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Chappell-Johnson v. Bair

June 28, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge


This matter returns to this Court on remand from the Court of Appeals. Plaintiff Dorothy Chappell-Johnson, an African American who was fifty-four years old at the time that this action commenced, brings claims of race discrimination and age discrimination against her employer, defendant Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC"). The FDIC has moved [26] for summary judgment. For the reasons stated herein, the defendant's motion for summary judgment shall be denied.

I. Background

Ms. Chappell-Johnson has been a federal civil servant for more than twenty-three years. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 6.) At the time that she brought her lawsuit, she had spent the previous thirteen years with the FDIC and/or the Resolution Trust Corporation ("RTC"). (Id.) Prior to the 1996 merger between the RTC and the FDIC, Ms. Chappell-Johnson was a grade CG-11 employee. (Id.) As a result of the merger, however, her grade was reduced to CG-9. (Id.)

In July 1999, Ms. Chappell-Johnson was serving in the Compensation and Benefits Section of the Personnel Services Branch of the Division of Administration as a Personnel Management Specialist, CG-201-9. (Id. at ¶ 7). The FDIC posted Vacancy Announcement No. 99-ADEU-169, for a Personnel Management Specialist position, CG-201-13, in the unit to which Ms. Chappell-Johnson was assigned. (Id.) According to the job posting, the position required applicants had to have "one year of specialized experience equivalent to the next lower grade level." (Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. B.)

Earlier that year, when she had learned that the position was to become available, Ms. Chappell-Johnson asked her second-line supervisor, Lois Cheney, the Associate Director for Compensation and Benefits, to have the position posted at CG-11/12. (Aff. Dorothy Chappell-Johnson 4.) Had the position been posted at the lower grade, Ms. Chappell-Johnson would have been able to apply for it. (Id.) Ms. Chappell-Johnson contends that despite her request, Ms. Cheney and the FDIC management refused to lower the position's grade. (Pl.'s Compl. ¶ 7.) As a result, she was unable to compete for the vacancy. (Id.)

Ms. Chappell-Johnson also contends that prior to July 1999, Ms. Cheney, a white female, had reduced the grade of vacant positions in order to permit lower grade employees to compete for them. (Id.) She claims that this practice benefitted younger, non-African American employees. (Id.) In her affidavit, Ms. Chappell-Johnson states:

I first spoke with Mr. Harrington and Ms. Cheney in 1998 about filling a Personnel Management Specialist position that a co-worker, Mary Anderson, had vacated. I asked them to lower the grade of the position from CG-13 to the CG-11/12 level so that I could apply, as was similarly done in the past for Catherine Stephens, a younger white employee. A position was lowered from a CG-12 to the CG-9/11/12 level, so that Ms. Stephens, who was a CG-8, could apply. Ms. Stephens was selected for the job, and was then given training, and is still being trained to meet all of the job requirements under the same Associate Director. Mr. Harrington and Ms. Cheney responded that they were looking for someone at the CG-13 level with compensation experience. I had the payroll background, which included some compensation experience.

(Aff. Dorothy Chappell-Johnson 4.) Ms. Chappell-Johnson asserts that another "younger white employee," Victoria Hebert, "was promoted from CG-12 to CG-13 without having compensation knowledge or experience." (Id.) Furthermore, she states in her affidavit that:

Once I asked Ms. Cheney if a promotion could be arranged on a temporary basis since I was doing some higher graded work, and she responded that she could not make temporary promotions. Later, however, Ann Rzepka, a younger white employee, was given a temporary promotion to a CG-14, and remains in that position as of today.


On December 16, 1999, Ms. Chappell-Johnson filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity complaint alleging age and race discrimination. (Pl. Compl. ¶ 7.) In July 2001, the FDIC's Office of Diversity and Economic Opportunity notified the plaintiff that her claim was subsumed in a class action lawsuit then pending against it.*fn1 (Id. at ¶ 8.) Her claims were therefore held in abeyance pending resolution of the lawsuit. (Id.) On April 16, 2003, the FDIC's Office of Diversity and Economic Opportunity notified Ms. Chappell-Johnson that it had resumed processing her complaint. (Id.)

Subsequent to the resumption of her EEO complaint, Miguel Torrado, the Director of Personnel, asked Ms. Chappell-Johnson to accept a voluntary downgrade from her position as a Human Resources Specialist with a grade of CG-9 to a position as a Human Resources Assistant with a grade of CG-8. (Id. at ¶ 9.) After she declined to do so, she was involuntarily downgraded and moved to another office location. (Id.)

On July 21, 2003, the plaintiff filed her complaint in this Court pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and as further amended by section 102 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42, U.S.C. § 1981a, and pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 633a. In her complaint, she claimed discrimination based on race and age. She also claimed that the FDIC retaliated against her. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Because the defendant moved prior to discovery, the plaintiff submitted a Rule 56(f) motion seeking discovery. In a memorandum and opinion, this Court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss as to all claims, but granted summary judgment as to all claims. Chappell-Johnson v. Powell, No. 03-1557 (D.D.C. Sept. 30, 2004). As to her discrimination claims, this Court determined ...

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