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SINGLETARY v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
September 30, 2002
WILLIE TROY SINGLETARY, PLAINTIFF,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff, Willie Troy Singletary, filed this lawsuit against the
District of Columbia, the D.C. Department of Human Services, Ruth Royall
Hill, Maryann Mesmer, and Katherine Williams, contending that defendants
discriminated against him in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (1994), the
Rehabilitation Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (1999), American with
Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (1995), and
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1994).
1. Willie Troy Singletary ("plaintiff") began his employment with the
District of Columbia on October 4, 1971, in the Rehabilitation Services
Administration ("RSA"). 5/11/98 Tr. 3. RSA is an agency within the
District of Columbia Department of Human Services ("DHS") that provides
training and job placement in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act.
There are three major programs within RSA that provide services to
persons with disabilities: the Rehabilitation Program, the Disability
Termination Program, and the Randolph-Shepard Vending Facility Program
("Vending Facility Program"). 6/26/98 Tr. 8.
2. Since 1972, and except for the period from December 1987 to August
1993 while he was assigned to the Vending Facility Program, plaintiff
worked as a vocational rehabilitation specialist. His job during that
time consisted of placing disabled people in jobs with area government
and private employers. 5/11/98 Tr. 2. Plaintiff's starting salary with
the District was at a DS-9 level. 5/12/98 Tr. 60. In 1975, plaintiff's
salary was increased to a DS-11 level. 5/11/98 Tr. 35.
3. Plaintiff is an albino and is legally blind. 5/11/98 Tr. 6.
4. In March 1986, plaintiff applied for and was rated qualified for the
DS-12 position of Supervisor, Visual Impairment Section, for which James
Clark, who was Acting Supervisor in that Section, was ultimately
selected. Pl.'s Ex. 17, Mem. from City Administrator of 12/29/97; Mesmer
Dep. 27-28, 32, 35, 42.
5. Plaintiff filed a complaint of discrimination with DHS' internal
equal employment office after he was denied the promotion, alleging
discrimination because of his disability and personal appearance. On
March 5, 1987 DHS rejected plaintiff's complaint and informed him of his
right to file a complaint with the D.C. Office of Human Rights ("OHR").
Pl.'s Ex. 9, Mem. from EEO Officer Clayborne of 3/5/87. In April 1987,
plaintiff filed a complaint of discrimination with OHR alleging that he
was denied promotion to both supervisory and acting supervisory positions
because of his disability and personal appearance. Plaintiff's OHR
complaint was not cross-filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission ("EEOC"). Pl.'s Ex. 10, Compl. of 4/1/87. OHR dismissed
plaintiff's complaint. On October 28, 1987, plaintiff appealed OHR's
dismissal to the Office of the City Administrator (OCA).
6. On November 17, 1987, a few weeks after appealing OHR's dismissal,
defendant Katherine Williams reassigned plaintiff and sixteen other
employees to the Vending Facility Program. 5/11/98 Tr. 13-15; 5/12/98
Tr. 186; 5/13/98 Tr. 21. The Vending Facility Program was the result of
federal legislation that directed each state to establish a program by
which individuals who were legally blind could be trained to operate
facilities such as cafeterias, snack bars, and gift shops. 5/14/98 Tr.
7. After plaintiff was transferred, his work space was a storage room
that was not a regular office. 5/11/98 Tr. 17-19. The storage room was
dirty, dusty and without heat, ventilation or adequate lighting. 5/11/98
Tr. 20-21, 49-51, 55-60, 70-71; 5/12/98 Tr. 89, 95-98; 6/9/98 Tr. 114,
117-19. Access to the storage room was through a clinic to which
not have keys. As a result, he could not enter the room at
will, and he and colleagues visiting him in the room risked being locked
in the room. 5/11/98 Tr. 19, 41, 49; 5/12/98 Tr. 87, 91, 93; 6/9/98 Tr.
