The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina, United States District Judge
DENYING IN PART AND GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT MADDOX'S
MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
The pro se plaintiff, Emanuel Johnson, Jr., brings this employment
discrimination and retaliation action under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Mr. Johnson
claims that his former employers at the Federal Bureau of Investigation
("the FBI") and the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General
("the OIG") discriminated against him on the basis of his race and
retaliated against him for previous Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO")
activity. The defendants named in the complaint are as follows: (1)
defendants John Ashcroft and J.C. Carter, named in their official
capacities as U.S. Attorney General and Assistant Director of the FBI's
Washington Field Office, respectively (collectively, "the federal
defendants"); and (2) defendants Anthony A. Williams, Charles C. Maddox,
and Austin Anderson, named in their official capacities as Mayor of the
District of Columbia, Inspector General of the District of Columbia, and
Deputy Inspector General of the District of Columbia, respectively
(collectively, "the D.C. defendants"). On June 21, 2001, the court
dismissed the plaintiff's complaint against all but one of the
defendants, Charles C. Maddox.
This matter is before the court on defendant Maddox's motion for
summary judgment. For the following reasons, the court denies in part and
grants in part the defendant's motion.
The pro se plaintiff details his allegations in a verified, or sworn,
complaint. Mr. Johnson, a self-described black/African-American male,
worked as a special agent at the FBI between the years 1973 and 1999.
Compl. at 5. Mr. Johnson was the named plaintiff in a Title VII
class-action lawsuit filed in this court in 1991 by black special agents
against the FBI. Id. at 5-6; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A. That lawsuit settled in
1993. Compl. at 6. In May, 1999, the plaintiff retired from the FBI.
Compl. at 5. On May 28, 1999, defendant Maddox hired Mr. Johnson to work
at the OIG as an investigator. Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material
Facts ("Def.'s Statement")*fn1 ¶¶ 28-30. Defendant Maddox
knew about the plaintiff's involvement in the class-action lawsuit prior
to his decision to hire Mr. Johnson. Id.
On June 21, 1999, the plaintiff began working at the OIG. Def.'s
Statement ¶ 32. That same day, defendant Maddox met with former
defendant Carter. Id. ¶¶ 39-40. At that meeting, Mr. Carter told the
defendant that the FBI would not support the OIG on matters to which the
plaintiff was assigned. Id. The plaintiff claims that this meeting
resulted in a "hanging threat," over the OIG because the OIG generally
needed "significant help" from the FBI, such as arrest authority and
access to FBI-owned vehicles. Mot. for Summ. J. at 27 (quoting Ex. D,
Johnson Dep., at 318-20).
Two days later, David Bowie, Assistant Inspector General for
Investigations at the OIG, reassigned the plaintiff from the OIG Public
Corruption Unit to the OIG General Investigations Unit. Def.'s Statement
¶ 41. Mr. Maddox states that "[t]he FBI's decision to not work with
[Mr. Johnson] did not cause concern because there was sufficient work
within the OIG to carve out a demanding caseload for [Mr. Johnson], as
well as maintain the work[ing] relationship between the FBI and OIG on
other investigations." Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. H.
The reassignment shifted Mr. Johnson's duties from investigating D.C.
Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD") corruption to matters such as
documenting absenteeism at D.C. Department of Corrections halfway
houses. Compl. at 8; Def.'s Statement ¶ 45. Mr. Johnson believes the
reassignment prevented him from maximizing the liaison opportunities he
had developed with the MPD through his work at the FBI. Compl. at 9. The
reassignment did not result in a diminution of pay or benefits. Mot. for
Summ. J. at 20, Exs. J, Y.
On November 29, 1999, Mr. Johnson's first-level supervisor, Gregory
Marsilio, rating Mr. Johnson's performance as "exceptional." Def.'s
Statement ¶ 81. Later, on February 7, 2000, defendant Maddox met with
Mr. Bowie and Alfred Miller, the OIG's Deputy Assistant Inspector General
for Investigations, to discuss Mr. Johnson's performance. Id. ¶¶ 42, 92.
Mr. Miller and Mr. Bowie served as the plaintiff's second and third-level
supervisors, respectively. Id. ¶¶ 42-43. Defendant Maddox instructed Mr.
Bowie to offer the plaintiff a choice of resignation or termination. Id.
¶ 97. Defendant Maddox claims he had become convinced that the plaintiff
lacked the focus expected of an experienced senior investigator, citing
the plaintiff's inability to "salvage" a report regarding halfway houses
and his "excessive actions" in serving a subpoena. Mot. for Summ. J. at
25, Ex. H. On or around February 9, 2000, defendant Maddox purportedly
asked Mr. Marsilio if he believed that the plaintiff was a "loose
cannon." Compl. at 14. According to the plaintiff, Mr. Marsilio responded
that Mr. Johnson was one of his "best agents." Id. Nonetheless, the OIG
sent the plaintiff a termination letter on February 16, 2000, and the
discharge was effective March 1, 2000. Def.'s Statement ¶ 100.
The plaintiff filed the instant complaint on November 15, 2000. The
plaintiff alleges that the defendants discriminated against him based on
his race and retaliated against him due to his prior EEO activity against
the FBI. These actions, he contends, led to his retirement from the FBI
in 1999 and his reassignment within and subsequent termination from the
OIG in 1999 and 2000. Compl. at 3, 5, 9, 14.
A. Legal Standard for Motion 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); see also Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540
(D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must
look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one
whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and,
therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322;
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all
justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the
nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A
nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of
a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that
the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish
the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which
that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at
322. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving
party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id.
In addition, the nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or
conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir.
1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Rather, the
nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a
reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the
evidence "is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal
citations omitted). Finally, the D.C. Circuit has directed 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), rev'd 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). Lastly, the court should construe a pro se plaintiff's filings
liberally. Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir.
B. The McDonnell Douglas Framework
To prevail on a claim of discrimination under Title VII, a plaintiff
must follow a three-part burden-shifting analysis. McDonnell Douglas v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). The Supreme Court explained this scheme
First, the plaintiff has the burden of proving by the
preponderance of the evidence a prima facie case of
discrimination. Second, if the plaintiff succeeds in
proving the prima facie case, the burden shifts to the
defendant `to articulate some legitimate,
nondiscriminatory reason for the employee's
rejection.' Third, should the defendant carry this
burden, the plaintiff must then have an opportunity to
prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the
legitimate reasons offered by the defendant were not
its true reasons, but were a pretext for
discrimination. . . . The ultimate ...