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Moorhouse v. Billington

December 15, 2006

GAIL MOORHOUSE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES BILLINGTON, LIBRARIAN OF CONGRESS DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This action alleges violations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16 (2004). The plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages on her claims of discrimination based on retaliation. Plaintiff's Complaint For Damages ("Compl.") ¶ 4. Currently before the Court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [D.E. # 23], the plaintiff's opposition thereto, and the Defendants Reply in Support of His Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Reply"). For the following reasons, the defendant's motion will be granted.

I. Factual Background

The facts of this case have been fully recited in the Court's previous Memorandum Opinion issued on April 14, 2005, granting in part and denying in part, the Library of Congress' ("Library") motion to dismiss. Thus, the Court need not engage in an extensive review of the facts; however, it is helpful to review the facts as they relate to the motion currently before the Court.

The plaintiff has remained in her current position with the Library as a GS-11 Program Specialist in the Human Resources Services division of the Library throughout the time this case has been pending before the Court. Defendant's Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Dispute ("Def.'s SOF") ¶ 1; Compl. ¶ 10. As a Program Specialist, the "[p]laintiff's duties included handling the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program, the advanced sick leave program, performing leave audits, dealing with payroll issues and assisting Library employees who called or walked into the plaintiff's office with questions." Def.'s SOF ¶ 2. The plaintiff first requested in July 1998 that she be permitted to work at home two days per week to care for her father. Id. ¶ 6 (citing Exhibit ("Ex.") 1 (Deposition Transcript of Gail M. Moorhouse ("Moorhouse Tr.") dated October 26, 2005)) at 10:23-25; 11:1; 29:3-9. From July 1998 through February 28, 2001, the plaintiff submitted and had approved several requests that she be permitted to work at home. Id. at ¶¶ 7-14. The plaintiff submitted a request to continue her at home work schedule on November 7, 2000, which was also approved by the Director of Human Resources; however, the approval contained a specific directive that "Gail must return from work at home on March 1 [2001]." Id. ¶ 14 (citing Ex. 1 (Moorhouse Tr.)) at 34:4-6; Ex. 3 (Authorization for Library Staff to Work at Place of Residence dated October 13, 2000)). Despite this directive, the plaintiff submitted another work at home request on February 20, 2001. Id. ¶ 15 (internal citations omitted). On March 5, 2001, the plaintiff's direct supervisor at that time (Herb Junious) supported the plaintiff's request and recommended that she continue working her modified work schedule. Compl. ¶ 14. This request, however, was disapproved by Junious' supervisor, Nora Bardak ("Bardak"). Def.'s SOF ¶ 15 (citing Ex. 4 (Authorization for Library Staff to Work at Place of Residence dated February 28, 2001)).

Although Junious never received authorization from Bardak, he continued to allow the plaintiff to work her modified schedule until his retirement in June 2001.*fn1 Compl. ¶ 15. In June 2001, after Junious retired, Gloria Duarte became the plaintiff's immediate supervisor and she initially allowed the plaintiff to continue working her modified work schedule. Id. ¶ 17.

On June 29, 2001,the plaintiff filed an administrative complaint with the Library's Equal Employment Opportunity Complaints Office ("EEO"), wherein she claimed that Bardak had denied her modified work schedule request. Def.'s Mem. at 3 (citing Ex. 11 (EEO Complaint of Discrimination)). Three days later, on July 2, 2001, the Library's Inspector General's Office received an anonymous hotline complaint regarding the plaintiff's work schedule. Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 7; Def.'s SOF ¶ 16 (citing Ex. 5 (Hotline Complaint)). The complaint was labeled as urgent and stated that the "[Library of Congress] need[ed] to investigate Gayle Moorhouse's [sic] - HR Time - she is absent and does not use leave - unusual (or not) for someone in payroll?" Pl.'s Opp'n at 7. In response to the anonymous hotline tip, the Inspector General's office initiated an inquiry into the allegations. Def.'s SOF ¶ 17.