120. The phone in the room often did not work, and plaintiff's colleagues
often could not get hold of him. 5/11/98 Tr. 100; 5/12/98 Tr. 100-01. No
other employee used the storage room as an office space before defendants
assigned the room to plaintiff. 5/11/98 Tr. 76. None of the other
employees assigned to the Vending Facility Program at that time were
placed in workplaces similar to plaintiff's office. All other employees
were given regular offices proximate to one another. 5/11/93 Tr. 41, 43.
On one occasion, when defendant Williams saw plaintiff sitting in the
office of another Vending Facility Program employee, she told him to go
back to where he was assigned. 5/11/98 Tr. 100; 5/12/98 Tr. 102.
8. RSA had vacant offices available in the same building, and other
office space was available in the Vending Facility Program. 5/11/98 Tr.
19, 41, 43, 76; 6/9/98 Tr. 114-16; 6/26/98 Tr. 44-45. Plaintiff asked his
supervisor in the Vending Facility Program and his union representative
to attempt to get him assigned to a regular office. In April 1989,
plaintiff was assigned out of the storage room to a small clerk's office
with poor lighting, adjacent to other Vending Facility Program staff
offices. 5/12/98 Tr. 4-6. Eventually, in 1990, he was moved to a regular
office space. 5/12/98 Tr. 7; 6/25/98 Tr. 77-78.
9. On December 29, 1987, the OCA remanded plaintiff's discrimination
case back to OHR for additional investigation and further findings
relating to plaintiff's March 1986 non-selection for the Visually
Impaired Unit Supervisor position. With regard to plaintiff's allegation
that he was denied an opportunity to perform in an acting supervisor's
capacity, the City Administrator found that DHS had discriminated against
plaintiff and ordered DHS to "cease and desist from further discriminatory
conduct against the Complainant." Pl.'s Ex. 17, Letter from City
Administrator of 12/29/87.
10. On January 14, 1988, OHR instructed DHS that it had until January
25, 1988 to respond to the City Administrator's order by articulating, in
writing, the reasons for plaintiff's non-promotion. Pl.'s Ex. 18, Letter
from Case Enforcement Division of 1/14/88. On February 1, 1988, Verna
Clayborne of the DHS Equal Employment Office ("EEO") wrote defendant
Williams informing her that defendants were late in responding to OHR's
request. Pl.'s Ex. 19, Mem. from EEO Officer Clayborne of 2/1/98. On
February 3, 1988, OHR wrote to DHS informing the Acting Director of DHS
that OHR had not received DHS's response to its January 14, 1988 request
for information. Pl.'s Ex. 20, Letter from Acting Supervisor of OHR of
2/3/88. Defendant Williams was the Administrator of RSA until March 1991
and, as such, had overall responsibility for the management of RSA.
5/13/98 Tr. 16; 5/15/98 Tr. 24.
11. On February 10, 1988, DHS submitted its response to OHR justifying
the selection of Mr. Clark over plaintiff. Pl.'s Ex. 22, Mem. from EEO
Officer Clayborne of 2/10/88. Additionally, defendant Williams also wrote
back to Ms. Clayborne arguing that Mr. Clark had been properly promoted.
Pl.'s Ex. 21, Mem. from defendant Williams of 2/8/88.
12. In July 1989, OHR found that, while plaintiff had established a
prima facie case of discrimination, DHS had articulated legitimate reasons
for not promoting plaintiff, and for its promotion of Mr. Clark. Pl.'s
Ex. 37, Letter from Acting Director of OHR of 7/31/89.
