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Bryant v. Leavitt

February 22, 2007

MAISO L. BRYANT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL O. LEAVITT, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Maiso Bryant, a 62 year-old African-American male, brings this action against Defendant, Michael O. Leavitt,*fn1 Secretary of Health and Human Services. He alleges employment discrimination based on race and sex, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 et seq., and on age, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 633a. This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 33]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Facts*fn2

Plaintiff Maiso Bryant, a 62 year-old African-American man, has been employed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services ("DHHS") for approximately thirty years. He has held various positions with DHHS, and is currently serving as Associate Commissioner for Systems in the Administration for Children, Youth and Families ("ACYF"), a subunit of the Administration for Children and Families ("ACF"). He served as Director of the Office of Grants Management ("OGM") in ACF as a GS-15 supervisor from March 2001 until October 2002. He was thereafter transferred from his position as Director to a position he characterizes as "unclassified" and which he claims involved the work of a GS-13 employee. Plaintiff's claims arise out of this alleged temporary demotion.

The OGM administers the DHHS's $43 billion grants program. The Director of the OGM is responsible for overseeing all grant administration, management and awarding issues; providing legal and policy advice to program officials; and providing advice and guidance to the Assistant Secretary of ACF. In this position, Plaintiff was supervised by and reported to Carol Carter Walker, a 64 year-old African-American woman who was then Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, ACF. He supervised a staff of seven, including two Division Directors and five Grants Management Officers, who also had staff working under them.

In October 2002, Curtis Coy ("Coy"), a 54 year-old white male, replaced Carol Carter Walker as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration and became Plaintiff's immediate supervisor. In December 2002, Plaintiff received from Ms. Carter Walker an overall performance evaluation of "Outstanding," the highest possible rating within the DHHS performance evaluation system at the time. That evaluation was based on his performance in a former position as Senior Grants Management Officer. After that evaluation, Coy met with Plaintiff and informed him that his performance was not at the level Coy believed it "could or should be."

Plaintiff claims that Coy treated him like a child, yelled at him, and subjected him to unwarranted hostile treatment regarding his performance and management of OGM. He claims that Coy made several demeaning comments about his age, including stating that he was "part of the older generation" and was "too old to have children in high school." He further claims that Coy kept tabs on his whereabouts, and refused to provide him the requisite support staff to do his job.

For example, in early February 2003, Coy detailed Donnell Savage to OGM as Plaintiff's deputy. Plaintiff contends Coy assigned Ms. Savage to OGM in order to help Plaintiff manage his own office, which Coy claimed "was in need of management." Plaintiff was offended by the assignment, did not utilize Ms. Savage, and told her he did not see how she could help him. As a result, Ms. Savage was removed from her position at OGM in April 2003.

Plaintiff also claims that Coy refused to provide the requisite level of staffing during Plaintiff's term as Director of OGM, but did provide additional staffing under the management of Plaintiff's successor, an African-American woman two years older than he, and provided one additional staff member to a white employee. Plaintiff contends that he submitted written memoranda explaining that his office was understaffed and outlining his need for additional staff. Coy rebuffed all of these requests and provided no additional staff. When Plaintiff asked for an additional staff member to work on audit resolution, Coy instead assigned an audit resolution employee to Joel Anthony, a white male who was Director, Office of Financial Services. Plaintiff claims that during his directorship, only one vacancy announcement was posted. When Plaintiff was transferred to his unclassified position, however, Ms. Carter Walker took over his position as Director of OGM and the staff nearly doubled under her supervision.

In April 2003, Coy reassigned Plaintiff to a position as "grants officer" over the Capital Compassion Fund Program, part of the White House's faith-based initiative. Plaintiff contends his new position was one of "unclassified duties" in which he performed the work of a GS-13 Grants Management Specialist and was not permitted signature authority over the one grant he was assigned. His position as Director of OGM was, as noted earlier, given to Ms. Carter Walker.

In October 2003, Plaintiff was detailed to the Deputy Assistant Secretary's office and was named Associate Commissioner of Systems for ACYF. In November 2003, Plaintiff was permanently assigned to the Associate Commissioner for Systems position, which he characterizes as a non-supervisory position. Accordingly, Plaintiff claims that it took DHHS seven months -- from April to November 2003 -- to assign him to a GS-15 level position. Since May 2006, he has been the Acting Deputy Commissioner of ACYF. In this position, Plaintiff oversees two bureaus, each of which have a staff of 35-40 employees. Plaintiff admits that the position of Acting Deputy Commissioner is more prestigious than his earlier position as Director of OGM, and that the pay and grade level are the same. Def.'s Mot. Ex. 7 ("Bryant Depo.") at 14.

B. Procedural History

On August 28, 2003, Plaintiff filed a formal administrative Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint of discrimination with the agency. By letter dated September 9, 2003, the agency accepted the complaint for investigation.*fn3 Plaintiff filed his Complaint in this lawsuit on February 3, 2005. On May 27, 2005, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.

The Amended Complaint alleges employment discrimination based on race and sex, in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 et seq., and on age, in violation of the ADEA, 29 U.S.C. § 633a. Plaintiff seeks an order declaring that his removal from his position as Director of OGM was unlawful discrimination based upon his age, race and/or sex; reinstatement to his position as Director of OGM retroactive to April 2003; compensatory damages in the amount of $300,000.00; an injunction against future acts of discrimination; back pay; and amendment of his records.

After completion of discovery, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment on November 6, 2006 [Dkt. No. 33], which Plaintiff opposed on November 22, 2006 [Dkt. No. 36]. Defendant filed a Reply on January 12, 2007 [Dkt. No. 47].

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. See Laningham v. United States 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). See Washington Post Co. v. United States Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). Ultimately, the court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require ...


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