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Johnson v. Veneman

August 6, 2008


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


Pro se plaintiff Eugene Johnson brings this complaint against the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA") alleging discrimination and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII") and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") for alleged race, age and sex discrimination related to his employment with the Office of Budget and Program Analysis ("OBPA"). Defendant USDA now moves for dismissal or, in the alternative, summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motions, responses, and replies thereto, the record and the applicable law, the Court DENIES IN PART the USDA's motion with respect to ADEA claims alleged in plaintiff's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") complaint, and GRANTS IN PART the USDA's motion with respect to the remaining ADEA and Title VII claims. The Court also GRANTS the USDA's request to dismiss two individual defendants.

I. Background

Plaintiff Eugene Johnson is an African-American male born in 1957. Beginning in 1997, Johnson worked at the USDA in the OBPA as a Program Analyst. Compl. ¶ 6, 8. Johnson alleges that while he was working for the OBPA, he was denied training and tuition assistance for job-related coursework at the University of Maryland, despite the fact that white female employees received tuition assistance. Compl. ¶ 10. Johnson also alleges delays of weeks and months in receiving promotions for which he was eligible, including not receiving his last promotion from GS-12 to GS-13, despite the fact that he received a fully successful performance rating for the relevant rating period from October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2002. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 21. On September 23, 2002, Johnson filed an informal EEO complaint against the USDA in response to being denied the GS-13 promotion. Compl. ¶ 22.

On February 12, 2003, Johnson filed a formal EEO complaint alleging Title VII and ADEA claims of race, age and sex discrimination.*fn1 Compl. ¶ 3. Johnson's EEO complaint, as amended on April 8, 2003, alleges discrimination relating to: (1) denials of training requests and tuition assistance for work-related courses; (2) denial of a promotion on September 23, 2002; (3) failure to promote him in a timely manner; and (4) failure to give him an outstanding rating on his October 17, 2002 performance appraisal. USDA Mot., Statement of Undisputed Fact at 1.*fn2

Johnson alleges that on April 7, 2003, he was put on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") for 90 days as retaliation for his EEO complaint. Compl. ¶ 22. At the conclusion of the PIP, on July 11, 2003, he received a letter stating that his performance during the PIP was unacceptable and denying him a within-grade increase ("WGI") from GS-12, step 2 to GS-12, step 3. Compl. ¶ 24. Johnson requested reconsideration of the USDA's refusal to grant him the WGI, but his request was denied on August 12, 2003. Compl. ¶¶ 25-26. Johnson appealed that denial to the Merit System Protection Board ("MSPB") on September 5, 2003. Compl. ¶ 26.

On November 12, 2003, at an MSPB appeal status hearing presided over by Judge Barbara Mintz, Johnson and the USDA entered into an agreement to settle the pending claims and all other claims Johnson may have had against the USDA. USDA Mot., Ex. 2 at 3 (hearing transcript). The hearing proceeded as entered as follows:

JUDGE MINTZ: [.] Before we went on the record, the parties reached a settlement in this issue. Mr. Alderman, do you want to list the basic parts of the settlement agreement as you understand them? [.] [.]

MR. ALDERMAN: We have: That Mr. Johnson will be allowed to finish his detail, which is currently 120 days and expected to go through the middle of January;

That thereafter, Mr. Johnson will be placed on administrative leave for 60 days;

That Mr. Johnson's within grade increase denial will be reversed, and he will be placed at GS-12 step 3, retroactively to whenever the correct date was;

That Mr. Johnson's record will be cleared of the PIP and the below fully successful evaluation, so that the last evaluation will reflect that Mr. Johnson was at a fully successful level of performance.

At the end of the 60 day administrative leave period, Mr. Johnson will resign from his position. [.]

And future employers will be referred to a neutral reference[.]

JUDGE MINTZ: Mr. Johnson also agrees to withdraw all litigation he has or could have against the [USDA] arising out of his employment?

MR. ALDERMAN: Correct, Your Honor. [.]

And no attorneys' fees. [.]

JUDGE MINTZ: Is there anything else?

MR. RAMSEY [USDA Departmental Administration attorney]: No.

JUDGE MINTZ: Okay. I'm assuming you want this settlement agreement entered into the record for enforcement by the MSPB?

MR. ALDERMAN: Yes, Your Honor.

MR. RAMSEY: Yes. [.]

JUDGE MINTZ: Okay. I don't know whether you're going to reduce this to writing. There's no need to reduce the settlement agreement to writing. It is on the record, and I have that, and it will be on tape. But if you want to, you can send me a copy. But I will be ...

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