13. On August 23, 1989, plaintiff again appealed OHR's dismissal to the
City Administrator. Mesmer Dep. 68-69. On May 24, 1990, the City
Administrator found that there was probable cause to believe that
plaintiff's denial of the supervisory position in 1986 was
discriminatory. The City Administrator did not order RSA to appoint
plaintiff to a supervisory position, but instead ordered that plaintiff be
given priority consideration for the next available position for which
plaintiff was qualified. Pl.'s Ex. 48, Letter from City Administrator of
5/24/1990. Priority consideration requires that, apart from being
interviewed first in time, the candidate receive additional consideration
above and beyond other candidates. 6/9/98 Tr. 31, 66-67. Ms. Clayborne
recommended to defendant Williams that plaintiff be appointed
non-competitively, consistent with D.C. equal employment opportunity
rules, and stated that she was dissatisfied with the length of time RSA
had taken to handle plaintiff's complaint. 6/9/98 Tr. 32-33. Defendant
Williams took no action whatsoever as a result of the May 24, 1990 OCA
Decision, other than to note her disagreement with it. Pl.'s Ex. 58,
Letter from defendant Williams of 7/23/1990; 5/13/98 Tr. 57-60.
14. In October 1989, after Mr. Clark's death, Acting Client Services
Division ("CSD") Chief Mesmer recruited persons to serve as Acting
Supervisor in the Visual Impairment Unit. Pl.'s Ex. 43, Mem. from Mesmer
of 1/16/1990; Pl.'s Ex. 44, Mem. from Mesmer of 2/15/90; 5/12/98 Tr.
135; Mesmer Dep. 143-144. Plaintiff applied for the position. Ms. Mesmer
was unaware of the City Administrator's December 27, 1987 decision when
she later rejected plaintiff's application to serve as acting
supervisor. Mesmer Dep. 173. In February 1990, defendant Williams
appointed four employees to serve as acting supervisors in the Visual
Impairment Unit. Pl.'s Ex. 46, Mem. from defendant Williams of
15. On May 15, 1990, plaintiff filed a second complaint of
discrimination with OHR, alleging he had been denied an opportunity to
participate in the acting supervisor rotations in retaliation for filing
his original complaint with OHR. This complaint was not cross-filed with
the EEOC. Pl.'s Ex. 47, Compl. of 5/15/1990; 5/11/98 Tr. 83-84.
16. On June 25, 1990, the Mayor of the District of Columbia imposed a
hiring freeze on all positions except those completely funded by grants.
Pl.'s Ex. 52, Mayor's Order 90-92 of 6/25/1990.
17. On July 2, 1990, OHR Director Loretta Caldwell wrote DHS, directing
compliance with the City Administrator's May 24, 1990 Decision. Pl.'s
Ex. 55, Letter from Caldwell of 7/2/1990; 5/14/98 Tr. 6. That same day,
Ms. Caldwell wrote plaintiff, directing him to identify supervisory
positions for which he was qualified. Pl.'s Ex. 56, Letter from Caldwell
18. On July 11, 1990, Ms. Clayborne wrote defendant Williams,
requesting a list of supervisory positions for which plaintiff was
qualified, and noting that the hiring freeze did not bar compliance with
the City Administrator's Decision. Pl.'s Ex. 57, Mem. from EEO Officer
Clayborne of 7/11/1990; 5/13/98 Tr. 47-48; 5/14/98 Tr. 72-75; 6/9/98 Tr.
37-38. Defendant Williams responded on July 24, 1990, and disputed that
plaintiff was qualified for any supervisory position. Pl.'s Ex. 58, Letter
from defendant Williams of 7/23/1990; 6/9/98 Tr. 69-70.
20. On or about August 21, 1990, plaintiff amended his second
discrimination complaint with OHR to allege that defendants failed to
comply with the City Administrator's decision. Pl.'s Ex. 64, Am. Compl.
of 8/21/1990; 5/11/98 Tr. 87.
21. On September 28, 1990, defendant Williams assigned three of
plaintiff's colleagues to acting supervisor positions in the Visual
Impairment and the Marketing and Placement Units. Pl.'s Ex. 67, Mem. from
defendant Williams of 9/28/1990; 5/13/98 Tr. 100-102.
