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Cromwell v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

September 5, 2006

CINDY DIXON CROMWELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In her Second Amended Complaint ("2d Am. Compl."), plaintiff alleges that her employer, defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA"), engaged in discrimination and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. On March 31, 2006, this Court entered an Order and Judgment granting the defendant's motion for summary judgment. This Opinion explains the reasoning underlying that Order.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Cindy Dixon Cromwell, an African-American woman, has worked as a construction inspector for WMATA since September 1986. During the time period relevant to this lawsuit, January 1993 through January 1994, Ms. Cromwell was assigned to the Greenbelt Station Parking Lot project. As a construction inspector, plaintiff spends most of her time in the field observing the progress of construction projects. See Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot.") Ex. 5, December 21, 2000 Deposition of C. Cromwell ("Cromwell Dep. 12/21/00") at 9:20-10:10.

Plaintiff alleges six acts of race-based discrimination, occurring between January 1993 and January 1994. Ms. Cromwell alleges that: (1) between January and May 1993, plaintiff's supervisor prevented her from earning overtime compensation, while assigning overtime to two white inspectors, see 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 8; (2) defendants sought to transfer plaintiff to a different project under a new supervisor, id. ¶ 9; (3) in May 1993, two WMATA police officers, at defendant's behest, detained plaintiff and interrogated her regarding personal matters, id. ¶ 11; Cromwell Dep. 12/21/00 at 54:6-21; (4) after plaintiff injured her back and wrist on the job on May 18, 1993, defendant "denied, delayed and/or frustrated the plaintiff from utilizing the sick leave bank and/or annual leave during her convalescence period," 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 12; (5) defendant denied plaintiff's request to return to work on light duty status on September 23, 1993, id. ¶ 13; and (6) after plaintiff's injury, plaintiff's supervisor threatened to terminate her because she failed to provide adequate documentation of her medical condition. See id. ¶ 14.

In response to these alleged acts of discrimination, Ms. Cromwell wrote to Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representative Albert Wynn on July 15, 1993. See 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff alleges that she suffered retaliation as a result of her contact with these legislators, although she fails to specify which acts were retaliatory. See id. ¶¶ 17, 19.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment may be granted only if the "pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits [or declarations], 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); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). "A fact is 'material' if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under governing law; factual disputes that are 'irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination." Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248). An issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895. When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; see also Washington Post Co. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

The non-moving party's opposition must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials, and must be supported by affidavits, declarations or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-moving party is "required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in its favor. Laningham v. United States Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the non-movant's evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50.

B. Statement of Material Facts

The Local Civil Rules of this Court require a motion for summary judgment to be "accompanied by a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine dispute," and any opposition brief must include "a separate concise statement of genuine issues setting forth all material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated[.]" LCvR 7(h). Either form of statement "shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement." Id. In ruling on the motion for summary judgment, "the court may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its statement of material facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the motion." Id.

The purpose of the Rule is to "[isolate] the facts that the parties assert are material, [distinguish] disputed from undisputed facts, and [identify] the pertinent parts of the record." Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Tarpley v. Greene, 684 F.2d 1 (D.C. Cir. 1982)). While it is not necessary that a Rule 7(h) statement be labeled as such, any filing intended to serve the purpose of a Rule 7(h) statement should comply with the Rule's plain terms and this purpose. See Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 153 (D.C. Cir. 1996). When a statement purports to specify genuine factual issues but does not "set forth specific, material facts, [and] simply [asserts], without citing evidence in the record, that there [is] a disputed issue," it fails to comply with the Local Rule. Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d at 518.

When a non-moving party fails to comply with Local Rule 7(h), the Court may assume that the facts identified by the moving party are admitted. See Local Rule 7(h); Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d 154. The Court is not obligated "to sift and sort through the record, that is, engage in time-consuming labor that is meant to be avoided through the parties' observance of [the Rule]." Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d at 153. Nonetheless, even when a party's statement of material facts is unopposed, the Court is obliged to "determine whether the [party's] ...


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