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Schmidt v. Chao

June 13, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge


Janet L. Schmidt, a Caucasian, charges Elaine L. Chao, in her official capacity as Secretary of Labor, with reverse discrimination and retaliation after an Asian female and an Hispanic male were promoted instead of Ms. Schmidt. After full discovery, the Secretary moves for summary judgment. Although the Court finds that Ms Schmidt carried her burden of establishing a prima facie case of reverse discrimination, she has failed to demonstrate pretext in the face of the Secretary's legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the selections. Ms. Schmidt has also failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation.

Therefore, the Court will dismiss her complaint.


Ms. Schmidt works for the Department of Labor ("DOL"), Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration ("PWBA"), Office of Exemption Determinations ("OED"), Division of Individual Exemptions, as a GS-12 attorney. On July 17, 2000, OED posted a vacancy announcement for two GS-13 Pension Law Specialists. Three people applied: Ms. Schmidt, Jose Jara, an Hispanic male, and Karin Weng, an Asian female. All three applicants already worked for OED and were on the "Best Qualified" list for the positions.

Ivan Strasfeld, a Caucasian male, is the Director of PWBA. He appointed Emmett Fillmore Williams, a Caucasian male, to be Acting Division Chief of OED in May 2000, a position Mr. Williams held at the time the selections were made for the GS-13 Pension Law Specialists positions. Mr. Williams was the selecting official and his involvement in the selection process began when he received the Best Qualified list.

Mr. Williams consulted with Jan Broady, an African-American female, on interview questions to ask the applicants, and Ms. Broady sat in on the interviews. All three candidates were interviewed. Mr. Jara and Ms. Weng were interviewed in person because they were working in Washington, D.C. However, Ms. Schmidt was on detail in California at the time of the interviews, so her interview was conducted by telephone. All three candidates had very good interviews, but Mr. Williams believed that Ms. Schmidt's interview was the best among them and he described it as "excellent." Each of the applicants was asked the same questions.

In addition to the interviews, Mr. Williams considered the candidates' most recent performance appraisals, statistics showing how many cases each applicant had closed with a granted exemption within the preceding 18-month period, and conversations he had regarding the candidates with the OED managers for whom each of them worked.*fn1

In their most recent performance appraisals, Ms. Weng and Mr. Jara each received "Outstanding" performance ratings, the highest rating available. Ms. Schmidt received the second highest rating, "Highly Effective," in her most recent performance appraisal. Additionally, Ms.

Weng and Mr. Jara each closed more cases with the grant of an exemption in the preceding 18-month period than did Ms. Schmidt.*fn2 Finally, Mr. Williams identified four managers in the office with whom he discussed the three candidates' performances: Mr. Campagna, Ms. Hall, Ms. Selvaggio, and Mr. Lux.

In making his final selections for the GS-13 positions, Mr. Williams gave two-thirds weight to the combination of the performance appraisal and the case statistics, and one-third weight to the combination of the interview and the input from the candidates' managers.

Ms. Schmidt also claims that she engaged in protected activity, for which she was retaliated against in the form of failure to promote. She asserts that her protected activity consisted of (1) informing her supervisor that she would file a union grievance for minor changes to her performance evaluation that did not change her overall rating;*fn3 (2) a December 1998 request for


A. Jurisdiction

Federal district courts have original jurisdiction over civil actions arising under federal statutes. 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Here, Ms. Schmidt brought suit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. As this case presents a question of federal law, this Court has original jurisdiction.

B. Summary Judgment

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment must be granted when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show 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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Moreover, summary judgment is properly granted against a party who "after adequate time for discovery and upon motion . . . fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the ...

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