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Muhlenbrock v. Billington

September 29, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul L. Friedman United States District Judge


This matter is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff, Gisela von Muhlenbrock, alleges that defendant, the Librarian of Congress, retaliated against her in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., ("Title VII"). Upon consideration of the motion, plaintiff's opposition, defendant's reply, and the entire record in this case, the Court grants defendant's motion for summary judgment.*fn1


Plaintiff Gisela von Muhlenbrock began her employment at the Law Library of the Library of Congress as a Foreign Law Specialist in 1981. See Mot., Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts ("DSF") ¶ 1; Compl. ¶ 4. In 1985, plaintiff, along with two female colleagues, filed a complaint in this Court against the Library alleging discrimination on the basis of sex. See Opp., Exh. 11, 1985 Complaint at 11. Plaintiff further alleged that her supervisor, Dr. Rubens Medina, sexually harassed her. See id. at 12-13. The parties agreed to a settlement of the lawsuit in 1986. See DSF. ¶ 3. Plaintiff left the Library voluntarily in 1989 to live in Santiago, Chile. See Opp., Ex. 13, Von Muhlenbrock Deposition at 26:19-20; 27:19-25.

Plaintiff alleges that she sought to return to the Library in 1991 and made inquiries of several Library employees, including Dr. Medina, in that regard. See Opp., Ex. 3, 1991 Letters. Her inquiries were unsuccessful.

In January 2003, the Library posted a vacancy announcement for the position of Foreign Legal Specialist. See Mot., Ex. 3, Vacancy Announcement; DSF ¶ 4. Plaintiff applied for the position online. See Mot., Ex. 4, Application; DSF ¶ 5. The Library's online application system determined whether candidates were minimally qualified based on their applications and assigned each candidate a score out of 100. See Mot., Ex. 14, Shroff Deposition ("Shroff Depo.") at 81:10-21; 82:1-9. Based on her application, plaintiff received a score of 96. See Mot., Ex. 5.

After the vacancy announcement closed, the Library's Human Resources Services staffing specialist, Billie Nichols, forwarded a breakdown of the scores, which did not include applicants' names, to the selecting official, Kersi Shroff. See Mot., Ex. 5; Shroff Depo. at 82:2-14; 85:13-21; 86:1-2; DSF ¶¶ 6, 7. Mr. Shroff, along with the two other members of the selecting panel decided to interview the ten applicants who received scores of 97 and higher. See Mot., Ex. 5; DSF ¶¶ 8, 9. The panel did not receive plaintiff's name on the list of interviewees, because her score was below the cutoff of 97. See DSF ¶10. Mr. Shroff averred that neither he nor the other members of the selecting panel knew that plaintiff had applied for the position until she filed her EEO complaint in 2004. See Mot., Ex. 12, Shroff Affidavit at 2. After interviewing the top ten candidates, the panel selected Gustavo Guerra for the position. See DSF ¶ 11.

On February 19, 2004, plaintiff filed a formal EEO complaint charging that she had been retaliated against in the selection process. On May 26, 2005, plaintiff received a "right to sue" letter. See Compl. ¶ 19. On September 29, 2005, plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court.


A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment may be granted only if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits [or declarations] show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). "A fact is 'material' if a dispute over it might affect the outcome of a suit under the governing law; factual disputes that are 'irrelevant or unnecessary' do not affect the summary judgment determination." Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248).

An issue is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d at 895. When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255. See also Mastro v. Potomac Electric Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 849-50 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Washington Hospital Center, 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); Washington Post Co. v. Dep't of Health and Human Services, 865 F.2d 320, 325 (D.C. Cir. 1989). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must "eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence." Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

The non-moving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits, declarations or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e)(2); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-moving party is "required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find" in her favor. Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987). If the evidence is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment may be granted. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-50; see Scott v. Harris, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 (2007) ("[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, 'there is no genuine issue for trial.'") (quoting Matsushita Electric Indus. Co. v. ...

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