The opinion of the court was delivered by: HENRY KENNEDY, District Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiffs Ava Johnson and Peggy Wilson*fn1 allege that
their employer, the United States Capitol Police Board ("USCP")
discriminated against them on the basis of race in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"),
42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Congressional Accountability
Act of 1995 ("CAA"), 2 U.S.C. §§ 1301 1438. Presently before
the court is defendant's motion to dismiss, or in the alternative
for summary judgment [#61]. Upon consideration of the motion, the
opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court
concludes that the motion must be denied. I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION
USCP's Office of Financial Management ("OFM") has three
sections accounting, budget, and procurement. At the time of
their complaint, plaintiffs, both African-American women, worked
in the accounting section. They allege that they have
"consistently" suffered "disparate and discriminatory treatment
as compared to [OFM's] white employees" at the hands of Maryjean
Jablonicky, who became OFM's director in April 2001. Compl. ¶¶
11, 10. Plaintiffs' immediate supervisor was Carol Warren; both
Jablonicky and Warren are white women. Although plaintiffs
originally sought recovery for numerous alleged discriminatory
acts, their only claim still before the court is that USCP
improperly denied them a salary increase award in February
March 2002.*fn2 Although Warren advocated for plaintiffs to
receive the award, Jablonicky "refused to process the paperwork"
for the increases, while approving a similar award for plaintiffs' white
counterpart in OFM's procurement section. Id. ¶¶ 13-14.
More specifically, according to plaintiffs, Warren sought to
recognize their contributions with a merit pay award. She
discussed the matter with Jablonicky, both in person and via
e-mail. See Warren Dep. at 188. After seeking guidance from
USCP's personnel office and receiving Jablonicky's instructions
to do so, Warren consulted with USCP's Chief Administrative
Officer, John McWilliam. Warren then prepared a separate
nomination package for Johnson and for Wilson, consisting of a
pre-printed form entitled "United States Capitol Police Award Nomination," dated February 6, 2002,*fn3 as well as a cover
memo to McWilliam, dated February 26, 2002. Pls.' Opp'n, Exs. 11,
12. On March 5, 2002, McWilliam sent Jablonicky a memo indicating
that he was returning the award nominations for further
information because "[t]he recommendations for both requests
cover actions by the employees primarily in FY 2000," while
"[m]erit increases must include the employee's most recent
performance." Id., Ex. 13. Shortly afterward, on March 7 or 8,
2002, Jablonicky then summoned Warren into her office to discuss
the nominations. During this discussion, according to Warren,
Jablonicky "went into an irate and lengthy tirade," Warren Aff. ¶
18. She "told [Warren] that she would not approve the awards";
mentioned that Kay Benner, an employee with USCP's Human
Resources Division, had called Warren and her staff "worthless
people"; and stated by way of justification that Warren and
plaintiffs "did not work overtime as other divisions did during
the anthrax and the 9/11 incident." Warren Dep. at 210, 212, 214.
Jablonicky, however, "did not tell [Warren] that John was asking
for additional information to approve the awards." Warren Aff. ¶ 17.
Jablonicky, for her part, stated that "[d]uring the
conversation, both parties were frustrated, but neither party
raised a voice or was disrespectful." Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J.,
Ex. 2F at 6. She testified that she "asked [Warren] why the award
nomination memorandum did not come through me," a question for
which Warren "did not provide a clear explanation." Jablonicky
Aff. ¶¶ 47-48. She further stated that she would not authorize
merit increases for plaintiffs because of "performance issues"
she had with Wilson's work, and because she "wasn't sure that we
had enough work time for 2001, because Ava [Johnson] had been out
sick, to justify the merit increase over and above her salary. . . ." Jablonicky
Dep. (May 14, 2004) at 150-51. Around the time she denied
plaintiffs' award nominations, Jablonicky approved the same award
for Dewayne Chamberlain, a white man working in OFM's procurement
section. Jablonicky Aff. ¶¶ 59, 63. After completing their
required period of counseling with OFM's Office of Compliance,
plaintiffs brought this action on March 4, 2003.
A. Legal Standard/Analytical Framework
Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, summary judgment*fn4 shall be
granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to
interrogatories, admissions on file and affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute and that
the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Material facts are those "that might affect the outcome of the
suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In considering a summary judgment
motion, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and
all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Id.
at 255. But the non-moving party's opposition must consist of
more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be
supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317
(1986). The non-moving party is "required to provide evidence
that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in its favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir.
