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Sullivan v. Catholic University of America

September 9, 2005


The opinion of the court was delivered by: James Robertson United States District Judge


Alfonso Sullivan, Jr. has sued his former employer Catholic University of America alleging violations of the D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA), D.C. Code § 2-1402.11, and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Catholic has moved for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth in this memorandum, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.


Mr. Sullivan is African-American. He began working for Catholic in November 2001 as the University's first manager of training and development. He worked without incident until shortly after August 5, 2002, the day he attended a meeting at which University President David M. O'Connell was present. While Mr. Sullivan claims that he himself called the meeting to discuss discriminatory treatment of African-American employees, Catholic cites deposition testimony of President O'Connell to the effect that the director of the Office of Black Catholics of the Archdioceses of Washington called the meeting "so that he could come and discuss with me the Office of Black Catholics." Def. Ex. 3 at 38. Some ten weeks after the meeting, on October 28, 2002, Mr. Sullivan's office was moved to what he describes as a basement cubicle. He claims that the office move was done in retaliation for his participation in the August 5 meeting. Catholic asserts a legitimate, nonretaliatory reason for the move --- that it was part of an office reorganization occasioned by the elimination of the Office of Vice-President for Administration. In that reorganization, employees like Mr. Sullivan, who worked in the Office of Human Resources, were reassigned to work under the Associate Vice President for Business Services, Charles Mann. Def. Ex. 5 at 23-24.

Mr. Sullivan also claims that he applied for a promotion to Director of Equal Employment and that his non-selection for the position was both discriminatory on account of his race (African-American) and retaliatory because of his participation in the August 5, 2002 meeting. Catholic's response is that Mr. Sullivan did not apply for the position and that, in any case, he was not qualified for it.

Mr. Sullivan makes a number of other allegations in support of his claims of discrimination. He states that, on July 12, 2002, after observing an exchange between members of the custodial staff, he noted that sexual harassment training was needed, and that Catholic's general counsel answered that such behavior was "a cultural issue for African-Americans, that's how they speak to their women." Def. Ex. 2, Answer to Interrogatory 8. He states further that Charles Mann, Associate Vice President for Business Services, called him "arrogant nigger" and "asshole," once "smacked the back of plaintiff's head," gave him a jazz recording and said "you probably like this kind of music," and generally badgered him about his lawsuit, his intent to hurt the University, his consulting work, and his relocation to a basement office. Def. Ex. 9, Answer to Interrogatory 9. These allegations of mistreatment by Mr. Mann are denied but will be taken as true for purposes of deciding the instant motion, see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986).

On June 4, 2004, Mr. Sullivan's supervisor Barbara Coughlin gave him a performance evaluation, under a cover letter titled "Written Warning - Unsatisfactory Job Performance." Def. Ex. 11. He received the lowest possible ranking on every criterion. The letter listed many areas in which Mr. Sullivan's performance was unsatisfactory and stated that, unless he improved in the next two months, he would be terminated. Id. On July 22, 2004, Mr. Sullivan resigned.


Summary judgment will be granted upon a finding that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)), or if the record contains no genuine issue of material fact and no reasonable juror could find in favor of the non-movant. Carter v. George Washington University, 387 F.3d 872, 878 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

Procedural Issues

One of the reasons why the defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted in this case is that plaintiff has never complied with Local Civil Rule 7(h) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e), which required him to file a statement of all genuine issues of material fact that he asserts are disputed. This disregard of procedural rules is sufficient without more to support summary judgment for the defendant. See Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d 145 (D.C. Cir. 1996); Twist v. Meese, 854 F.2d 1421, 1425 (D.C. Cir. 1988). Plaintiff also failed properly to invoke Rule 56(f), see King v. United States Dep't of Justice, 830 F.2d 210, 232 n.157 (D.C. Cir. 1987), or to point out the specific facts to which he would gain access if permitted further discovery, or to convincingly explain why he was unable to produce them at this time.*fn1 See Carpenter v. Fed. Nat'l Mortgage Assoc., 174 F.3d 231, 237 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

Race Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

The D.C. Human Rights Act (DCHRA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees in hiring, discharge, or with respect to "compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, including promotion . . . ." D.C. Code § 1-2512. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ensures the rights of all citizens to make and enforce contracts, and to enjoy "all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the contractual relationship." 42 U.S.C. § 1981(b). Courts typically look to Title VII and its jurisprudence when addressing both DCHRA and § 1981 claims. Carpenter, 165 F.3d at 72; Carney v. American Univ., 151 F.3d 1090, 1093 (D.C. Cir. 1998).

In order to trigger the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting scheme that courts have developed under Title VII and which applies equally under the DCHRA and under ยง 1981, see Mungin v. Katten Muchin & Zavis, 116 F.3d 1549, 1553 (D.C. Cir. ...

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