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Coleman v. Dist. of Columbia

August 22, 2006

VANESSA S. COLEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Vanessa S. Coleman, brings this employment discrimination suit against the District of Columbia alleging discrimination and retaliation based on her sex*fn1 in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII").

This matter is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, [#28].*fn2 Upon consideration of the Motion and Opposition*fn3 and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND*fn4

Plaintiff was hired by the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services ("Fire Department") in March 1990 as a probationary Cadet. In October 1991, she was reclassified as a permanent Firefighter. Am. Compl. ¶ 5.

In her disparate treatment claim, Plaintiff challenges the Fire Department's issuance to her of a "disciplinary write-up," otherwise known as a Form 169 ("F-169"), on July 5, 2003. The F-169 was issued after Plaintiff lost an Automatic External Defibrillator ("AED"), a piece of lifesaving equipment used by the Fire Department, while she was acting as the sergeant-in-charge.*fn5 Am. Compl. ¶ 11(a).

On July 18, 2003, Plaintiff filed an internal Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint, challenging the Fire Department's issuance of the F-169, because such discipline was not taken against the male firefighters who were on duty with her when the AED was lost. See Am. Compl. ¶ 11(a), (b). Subsequently, the Fire Department issued F-169's to some of those male firefighters. Pl.'s Resp. Mot. Dismiss ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 9.

Plaintiff alleges she was retaliated against after filing her EEO complaint. The facts of her retaliation claim are extremely unclear.*fn6

First, Plaintiff claims she was "denied training on two occasions." Am. Compl. ¶ 11(c). The Fire Department issued Plaintiff two "official reprimands" for missing these training courses. See Pl.'s Opp'n, Attach. 14, 15. "An Official Reprimand is a device to inform [an employee] that [his or her] conduct is not what is expected of [the employee] as an Officer and that future violations will result in more severe disciplinary action." Id.

Plaintiff challenged the issuance of the official reprimands through the Fire Department's Trial Board process. Def.'s Mot. at 2. After a hearing at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel, the Trial Board upheld the Fire Department's discipline of Plaintiff on both occasions. Id.; see Notice of Termination of Trial Board Proceedings Involving Discipline of Pl., filed Dec. 8, 2004, Docket Entry #14.

Second, Plaintiff further alleges that in August and September of 2003, the Fire Department issued her two additional "disciplinary write-ups" based upon "false accusations."*fn7 Am. Compl. ¶ 11(d). Plaintiff never specifies what those "false accusations" were.

On March 3, 2004, the EEOC issued Plaintiff a right to sue letter. Plaintiff filed this suit in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia and, on August 5, 2004, it was removed to this Court.

Plaintiff's original Complaint named the District of Columbia and the Fire Department as Defendants. On March 22, 2005, Defendants filed their first Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings or, in the alternative, for Partial Summary Judgment. No Opposition was filed by Plaintiff's counsel and the Motion was granted as unopposed on October 31, 2005.

On January 3, 2006, pursuant to this Court's order, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint against the District of Columbia. Defendant filed the instant Motion in lieu of an Answer.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with any affidavits or declarations, 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. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. Material facts are those that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The nonmoving party then must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324 (internal quotations omitted). See Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (nonmoving party has affirmative duty "to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in its favor); Crenshaw v. Georgetown Univ., 23 F.Supp.2d 11, 15 (D.D.C. 1998) (noting that "adverse party must do more than simply 'show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts'" (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986)).

In deciding 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). Ultimately, the court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or ...


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