1987). If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not
significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate
against an individual on the basis of race or sex.
42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a). The CAA applies several anti-discrimination laws,
including Title VII, to the legislative branch of the federal
government. Reynolds v. U.S. Capitol Police Bd.,
357 F. Supp. 2d 2, 9 (D.D.C. 2004).
Where, as here, the record contains no direct evidence of
discrimination,*fn5 the court employs a burden-shifting
framework adapted from McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). First, to make a prima facie case of
racial discrimination under Title VII, plaintiffs must show that
(1) they belong to a protected class; (2) they suffered an
adverse employment action; and (3) the adverse action gives rise
to an inference of discrimination. Stella v. Mineta,
284 F.3d 135, 145 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Brown v. Brody,
199 F.3d 446, 452 (D.C. Cir. 1999)). Next, if plaintiffs successfully
establish a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden
shifts to USCP to assert a "legitimate, non-discriminatory
reason" for the adverse action. McDonnell Douglas,
411 U.S. at 802. Plaintiffs must then demonstrate that USCP's asserted
explanation is in reality "a pretext for discrimination." Texas
Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252-53 (1981).
In a case of alleged discrimination in violation of Title VII,
the court "must apply strictly the standards for summary judgment
because `discriminatory intent and proof of disparate treatment
are notoriously difficult to establish.'" Teneyck v. Omni Shoreham Hotel, 224 F. Supp. 2d 43, 47 (D.D.C. 2002) (quoting Ross v.
Runyon, 859 F. Supp. 15, 21-22 (D.D.C. 1994), aff'd per
curiam, No. 95-5080, 1995 WL 791567 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 7, 1995)).
In this circuit, denial of a monetary award has been held to
constitute an adverse employment action for purposes of Title
VII. See Russell v. Principi, 257 F.3d 815, 819 (D.C. Cir.
2001) ("a bonus is a tangible, quantifiable award" with a
"direct, measurable, and immediate effect"). Since, as
African-American women, plaintiffs are members of a class of
persons protected by Title VII, it is undisputed that they have
made out the first two elements of their prima facie case. USCP
argues, however, that they fail to establish the third element of
their prima facie case, because they are not similarly situated
to Dewayne Chamberlain, their white co-worker who did receive the
merit increase.*fn6 Specifically, USCP argues that because
Chamberlain worked as a purchasing agent rather than as an
accountant, and because he reported to a different first-line
supervisor than plaintiffs, he cannot be a valid comparator for
purposes of plaintiffs' discrimination claim. See Def.'s Reply
at 3-4. Plaintiffs respond that like Chamberlain, plaintiffs were
nominated for a merit increase award; that the same supervisor
denied plaintiffs' nominations and approved Chamberlain's; that
while plaintiffs and Chamberlain "did not perform identical job
functions," they worked within the same office, "performing
financial support tasks" for USCP, and were all non-supervisory
employees under the same second-line supervisor. Pls.' Sur-reply at 5. Plaintiffs are correct that for purposes of
establishing a prima facie case, they "need not show identical
circumstances with [their] comparator in all pertinent respects.
It suffice[s] to show that the plaintiff[s] and the comparator
were `similarly situated in all material respects' not in all
respects." Willingham v. Ashcroft, 226 F.R.D. 57, 62 (D.D.C.
2005) (quoting McGuinness v. Lincoln Hall, 263 F.3d 49, 54 (2d
Cir. 2001) (internal citation omitted)); see also Anderson v.
WBMG-42, 253 F.3d 561, (11th Cir. 2001) (plaintiffs similarly
situated to comparator when they "fell within the primary
responsibility of one middle manager and the same supervisory
chain of command.") Accordingly, plaintiffs have brought forward
a prima facie case of race-based discrimination.*fn7
USCP also asks the court to find that plaintiffs were not
similarly situated to Chamberlain on the basis of three
additional factors: chain of command issues, Chamberlain's
extraordinary contributions to USCP, and Jablonicky's stated
concerns with Wilson's performance. Although USCP raises these
issues for the purpose of showing that plaintiffs are not
similarly situated to Chamberlain, they are more ...