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SLAUGHTER v. HOWARD UNIV.

June 12, 1997

SHELLEY R. SLAUGHTER, M.D., Ph.D., Plaintiff,
v.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERTSON

 In this action plaintiff alleges that defendants discriminated against her on the basis of national origin and gender when Howard University decided to not renew her employment as a medical officer and an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology. *fn1" Plaintiff moved for summary judgment in Superior Court just before defendants removed the case to this Court. Defendants responded with their own motion for summary judgment. *fn2" For the reasons explained below, defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted, and plaintiff's motion will be denied.

 Facts

 Plaintiff is an African-American female. She signed a one-year employment contract with Howard University on May 17, 1993. She was given the "immediate task" of developing a Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Howard University Hospital. Plaintiff was also expected to "incorporate this body of knowledge into the undergraduate and postgraduate curricula" at Howard University. Complaint Ex. A. Plaintiff was to receive a $ 100,000 annual base salary and a $ 100,000 clinical practice supplement through the Faculty Practice Plan beginning July 1, 1993. *fn3"

 In late June 1994, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education withdrew Howard University Hospital's accreditation for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. On July 1, 1994, defendant Dr. Newton Osborne, a Panamanian-born male, became chairman of the department. Dr. Osborne appointed Dr. Richard Blake to head a subgroup in the area of reproductive endocrinology. Dr. Blake had been a member of the faculty at the College of Medicine since the early 1980s and was certified in the sub-specialty of reproductive endocrinology and infertility. *fn4" At one time he had been accorded tenure, although he took part-time status in 1989. Howard University Hospital received "provisional accreditation" for its residency program in obstetrics and gynecology in May 1996. On June 26, 1996, Dr. Osborne notified Dr. Slaughter that her annual contract would not be renewed at the end of June 1997. Complaint Ex. E. The notification letter gave no specific explanation for the non-renewal and included positive statements about plaintiff's contributions to Howard University as a teacher. Five part-time faculty members -- all men -- received notices of non-renewal at or near the same time. Dr. Slaughter was the only full-time faculty member to receive a notice of non-renewal.

 Dr. Osborne states in an affidavit that his decision not to renew plaintiff's employment contract was based on Dr. Slaughter's "lack of productivity"; that Dr. Blake, in his part-time position, could handle the patients with concerns relating to reproductive endocrinology and infertility; and that Dr. Slaughter's teaching responsibilities could be handled by other members of the department. Def. Mot. at Ex. 1 (Osborne Affidavit P 13). Dr. Osborne states that the duties performed by Dr. Slaughter did not justify her retention beyond the term of her contract. Id.

 Plaintiff's submission is that she was treated differently in her employment on the basis of her gender (female) and/or her national origin (American-born). She alleges specifically that she was required to perform general obstetrics services as part of her practice, that she was given no support in her attempts to develop a training program in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, and that she was wrongly terminated.

 Analysis

 A prima facie case of disparate treatment on these facts requires that a "similarly situated" unprotected employee be identified as a comparator. Plaintiff offers Dr. Blake as the comparator. Pl. Opp. to the Mot. for Summ. J. at 2 ("Plaintiff has satisfied her prima facie burden of demonstrating that she was qualified for the academic position for which she received a notice of non-renewal while Dr. Blake, a foreign-born male, has been retained by the institution."); Pl. Statement of Facts in Opp. to Mot. for Summ. J. at P 6 ("The only comparison to be drawn in this case is between Defendants' treatment of Plaintiff and his treatment of Dr. Blake."). In taking this approach, plaintiff focuses exclusively on her termination claim. *fn5"

 A. National Origin

 Defendant states, and plaintiff concedes, that Dr. Blake was born in the Canal Zone of Panama (which is a territory of the United States) to American parents and that he has always been a United States citizen. Despite these undisputed facts, plaintiff persists in her argument that defendant's "foreign-born" status can be used to establish a prima facie case of national origin discrimination.

 Plaintiff does not allege or show that American-born persons are in the minority at Howard University Hospital or in the College of Medicine, and plaintiff's claim is therefore one of "reverse discrimination." To prove a prima facie case of reverse discrimination, plaintiff must meet a heightened level of scrutiny. Parker v. Baltimore and Ohio R.R. Co., 209 U.S. App. D.C. 215, 652 F.2d 1012, 1017 (D.C. Cir. 1981). Most importantly, plaintiff must provide evidence of background circumstances that could lead a fact finder to infer discriminatory motive based on national origin. Id. Because no such evidence has been presented by plaintiff or identified in the record, *fn6" the national origin claim must be dismissed.

 B. Gender

 Plaintiff argues that a prima facie case of gender discrimination exists because plaintiff, a female, was terminated from her employment, while Dr. Blake, a similarly situated male, was retained and will take over some of her job responsibilities. Resolution of the motion for summary ...


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