, instead of going through [him],” id. ¶ 14.
Accordingly, this Court declines, as it must, “to serve as a ‘super-personnel department
that reexamines an entity’s business decisions.’”
[T]he Court concludes that the plaintiff could not carry his evidentiary burden of proving to a reasonable jury that it was more likely than not that the defendant retaliated against him when it issued the two negative evaluation reports in 2002, involuntarily curtailed him, issued the Letter of Admonishment, assigned him the Declassification Unit, and ultimately separated him out of the Foreign Service. Accordingly, the defendant’s motion for summary judgment must be granted.

Read the whole thing here.

Civil Action No. 2008-1216
Doc No. 35 (memorandum opinion)
by Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth

Plaintiff Janine Perry brings this action against defendant Hillary Clinton, Secretary of the U.S. Department of State, in her official capacity (“Secretary”), alleging race and gender discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, as well as retaliation for asserting her rights under that statute, id. § 2000e-3. Before the Court is the Secretary’s motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [#25]. Upon consideration of the motion, the opposition thereto, the reply, the oral arguments of counsel and the record of this case, the Court concludes that the motion should be granted in part and denied in part.
The Secretary makes a variety of arguments in support of the request for summary judgment as to Perry’s retaliation claim. These arguments include: any claim that Joria retaliated against Perry based on her 1999 EEO complaint must be dismissed because the lapse in time between the protected activity and the alleged retaliation is too long to establish retaliatory motive; the denial of training, loss of certain job duties, and denial of an advance in sick leave are not materially adverse actions sufficient to support a retaliation claim; and the retaliation Perry alleged occurred after her 2005 EEO complaint is not sufficiently connected to her previous allegations to properly be added to the current action.
The Court will not resolve these issues until Perry has had an opportunity to conduct discovery. Each relevant question of law depends on facts evidence of which Perry has not yet obtained. For instance, Perry seeks information regarding her requests for training, budgetary reasons behind the decision to deny her requests, whether Joria permitted GS-13 Website Managers and other employees to attend training sessions. Rule 56(f) Decl. at 13. She would also request information regarding her loss of job duties as well as any change in job duties of GS-13 Website Managers.[…] Because Perry has not had the opportunity to conduct discovery as to these issues, summary judgment for the Secretary is denied without prejudice as to Count II.

Read the whole thing here.

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