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MIANEGAZ v. HYATT CORPORATION

May 24, 2004.

REZA MIANEGAZ, Plaintiff
v.
HYATT CORPORATION, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICARDO URBINA, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DISMISSING THE PLAINTIFF'S ADEA TERMINATION CLAIM AND GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE REMAINING CLAIMS
I. INTRODUCTION
This case comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff alleges that his former employer, the defendant, unlawfully discriminated against him in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code §§ 2-1401 et seq. The court dismisses the plaintiff's ADEA termination claim because he has failed to exhaust the ADEA's prescribed administrative remedies for that claim. As to the plaintiff's remaining claims, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment because the plaintiff has failed to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under either the ADEA or the DCHRA. II. BACKGROUND

  A. Factual Background

  The plaintiff began working for the defendant as a butcher in 1981. Def's Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Def's Statement") ¶¶ 1-4; Pl.'s Statement of Disputed Facts ("Pl.'s Statement") ¶ 4. In January 2000, one of the plaintiff's supervisors reported that the plaintiff directed inappropriate and abusive language at another employee. Def.'s Statement ¶ 6; see generally Pl.'s Statement. After this incident, the plaintiffs supervisors warned him that any repeated conduct of this nature could result in his termination. Def.'s Statement f 7; see generally Pl.'s Statement.

  A few months later, in April 2000, a supervisor reported that the plaintiff confronted and threatened him after once again directing inappropriate and abusive language at another employee. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 8-9; see generally Pl.'s Statement. As a result of this second transgression, the defendant suspended the plaintiff for five days and required him to attend and provide documentation of anger-management counseling. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 10-11; see generally Pl.'s Statement.

  Nearly a year later, in March 2001, another supervisor reported that the plaintiff had, yet again, used inappropriate and abusive language in the workplace. Def.'s Statement ¶ 15; see generally Pl.'s Statement. Consequently, the defendant suspended the plaintiff for ten days, again ordering him to attend and document his enrollment in anger-management counseling. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 16-17; see generally Pl.'s Statement. The plaintiff refused to attend the defendant's prescribed anger-management counseling. Mussad Decl. ¶¶ 6-7 & Attachs. 3-4, 6-7. Due to his suspensions, on March 22, 2001, the then 58-year-old plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that the defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his age. Def.'s Statement ¶ 39; Pl.'s Dep. Tr. ("Pl.'s Dep.") Ex. 3. Specifically, he claimed that the defendant had not suspended similarly situated younger employees for comparable conduct. Def.'s Statement ¶ 41; Pl.'s Dep. Ex. 3.

  On November 2001, while his EEOC complaint was pending, the plaintiff reported that he injured his back while lifting a box of meat at work. Def.'s Statement ¶ 20; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 4. As a result of his alleged injury, the plaintiff discontinued work, presented the defendant with a doctor's statement restricting his employment activities, and filed for workers' compensation. Def.'s Statement ¶ 22; Pl.'s Statement ¶ 4.

  Thereafter, in an effort to verify the legitimacy of the plaintiff's reported injury and inability to work, the workers' compensation insurance provider had the plaintiff submit to an independent medical evaluation and assigned private investigators to conduct surveillance of the plaintiff. Def.'s Statement ¶ 23; see generally Pl.'s Statement. In January 2002, the defendant received a videotape from the insurance provider that contained footage of the plaintiff repeatedly lifting luggage. Def.'s Statement ¶ 24; see generally Pl.'s Statement. The defendant also received a copy of the independent medical evaluation, which determined that the plaintiffs conduct on the videotape was inconsistent with his reported condition and that the plaintiff could work without restriction. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 25-31; see generally Pl.'s Statement. After reviewing the videotape and the medical evaluation, the defendant's general manager, in conjunction with the recommendation of the defendant's director of human resources, terminated the plaintiff for "misrepresent[ing] his ability to work after allegedly suffering an on-the-job injury." Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 33-34, 37; see generally Pl.'s Statement. B. Procedural History

  On March 29, 2002, the EEOC issued the plaintiff a "Notice of Right to Sue" at the request of his counsel. Am. Compl. at 2; Pl.'s Dep. Ex. E. On April 24, 2002, the plaintiff initiated this suit against the defendant, alleging that the defendant violated the ADEA by suspending and later terminating the plaintiff on account of his age. Compl. ¶ 2; Am. Compl. at 1-2. On May 12, 2003, pursuant to the parties' stipulation, the plaintiff amended his complaint, adding an unlawful-termination claim under the DCHRA. Am. Compl. at 3-4. After receiving the plaintiff's consent, the defendant late-filed an answer to the amended complaint, advancing, inter alia, the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies with regard to the plaintiff's ADEA termination claim. Answer to Am. Compl. at 5. On November 3, 2003, the defendant filed its motion for summary judgment. The court now addresses that motion.

  III. ANALYSIS

  A. The Court Dismisses the Plaintiff's ADEA Termination Claim

  1. Legal Standard for Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies Under the ADEA

  The purpose of the ADEA is to "promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment; [and] to help employers and workers find ways of meeting problems arising from the impact of age on employment." 29 U.S.C. § 621(b). Toward that end, the ADEA gives an individual who is at least 40 years old the right to seek relief against his employer if the employer has taken some adverse employment action against him on the basis of age rather than ability. Id. §§ 623, 631(a).

  Before filing suit under the ADEA, a putative plaintiff must exhaust his administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory incident. Id. § 626(d)(1); see also Washington v. Wash. Metro Area Transit Auth., 160 F.3d 750, 752 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (stating that "[b]efore suing under the ADEA[,] . . . an aggrieved party must exhaust his administrative remedies by filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC"). The "charge" requirement mandates the filing of a written statement identifying the potential defendant and generally describing the alleged discriminatory incident. H.R. Rep. No. 95-950, at 12 (1978) (conference report). According to the D.C. Circuit,
[a] vague or circumscribed EEOC charge will not satisfy the exhaustion requirement for claims it does not fairly embrace. Allowing a complaint to encompass allegations outside the ambit of the predicate EEOC charge would circumvent the EEOC's investigatory and conciliatory role, as well as deprive the charged party of notice of the charge, as surely as would an initial failure to file a timely EEOC charge. Naturally every detail of the eventual complaint need not be presaged in the ...

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