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Hunter v. Rice

March 26, 2007

DONALD S. HUNTER, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
CONDOLEEZA RICE, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 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.*fn1 Plaintiff Donald S. Hunter, Sr. alleges that he was the subject of race and sex discrimination by his employer in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq ("Title VII"). In addition, plaintiff alleges that he was the victim of a violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). Upon consideration of the motion, opposition, reply, and the entire record in this case, the Court will transfer plaintiff's Equal Pay Act claim to the United States Court of Federal Claims, which has exclusive jurisdiction over it. In addition, the Court will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII claims.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Donald S. Hunter, Sr., an African-American male, is a GS-12 Grants Specialist in the Grants Division of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs ("ECA") within the United States Department of State. See Complaint ("Compl.") at 4. Plaintiff joined the organization as a GS-4 supply clerk in February 1986 and has since received several promotions. See Defendant's Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute ("SMF") ¶¶ 1-8, attached to Defendant's Motion. Grants Specialists are responsible for evaluating grant proposals, drafting assistance agreements, and monitoring the performance and reporting of recipient organizations, among other tasks. See id. ¶ 21.

Fannie Allen, an African-American female, is a Grants Management Officer (GS-14) and plaintiff's supervisor. See Compl. at 4. Ms. Allen oversees a staff of ten employees, consisting of nine women and plaintiff. See id. Connie Stinson, an African-American female, is one of the GS-13 Grants Specialists that Ms. Allen supervises and is plaintiff's team leader. See SMF ¶¶ 23-24. While Ms. Stinson is primarily responsible for reviewing plaintiff's completed work, Mr. Hunter works directly with Ms. Allen on any special projects that she assigns to him. See id. ¶¶ 24-25.

Pursuant to Ms. Allen's recommendation, plaintiff received an accretion of duties promotion to the GS-12 level on November 7, 1999. See SMF ¶¶ 31-34. Between 2000 and 2002, Ms. Allen had several conversations with plaintiff discussing how he could enhance his skills to obtain a promotion to the GS-13 level. See id. ¶ 35. Upon Ms. Allen's suggestion that plaintiff needed to manage a program, Mr. Hunter requested and received an assignment to manage the Wye River Project. See id. In addition, Ms. Allen stressed that plaintiff needed to improve his oral and written communications skills and gave him specific recommendations on how he could improve these skills. See id. ¶ 36. Specifically, she suggested that he take a course at Prince George's Community College in basic English, take an internal agency course on public writing, participate in Toastmasters, and use a device to help him practice pronouncing words. See id. Plaintiff followed Ms. Allen's recommendations. See id.

On October 1, 2001, plaintiff met with Ms. Allen and told her that he believed that he deserved an accretion of duties promotion because he was performing at the GS-13 level. See SMF ¶ 37. At the time, plaintiff had held his GS-12 position for less than 23 months. See id. Ms. Allen informed Mr. Hunter that she did not feel that he was ready for the GS-13 position. See id. ¶ 39. She later asserted in a sworn declaration that she declined to grant plaintiff's request because he lacked the experience to work independently on complex activities without significant coaching, and because his written and oral communication skills needed improvement. See Allen Decl. at 4:25 - 4:29. Ms. Allen, however, did inform plaintiff that he could take his request to her direct supervisor, Benjamin Castro, the Deputy Director of ECA's Executive Office. See SMF ¶ 40. Mr. Castro affirmed Ms. Allen's decision and explained that while plaintiff was an excellent performer at the GS-12 level, he was not yet ready for a promotion. See id. ¶ 42. Plaintiff filed a classification appeal to challenge Mr. Castro's decision, but ultimately withdrew his appeal. See id. ¶¶ 43, 48.

On February 28, 2002, plaintiff sent an e-mail to Ms. Allen requesting an increase in authority to sign grant and cooperative agreements from his current level of $100,000 to a range between $500,000 - $1,000,000. See SMF ¶ 71. Ms. Allen did not grant the increase immediately. See id. ¶ 73. She eventually recommended an increase to $500,000, however, which was approved in May 2003. See id. ¶ 75. Ms. Allen asserted in a sworn declaration that she delayed recommending plaintiff for the increase based on reports from Ms. Stinson that plaintiff did not exercise care in processing grant awards and repeatedly made errors in processing. See Allen Decl. at 10:4 - 10:8.

Plaintiff alleges that defendant violated the Equal Pay Act. See Compl. at 1. In addition, plaintiff contends that the defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his race (African-American) and his sex (male) by: (1) failing to grant him an increase in signing authority on grants and cooperative agreements from $100,000 to $1,000,000 on May 30, 2002; (2) denying his request for an accretion of duties promotion to the GS-13 level on June 24, 2002; and (3) refusing to competitively select him for a GS-14 Financial Management Specialist position on May 14, 2002. See id; see also Def. Mot. at 2 n.1.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment should be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file and affidavits or declarations show that there is no genuine issue of material fact in dispute and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). 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); see Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; see also Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc). The court must "eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

The non-moving party's opposition, however, 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 his favor. Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative", summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50. To defeat summary judgment, a plaintiff must produce more than "a scintilla of evidence to support his claims." Freedman v. MCI Telecomm. Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2001). In an employment discrimination case, "[u]sually, proffering evidence from which a jury could find that the employer's stated reasons were pretextual will be enough to get a plaintiff's claim to a jury." George v. Leavitt, 407 F.3d 405, 413 (D.C. Cir. 2005) (internal quotations omitted) (citing Carpenter v. Fed. Nat'l Mortgage Ass'n, 165 F.3d 69, 72 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

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); see also LCvR 56.1 (same). 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, ...


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