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Jones v. Bernanke

March 10, 2008

CHARLES B. JONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BEN BERNANKE,*FN1 CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos.: 51, 52

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO ALTER OR AMEND JUDGMENT; FINDING AS MOOT THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON COUNTS III&IV

I. INTRODUCTION

The only claim left standing in this legal tug-of-war is the plaintiff's retaliation claim based on a 2000 performance evaluation the plaintiff received while employed at the Federal Reserve. Despite the court's previous denial of its motion for summary judgment regarding this claim, the defendant, the Federal Reserve, requests that the court now revisit and extinguish the plaintiff's retaliation claim. Specifically, the defendant argues that the court erred in not addressing whether the supervisors responsible for drafting the performance evaluation had knowledge of the plaintiff's protected activity -- a necessary element of the plaintiff's prima facie case. The plaintiff retorts that he did not need to establish a prima facie case provided the court determines that the defendant possessed a retaliatory motive in drafting the performance evaluation. Because the court overlooked the plaintiff's inability to establish that his supervisors had knowledge of the protected activity, the court cannot conclude that they acted with a retaliatory motive. Therefore, the court grants the defendant's motion to alter or amend its judgment and dismisses the plaintiff's only remaining claim.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual History

The plaintiff, a certified public accountant, was born on May 30, 1948. Am. Compl. ¶ 6. He began working at the defendant's Division of Reserve Bank Operations and Payment Systems in April 1991. Id. ¶ 7. In July 1993, the plaintiff transferred to the Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation at a level FR-27. Id. ¶ 8.

The plaintiff alleges that in March 1998, Michael Martinson, his then-supervisor, did not promote him to a managerial position at the FR-29 level and instead selected a "woman in her early thirties." Id. ¶¶ 9-10. The plaintiff suspected that his age or gender was a factor in his nonselection, but he did not file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") because Martinson and another supervisor, William Ryback, assured him that he would receive a one-level promotion. Id. ¶¶ 11-12.

By September 1998, the plaintiff had not received a promotion. Id. ¶ 13. When he inquired about the delay, Martinson informed him that there was "a policy against providing individual promotions." Id. A more senior supervisor, Stephen Schemering, had apparently instructed Ryback and Martinson "to be careful how many people we have at that level." Id. Nevertheless, Martinson again assured the plaintiff that he would be promoted "with the next group of promotions." Id. These assurances continued through 1999, and based on these assurances, the plaintiff did not pursue the matter with the defendant's EEOC office. Id. ¶ 14.

In August 1999, Martinson sent the plaintiff abroad on a teaching assignment. Id. While he was away, a group of employees was promoted while another group received pay increases. Id. The plaintiff, however, was not among those employees that were promoted or received pay increases. Id. When the plaintiff confronted Martinson about his failure to promote him, Martinson stated that he was unable to justify a promotion for the plaintiff because of "the limited nature of [the plaintiff's] work responsibilities." Id. ¶ 15. As a result, in November 1999 the plaintiff filed an informal charge with the defendant's EEOC office. Id. ¶ 17. The plaintiff then filed a formal complaint in January 2000 and remained involved in the EEOC process by requesting a hearing in September 2000 and conducting discovery and filing various motions. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Alter or Amend J. at 11-14.

The plaintiff alleges that since filing the EEOC complaint, Martinson "unjustifiably" downgraded the plaintiff's performance evaluations from "outstanding" in 1999 to "commendable" in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. Id. ¶ 18. The plaintiff further alleges that the evaluations inaccurately characterize the plaintiff's performance and have a negative impact on his ability to be promoted and to receive salary increases. Id. ¶¶ 18-19.

B. Procedural History

The plaintiff filed a complaint in this court on October 4, 2004. The plaintiff alleged that his supervisors unlawfully retaliated against him by lowering his performance ratings in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003 in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-1 et seq. and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 633a et seq. On June 14, 2005, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. Def.'s First Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s First Mot."). While awaiting the court's ruling on this motion, the plaintiff filed a motion to amend the complaint. Pl.'s Mot. to Amend Compl. On December 13, 2005, the court ...


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