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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Dist. of Columbia Public Schools

August 13, 2003


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge


This lawsuit involves a claim of age discrimination. Plaintiff, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") has brought this action on behalf of Dora Smith, who alleges that she was terminated from her teaching position by the defendant because of her age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 (2000). Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [#33]. Because the Court concludes that there exists material facts that are genuinely at issue, defendant's motion must be denied.

I. Factual Background

The facts underlying this lawsuit are straightforward: Dora Smith was a teacher in the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") system for over 37 years.*fn1 EEOC's Points and Authorities in Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 1.*fn2 Plaintiff was approximately 62 years old when the operative events that form the nucleus of this lawsuit occurred.*fn3 After working at several other schools in the DCPS system, Ms. Smith joined the Woodson Senior High School's Business and Finance Academy staff at the beginning of the 1995-96 academic year, where she was employed as one of two social studies teachers. Pl.'s Opp'n at 5; Defendant's Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mem."), Statement of Material Facts as to Which Defendant Contends There is No Genuine Dispute ("Def.'s Stmt.") at 1. The director of the Business Academy was Barbara Birchette. Def.'s Stmt. at 1.

Near the end of the 1995-96 academic year, DCPS issued a memorandum indicating that, as"part of the deficit reduction plan in response to... budgetary restraints..." the Board of Education had approved a Reduction in Force ("RIF") for the 1996 fiscal year. Def.'s Mem., Exhibit ("Ex.") 1 (Memorandum from Franklin L. Smith, Superintendent of Schools, dated May 16, 1996). Notably, this RIF would be conducted in accordance with the revised RIF rules that had become effective on May 15, 1996. Id. According to these new rules, a determination regarding whether to terminate an employee would"not rest solely upon length of service, although this remain[ed] a factor." Id. Specifically, the new rules provided that a decision to retain or terminate an employee should be made based on the following factors:

(a) significant relevant contributions, accomplishment or performance;

(b) relevant professional experience as demonstrated on the job;

(c) office or school needs, including: curriculum, specialized education, degrees, licenses, and/or areas of expertise; and

(d) length of service.

Def.'s Mem., Ex. 2 (FY96 Reduction in Force Procedures) at 3.

It is not clear who decided that one of the two social studies positions would need to be eliminated at the Business and Finance Academy,*fn4 however, once that decision was made, director Barbara Birchette had the responsibility of"rank[ing] a number of teachers based upon [a] Competitive Level Documentation Form [("CLDF")], including Dora Smith and Susan Kay." Def.'s Stmt. at 3; Def.'s Mem. Ex. 6 (Deposition of Barbara Birchette dated September 11, 2002) ("Birchette Dep.") at 77-78.

A teacher's total score on his or her CLDF was determined by assigning a numerical value, not in excess of 25 points, in each of the four RIF categories contained in the 1996 Procedures. Def.'s Mem., Birchette Dep. at 78-82. Regarding Dora Smith's scores, Ms. Birchette awarded ten points in the first category, "Relevant Significant Contributions, Accomplishments or Performance." Def.'s Mem., Ex. 4 (Dora Smith's CLDF). In the notes accompanying the CLDF, Ms. Birchette noted that Ms. Smith"[p]rovides students with a wide variety of supplementary materials; [and] makes the classroom an informative environment for students." Id. In the second category,"Relevant Professional Experience as Demonstrated on the Job[,]" Ms. Smith received a score of 15 points, with Ms. Birchette noting that Ms. Smith had"taken various workshops through the school system." Id. Ms. Smith received ten points in the third category,"Office or School Needs[,]" where Ms. Birchette noted that Ms. Smith"[h]as an undergraduate and graduate degree and has done extensive work toward [a] doctorate degree[.]" Id. Finally, Ms. Smith received the maximum 25 points in the last category,"Length of Service," which was mandated based on the period of time she had been employed by DCPS. Id. This last score was assigned by the Human Resources office, while the first three were assigned by director Birchette. Id. Ms. Smith also received an additional five points for being a District of Columbia resident, thus giving her a total score of 65. Id.

In contrast to Ms. Smith's total score of 65 points, Ms. Kay received a total score of 80 points. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 5 (Susan Kay's CLDF). Regarding her relevant contributions to the Business and Finance Academy, Ms. Kay was awarded the maximum 25 points, which Ms. Birchette concluded was based on Ms. Kay having

[c]oordinated a multitude of school/subject related activities and forums including Woodson's participation on C-Span, national radio and TV shows, political forums with Capitol Hill Congressmen and staffers,"First Vote" as well as ...

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