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Chandler v. Bernanke

January 30, 2008

TINA M. CHANDLER PLAINTIFF,
v.
BEN S. BERNANKE, CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This case involves an employment dispute between plaintiff Tina Chandler and her former employer, Mr. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ("The Board"). Ms. Chandler alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 633a, et seq. ("ADEA"), and the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. ("FMLA"). Pending before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment. Upon consideration of the Motion, the response and reply thereto, and the applicable law, and for the reasons set forth in this Memorandum Opinion, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Tina Chandler is an African American woman who was 49 years old at the time she initiated this lawsuit. Plaintiff was employed by defendant as a Staff Assistant with a pay grade level of FR-35 from her hiring in 1998 until her resignation on November 6, 2006. She worked at defendant's Washington, D.C. office. Plaintiff alleges that during the course of her employment she was discriminated against on the basis of her race and color in contravention of Title VII, and also discriminated against on the basis of her age in violation of the ADEA. Plaintiff further alleges that she was retaliated against for engaging in protected Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") activity. Finally, plaintiff contends that defendant unlawfully interfered with her right to take medical leave in violation of the FMLA. Compl. ¶ 5.

In or around 1998, plaintiff was hired by defendant for the position of Staff Assistant in the Division of Reserve Bank Operations and Payment Systems ("RBOPS"). At that time, plaintiff's supervisor was Jack Dennis, Assistant Director for RBOPS, and plaintiff's pay grade level was FR-35. At her 1999-2000 performance review, Mr. Dennis gave plaintiff an "outstanding" performance evaluation. In 2000, Mr. Dennis recommended that plaintiff be promoted to Staff Assistant grade level FR-36. Plaintiff alleges that Ms. Louise Roseman, Director of RBOPS, denied plaintiff that promotion and changed plaintiff's evaluation from "outstanding" to "commendable," a decrease of one level on the scale of five ratings. Id. ¶¶ 24-25.

In December 2000, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint ("December 2000 EEO Complaint") with the Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") Office of the Board alleging that she was unlawfully denied a promotion on the basis of her race. Id. ¶ 29. Plaintiff's December 2000 EEO complaint was resolved by a settlement agreement between the parties signed by plaintiff on March 23, 2001. Id. ¶ 35. In accordance with the settlement agreement, Louise Roseman was to replace plaintiff's 1999-2000 performance evaluation indicating a rating of "commendable" with the original evaluation made by Jack Dennis giving Plaintiff a rating of "outstanding." Settlement Agreement, Def.'s Mot., Ex. B at 3.

The settlement agreement includes the following introductory language: "Ms. Chandler agrees that she fully understands all of the terms of this Agreement and that it fully settles the claims in her formal EEO complaint and all claims which could have been raised up through the date on which she signs this agreement." Id. Paragraph 6 of the agreement further states:

"Upon signing this Agreement, Ms. Chandler will withdraw, in writing, her formal EEO complaint which she filed on December 13, 2000. Ms. Chandler agrees that she will not pursue that complaint in any other way or any other issues which could have been raised in that complaint. This waiver does not prevent Ms. Chandler from filing a complaint about anything that occurs after the Agreement is signed. All outstanding issues that have arisen between the time the formal complaint was filed and the time Ms. Chandler signs this Agreement or that could have been raised are also hereby waived."

Id. at 4.

The agreement also states that "If Ms. Chandler believes the terms of this Agreement have not been complied with, within 30 days of the alleged violation of this Agreement, she shall notify the Board's EEO Programs Director in writing." Id. at 5. Plaintiff alleges that she learned in 2005 that defendant did not change her 1999-2000 performance evaluation to reflect her original "outstanding" rating by Jack Dennis in accordance with the settlement agreement. Compl. ¶¶ 38-39.

In 2001, Bud Martindale replaced Jack Dennis as plaintiff's Supervisor. Id. ¶ 40. While working for Bud Martindale, plaintiff claims she did not receive sought-after promotions to grade level FR-36 in 2001, 2002, or 2003. Id. ¶ 42. After Bud Martindale's departure in 2004, the RBOPS Assistant Director position remained open until mid-2006. Id. ¶¶ 44-45. During this time, plaintiff reported to Paul W. Bettge, Associate Director of RBOPS, and plaintiff's immediate supervisors were Jeannine Szostek and Jo Chang. Id. ¶¶ 46-47, 51. Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to continued discrimination and a hostile work environment during her time working for Szostek and Chang. Plaintiff also alleges that during this time she was denied a promotion in 2004 and 2005, and that she was denied a cash award in 2004 given to all other staff members who worked on a Bank Evaluation Project with Plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 53, 56, 124, 126.

On October 17, 2005, Ms. Chandler contacted the Board's EEO Office and indicated that she intended to file another EEO complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of race, color, and age and retaliation for her previous EEO activity in December 2000. Compl. ¶ 61. On January 3, 2006 Plaintiff filed her second formal EEO complaint ("January 2006 EEO Complaint"). Plaintiff also alleges that adverse actions were taken against her throughout 2006 as retaliation for the filing of the January 2006 EEO Complaint. Id. ¶¶ 74, 78-79. This includes an event referred to by both parties as "the gummy bear incident" in which Jo Chang allegedly "thrust" a hand full of gummy bears at plaintiff's face and commanded her to "eat it." Id. ¶¶ 91-92.

On September 8, 2006, the Board issued a Final Agency Decision regarding the January 2006 EEO Complaint, finding that plaintiff had not been discriminated against on the basis of her age, race or color, or retaliated against for having previously filed the December 2000 EEO Complaint. Def.'s Mot., Ex. A at 1.

Plaintiff further alleges that the discrimination and hostile work environment to which she was subjected caused her physical injury for which she required medical leave. Id. ¶¶ 106- 107. Plaintiff contends that defendant interfered with the FMLA accommodations to which she was entitled. Id. ¶¶ 136-38.

On November 6, 2006, Plaintiff resigned from her position at RBOPS because of an "escalating, stressful and adverse work environment." Def's Mot., Ex. K. On December 6, 2006, ...


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