United States District Court, District of Columbia
September 11, 2002
LILLIE TENEYCK, PLAINTIFF,
OMNI SHOREHAM HOTEL, DEFENDANT
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walton, District Judge
This matter comes before the Court on defendant's motion for summary
judgment. Having considered defendant's motion, plaintiff's opposition,
and the record in this case, the Court will deny the motion.
On or about September 8, 1996, Lillie Teneyck, a 61-year old
African-American woman, applied for a position as a
housekeeper at the
Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Omni Shoreham Hotel's Memorandum
of Points and Authorities in Support of its Motion for Summary Judgment
("Defendant's Motion"), Ex. A ("Teneyck Deposition"), pp. 23, 31.
Plaintiff sought a part-time housekeeping position at the hotel because
she was scheduled to retire from the United States Department of the
Treasury.*fn1 Teneyck Deposition, p. 23. At that time there was a
part-time housekeeping position open. Teneyck Deposition, p. 31.
Plaintiff filled out an application, and had a preliminary interview with
Paula Nesmith, an administrative assistant whose duties included the
screening of applicants for housekeeping positions. Defendant's Motion,
Ex. B (Nesmith Affidavit), ¶¶ 1-3.
Shortly thereafter, plaintiff was referred to Freweini Kahasay, the
hotel's Executive Housekeeper, for an interview. Teneyck Deposition, p.
39; Lillie Teneyck's Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment ("Teneyck
Opposition"), Ex. A (Teneyck Affidavit), ¶ 4; Nesmith Affidavit,
¶ 3; Defendant's Motion, Ex. C (Kahasay Affidavit), ¶ 3. Ms.
Kahasay discussed the job with plaintiff, and told plaintiff to call back
the next day. Teneyck Deposition, pp. 40-42, 47. When plaintiff called
as instructed, she alleges that Ms. Kahasay refused to speak with her, as
was the case when plaintiff called a second time on that same day.
Teneyck Deposition, pp. 53-58. Plaintiff was not hired, and did not
return to the hotel. Teneyck Deposition, p. 59.
In this action, plaintiff alleges that "defendant has discriminated
against her based on her age, in violation of the [Age Discrimination in
Employment Act]." Amended Complaint, ¶ 16. Further, she alleges that
the "defendant failed to select plaintiff for a housekeeping position on
the basis of her race (African-American) and national origin (U.S. born)"
in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Id., ¶
Summary judgment should be granted to the movant if it has shown, when
the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-movant, that
there are no genuine issues of material fact and the movant is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
(1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A material fact is one "that might affect
the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When evaluating a summary
judgment motion the Court must view the evidence in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party, and draw all reasonable inferences in
favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. at 255. "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence,
and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury
functions, not those of a judge." Id.; Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing
Products, Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). The party opposing a motion
for summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials
of his pleading, but . . . must set forth specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. at 248; see also Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow,
& Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 150 (D.C. Cir. 1996).
It is plaintiff's burden in a Title VII action to establish a prima
facie case of discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence.
McDonnell Douglas v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). In McDonnell
Douglas, the Supreme Court set forth a model for how a plaintiff can
establish a prima facie case. The model requires a plaintiff to show:
(i) that [s]he belongs to a racial minority;
(ii) that [s]he applied and was qualified for a job
for which the employer was seeking applicants;
(iii) that, despite [her] qualifications, [s]he was
(iv) that, after [her] rejection, the position
remained open and the employer continued to seek
applicants from persons of complainant's
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802; see also Aka v. Washington Hospital
Center, 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc). The model's
primary purpose is to weed out those cases involving "the two most common
legitimate reasons on which an employer might rely to reject a job
applicant: an absolute or relative lack of qualifications or the absence
of a vacancy in the job sought. Elimination of these reasons for the
refusal to hire is sufficient, absent other explanation, to create an
inference that the decision was a discriminatory one." Int'l Bhd. of
Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 358 n. 44 (1977).
The McDonnell Douglas Court emphasized that the test it articulated is
not rigid. As the Supreme Court noted, it must be flexible and adjusted
to the facts of a particular case. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802;
see Furnco Constr. Corp. v. Waters, 438 U.S. 567, 577 (1978). Commenting
on the test, the District of Columbia Circuit stated that a plaintiff in
an employment discrimination action constructs a prima facie case of
discrimination "by establishing that: `(1) she is a member of a protected
class; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the
unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination.'"*fn3
Mineta, 284 F.3d 135, 145 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Brown v.
