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Brown v. Small

July 7, 2006

JEANEEN BROWN PLAINTIFF,
v.
LAWRENCE M. SMALL, SECRETARY, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff, Jeaneen Brown, brings this action alleging racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 et seq. (2000) ("Title VII"), and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. (2005) (amended 2006) ("DCHRA"). Complaint ("Compl.") & 3.*fn1 Currently before the Court is the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and the plaintiff's opposition thereto.*fn2 For the reasons set forth below, this Court grants the defendant's motion.

I. Factual Background

The plaintiff, an African American female, was employed by the Smithsonian Institution for approximately twelve and one half years creating visual displays for several of the museum's merchandise shops. Def.'s Mem. at 1; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 1*fn3 (Brown Aff. 1/16/03) & 2. Beginning in May 1999, the plaintiff was employed as a Senior Display Specialist, GS-8, in the Visual Presentation Division of the museum shops. Def.'s Mem. at 1; Def.'s Mem. Ex., 1 (Brown Aff. 1/16/03) & 3. In October 2001, all Display Specialist positions within the Visual Presentation Division, including the plaintiff's, were eliminated on the recommendation of Lisa Mazzio, the Director of Merchandising.*fn4 Compl. & 9; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 17. The elimination of these positions resulted in the termination of six employees. Compl. & 9. Of the positions that were terminated, three Caucasian women, one Caucasian man, one African American man, and the plaintiff lost their jobs. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 24. The Display Specialist positions were replaced by positions with the title of Store Merchandiser at each of the following museums: the National Museum of American History; the National Museum of Natural History; and the Air and Space Museum. Compl. & 9. The Store Merchandiser position vacancy announcements noted that the responsibilities of this position, among others, would require team work, extensive day to day responsibilities for display maintenance, assistance in opening and closing the shops, handling cash, assisting customers and training sales associates. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 7 (Vacancy Announcement BV-01-0146). The Smithsonian initially posted two vacancy announcements for these positions, BV-01-0146 and BV-01-1047. Def.'s Mem. at 2. The two vacancy announcements were distinguishable in that BV-01-0147 specifically sought candidates already employed with the Smithsonian Institution and had a closing date of October 8, 2001, whereas BV-01-0146 extended the applicant pool to the general public, Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 36, and had a closing date of October 15, 2001. Id. & 32. On October 3, 2001, the plaintiff applied for a position under both vacancy announcements. Compl. & 10.

Dana Moreland, Human Resources Manager of the Smithsonian Institute's Corporate & Magazines Smithsonian Business Venture, Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 3, determined that the plaintiff, in addition to two other previous employees, were qualified to be considered for vacancy BV-01-0147 and contacted each applicant to arrange interviews. Id. & 35. The panelists selected by the Smithsonian Institution to interview the three candidates were David Butler, Veronica Nicholas, Lester Wong, and Paul Flickinger. Id. & 43. Each interview was conducted by the four panelists and identical questions were asked of every applicant. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 13 (Flickinger Aff.) & 49. The other two Smithsonian Institute employees interviewed for the positions, Mark Crooks and Nancy Breleux, both Caucasian, were offered Store Merchandiser positions pursuant to vacancy announcement BV-01-0147.*fn5 Def.'s Mem., Ex. 14 (Wong Aff.) && 3-8; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 10 (Crooks Rating Sheets); Def.'s Mem., Ex. 11 (Breleux Rating Sheets). The plaintiff had been unable to interview for the BV-01-0147 vacancy announcement due to a previously scheduled vacation; therefore, she was interviewed only pursuant to the BV-01-0146 vacancy announcement. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 35. The plaintiff was interviewed on October 24, 2001, Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 34; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 7 (Vacancy Announcement BV-01-0146), but was not selected for the position. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 13 (Flickinger Aff.) & 45. In fact, it appears that neither of the other two candidates who were also interviewed for the BV-01-0146 vacancy on October 24, 2001, were selected, id. & 46, the panelists generally agreeing that the "quality of the interviews were substandard [because] neither met a sufficient amount of the qualification factors necessary to be considered for the position." Def.'s Mem., Ex. 12 (Butler Aff.) & 23.

In December 2001, a third vacancy announcement for the third Store Merchandiser position was issued. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 16 (Vacancy Announcement SBV-02-0114); Def.'s. Mem., Ex. 17 (Resume Log SBV-02-0114). One hundred fifteen people applied for the position and Gary Dlacich was selected to fill the vacancy. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 4 (Brown Aff. 1/8/04) & 11; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 17 (Resume Log SBV-02-0114). The plaintiff had not applied for this position. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 35.

Believing that her nonselection for the Store Merchandiser position amounted to racial discrimination, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Office of Equal Employment and Minority Affairs ("OEEMA") in September 2002.*fn6 Def.'s Mem., Ex. 18 (Moreland Aff.) & 12; Compl. & 4. The plaintiff's decision to file such a complaint was prompted by:

dissatisf[action] with the selection process. [She] did not receive advance warning of management's decision to abolish [her] job position. Advance notification would have allowed [her] an opportunity to seek outside employment rather than left unemployed. [She] felt management was aware of its intent to abolish the position as early as September 2001 . . . [as] there were early signs that management was in the process of reorganizing.

Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 2 (Brown Aff. 1/16/03) & 15. Following the investigation by the OEEMA, Brown elected to have a hearing before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). The EEOC issued a decision dismissing the plaintiff's complaint on April 5, 2004, and on April 15, 2004, the Smithsonian issued its Final Order and provided the plaintiff with the right to sue notice. Compl. & 5. On July 2, 2004, the plaintiff commenced this action alleging that the Smithsonian Institution's actions amounted to racial discrimination in violation of Title VII. Id. & 3. The defendant has now filed a motion for summary judgment.

II. Standard of Review

This Court will grant a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56(c) "if 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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). When ruling on a summary judgment motion, this Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Bayer v. Dep't of Treasury, 956 F.2d 330, 333 (D.C. Cir. 1992); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (holding that courts must draw "all justifiable inferences" in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true). "[T]he nonmoving party 'must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Bias v. Advantage Intern., Inc., 905 F.2d 1558, 1561 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)). It must provide "evidence that would permit a reasonable [fact-finder] to find" in its favor. Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). Under Rule 56, "if a party fails 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," summary judgment is warranted. Hazward v. Runyon, 14 F. Supp. 2d 120, 122 (D.D.C. 1998) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986)). In considering a motion for summary judgment, "the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

III. Title VII and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act

The plaintiff alleges violations of both Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 et seq., and the DCHRA, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01 et seq. Compl. & 3. Title VII provides that "[a]ll personnel actions affecting employees . . . in the Smithsonian Institution . . . shall be made free from any discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16. Under the DCHRA,

[T]he intent of the Council of the District of Columbia . . . [is] to secure an end . . . to discrimination for any reason other than that of individual merit, including, but not limited to, discrimination by reason of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, marital status, ...


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