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Chowdhury v. Bair

March 30, 2009

SULTAN M. CHOWDHURY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHEILA C. BAIR, CHAIRMAN, FEDERAL DEPOSIT INSURANCE CORPORATION, DEFENDANT.



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

Document No. 32

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING IN PART THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT AND ORDERING FURTHER BRIEFING ON THE PLAINTIFF'S HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT CLAIM

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, a Bangladeshi Muslim and former Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC") employee, brought suit pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., against the FDIC*fn1 for discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment. The court determines that the plaintiff has stated material facts in dispute regarding his Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims but that neither side has provided adequate briefing on the plaintiff's hostile work environment claim. Accordingly, the court denies the defendant's motion with respect to the discrimination and retaliation claims and orders further briefing on the hostile work environment claim.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff began working at the FDIC in June of 1991 as a Senior Computer Specialist/Project Manager at a Grade CG-0334-14. Def.'s Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Issue ("Def.'s Statement") ¶ 1; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 3. In 1998 the plaintiff filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint alleging that FDIC official Mark Brenneman unlawfully failed to promote the plaintiff in favor of lesser qualified candidates based on the plaintiff's race, religion and national origin. Id. at 5. After filing a complaint in this court, the parties reached settlement in 2002, resulting in the plaintiff's promotion to a Grade CG-15 position. Def.'s Statement ¶ 3; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3.

In the instant case, the plaintiff alleges that he was discriminated against because of his race, religion, gender, age and color; that he was retaliated against for filing the 1998 EEO complaint; and that his supervisor, Mark Henning, created a hostile work environment. See generally Compl.; Pl.'s Opp'n.*fn2 Specifically, the plaintiff believes that in 2003 -- approximately twelve months after the settlement of his first complaint -- Brenneman passed him over for a Supervisory IT Specialist position in retaliation for filing the complaint. Pl.'s Opp'n at 5-7. Later that year, after Henning became his supervisor, the plaintiff was not nominated for a Corporate Success Award ("CSA"). Id. at 10-12; Def.'s Mot. at 3. Henning also began critiquing the plaintiff's writing skills, which eventually led, in 2004, to Henning placing the plaintiff on a performance improvement plan ("PIP"). Pl.'s Opp'n at 14-18; Def.'s Mot. at 4-5. Henning also changed the plaintiff's job title from "Project Manager" to "Senior Information Systems Analyst." Pl.'s Opp'n at 9; Def.'s Reply at 24. The plaintiff additionally alleges that Henning "sabotaged" his efforts to effectively participate in the Internal Jobs Rotation Program ("IJRP"). Id. at 11. The plaintiff contends that Henning undertook the aforementioned conduct for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n.

The plaintiff further asserts that Henning created a hostile work environment by referring to the Central Data Repository ("CDR") team (to which both the plaintiff and Henning were assigned) as a "Christian family," id. at 8, and, shortly after becoming the plaintiff's supervisor, telling the plaintiff "I have fired people" and "I know your background," which the plaintiff understood to mean that Henning knew about the plaintiff's previous EEO complaint, id. at 8. Henning also left a copy of the plaintiff's PIP face up on the plaintiff's chair and in the office copy machine where "anyone could see it." Id. at 15. According to the plaintiff, he was the only person on the team to report to someone other than Henning (and someone at his same grade level), and the only person at his grade level who was assigned work that an assistant would normally handle. Id. at 27. The plaintiff recalls Henning announcing in front of co-workers that the plaintiff would not be receiving a raise and would be leaving the CDR team. Id. Lastly, the plaintiff submits that Henning admitted to intentionally hindering the plaintiff's attempts to rotate to another division or team through the IJRP. Id. at 10-11.

The defendant now moves for summary judgment stating that the plaintiff has either failed to allege that the defendant took adverse actions against him or failed to show that the defendant's asserted nondiscriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons were merely pretextual. See generally Def.'s Mot. As to the plaintiff's hostile work environment claim, the defendant appears to argues that, because of the plaintiff's medical and psychological history, the plaintiff has not demonstrated that his work environment interfered with his work performance. Id. at 28- 31. The plaintiff opposes the motion, arguing that there are material facts in dispute as to all of his claims. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n. The court turns now to the parties' arguments.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for a Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a 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 ...


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