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Brown v. Paulson

February 17, 2009


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

Document No. 44



In what remains of this action brought pro se under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq., the defendant moves pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for summary judgment on the plaintiff's Title VII claims of retaliation, race discrimination and hostile work environment based on events occurring after May 22, 2003. See Memorandum Opinion of Apr. 1, 2008 ("Mem. Op.") [Dkt. No. 31] (resolving all other claims). Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant parts of the record, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment [Dkt. No. 44].*fn1


As previously established, the plaintiff worked at the Department of Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing ("BEP") from 1971 until 2004. Mem. Op. at 2. The plaintiff alleges that he began to experience lower back pain from a job-related injury in 1996 and that the "injury was aggravated by subsequent on the job injuries in 1996 and 2001." Compl. ¶ 6. "On or about February 28 or March 1, 2001," the plaintiff reported to work late because of his back pain. Id. Although allegedly the plaintiff was on flex-time, he was reprimanded on March 20, 2001 for being two hours late. Id. ¶ 9. On April 18, 2001, the plaintiff received "a proposed notice that he was to be considered AWOL and docked for the time he was not at work." Id. The plaintiff "thereafter" filed an informal EEO complaint challenging the proposed notice. The April 18 notice was rescinded by the Memorandum of May 1, 2001. Id. After meeting with Second Line Supervisor Robert Bishop, during which plaintiff stated that he would not sign the Memorandum, plaintiff "believ[ed] that the matter had been resolved." Id. But he was charged with being absent without leave ("AWOL") "allegedly because he would not sign the May 1, 2001 Memorandum." Id.

On July 13, 2001, the plaintiff was given a notice of proposed suspension for 14 days and "on September 6, 2001, [the plaintiff] was again suspended for a period of three days."*fn2 Id. ¶ 14. Meanwhile, "[o]n or about August 6, 2001," the plaintiff's supervisors accused him of committing fraud on his time and attendance sheets. Id. ¶ 7. On December 10, 2001, the plaintiff "received an Employee Performance Appraisal of Fully Satisfactory." Id. ¶ 15. By then, he had filed three EEO complaints. Id. ¶ 16. The plaintiff filed another EEO complaint on January 28, 2002, and apparently one other at an unspecified date after January 13, 2004. ¶ 21.

The plaintiff alleges that he was charged as AWOL on November 20, 2003; December 5, 2003; December 15, 2003 and January 13, 2004, id. ¶ 24, and was denied a training request on February 17, 2004.*fn3 The plaintiff also alleges that on January 13, 2004, he "was insulted and threaten[ed] by a co-worker" id. ¶ 20, and that on March 3, 2004, he was "harassed and retaliated against by supervisor (Mr. Patrick Reidy) for an assignment (SD)." Id. ¶ 6.

In the plaintiff's prior action filed in 2003, this court granted summary judgment for the defendant. See Mem. Op. at 4-6 (discussing Brown v. Snow, 407 F. Supp.2d 61 (D.D.C. 2005) (Leon, J.)). The plaintiff filed this civil action on March 19, 2007. For reasons stated in the Memorandum Opinion of April 1, 2008, the court dismissed all of the plaintiff's claims except the Title VII claims for retaliation and hostile work environment based on events that allegedly occurred after May 22, 2003. The retaliation claim is based on the following discrete acts: a performance rating on November 4, 2003 of "Achieved Standards," an absence without leave "(AWOL") charge on December 15, 2003, a warning letter on January 13, 2004, and the denial of a training request submitted on February 17, 2004. The defendant adds that a race discrimination claim based on the aforementioned performance evaluation and training denial also survives. The hostile work environment claim is based on the aforementioned incident on January 13, 2004, involving a co-worker and the encounter with supervisor Reidy in March 2004.


A. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits 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 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Diamond v. Atwood, 43 F.3d 1538, 1540 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To determine which facts are "material," a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322; Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show that the nonmoving party "fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the nonmoving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Id. In addition, the nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999); Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993). Rather, the nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Greene, 164 F.3d at 675. If the evidence "is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal citations omitted).

Generally, to prevail on a claim of discrimination or retaliation under Title VII, a plaintiff must follow a three-part burden-shifting analysis known as the McDonnell Douglas framework. Lathram v. Snow, 336 F.3d 1085, 1088 (D.C. Cir. ...

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