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Blount v. National Center For Tobacco-Free Kids

July 05, 2001

CHARLOTTE R. BLOUNT, APPELLANT,
v.
NATIONAL CENTER FOR TOBACCO-FREE KIDS, APPELLEE.



Before Wagner, Chief Judge, and Schwelb and Washington, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Per Curiam

Appeal from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia (Hon. Richard A. Levie, Trial Judge)

Argued April 5, 2000

Charlotte R. Blount, a black woman, brought this action against her former employer, the National Center for Tobacco-Free Kids (NCTFK or the Center), alleging that she was discharged on account of her race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (1994). NCTFK filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial judge granted in a twelve-page written order. Ms. Blount now appeals. Although the evidence of discrimination may not be viewed as substantial, we conclude that it is sufficient to survive summary judgment. Accordingly, we reverse.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Ms. Blount was hired as NCTFK's Director of Constituency Relations in June 1996, and she began working for the Center on July 15 of that year. She had previously served for fifteen years as Director of External Programs with Edison Electric Institute, and she had also worked, inter alia, as a broadcast journalist and a university professor. As the trial judge noted in his order granting summary judgment, NCTFK officials must have believed, at the time of hiring, that Ms. Blount was qualified for her new position.

NCTFK was a comparatively small operation, and the three other directors, as well as all of the Center's professional staff members, were white; an undisclosed number of "administrative assistants" apparently were non-white. William D. Novelli, NCTFK's president, testified that the organization was attempting to recruit members of minority groups and that "we had diversity as an objective."

Ms. Blount's career with the Center was short-lived. She was discharged in October 1996, while still serving as a probationary employee; NCTFK claims that the discharge was for poor job performance. NCTFK advised Ms. Blount in her termination letter "that your skills and the needs of the National Center for the person in your position do not fit well."

In opposition to NCTFK's motion for summary judgment, Ms. Blount alleged that she had been discriminatorily treated in a number of ways. She claimed, inter alia,

1. that NCTFK failed to back her up when she had difficulties with an allegedly uncooperative white subordinate, Judith S. Glanz; *fn1

2. that she was not introduced to representatives of constituent organizations, such introductions being essential for her job performance, and that she was excluded from meetings and activities which other (white) directors were permitted to attend; *fn2 and

3. that unlike other directors, she was not given an adequate staff to perform her work.

Ms. Blount further asserted that NCTFK was markedly unenthusiastic about, and altogether unreceptive to, her proposals to involve black and other minority public figures, including golfer Tiger Woods, gymnast Dominique Dawes, and former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, in its outreach campaign. According to Ms. Blount, "every effort that I made to recommend a broader scope [for African-American involvement] was ignored or virtually laughed at," or met with derision. Ms. Blount also claimed that, prior to her discharge, she had not been advised by her superiors that her work was unsatisfactory. Based on what she regards as discriminatory treatment during her brief sojourn at the Center, Ms. Blount claims that her termination was also based on her race.

In support of its motion for summary judgment, NCTFK relied on testimony to the effect that Ms. Blount performed poorly in a number of respects. One of Ms. Blount's early responsibilities at NCTFK was to prepare a strategic plan to develop and strengthen constituency relationships. The plan initially drafted by Ms. Blount was very general and, from NCTFK's perspective, completely inadequate; when Ms. Blount failed to present a satisfactory replacement plan in timely fashion, this ultimately became, in Mr. Novelli's words, "the straw that broke the camel's back." Ms. Blount's testimony suggests that she initially was under a ...


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