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BRYANT v. BROWNLEE

June 4, 2003

VICKI CAROL BRYANT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.L. BROWNLEE, ACTING SECRETARY OF THE ARMY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John Bates, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Vicki Carol Bryant ("plaintiff") brings this action for alleged discrimination with respect to her race, color, and age, and alleged retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 621, et seq. ("ADEA"). Defendant R.L. Brownlee, Acting Secretary of the Army ("defendant"),*fn1 moves for summary judgment on all of plaintiff's claims. For the reasons stated below, the motion is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, an African-American female in her late 50s, began working for the Army Corps of Engineers as an attorney in the Louisville, Kentucky, District Office in 1989. Compl. ¶ 4. In 1992, she transferred to the New York District Office. Id. A year later, she transferred again, this time to the Corps Headquarters Real Estate Division in Washington, D.C. Id. Plaintiff remained at the Washington Headquarters until her resignation in January 2000. Id.

Plaintiff's tenure at the Washington Headquarters was a difficult one. Between February 20, 1998, and January 19, 2000, plaintiff filed five formal administrative complaints concerning alleged discrimination and retaliation. Id. ¶¶ 1-12. Ultimately, in January 2001, plaintiff filed a complaint with this Court, seeking relief for discrimination on the basis of race and color (Count I), retaliation for filing Title VII complaints (Count II), and age discrimination (Count III).*fn2

Although the particular claims of plaintiff's complaint are asserted in a rather general manner (i.e., plaintiff does not allege separate counts for, e.g., hostile work environment or failure to promote), plaintiff sets forth nearly twenty pages of factual allegations to support her claims. In summary, plaintiff alleges: that she was denied opportunities for details, training, and promotions, Compl. ¶¶ 16, 18, 19(2), 19(7), 21, 25(11), 25(17), 29(5), 30, 32; that she was assigned unimportant, often non-legal tasks, id. ¶¶ 16, 18, 19(6), 22, 25(1); that she was unduly criticized by her supervisors, id. ¶¶ 23, 25(14); that she was harassed on and off the job by a white co-worker, who in one instance called plaintiff a "nigger," id. ¶ 17; that plaintiff's co-workers and supervisor ostracized her and avoided verbal contact with her, id. ¶¶ 19, 20; that plaintiff's business cards were stolen, her lumbar support pillow was hidden, and her computer was tampered with, id. ¶¶ 25(12), 25(18), 33; and that defendant did not allow plaintiff a full opportunity to pursue her discrimination complaints, did not attempt to settle her complaints in good faith, and did not accommodate her wish to have a representative present during meetings with her supervisor, id. ¶¶ 25(15), 26, 27, 34.

Defendant moved for summary judgment on, or in the alternative, dismissal of, plaintiff's claims on February 5, 2002. Pursuant to the requirements of Local Civil Rule 56.1, defendant filed a 116-paragraph Statement of Material Facts along with his motion. Plaintiff, in opposition, did not file a Statement of Genuine Issues as required by Local Civil Rule 56.1. Plaintiff later filed — without seeking leave to do so — a surreply arguing that the affidavit she had submitted functions to set forth her own version of the facts and to dispute defendant's version. Plaintiff's 26-paragraph affidavit, however, neither references the specific paragraphs in defendant's Statement of Material Facts nor "include[s] references to the parts of the record relied on." LCvR 56.1. Moreover, neither the statements in plaintiff's affidavit — many of which are conclusory — nor the exhibits she submitted cover the wide range of allegations set forth in her extensive complaint. Consequently, with respect to certain allegations, the only evidence before the Court is that submitted by defendant. Plaintiff's failure to comply with the Local Rules of this Court is inexcusable and has needlessly complicated resolution of the pending motion.

The Court held a hearing on defendant's motion on July 30, 2002. Based on the record before it, the Court now concludes that defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of plaintiff's claims.

ANALYSIS

I. Legal Framework

A. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party may successfully support its motion by "`informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)).

In determining whether there exists a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment, the court must regard the non-movant's statements as true and accept all evidence and make all inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A non-moving party, however, must establish more than the "mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted). Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-movant fails to offer "evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252.

B. The McDonnell Douglas Framework

A plaintiff has the burden of establishing a prima facie case of discrimination by a preponderance of the evidence. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973); Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981). To establish a prima facie case of discrimination, a plaintiff must demonstrate that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination. Brown v. Brody, 199 F.3d 446, 452 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Stella v. Mineta, 284 F.3d 135, 145 (D.C. Cir. 2002). To make out a prima facie claim of retaliation, plaintiff must establish that (1) he engaged in a statutorily protected activity; (2) the employer took an adverse personnel action; and (3) a causal connection existed between the two. Brody, 199 F.3d at 452.

If the plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden then shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its actions. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. The employer's burden, however, is merely one of production. Burdine, 450 U.S. at 254-55. The employer "need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons. It is sufficient if the defendant's evidence raises a genuine issue of fact as to whether it discriminated against the plaintiff." Id.

If the employer is successful, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the employer's stated reason was a pretext for discrimination. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 143 (2000). The plaintiff "may attempt to establish that he was the victim of intentional discrimination `by showing that the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of credence.'" Id. (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256). But "[p]roof that the defendant's explanation is unworthy of credence is simply one form of circumstantial evidence that is probative of intentional discrimination." Id. at 147. Thus, the trier of fact may also "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.'" Id. (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 255 n. 10). "Whether judgment as a matter of law is appropriate in any particular case will depend on a number of factors . . . includ[ing] the strength of the plaintiff's prima facie case, ...


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