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SINGLETARY v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

September 30, 2002

WILLIE TROY SINGLETARY, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan, United States District Judge.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

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).

I. Findings of Fact

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. 67.

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 2/21/1990.

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 of 7/2/1990.

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 Tr. 7.

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 7/1/1991.

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 ...


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