Finally, the D.C. Circuit has cautioned that because it is difficult
for a plaintiff to establish proof of discrimination, the court should
view summary-judgment motions in such cases with special caution. Aka v.
Washington Hosp. Ctr., 116 F.3d 876, 879-80 (D.C. Cir. 1997), overturned
on other grounds, 156 F.3d 1284 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); see also
Johnson v. Digital Equip. Corp., 836 F. Supp. 14, 18 (D.D.C. 1993).
B. The Court Allows the Promissory Estoppel Claim to Proceed
The plaintiff alleges that the defendant promised to train her
sufficiently in transactional business if she were to accept the job.*fn1
Pl.'s Opp'n at 4-5. The court determines that a genuine issue of material
fact exists as to whether there is an actionable claim for promissory
estoppel. For purposes of summary judgment, a plaintiff satisfies her
burden for a promissory estoppel claim if she demonstrates a dispute as
to a material fact with regard to the following elements: "that the
[promisor] made a promise, that [the promisee] suffered injury due to
reasonable reliance on the promise and that enforcement of the promise
would be in the public interest and would prevent injustice." District of
Columbia v. McGregor Properties, Inc., 479 A.2d 1270, 1273 (D.C. 1984);
see also Oates v. Teamster Affiliates Pension Plan, 482 F. Supp. 481, 488
(D.D.C. 1979); Pop's Cones, Inc. v. Resorts Int'l Hotel, Inc.,
704 A.2d 1321, 1324 (N.J. Super. App. Div. 1998).
First, contrary to the defendant's assertions that it never made a
promise, the plaintiff argues that the defendant made an oral promise
guaranteeing that it would provide her with adequate training. Pl.'s
Opp'n at 1-2; Mot. for Summ. J. at 5. Moreover, the plaintiff's argument
does not merely rely on allegations or conclusory statements. Rather, she
describes three specific incidents when the defendant promised to train
her in transactional negotiations. Pl.'s Opp'n at 1-2. First, the
plaintiff claims that Ms. Downey assured the plaintiff that Mr. Vilmenay
would train her. Id.; Mot. for Summ. J. at 4. Then, Mr. Vilmenay
allegedly told the plaintiff he would teach her to conduct transactional
business. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2; Def.'s Statement at 2. Finally, Dan Sahd,
another account executive with WUSA who accompanied Mr. Vilmenay to the
plaintiff's second interview, allegedly heard Mr. Vilmenay state that "he
would give [the plaintiff] the training necessary to complete the job."
Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. E (Sahd Dep.) at 8. The defendant argues that even if it
did make a promise, it remains unenforceable because it did not express
specific conduct or a specified result. Mot. for Summ. J. at 13.
This is not dispositive for the purposes of summary judgment when the
question of whether a promise was made still remains in dispute. See
McGregor Properties, Inc., 479 A.2d at 1273. "We agree that, for purposes
of estoppel, a
promise need not be as specific and definite as a
contract, . . . but in the final analysis there must be a promise."
Bender v. Design Store Corp., 404 A.2d 194, 196 (D.C. 1979). The
revisions in the Restatement (Second) of Contracts § 90 (1979)
omitting the language "of a definite and substantial character" also
argue against strictly requiring a definite promise.*fn2 Restatement
(Second) § 90. In this case, the issue of whether a promise was made
will be a question of fact for a jury to determine when weighing Mr.
Vilmenay's testimony against the plaintiff's testimony and what Mr. Sahd
Second, the court concludes that there is a genuine issue of material
fact in dispute as to whether the defendant made the promise with the
expectation that the promise would be relied on. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c);
McGregor Properties, Inc., 479 A.2d at 1273. The defendant agrees that
the plaintiff understood and believed that she would receive some
training once she accepted the job. Mot. for Summ. J. at 5. Despite the
absence of specificity, "Vilmenay promised [the plaintiff] training in
transactional business." Def.'s Reply at 4. The fact that the defendant
anticipated that the plaintiff would require some training raises
legitimate questions about whether the defendant should have known that
the plaintiff might rely on the defendant's promise. McGregor
Properties, Inc., 479 A.2d at 1273; Restatement (Second) § 90 cmt.
In addition, the court determines that there is a genuine issue of
material fact in dispute as to whether the plaintiff did reasonably rely
on the promise. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); McGregor Properties, Inc., 479
A.2d at 1273. The plaintiff explicitly told WUSA that she had little
experience in conducting transactional business. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2.
Accordingly, the plaintiff can plausibly contend that there is a factual
dispute as to whether she left her job at WJZ-TV reasonably relying on
the supposed statements that WUSA would provide her with the appropriate
training in transactional negotiations. Pl.'s Statement at 1-2.
Next, the plaintiff has met the requisite showing that she suffered a
detriment of a definite and substantial nature due to her reliance on the
promise. McGregor Properties, Inc., 479 A.2d at 1273; Pop's Cones, Inc.,
704 A.2d at 1324. "In full reliance upon these representations, Ms.
Robinson left her secure job in Baltimore with CBS (WJZ-TV) and ventured
out to Washington." Pl.'s Opp'n at 2. As a result, the plaintiff's career
path and employment record are allegedly permanently damaged, and the
plaintiff has suffered financial hardship. Compl. at 3.
Finally, the court evaluates whether enforcement of the promise is in
the public interest and would prevent injustice. McGregor Properties,
Inc., 479 A.2d at 1273 (D.C. 1984); Pop's Cones, Inc., 704 A.2d at 1326
(stating that "[a]s we read the Restatement (2d § 90), the strict
adherence to proof of a `clear and definite' promise . . . is being
eroded by a more equitable analysis to avoid injustice."). Especially in
the area of at-will employment, courts recognize "losses incident to the
reliance upon the job offer itself." Peck v. Imedia, Inc., 679 A.2d 745,
753 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 1996); see also Bower v. AT&T
Technologies, Inc., 852 F.2d 361, 363 (8th Cir. 1988).
One final point warrants attention. The defendant argues that even if
the promise of training is enforceable, the plaintiff concedes that
appropriate training was provided. See Def.'s Reply at 2. The plaintiff
concedes no such thing. The defendant's incorrect assumption attempts to
cloud the plaintiff's entire argument. The plaintiff's case rests on her
so-far substantiated assertion that the defendant failed to provide
training, which then led to her dismissal. Pl.'s Opp'n at 9-10. In sum,
the plaintiff demonstrates genuine issues of fact in dispute to withstand
summary judgment on the promissory estoppel count.
C. The Court Grants the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the
Plaintiff's Discrimination Claim
To prevail on a claim of gender discrimination under the DCHRA, D.C.
Code § 2-1401.01 et seq., this court applies the analytical framework
used in Title VII cases. Howard v. Best,