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HUNT v. D.C. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS

March 26, 1999

DR. MYRTA LOIS HUNT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D.C. DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Friedman, District Judge.

  OPINION

Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. In response, plaintiff has filed an opposition and a request to postpone any ruling on the motion for summary judgment pending further discovery. Pursuant to the Court's Order of February 24, 1999, defendants submitted a supplemental affidavit. Upon consideration of the papers filed, the Court concludes that defendants have established that they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all counts except Count 4, alleging breach of contract, and that the additional discovery sought by plaintiff in her Rule 56(f) motion is irrelevant to the Court's analysis. Defendants' motion for summary judgment therefore will be granted in part, and plaintiff's request for further discovery will be denied.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Dr. Myrta Lois Hunt is a 57 year-old female dentist with a history of unfortunate legal representation. She has been working for the District of Columbia Department of Corrections as a correctional officer since 1983. She alleges that when she was hired as a correctional officer, she was told that there were no dental officer positions open, but that when a dental officer position opened, she would receive priority consideration for that position if she was working as a correctional officer. From 1983 until 1989, she applied for numerous dental officer positions, but she never was hired as a dental officer. In 1989, frustrated with the Department, she filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and she received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC in 1990. Pl's Opp., Exh. 1 (Affidavit of Dr. Hunt) at ¶ 9. In 1990, she filed suit alleging age and gender discrimination. Pl's Opp., Exh. 1 (Affidavit of Dr. Hunt) at ¶ 58. Her attorney in that case never served the complaint, and the suit was dismissed for want of prosecution. Id. at ¶ 59.

In December 1994, represented by a new attorney, Dr. Hunt filed a second employment discrimination suit against the Department alleging age and gender discrimination. Pl's Opp., Exh. 1 (Affidavit of Dr. Hunt) at ¶ 60. Her attorney failed, however, to advise her that the time for filing suit on the right-to-sue letter issued in 1990 had expired and that she needed to file another discrimination complaint with the EEOC in order to obtain a new right-to-sue letter. Id. at ¶ 61. Her suit therefore was dismissed for failure to exhaust her administrative remedies. Ds' Mot. for Summ. J., Exh. 8 (Hunt v. Barry, Civil Action No. 94-2669, Order of July 31, 1995 (D.D.C.)). Her lawyer in that case has since been disbarred, and Dr. Hunt has been unable to reach that lawyer to retrieve certain documents. Pl's Opp., Exh. 1 (Affidavit of Dr. Hunt) at ¶ 67.

On April 3, 1996, plaintiff filed another complaint with the EEOC alleging that the Department had discriminated against her on the basis of her age and that the Department had retaliated against her for filing the 1989 EEOC complaint. See Pl's Opp., Exh. 7 (EEOC Complaint).*fn1 Dr. Hunt did not allege gender discrimination in that complaint. See id. "On or about March 21, 1997," the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter on Dr. Hunt's retaliation claim, and on April 21, 1997, the Department of Justice issued a right-to-sue letter on Dr. Hunt's age discrimination claim. See Complaint at ¶ 8.*fn2

Defendants have submitted an affidavit of a Medical Director at the Department of Corrections asserting that "the last dental officer hired in the D.C. Department of Corrections was May 3, 1993" and that none has been hired since. Affidavit of Eliza Taylor, M.D. at ¶ 3. Dr. Hunt testified at her deposition that she applied for a dental officer position sometime in the spring of 1995. She testified that she did not know whether interviews ever were conducted for the position, but she stated that she understood that someone had been hired for the position because she "just heard — just heard, you know — just passing through. I think I just heard passing through the infirmary at the Jail." Pl's Opp., Exh. 4 (Deposition of Dr. Hunt) at 8-10.

On June 23, 1997, Dr. Hunt filed a seven count complaint in this Court. Count 1 alleges age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). Count 2 alleges gender discrimination and Count 3 alleges retaliation, both in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. Counts 5, 6 and 7 allege gender discrimination, retaliation and age discrimination in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C.Code § 1-2501, et seq. Count 4 is a breach of contract claim; Dr. Hunt alleges that defendants breached a provision of the collective bargaining agreement which provides that employees who serve in an acting capacity at a higher level position than their permanent position for longer than ninety consecutive days must be compensated commensurate with the salary of the higher position.

II. DISCUSSION

A. ADEA Age Discrimination Claim

Dr. Hunt alleges that the Department of Corrections failed to hire her for available dental officer positions because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. The ADEA requires plaintiff to file her complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory act giving rise to the complaint. See 29 U.S.C. § 626(d)(2). A discriminatory event giving rise to Dr. Hunt's claim therefore must have taken place in the 300 day period between June 5, 1995, and April 3, 1996, when Dr. Hunt filed her complaint with the EEOC. Dr. Hunt has alleged that the discriminatory event at issue is the Department's failure to hire her for a dental officer position. See Complaint at ¶¶ 23-26. She has alleged no other discriminatory events or acts by the Department within the applicable statute of limitations.

A prima facie case of age discrimination under the familiar McDonnell Douglas framework requires Dr. Hunt to show that: (1) she is over 40 years of age; (2) she applied for and was qualified for a position; (3) she was not hired for that position; and (4) someone younger than she was hired for the position or the employer continued to seek applicants for the position. See Roper v. Peabody Coal Co., 47 F.3d 925, 926-27 (7th Cir. 1995) (applying McDonnell Douglas framework to ADEA claims); Cuddy v. Carmen, 694 F.2d 853, 856-57 (D.C.Cir. 1982) (same).

Dr. Hunt is fifty-seven years old, and she therefore is a member of the protected class. It is not at all clear, however, that she applied for and was denied a position within the relevant period of the statute of limitations between June 5, 1995 and April 3, 1996. She claims that she applied for a dental officer position sometime in 1995, but she does not remember exactly when she applied. See Pl's Opp., Exh. 4 (Deposition of Dr. Hunt) at 8 ("[I]t was in '95. . . . [I]t may have been springtime. I'm not sure").

Even assuming a sufficient showing that she applied for and was not hired for that job within the limitations period, there is absolutely no evidence that the Department hired anyone as a dental officer during that period or continued to advertise the position. Dr. Hunt has not provided any evidence to support the fourth element of her prima facie case other than her sketchy recollection of what she may have "heard passing through the infirmary" in 1995, while defendants have submitted an affidavit stating that no dental officer has been hired by the Department since May 3, 1993. Affidavit of Eliza Taylor, M.D. at ΒΆ 3. Because Dr. Hunt has provided no evidence that anyone was hired as a dental officer in 1995 when she applied for the dental officer position ...


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