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KILPATRICK v. PAIGE

March 25, 2002

ROBERT PAUL KILPATRICK, PLAINTIFF,
V.
RODERICK PAIGE, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge.

 
MEMORANDUM OPINION
DENYING THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This lawsuit combines a Title VII race discrimination claim with a contract claim. The case is before the court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The plaintiff, Robert Paul Kilpatrick, seeks partial summary judgment for his breach-of-contract claim against the defendant, Roderick Paige, named in his official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education ("DOE"). The plaintiff does not seek summary judgment on his Title VII race discrimination claims made pursuant to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The defendant seeks summary judgment on all claims asserted in the plaintiff's complaint. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant law, the court denies the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment and grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment as to the entire case.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The plaintiff is an African-American man who has worked for DOE or its predecessor, the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, since 1968. See Compl. ¶ 3. Shortly before 1980, the plaintiff, in his capacity as a member of the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) staff within DOE, reported that black and other minority employees of DOE were being "downgraded" disproportionately compared to white DOE employees, based on an investigation that the plaintiff undertook in response to an administrative complaint. See id. ¶ 14(a)(2).

In April 1991, the plaintiff filed an administrative complaint alleging that the defendant "employed a position classification system that had the continuing effect of denying him promotions since 1980." See id. 6 6. In December 1996, when the plaintiff was not selected for the position of Director of DOE's EEO Group, the plaintiff sought EEO counseling as a prerequisite for filing another administrative complaint of discrimination based on race and sex. See id. On September 9, 1997, after receiving a "Notice of Right to File," the plaintiff filed a formal administrative complaint against his employer. See id.

The plaintiff alleges that he reached a settlement with the defendant regarding his two administrative complaints in April 1997, whereby the parties agreed that the plaintiff would be promoted retroactive to 1980 and would receive back-pay with interest, pay raises, and merit-based pay increases. See id. ¶¶ 7-9. The plaintiff further alleges that while the settlement was going through the defendant's "clearance process," the defendant asked the plaintiff to accept a smaller amount of interest on his back-pay. See id. ¶¶ 10-12. The plaintiff refused and, thus, the parties did not execute a formal agreement. See id.

In terms of the plaintiff's current employment status at DOE, the most recent information before the court shows that as of May 31, 2001, the plaintiff was employed by DOE as an EEO specialist at a GS-14*fn1 grade. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. A.

B. Procedural History

On December 31, 1998, the plaintiff filed a two-count complaint against the defendant with this court.*fn2 Count One alleges breach of the written settlement agreement, and Count Two alleges race discrimination and retaliation. See Compl. Count Two specifically alleges that the defendant engaged in discrimination and retaliation against the plaintiff in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., in the following ways: (1) in 1980, by not classifying the plaintiff's position as GS-14, after the plaintiff alleged that more minority DOE employees were being downgraded than white DOE employees; (2) in 1990, by again declining to classify the plaintiff's position as a grade GS-14; (3) in 1991, after re-classifying the plaintiff's position as GS-14, by attempting to prevent the plaintiff from receiving the corresponding promotion; (4) in 1996, by failing to select the plaintiff for the position of Director of DOE's EEO Group; (5) in 1995 and 1996, by excluding the plaintiff from meetings; (6) in 1996, by ordering the plaintiff's supervisor to lower his 1995 performance rating, and; (7) by failing to investigate the plaintiff's 1996 EEO complaint despite EEOC orders to do so. See id. ¶¶ 14-16.

On February 20, 2001, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint to add three new claims. In a Memorandum Opinion and Order dated April 17, 2001, the court denied leave to amend the complaint as for the first two claims because of their futility. See Mem. Op. dated April 17, 2001. The court granted the plaintiff leave to amend the complaint with respect to the third claim. See id.

The first claim asserted "a continuing-violation claim with respect to payment of a discriminatory wage since June, 1980." Pl.'s Mot. to Am. at 1-2. In deciding the motion to amend, this court recognized that "the defendant correctly asserts that `[t]o allow [the] [p]laintiff the opportunity to amend his complaint [to add this continuing-violation claim] . . . would prove futile in that the claims would immediately be subject to dismissal on precisely the same grounds upon which this court previously dismissed the 1980 claim.'" Mem. Op. dated April 17, 2001 at 6 (quoting Def.'s Opp'n to Mot. to Am. at 6).*fn3

The second claim that the plaintiff sought to add was a retaliation claim under Title VII, "whereby, as a member of the EEO staff responsible for counseling, acceptance, investigation and adjudication of EEO complaints other than his own, he `participated . . . in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing under this [T]itle.'" Mem. Op. dated April 17, 2001 at 8 (quoting Pl.'s Mot. to Am. at 2). In his motion to amend, the plaintiff argued that although this proposed claim arose out of the same events as the claims that were dismissed by this court, "the [c]ourt never considered that aspect of the retaliation that related to [the] [p]laintiff's status as a member of the EEO staff." Pl.'s Mot. to Am. at 2. In its April 17, 2001 Memorandum Opinion, the court determined that the plaintiff had not given any explanation for his failure to introduce this theory of retaliation when he filed the original complaint, which described at length the same alleged retaliatory acts that he now speculates were motivated by his role as an EEO employee.*fn4 See Mem. Op. dated April 17, 2001 at 9-10. Thus, the court also denied the plaintiff's motion to amend the complaint by adding this second claim because of its futility. See id. at 11.

The third claim, which the plaintiff sought to add, arose out of the defendant's alleged failure to honor an oral settlement agreement reached by the parties in April 1997.*fn5 See Pl.'s Mot. to Amend at 2-3 (emphasis added). In its April 17, 2001 Memorandum Opinion, this court granted the plaintiff leave to amend, "[s]ince the court has not addressed the substance of this proposed claim [concerning the written agreement], and [because] there is no other reason to believe [that the] addition [of the oral agreement claim] would be futile." Mem. Op. dated April 17, 2001 at 11-12.*fn6

In sum, six of the plaintiff's claims have survived the defendant's motion to dismiss and the defendant's opposition to the plaintiff's motion to amend. The March 31, 2000 order, which granted in part and denied in part the defendant's motion to dismiss, allowed the plaintiff to move forward in the case on the following claims: (1) the breach of settlement agreement claim; (2) the race discrimination claim, which was the subject of a 1991 EEO complaint filed by the plaintiff; (3) the race discrimination claim concerning the plaintiff's non-promotion in November 1996; (4) the race discrimination claim concerning the plaintiff's exclusion from meetings in 1995 and the lowering of his 1995 performance rating, and; (5) the prayer for relief. See Order dated March 31, 2001.*fn7 The breach of the settlement agreement claim is contained in Count One of the plaintiff's complaint and the remaining Title VII claims fall under Count Two. See Compl. In addition to these claims, as stated earlier, the court granted the plaintiff leave to amend his complaint for the sixth claim, which arises from the defendant's alleged failure to honor an oral settlement agreement. See Mem. Op. dated April 17, 2000.

On May 30, 2001, the court granted the defendant's motion for a protective order pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(c), addressing the scheduling of depositions of certain DOE employees. See Order dated May 30, 2001. On July 10, 2001 and August 9, 2001, the defendant filed consecutive joint motions to stay the proceedings for one month and, on the same day they were filed, the court granted both of these motions. See Orders dated July 10, 2001 and August 9, 2001. On June 29, 2001, the defendant filed its motion for summary judgment on all the plaintiff's remaining claims and, on July 3, 2001, the plaintiff filed his motion for partial summary judgment on the settlement agreement claim. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment and denies the plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine what facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one ...


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