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Duniya v. Rice

May 24, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler U.S. District Judge


Pro se Plaintiff, Melvin C. Duniya, an African-American male, brings this action against Defendant, Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of State.*fn1 Plaintiff alleges that the United States Department of State ("the State Department"), through its agents, discriminated against him based on his race and national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 et seq. Plaintiff also alleges that the State Department retaliated against him, in violation of Title VII, because he engaged in protected Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") activity. This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [#18]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is granted.


A. Facts*fn2

Plaintiff is an African-American Untied States citizen who worked for the State Department as the Principal Class B Cashier in the American Embassy, Tokyo, Japan, between April 1997 and June 2001. As the Principal Class B Cashier, Plaintiff supervised employees in the Embassy's Cashiering Section including an Alternate Class B Cashier, sub-cashiers, and a disbursing clerk. In addition to his supervisory duties, Plaintiff was responsible for advancing funds to other cashiers, making cash disbursements, receiving collections, making deposits, entering financial data, and maintaining financial records.

Katsumi Ogura, an Alternate Class B Cashier at the Embassy, was one of Plaintiff's subordinates. As the Alternate Class B Cashier, she was responsible for acting in Plaintiff's stead during his absences.

In September of 2000, Foreign Service Officer Donna S. Helmholz began serving as the Embassy's Financial Management Officer. In October of 2000, shortly after her arrival at the Embassy, Helmholz announced that the Embassy Financial Management Center's employees would participate in a cross-training program. Helmholz concluded that the cross-training was necessary because, given the small staff, employees would have to cover for one another during absences.

As part of the training program, Ogura was to temporarily assume Plaintiff's duties as the Principal Class B Cashier and Plaintiff was to perform Ogura's duties as Alternate Class B Cashier. Ogura began training in October of 2000 and performed Plaintiff's duties for approximately six weeks. During three weeks of that period, Plaintiff was on annual leave. Helmholz instituted a second training period for Ogura in January of 2001. Plaintiff believed that the cross-training program did not comport with the regulations that govern cashiers' accountability for funds and assets as set forth in the Department of State's Foreign Affairs Handbook.

On January 16, 2001, Edward J. Samario, the Embassy's Assistant Financial Management Officer, gave Plaintiff an oral reprimand for insubordination and "setting a bad work example." Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 6 at 3. Samario issued the reprimand after Plaintiff refused to comply with an order to print a receipt and called Helmholz a "jerk" in front of subordinates. Id. at 4.

On February 8, 2001, Plaintiff contacted EEO Counselor Virginia Bennett and alleged that the cross-training assignments were, in reality, racially motivated efforts to strip him of authority. Plaintiff alleged that he was the only supervisor who had been forced to switch roles with a subordinate during the training. Plaintiff also complained that none of the Embassy's Cashiering Section employees received performance awards in January of 2001 while employees in every other section of the Financial Management Center had received the $100 cash bonuses. Plaintiff alleged that the Cashiering Section employees did not receive awards because he is an African-American. Samario and Helmholz learned of Plaintiff's discussions with Bennett on February 16, 2001.*fn3

Between January 24, 2001 and February 16, 2001, Plaintiff allegedly failed to perform data entry and prepare deposit slips, as part of the cross-training, despite Samario's orders for him to do so. Additionally, on February 20, 2001, Plaintiff terminated Ogura's cross-training without authorization by Helmholz or Samario.*fn4 According to his affidavit, Samario drafted a written reprimand for Plaintiff that same day after learning that Plaintiff had terminated Ogura's training. Samario issued the letter to Plaintiff on February 22, 2001.

Cornelis M. Keur, the Embassy's Minister-Counselor for Administration, unsuccessfully attempted to work with Plaintiff, Samario, and Helmholz to resolve Plaintiff's disputes. Notwithstanding Keur's efforts, in April and May of 2001, Plaintiff and Samario continued to disagree about Embassy financial regulations governing a petty cash voucher and, once again, about cashiers' accountability. Plaintiff filed a Formal EEO Complaint on June 15, 2001 and resigned on June 29, 2001.

B. Procedural History

On September 4, 2003, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("the Commission") ruled that the State Department had not engaged in unlawful discrimination. The Commission rejected Plaintiff's claims that the Department had engaged in racial discrimination by usurping Plaintiff's authority, requiring him to cross-train with a subordinate, transferring accountability for funds, denying the Cashiering Section a group award, threatening him with disciplinary action, and requiring him to supervise a disbursement clerk. The Commission also rejected Plaintiff's claim that Samario retaliated against him, for engaging in ...

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