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Worthey v. Snow

June 20, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge,


Before the Court is defendant John Snow's Motion [17] for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the defendant's motion, the plaintiff's opposition, and the defendant's reply, the Court will deny the Motion for Summary Judgment in the Order to follow this opinion.


On October 16, 2003, plaintiff Dianna Worthey, an employee of the Internal Revenue Service, was denied a promotion from the GS-12 pay grade to the GS-13 pay grade. Ms. Worthey alleges that this denial was part of a pattern of racial discrimination perpetrated against her by Ms. Margaret Nichols, plaintiff's immediate supervisor and an employee of the named defendant. As a result of this alleged treatment, Ms. Worthey brought this suit on July 26, 2004.

Ms. Worthey claims that under Ms. Nichols' supervision, she suffered adverse treatment, as a result of her race, including: assignment to shared office space, inferior to office space provided to lower-grade Caucasian employees; failure to be contacted about a day off, resulting in unnecessary travel to work; denial of a due promotion; and hostile treatment in retaliation for contacting an EEO counselor, including a seven-day suspension from work. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 9, 11, 13, 16-23.)

Defendant offers, as a non-discriminatory reason for the adverse actions Ms. Worthey alleges, that Ms. Worthey was denied a promotion as a result of performance problems; had previously shared an office with the same individual, having been, at any rate, allowed the opportunity to exchange offices with another employee; and was suspended for an inappropriate attitude toward her supervisor. (See, e.g., Answer ¶¶ 9-10.) Having addressed the thrust of the plaintiff's complaint and the defendant's answer, the Court turns to the standard by which the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on this matter will be addressed.


I. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment in Discrimination Suits

Summary judgment is appropriate when there exist no genuine issues of material fact suitable for trial. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). To grant summary judgment is to conclude that no reasonable factfinder could find for the non-moving party, as there exist no material issues of fact that the non-moving party brings to the Court. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986). In reaching this conclusion, a court should not make credibility determinations or weigh evidence; those functions are for the jury. The non-movant, however, is to be given the benefit of all reasonable inferences in her favor. Id., at 477 U.S. 255.

A party moving for summary judgment need not foreclose entirely the possibility of the non-movant's assertions; rather, the movant need only show that the non-movant has not established an issue necessary -- that is, material -- to her case. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). An issue is considered material if its existence might affect the outcome of the suit. Anderson, at 477 U.S. 248. To render an issue in dispute, a party opposing summary judgment must do more than rest upon her pleading: she must show that there is sufficient evidence supporting the existence of a dispute to require a factfinder to adjudicate the truth of the parties' differing claims. Id. at 248-49.

In a Title VII discrimination suit, a plaintiff's prima facie case that she has suffered discrimination requires a showing that: (1) plaintiff is a member of a protected class of individuals; (2) plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the adverse action creates an inference of discrimination against the plaintiff. Chappell-Johnson v. Powell, 440 F.3d 484, 488 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing Brown v. Brody, 199 F.3d 446, 452 (D.C. Cir. 1999)). If the plaintiff makes such a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to produce some non-discriminatory reason for the action taken against the plaintiff. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). Once the defendant has done so, his motion for summary judgment forces the plaintiff to convince the court that there is a genuine issue of fact as to whether the proffered non-discriminatory reason for the employment action is merely a pretext. In determining whether to issue summary judgment for the defendant, "the court must consider all the evidence in its full context in deciding whether the plaintiff has met his burden of showing that a reasonable jury could conclude that he had suffered discrimination . . . ." Aka v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1290 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Having expounded the standard with which it will test Ms. Worthey's Title VII claims, the Court now applies that standard.

II. Application

A. Worthey's Failure to Advance to Pay Grade GS-13

Ms. Worthey alleges that she was denied her grade increase as a result of Ms. Nichols' racism. Defendant, however, has provided an amply documented non-discriminatory reason for the denial: deficiencies in Ms. Worthey's performance. (See Def.'s Mot. ¶¶ 12-14.) Ms. Worthey denies that memoranda -- the existence of which she admits -- state deficiencies in her performance, yet on at least one memorandum, a deficiency is present on the first page. (E.g., Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 12; contra Def.'s Ex. 11.) In fact, plaintiff gives a blanket denial of several deficiencies discussed in one of the ...

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