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DANG v. INN AT FOGGY BOTTOM

February 18, 2000

HUNG VAN DANG, PLAINTIFF,
V.
INN AT FOGGY BOTTOM AND IDA DOE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS HOUSEKEEPING SUPERVISOR, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM — OPINION

In this action, plaintiff Hung Van Dang ("Dang") sues defendants Inn at Foggy Bottom (the "Inn" or "defendant") and Ida Doe under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and D.C.Code § 1-2512(a), alleging that he was discharged from his position because he is Vietnamese and Asian. Pending before the Court is a motion by the Inn for summary judgment pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons discussed, defendant's motion is denied.

I. Background

Dang was hired by the Inn as a houseman in October of 1992. A houseman is responsible for a wide variety of housekeeping functions and is occasionally asked to perform tasks in other areas. Between October of 1992 and May of 1996, Dang's supervisor was Pari Dowlatdad ("Dowlatdad"). During this same period, plaintiff received several awards praising the quality of his work.

In May of 1996, Dowlatdad was replaced by Ida Jonak ("Jonak") as plaintiff's supervisor. From the time Jonak commenced her employment at the Inn, Jonak's relationship with plaintiff was not friendly. Jonak was "always upset" with him and never returned his pleasantries. Pl.Dep. at 231. At some subsequent time, Jonak reduced his working hours below that of other housemen with less seniority. Dang Dep. at 90, 143. In response to this reduction, plaintiff took a second job working nights as a houseman at a neighboring Howard Johnson's Inn. As a result, during this time plaintiff was "very tired." Dang Dep. at 27, 205-06.

Defendant alleges that as a result of plaintiff's weariness and because of increased performance standards Jonak imposed to obtain improved service to guests, plaintiff failed to adequately perform his duties on several occasions in June and July. Defendant alleges that plaintiff was given a verbal warning on June 28, 1996 for refusing a supervisor's instruction to bring a crib up to a guest, a written warning for failure to mop the floors on July 5, 1996, and then a second written warning for failure to polish the brass on July 12, 1996. Plaintiff alleges that he did bring the crib up and denies having received any warnings, verbal or written.

On August 29, 1996, plaintiff was called into an office at the Inn and formally discharged from his position by Jonak and Kia Sechrist, the General Manager. His discharge was allegedly for having spilled coffee on the rug in the continental breakfast room, for failing to report the spill or clean it and for failing to properly prepare the breakfast room by turning on the lights and the air conditioner. The spill was allegedly discovered by another employee, Darryl Griffin ("Griffin"), the front desk manager. Griffin testifies that later that day, plaintiff admitted to him that he had spilled the coffee and failed to either clean it up or report it. Plaintiff denies having either spilled the coffee or having admitted spilling it. Defendants allege that the spill, which they state required costly replacement of the carpet, was sufficiently severe to warrant discharge.

II. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, a party may move for summary judgment if the record indicates that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Material facts are those which "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). To avoid summary judgment, the non-moving party must demonstrate that a genuine dispute exists, and provide evidence sufficient for a reasonable trier-of-fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. A court making a summary judgment determination must view the facts in a light most favorable to the non-movant, giving the non-movant the benefit of all reasonable inferences derived from the evidence in the record. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505. The Court proceeds under this standard to determine whether plaintiff has presented sufficient evidence of a valid claim.

B. Claim of Race Discrimination Under Section 1981 and D.C.Code § 1-2512(a)

Claims of race discrimination in employment brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 and D.C.Code § 1-2512(a) are both analyzed in fashion similar to claims brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. See Mungin v. Katten Muchin & Zavis, 116 F.3d 1549, 1553 (D.C.Cir. 1997).*fn1 Plaintiff may establish his claim based on either direct evidence of discrimination or the three-part framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973) for proving a circumstantial case. See Ayala-Gerena v. Bristol Myers-Squibb Co., 95 F.3d 86, 95 (1st Cir. 1996); Kalekiristos v. CTF Hotel Management Corp., 958 F. Supp. 641, 665 (D.D.C. 1997); Saunders v. George Washington University, 768 F. Supp. 854, 865 (D.D.C. 1991).

C. Direct Evidence

Direct evidence of discrimination is evidence of conduct which reflects a discriminatory animus "on its face." See Evans v. Atwood, 38 F. Supp.2d 25, 30 (D.D.C. 1999) (citing Trans World Airlines, Inc. v. Thurston, 469 U.S. 111, 121, 105 S.Ct. 613, 83 L.Ed.2d 523 (1985)). Direct evidence does not include stray remarks in the workplace, even if made by decision-makers, where the remarks are unrelated to the decisional process itself. See Siragy v. Georgetown University, No. Civ.A. 97-2557, 1999 WL 767831, *6 (D.D.C. Aug.20, 1999) (citing Garrett v. Lujan, 799 F. Supp. 198, 200, 202 (D.D.C. 1992); Ayala-Gerena, 95 F.3d at 95); see also Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 277, 109 S.Ct. 1775, 104 L.Ed.2d 268 (1989) (O'Connor, J.) (discriminatory "statements by decision makers unrelated to the decisional process" are ...


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