22. On December 14, 1989, after learning that DHS was recruiting for
supervisory positions, plaintiff's counsel wrote OHR Director Caldwell,
requesting that Director Caldwell's office obtain personnel documents
"necessary to ensure the proper enforcement of the City Administrator's
Order." Pl.'s Ex. 73, Letter from plaintiff's counsel of 12/14/1990.
23. On December 20, 1990, defendant Williams informed plaintiff's
counsel that RSA had not been able to fill the supervisor positions
because of budget constraints, that "we now anticipate that several
vacant supervisory positions will be announced in the near future," and
that "[a] candidate's qualifications for any position is determined by
the District of Columbia Office of Personnel." Pl.'s Ex. 74, Letter from
defendant Williams of 12/20/1990; 5/12/98 Tr. 193. At that point,
defendant Williams had received a favorable response to her waiver
request to fill five supervisory positions. 5/13/98 Tr. 127-128; 5/14/98
24. On or about January 14, 1991, RSA posted five supervisory
vacancies, including one in the Visual Impairment Unit. Pl.'s Ex. 82,
Position Vacancy Announcement of 1/14/1991 — 1/18/1991. EEO Officer
Clayborne advised RSA to place plaintiff in one of the five positions
non-competitively. Alternatively, Ms. Clayborne advised that, if
plaintiff were to compete for one of the five positions, he was to be
given additional consideration above and beyond other applicants and
selected for one of the five jobs. 6/9/98 Tr. 16-17, 27, 32-33, 64-65,
68. In February 1991, the Office of Personnel referred to defendant
Williams a "Priority Consideration Selection Certificate" listing
plaintiff's name. Pl.'s Ex. 96, Personnel Priority Consideration Selection
Certificate of 5/8/1991.
25. Shortly after the supervisory vacancies became available, defendant
Williams was appointed Commissioner of Social Services, and Ruth Royall
Hill was appointed Administrator of RSA. The day before she became Acting
Commissioner, defendant Williams briefed defendant Royall Hill about the
City Administrator's May 24, 1990 Decision. 5/14/98 Tr. 46-48; 5/15/98
Tr. 86-87; 6/15/98 Tr. 15-16. Ms. Clayborne wrote to defendant Royall
Hill and recommended that plaintiff be appointed non-competitively to a
supervisory position. 6/9/98 Tr. 71-73; 6/15/98 Tr. 12.
26. Defendants set up a panel to interview candidates for the five
vacant supervisory positions. The panel interviewed the candidates and
made recommendations to the selecting official, the RSA Administrator.
5/13/98 Tr. 117. The panel interviewed plaintiff for the five positions
and determined not to hire him before interviewing any of the other
applicants. 5/13/98 Tr. 123; 5/15/98 Tr. 25; 6/9/98 Tr. 101.
27. On June 20, 1991, plaintiff's counsel wrote defendant Royall Hill
requesting information about the reasons for plaintiff's non-selection to
one of the five supervisory positions. Pl.'s Ex. 103, Letter from
plaintiff's counsel of 6/20/1991. Defendant Royall Hill responded on July
1, 1991 that defendants were preparing a "report" explaining the
non-selection for the City Administrator, and that counsel would be
provided a copy. Pl.'s Ex. 104, Letter from defendant Royall Hill of
28. On or about August 20, 1991, OHR closed plaintiff's discrimination
case. Pl.'s Ex. 117, Letter from OHR Director of 8/20/1991. Plaintiff
appealed the dismissal to the OCA on September 4, 1991. On March 5, 1993,
after plaintiff's counsel inquired about the status of his appeal, the
OCA responded that OHR's closing of the case was not a final decision on
the complaint, and that there were no grounds for appeal. Pl.'s Ex. 129,
Letter from OCA of 3/5/1993. Plaintiff sought reconsideration, which OCA
denied on April 21, 1993. The denial stated ...