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Kwon v. Billington

March 31, 2005

JEANIE I. KWON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES H. BILLINGTON, LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Jeanie Kwon brings this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1991 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 633a et seq, against James Billington, Librarian of Congress, alleging that she was denied two promotions at the Library of Congress on the basis of her national origin and age and in retaliation for past complaints of discriminatory conduct. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons explained below, defendant's motion is granted, and judgment is entered in favor of defendant.

BACKGROUND

The material facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff is an Asian-American female born in Korea on July 12, 1937. See Def. Ex. 2. She began working for the Library of Congress in 1985 as a GS-9 preliminary Cataloging Technician. See Def. Ex. 2; Pl. Ex. 1, at 9. In 1997, as the result of a reorganization, she became an Acquisition Technician. See Pl. Ex. 1, at 12-14. Plaintiff says that she has never received any of the promotions she has applied for in her more than twenty years as an employee at the Library of Congress. Pl. Mem. at 2. At the time of the events giving rise to this case, she had already filed several EEOC complaints, the most recent in April 1997. See Def. Ex. 26; Pl. Ex. 9.

I. The Librarian Cataloger Position

In 1998, the Library of Congress posted a vacancy announcement for the position of a Librarian Cataloger in the Korean/Chinese Team, Regional Cooperative Cataloging Division, Library Services. See Def. Ex. 1. The announcement listed the minimum qualifications for the job as including a knowledge of cataloging rules, the ability to organize, analyze and interpret data, the ability to communicate and interact with others; and the ability to communicate in writing. See Pl. Ex. 2, at 2. The announcement also stated that the applicant must possess the ability to read and comprehend the Korean language. See id. at 2. Plaintiff submitted an application for this position.

A reviewing panel of three members of the Library's Human Resources Services reviewed all of the applications to determine who possessed the minimum qualifications for the position. The panel determined that three persons were minimally qualified for the Librarian Cataloger position. See Def. Ex. 4. The panel then ranked the qualified applicants and determined that two of these persons -- plaintiff and Ji Ping Wu -- were the "best qualified" of the candidates for the position. See Def. Exs. 4, 5.*fn1 Wu is an Asian-American female born in China on October 14, 1968. See Def. Ex. 3. She had been employed as a Cataloging Technician at the Library of Congress since 1995, and she had one year of prior experience working part-time as a professional cataloger as a student at the University of Iowa. See id.; Pl. Ex. 26, at 16. On her application, Wu explained that she has a"working knowledge" of, and is"able to read and comprehend," the Korean language. Pl. Ex. 12.

Both individuals on the "best qualified list" were interviewed by Philip Melzer (the selecting official and the Team Leader for the Korean/Chinese Team, Regional Cooperative Cataloging Division, Library Services) and Angela Kinney (the Special Assistant to the Director of National Services of the Library of Congress). Def. Ex. 6, 7. The interviewers used the same set of questions for each candidate. Def. Ex. 6, 7. As part of the selection process, Melzer contacted plaintiff's direct supervisor (James Macleod) and former supervisor of eight years (Megan Caverly), and Wu's current supervisor (Jerry Wager). Def. Exs. 10, 11. Caverly gave plaintiff a poor reference in which she stated that plaintiff had difficulty working with people and lacked attention to detail (although MacLeod gave plaintiff a favorable review). See Def. Ex. 11; Pl. Ex. 5, at 68. On the other hand, Wager said that Wu was his "best employee." Def. Ex. 11.*fn2

Following the interviews, Melzer and Kinney both determined that Wu was the strongest candidate for the Librarian Cataloger position, and Wu was selected for the position effective August 2, 1998. See Def. Exs. 6, 12, 13.

Plaintiff had an active EEOC complaint naming Caverly as a discriminating official at the time that Melzer contacted her. See Pl. Ex. 9.*fn3 Melzer testified that he had no knowledge of any prior EEOC activity by plaintiff at the time of the selection for the professional cataloger position.

Def. Ex. 12; Def. Ex. 28, at 73. On September 20, 2000, plaintiff filed a formal complaint of discrimination with the Library's Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office (EEOCO), alleging that she had been denied the promotion on the basis of age, race and national origin, and had been retaliated against for her prior EEOC complaints. Def. Ex. 14; Compl. ¶ 13. She identified Melzer but not Kinney or Caverly as the alleged discriminating official. See Def. Ex. 14.

II. The Reference Librarian Position

In 2000, the Library posted a Vacancy Announcement for the position of Reference Librarian in the Korean Section, Asian Division, Area Studies Collections, Library Services. See Def. Ex. 15. The announcement listed the skills and abilities relevant to this position as including knowledge of Korean, knowledge of reference librarianship, knowledge of automated bibliographic databases and automated systems, and an ability to communicate and interact with others and to communicate in writing. The first three of these requirements constituted the minimum requirements for this position. See Def. Ex. 15.

Plaintiff applied for the position, as did Sonya Lee, an Asian-American female citizen who was born in Korea on March 18, 1959. Lee was employed at the time as a Cataloging Technician at the Library of Congress. Prior to that position, Lee had worked as a Reference Librarian in the Korean Section from October 1995 to May 1999 (although she was a temporary employee until May of 1998). While in that position, her responsibilities included all of the responsibilities of the open Reference Librarian position. Def. Ex. 17. The Library's Human Resources Services ranked plaintiff and Lee as the two "best qualified" candidates. Def. Ex. 18. The ...


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