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April 14, 1999


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stanley S. Harris, District Judge.


Plaintiff, formerly a Library of Congress employee in the Congressional Research Service's Foreign Affairs and National Defense Division, filed this discrimination action on August 16, 1989. Plaintiff asserts that defendant violated her rights pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, §§ 2000e, et seq., (Title VII), by denying her various fringe benefits, failing to promote her, and terminating her because of her sex, and by retaliating against her for her participation in protected activity. She further contends that defendant violated Title VII by creating a hostile work environment.

There was a protracted period of pretrial litigation.*fn1 Finally, a trial was held for five days in May 1997; it was resumed and concluded on September 23, 1997.*fn2 This Opinion sets forth the Court's findings of facts and conclusions of law, as required by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52(a).*fn3 Based upon the credible evidence submitted at trial, the Court finds that defendant did not discriminate against plaintiff in violation of Title VII.

I. Findings of Fact

Plaintiff Luella S. Christopher was employed by the Library of Congress as a foreign affairs analyst in the Congressional Research Service's Foreign Affairs and National Defense ("FAND") Division from 1971 until 1984 when she was terminated. Plaintiff was hired at the GS-7 level and rose to a GS-11 level. Throughout her employment, plaintiff's general duties as an analyst in FAND consisted of answering questions by Congressional clients and preparing analytical reports, memoranda, and other written products on issues of legislative concern.

A. Overview of Plaintiff's Job Performance

In October of 1981, Dr. Richard Cronin became plaintiff's supervisor. On March 31, 1982, Cronin gave plaintiff an oral warning regarding her lack of progress on a project concerning Taiwan ("Taiwan project") which her prior supervisor had assigned to her in April 1981. In that oral warning, Cronin advised plaintiff that she was "by far the least productive member of the Asia/Latin American section" and that her failure to complete the Taiwan project rendered it impractical to assign her other substantive work beyond her rotational assignment to the Congressional Research Unit ("CRU"). Despite this oral warning and despite agreeing to complete the Taiwan project by August 13, 1982, plaintiff subsequently failed to meet the deadline. Consequently, Cronin issued a written warning on August 19, 1982. Cronin then extended the deadline to September 10, 1982, but he informed plaintiff that a failure to improve her performance during a 30-day warning period could subject her to adverse action, possibly including separation. Plaintiff again did not complete the Taiwan project within the required time, but Cronin lifted the written warning because plaintiff satisfactorily completed another project. Ultimately, plaintiff did not complete a draft of the Taiwan project until approximately two years after it was assigned, and even then, it required substantial revision by Cronin.

In January of 1983, Cronin assigned plaintiff the responsibility of maintaining an issue brief on United States-China relations ("China issue brief"). An issue brief is a regularly-updated document of no more than 15 pages, which provides the background of a particular issue, an analysis of its relevance to United States policy or to issues before Congress, and potential policy or legislative options. These issue briefs are intended to serve as succinct, current reference sources for members of Congress, their staffs, or their committees when questions arise regarding particular issues. As both Cronin and plaintiff's witness Jonathan Sanford testified, issue briefs generally should be updated every month.

The China issue brief was updated at least once a month until plaintiff was assigned to it. Although plaintiff updated the brief in January of 1983, she did not do so in February. Because she failed to update the brief without specific instruction, Cronin testified that, on March 8, 1983, he directed plaintiff in writing to revise and update particular portions of the China issue brief by March 23, 1983. Plaintiff did not complete this assignment or otherwise update the brief throughout the month of March. Furthermore, the only revision she made in April was to change the date on the brief's cover sheet.

On April 28, 1983, Cronin gave plaintiff an oral warning based upon her failure to complete the March 8 assignment or to keep the brief current. Even after taking into consideration plaintiff's CRU duties and any of her health problems, Cronin concluded that plaintiff had had ample time to complete her duties on the China issue brief.*fn4 He also referred her to the Library of Congress' Health Services Office in case she felt her performance problems were health-related. He then instructed plaintiff to complete the March 8, 1983, assignment by May 6, 1983.

On the same day that Cronin gave plaintiff this oral warning, she requested administrative leave for May 3 and May 4, 1983, to attend a conference on United States-China relations, despite the imminency of the May 6, 1983, deadline. Cronin denied plaintiff's request because he believed it would impede her ability to complete revisions to the China issue brief by the deadline.*fn5

Dr. Robert Sutter replaced Cronin as plaintiff's supervisor while Cronin was temporarily detailed to the State Department in mid-June of 1983. From June through July, plaintiff assured Sutter that her project was proceeding well, and both Sutter and plaintiff testified that she did not request any help or extensions of the July 25 deadline. When Sutter and plaintiff met at the end of July to discuss her project, however, plaintiff had completed only a few paragraphs of her draft. At that meeting, she informed Sutter that she would be taking a couple of days of annual leave. Sutter extended plaintiff's deadline to August 17, 1983. They met again on August 22, 1983, at which time plaintiff informed him that she had not produced a draft.

Sutter issued a written warning dated August 31, 1983, informing plaintiff that her failure to complete the China issue brief — despite having no other specific assignments for the preceding two and a half months — was unacceptable, and that a failure to present a satisfactory draft within 30 days could result in an adverse action, possibly including separation. Plaintiff received the written warning on September 1, 1983.

B. September Denial of Annual Leave

Later that same day (September 1, 1983), plaintiff requested approximately four weeks of annual leave to sell her house, which was denied.*fn6 On September 6, 1983, Sutter again denied plaintiff's request, this time made by her union steward, for annual leave or a 30-day extension for completion of the China issue brief.*fn7 Sutter convincingly testified that he denied plaintiff's request for annual leave because he believed that granting her request would undercut the seriousness of the written warning he had just issued regarding her missed deadlines. Sutter also persuasively testified that completing the China issue brief was a top priority because the rapidly changing U.S.-China relationship had created a heavy demand for the brief, and that granting approximately a month of annual leave would unacceptably delay its completion. Plaintiff disputes that the China issue brief was in heavy demand because she personally received few requests for it.*fn8 The Court finds that Sutter, as a supervisor, was in a far better position to know the overall demand for FAND's work products.

C. Recommendation of Separation

On the last day of the warning period, September 30, 1983, plaintiff submitted her draft of the China issue brief to Cronin, who by then had returned as her supervisor. He immediately reviewed her draft and found it to be utterly unacceptable; Cronin concluded that plaintiff's draft was confusing, did not comply with the structural requirements of the style guide, failed to reference Congressional issues, and contained very little policy analysis. Cronin also sought Sutter's opinion (who was on temporary assignment outside of the Library of Congress); he agreed that plaintiff's effort was unsatisfactory. On the same day he received the draft, Cronin orally informed plaintiff of his intent to recommend her separation. He reiterated that position in writing on October 5, 1983. Cronin convincingly testified that he recommended separation rather than a lesser sanction because:

  [T]his was one more milestone in what had been a very
  long and very painful process of trying to get Dr.
  Christopher to be responsive to her duties. . . .
  [H]ad I accepted that draft as a beginning point for
  further work on her part, . . . the cycle would have
  continued, of delay, failure to perform on schedule.
  . . . I just was not prepared to go through that
  cycle again. I had been through two cycles of oral
  warning, written warning[,] oral warning, written
  warning. And the first cycle, I had removed the
  warning before Dr. Christopher actually fulfilled all
  of the requirements that were laid ...

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