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Kundra v. Abraham

June 25, 2007

INDERJIT KUNDRA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SPENCER ABRAHAM,*FN1 SECRETARY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

When an excellent statistician relies on his supervisor's supposed knowledge of his career, but does not fully describe his credentials in his application package for promotion, can he complain of discrimination when the supervisor relies on the written word and selects another excellent, but junior, statistician for the job? The answer to this question is no. Inderjit Kundra, a statistician employed by the Department of Energy ("DOE"), contends that DOE discriminated against him based on his gender, religion, ethnicity and age when it failed to promote him to Lead Mathematical Statistician. While conceding that Mr. Kundra presents a prima facie case, DOE moves for summary judgment on the ground that it had legitimate reasons for promoting another employee instead of Mr. Kundra. The other employee submitted a more detailed application which noted more extensive supervisory experience. The Court finds that DOE has presented non-discriminatory legitimate reasons for its selection. Although Mr. Kundra contends that the alleged reasons are a mere pretext, he does not present evidence sufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact in this regard. Accordingly, DOE's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Kundra was employed as a Mathematical Statistician, GS-14, in the Statistical Methods Group ("SMG") of the Energy Information Administration, DOE, at the time he applied for the promotion at issue in this case. Pl.'s Statement of Genuine Issues ("Pl.'s Facts") at 2; Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Def.'s Facts") ¶ 1. On January 12, 2000, Mr. Kundra applied for the position of Lead Mathematical Statistician ("Lead Statistician") in SMG. Def.'s Facts ¶ 3.

The vacancy announcement for the position of Lead Statistician described the qualifications as follows:

(a) successful completion of a full 4-year course of study in an accredited college or university leading to a bachelor's or higher degree that included 24 semester hours of mathematics and statistics, of which at least 12 semester hours were in mathematics and 6 semester hours were in statistics or (b) a combination of education and experience - at least 24 semester hours of mathematics and statistics, of which at least 12 semester hours were in mathematics and 6 semester hours were in statistics, as shown in (a) above, plus appropriate experience or additional education.

Def.'s Facts ¶ 4. The announcement also described the specialized experience required for the position as one year of experience in or related to the work of the position to be filled, including evidence of statistical work. The announcement gave as examples of statistical work (a) sampling, (b) collecting and analyzing data, and (c) applying known statistical techniques to data such as measurement of central tendency, dispersion, skewness, sampling error, simple and multiple correlation, analysis of variance, and tests of significance. Id. ¶ 5. The experience required must have been equivalent to at least the next lower grade level in Federal service. Id. In addition, the announcement included the following four ranking factors or "Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities" ("KSAs") required for the position:

(1) ability to identify, assess and resolve complex quality assurance problems in survey and data collection programs and data analysis;

(2) knowledge of survey methodologies including total survey design and cognitive interviewing procedures;

(3) knowledge of the issues, objectives, and work processes involved in energy information survey, collection, and organization efforts; and

(4) ability to plan and organize team projects and activities and motivate team members to accomplish their work.

Id. ¶ 6.

Mr. Kundra was one of the candidates ranked "best qualified" by DOE's personnel office and he was referred to the selecting official on a Certificate of Eligibles list. Id. ¶ 7, 18. The Director of SMG who initiated the posting of the position was Lynda Carlson, and the selecting official for the position was Nancy Kirkendall. Id. ¶¶ 9; see also Pl.'s Facts at 2. Ms. Kirkendall did not select Mr. Kundra for the Lead Statistician position; instead she chose Renee Miller. Pl.'s Facts at 1-2.

Ms. Kirkendall and Ms. Miller are Caucasian women who were in their 50s at the time DOE appointed Ms. Miller to the position of Lead Statistician. Id. at 2. Ms. Miller was 52 at the time she was appointed. Ms. Miller is Jewish, and Ms. Kirkendall is Protestant. Id. at 1-2. Mr. Kundra is a male, Hindu, Asian/Indian. Id. at 1. At the time he was not selected for the promotion to Lead Mathematical Statistician, he was 65 years old. Id. He filed this suit claiming that DOE discriminated against him due to his gender, religion, and ethnicity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act ...


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