Brody, 199 F.3d 446, 452 (D.C. Cir. 1999)). There is no dispute that
plaintiff is an African American woman, that plaintiff is over 40 years of
age, that a housekeeper position was available, that plaintiff applied
for the housekeeper position, and that plaintiff was qualified for the
position. Nor do the parties dispute that plaintiff was not hired.*fn4
Plaintiff, then, has established a prima facie case of discrimination.
Since plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden shifts
to defendant to rebut the presumption of discrimination by producing
evidence of its legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its employment
decision. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802; Texas Dep't of Community
Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254 (1981). To accomplish this task,
"the defendant must clearly set forth, through the introduction of
admissible evidence, the reasons for the plaintiff's rejection."
Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255. Defendant's burden is one of production, not
of persuasion. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Products, Inc., 530 U.S. at
142 (quoting St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks, 509 U.S. 502, 509
(1993)). At all times, plaintiff bears the burden of persuading the
trier of fact that defendant intentionally discriminated against her.
Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253. If the trier of fact believes plaintiff's
evidence, and the employer remains silent in the face of the
presumption, "the court must enter judgment for the plaintiff because no
issue of fact remains in the case." Id. at 254. If defendant
successfully produces evidence setting forth at least one legitimate
nondiscriminatory reason for its employment decision, the burden shifts
back to plaintiff to proffer evidence tending to show that defendant's
reason is pretextual. Id. at 256. Plaintiff may attempt to establish
that defendant intentionally discriminated against her "by showing that
the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence." Reeves,
530 U.S. at 143 (citing Burdine, 450
U.S. at 256). The trier of fact
"may still consider the evidence establishing the plaintiff's prima facie
case and inferences properly drawn therefrom . . . on the issue of
whether the defendant's explanation is pretextual." Reeves, 530 U.S. at
143 (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256 n. 10).
Defendant argues that it rejected plaintiff's application because of
the hours (Sundays) plaintiff was not available to work.*fn5 Weekends
are the busiest time for the housekeeping staff. See Kahasay Affidavit,
¶ 3. According to defendant, plaintiff told both Ms. Nesmith and Ms.
Kahasay that she was unavailable to work on Sundays because she had
church-related obligations on Sundays. Nesmith Affidavit, ¶ 3;
Kahasay Affidavit, ¶ 3; see Defendant's Motion, p. 5. Plaintiff
directly contradicts defendant's position, however, by testifying that
she was indeed available to work on Sundays. See Teneyck Deposition, p.
45; see also Teneyck Affidavit, ¶ 5. As defendant concedes, there
remains a genuine issue of material fact regarding defendant's legitimate
nondiscriminatory reason for not hiring plaintiff. See Defendant's
Motion, p. 9. This concession, coupled with the Court's conclusion that
plaintiff has established her prima facie case, precludes the Court from
awarding defendant summary judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate in an employment discrimination case
where either the evidence is insufficient to establish a prima facie
case, or, assuming the existence of a prima facie case, there is no
genuine issue of material fact that the defendant's articulated
nondiscriminatory reason for the challenged decision is pretextual. Paul
v. Federal Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n, 697 F. Supp. 547, 553 (D.D.C. 1998). In
a case of alleged discrimination, the Court must apply strictly the
standards for summary judgement because "discriminatory intent and proof
of disparate treatment are notoriously difficult to establish." Ross v.
Runyan, 859 F. Supp. 15, 21-22 (D.D.C. 1994), aff'd per curiam, No.
95-5080, 1995 WL 791567 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 7, 1995).
Because plaintiff has established a prima facie case of employment
discrimination, and defendant has conceded the existence of a genuine
issue of material fact as to its purported reason for apparently not
hiring plaintiff, this case is not proper for summary judgment. For
these reasons, the Court will deny defendant's motion for summary
judgment. An Order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion is issued on
For the reasons stated in the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, on this
6th day of September 2002, it is hereby
ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment [Dkt. # 34] is
DENIED. SO ORDERED.