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Wright v. Snow

June 14, 2006

PHYLLIS A. WRIGHT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN W. SNOW, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment at 1. The plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se in this matter, has brought suit against her former employer, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), for racial discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 (2006). Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 1. Currently before the Court are a Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mem."), the Defendant's Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute ("Def.'s Facts"), defendant's exhibits A through GG ("Def.'s Ex."), Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), plaintiff's exhibits 1 through 21 ("Pl.'s Ex."), and Defendant's Reply to Plaintiff's Opposition to His Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Reply"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the defendant's motion.

I. Factual Background

The plaintiff is an African American female. Pl.'s Opp'n at 9. The plaintiff began working for the agency defendant on June 1, 1999, as a contract employee. Id. She was assigned to the Counsel Document Review ("CDR") team in the Office of the Associate Chief Counsel. Def.'s Ex. A (Plaintiff's Deposition ("Pl.'s Dep.") I) at 47-48, 54. The CDR team was divided into three sub-teams: the Redaction Team, the Taxpayer Locator Team, and the Document Control Team. Id. at 67. The Redaction Team reviewed documents that would be publicly released and redacted any information that was privileged or could identify the taxpayer. Def.'s Ex. J (Redaction Team Position Description). The Taxpayer Locator Team reviewed documents sent to taxpayers to ensure that each document was sent to the correct taxpayer. Def.'s Ex. K (Taxpayer Locator Team Position Description). The Document Control Team managed data entry and filing. Def.'s Ex. A (Pl.'s Dep. I) at 58. As a contract employee, the plaintiff worked with the Taxpayer Locator Team. Id. at 67-68.

In September 1999, the plaintiff applied for a term position working directly for the IRS as a paralegal specialist. Pl.'s Opp'n at 9. The plaintiff was informed that she was not among the best qualified candidates, and was not offered the job. Id. The four individuals hired by the defendant, three Caucasians and one African American, included three other contract employees with whom the plaintiff had been working. Id. at 9-10. The plaintiff then filed an administrative complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging that she was not selected for one of the positions due to racial discrimination. Id. at 10.

The defendant subsequently offered the plaintiff the position, and after accepting it the plaintiff did not further pursue her claim with the EEOC. Id. The plaintiff was hired for the position on October 25, 1999, and soon thereafter was transferred to the Redaction Team. Id. The other recently hired paralegals remained with the Taxpayer Locator Team, and were never transferred. Id. The plaintiff was transferred back to the Taxpayer Locator Team in December 2001. Def.'s Ex. B (Pl.'s Dep. II) at 96-97. On June 2, 2002, the plaintiff was again transferred to the Redaction Team. Pl.'s Opp'n at 11.

During her employment with the IRS, the plaintiff sought the assistance of the National Treasury Employees Union ("NTEU"). Id. at 10. Presumably with its assistance, the plaintiff arranged meetings among employees, management, and union officials to address issues concerning allegedly disparate treatment regarding, among other things, bonuses, evaluations, and time and attendance requirements. Am. Compl. ¶ 30.

The plaintiff received three performance evaluations during her tenure at the IRS. Def.'s Ex. O (First Performance Evaluation); Def.'s Ex. P (Second Performance Evaulation); Def.'s Ex. V (Final Performance Evaluation). She was given an overall evaluation of "Exceeds Fully Successful" on the first two evaluations, which encompassed October 1999 through April 2001 and May 2001 through September 2001 respectively. Def.'s Ex. O (First Performance Evaluation); Def.'s Ex. P (Second Performance Evaluation). However, between her second and third formal evaluations, the plaintiff was twice informed that the quality of her work performance was declining. Def.'s Ex. Q (Mem. from June 7 meeting); Def.'s Ex. T (Mem. from July 16 meeting); Def.'s Ex. A (Pl.'s Dep. I) at 157-58, 160; Def.'s Ex. B (Pl.'s Dep. II) at 54-55. In both instances, the plaintiff responded with memoranda refuting her alleged performance deficiencies and claiming that her superiors were retaliating against her for her union activity. Def.'s Ex. R (Pl.'s Rebuttal Mem. to June 7 Mem.); Def.'s Ex. U (Pl.'s Rebuttal Mem. to July 16 Mem.). In the plaintiff's third and final performance evaluation, which covered the period of October 2001 through September 2002, she received an evaluation of "Unacceptable." Def.'s Ex. V (Final Performance Evaluation).

On July 23, 2002, the plaintiff contacted an EEOC counselor, alleging that the accusations of poor performance, along with her reassignments and denied transfer requests, were retaliation for the filing of her 1999 EEOC complaint and her union activities. Def.'s Ex. Y (EEO Counselor's Report). The counselor issued a Notice of Final Interview on August 21, 2002, informing the plaintiff that she had 15 days to file a formal administrative complaint based on her allegations of retaliation. Def.'s Ex. Z (August 21 Notice of Final Interview).

On September 6, 2002, the plaintiff was informed that her employment would be terminated. Def.'s Ex. AA (Union Grievance). In response to this notice, the plaintiff sent an email on September 9, 2002, to her union representative, Channing Horton, informing him of her termination and asserting that it was the product of discrimination and retaliation. Pl.'s Ex. 4 (Horton Email Chains). On September 25, 2002, Horton filed a grievance on her behalf, claiming that the defendant's failure to extend her employment was discriminatory based on race and in retaliation for her earlier union activities. Def.'s Ex. AA (Union Grievance). However, the plaintiff contends that she did not instruct her representative to file this grievance on her behalf. Pl.'s Ex. 3 (Pl.'s Affidavit). On October 17, 2002, the plaintiff again consulted an EEOC counselor, alleging that her termination and "Unacceptable" performance evaluation were discriminatory and retaliatory. Def.'s Ex. BB (Complainant's Intake Questionnaire). The plaintiff's termination took effect on October 18, 2002; she was the only term paralegal on the CDR team whose term of employment was not extended. Am. Compl. ¶ 21.

The plaintiff's union representative withdrew the plaintiff's negotiated grievance on November 8, 2002. Def.'s Ex. CC (Horton Email). On November 14, 2002, the plaintiff's EEOC counselor then issued a notice of final interview regarding the unfavorable evaluation and termination claims, informing the plaintiff of her right to file a formal administrative complaint within 15 days. Def.'s Ex. DD (November 14 Notice of Final Interview).

On December 2, 2002, the plaintiff filed a formal administrative complaint with the defendant challenging her termination. Def.'s Ex. EE (Pl.'s Administrative Complaint to the IRS). On January 22, 2003, the defendant wrote the plaintiff a letter accepting the plaintiff's complaint. Def.'s Ex. FF (Complaint Center's Acceptance Letter). This letter specified that the issue which the defendant would investigate was: "Whether the [plaintiff] was discriminated against . . . when she was terminated from the position of Paralegal Specialist on October 18, 2002." Id. The letter further stated:

If you disagree with the issue, please notify me in writing within 15 days of the date of this letter. Please be clear and concise in your response. If no response is received, I will assume that you agree with the issue and will proceed with the investigation of the complaint.

Id. On April 25, 2003, the defendant issued a letter dismissing the plaintiff's administrative complaint. Def.'s Ex. GG (Complaint Center's Dismissal Letter). The plaintiff ...


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