According to the plaintiff, later in July 2001, Bardak formally disallowed the plaintiff's modified work schedule. Compl. ¶ 18. However, the plaintiff continued to work the adjusted schedule after its disallowance, which ultimately resulted in Bardak declaring her as absent-without-leave ("AWOL") for one day on August 16, 2001. Id. ¶ 19; Def.'s SOF ¶ 18 (citing Ex. 1 (Moorhouse Tr.)) at 101:19-102:9. On August 27, 2001, the Inspector General concluded its investigation and found that the plaintiff had received credit and compensatory hours without authorization, continued to work at home without authorization after February 28, 2001, and used 138 hours of unauthorized leave over the course of five pay periods. Def.'s Mem. at 4 (citing Ex. 7 (Memorandum from Inspector General to Teresa Smith, Director, Human Resources Services, regarding Time and Attendance Review, dated August 27, 2001)). Consequently, the Inspector General recommended that Human Resources Services take disciplinary action against the plaintiff. Id. Bardak informed the plaintiff about the investigation on that same day. Der.'s Mem. at 4, and her access to the National Finance Center ("NFC") database, including access to the personnel/payroll/time and attendance system, was cancelled. Def.'s Reply at 5 (citing Ex. A (Memorandum from Security Officer to Teresa Smith, Director, Human Resources Services regarding NFC Access for Gail Moorhouse dated August 24, 2001)). On September 10, 2001, the Inspector General issued a second memorandum to the Human Resources Services, again recommending that disciplinary action be taken against the plaintiff. Def.'s Mem. at 4. On November 1, 2001, the plaintiff filed a second EEO complaint alleging that Bardak, along with the Director of Human Resources (Teresa Smith), discriminated against her "based on race, national origin, disability and reprisal." Compl. ¶ 20; Pl.'s Opp. at 7 & Ex. 9 ("Library of Congress -- Equal Opportunity . . . Complaint of Discrimination," dated November 1, 2001). Subsequently, on November 8, 2001, based on the Inspector General's findings and recommendation, Bardak issued a Notice of Proposed Adverse Action ("Notice") against the plaintiff and proposed that she be separated from the Library. Def.'s Mem. at 4; Pl.'s Opp. at 7. Ultimately, Smith issued a final decision on the plaintiff's fate and mitigated the proposed separation to a 10-day suspension and reassignment to her current position as a Program Specialist. Def.'s Mem. at 5 (citing Ex. 10 (Undated Letter to Moorhouse from Teresa Smith, Director Human Resources Services)).

This lawsuit was initiated by the plaintiff against the Library on January 28, 2004. The Library then moved to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint and this court granted that motion in part and denied it in part. See Order dated March 30, 2006. Specifically, the Court granted the Library's motion with the respect to the plaintiff's Title VII claim for race discrimination and her Rehabilitation Act of 1973 discrimination claim. Id. However, the Court denied the Library's motion with respect to the plaintiff's Title VII claim for retaliation. Id. The Library now moves for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claim of retaliation.

II. Standard of Review

A. Summary Judgment

Granting summary judgment is appropriate when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and . . . the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Id. at 255. The entry of summary judgment is appropriate after there has been an "adequate time for discovery . . . [and the] party [against whom the motion has been filed] fails to make a showing sufficient 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." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

Summary judgment "is a drastic remedy, [and therefore] courts should grant it with caution so that no person will be deprived of his or her day in court to prove a disputed material factual issue." Greenberg v. Food & Drug Admin., 803 F.2d 1213, 1216 (D.C. Cir. 1986). Summary judgment is accordingly not appropriate, for example, where "the evidence presented on a dispositive issue is subject to conflicting interpretations, or reasonable persons might differ as to its significance . . . ." Id. (citations omitted). Moreover, when reviewing the evidence, the Court must draw "all inferences . . . in favor of the nonmoving party[.]" Coward v. ADT Sec. Sys., Inc., 194 F.3d 155, 158 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr, 156 F.3d 1284, 1295 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Here, for the plaintiff "to survive summary judgment [she] must show that a reasonable jury ...


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