establish a prima facie case, . . . or, assuming a prima facie
case, there is no genuine issue of material fact that the
defendant's articulated non-discriminatory reason for the
challenged decision is pretextual." Paul v. Federal Nat'l Mortgage
Ass'n, 697 F. Supp. 547, 553 (D.D.C. 1988).
2. Plaintiff's Prima Facie Case
To establish a prima facie case of racial or gender
discrimination under Title VII, Plaintiff must demonstrate that:
1) he applied for a position; 2) he was qualified for that
position; 3) he was rejected for the position under circumstances
giving rise to an inference of discrimination; and 4) other
employees in the favored group with similar qualifications were
promoted at the time that he was denied promotion. Harding v.
Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 152 (D.C.Cir. 1993); Parker v. B & O R. Co.,
652 F.2d 1012, 1017 (D.C.Cir. 1981). Courts in this jurisdiction
have added the requirement in "reverse discrimination" cases that
a Caucasian or male plaintiff "show additional `background
circumstances [that] support the suspicion that the defendant is
that unusual employer who discriminates against the majority.'"
Harding, 9 F.3d at 153 (citations omitted); see also Parker, 652
F.2d at 1017; Bishopp v. District of Columbia, 788 F.2d 781, 786
Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff requested an upgrade
to GS-15 on repeated occasions, and was denied such an
upgrade.*fn5 Rather, Defendant contends that Plaintiff was not
qualified for upgrade and, in any case, discrimination played no
part in the repeated denial of Plaintiff's requests for upgrade.
a. Plaintiff's Qualifications
Plaintiff makes several arguments in support of his claim that
he is qualified for upgrade to GS-15. First, Plaintiff provides a
long list of various awards and accolades he has received
throughout his career. Pl.'s Ex. 1 at 2-4. Plaintiff further
states that Mr. Christiansen, the Code R Division Director,
advocated strongly on behalf of his upgrade before the August 25,
1993 PRB meeting. Plaintiff adds that Christiansen's advocacy was
suggested by Dr. Kristen Hessenius, then-Code R Deputy Associate
Administrator. Finally, Plaintiff states that NASA recently sent
him a letter acknowledging another application he submitted for
upgrade to GS-15 in another division which states that he is
performing at a level commensurate with a GS-15 grade. Pl.'s Ex.
Despite demonstrating that Plaintiff had an exemplary
performance record as a GS-14, the record is replete with
repeated determinations by different agency officials that,
during the relevant time period, Plaintiff's position and his
performance in it did not justify an upgrade to a GS-15.
As early as 1991, Jack Levine, Plaintiff's then-supervisor,
denied Plaintiff a requested upgrade. Plaintiff admitted in his
deposition that the denial of upgrade by Levine had nothing to do
with his race or gender. Def.'s Ex. 6 at 68.
In November 1992, Plaintiff received a rating of only "Fully
Successful", rather than "Outstanding" or "Highly Successful" as
he had expected. In response, he filed an informal grievance
alleging improper supervisory practices in January 1993, in which
he also requested a position upgrade as a means of resolving the
John McCarthy, his supervisor at the time, responded in writing:
I have reviewed your current duties with Mr. Richard
Christiansen and find that they comprise essentially the same
level of scope and responsibility as those of your previous
position description of record. Those duties were classified at
the GS-14 level. Therefore, I find that your current duties are
those of a GS-14 level Program Manager.
In conclusion, neither the past supervisory practices that you
allege, nor the duties of your current position are supportive
of your advancement to the GS-15 grade level. Therefore, the
relief you seek cannot be granted.
Def.'s Ex. 8 (emphasis added). Plaintiff later withdrew his
informal grievance. Def's Ex. 9.
Plaintiff also sought a position upgrade by requesting a
presentation before the PRB. Richard Christiansen, later the
Division Director, testified at deposition about his motivations
in nominating and advocating on Plaintiff's behalf before the
August 25, 1993 PRB. His testimony shows that, contrary to
Plaintiff's belief that Christiansen supported his upgrade,
Christiansen actually "had reservations of putting him
[Plaintiff] in [before the PRB] because I did not feel he had
been performing at the level [to support upgrade]." Def.'s Ex. 5
at 61. In fact, Christiansen testified that he submitted
Plaintiff's name for consideration only after receiving repeated
requests from Plaintiff, and after soliciting advice from Dr.
Kristen Hessenius, the Deputy Associate Administrator. Dr.
Hessenius, after bearing of Plaintiff's repeated requests for
upgrade, essentially suggested to Christiansen that rather than
continuing to reject Plaintiff's requests himself, he nominate
Plaintiff for an upgrade and permit the three-person PRB to make
a collective determination of Plaintiff's qualifications. Def.'s
Ex. 5 at 58.
Plaintiff fared no better before the PRB. Even upon
consideration of Christiansen's advocacy, the PRB unanimously
concluded that Plaintiff's level of responsibility was
insufficient to warrant upgrade on the basis of accretion of
duties. Def.'s Ex. 4 at 5. While the PRB did not issue a written
statement denying Plaintiff's upgrade request, several of the
members of the PRB were deposed on the issue.
Richard A. Reeves, a fifty-five year old Caucasian male and a
former Deputy Associate Administrator for Code R, testified that
he was "very surprised that he [Plaintiff] was submitted. . . .
And I [Reeves] recall raising my concerns about his ability to
step up to the new way of doing business and his ability to
manage strategically [sic] programs at a strategic level." Def.'s
Ex. 10 at 71. Similarly, Vincent Rausch, a fifty-five year old
Caucasian male who sat on the August 25, 1993 PRB, stated in an
I [Rausch] had serious concerns about John's [Plaintiff's]
abilities during these deliberations and I did not feel his
work currently being performed was at the GS-14 level, The
deliberations were for promotion to GS-15, so obviously, I
did not see him as being promotion material to GS-15. John
complains about not being promoted, yet I have not seen him
conduct himself in a way that would indicate he has the skill
level or competence to perform at the GS-15 level.
Def.'s Ex. 13 at 4-5. Louis Williams, a fifty-seven year old
Caucasian male and former Director of Code R's High Speed
Research Division, stated in an affidavit that