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Esquibel v. Lahood

March 31, 2009

FELIX J. ESQUIBEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RAY LAHOOD, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANT.*FN1



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

OPINION

This employment discrimination matter is before the Court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. After careful consideration of the parties' papers, the attached exhibits, the relevant case law, and the entire record in the case, the Court will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and will grant defendant's motion for summary judgment.*fn2

I. BACKGROUND

On February 23, 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") posted a vacancy announcement for a Quality Management Systems & Standards Specialist. See Mot., Ex. 1 ("Vacancy Announcement") at 1.*fn3 The position required, among other skills, knowledge of a particular quality management system (the ISO 9000), and skills in guiding an organization's transition to the ISO 9000 standard. See id. As with other vacancies, the FAA Office of Human Resources Management initially reviewed the applications to determine whether the applicants met the minimum qualification requirements. See Def.'s Rep., Ex. B (Declaration of Norma C. Bonewitz) ¶ 4. That Office then reviewed the knowledge, skills, and abilities ("KSAs") of the applicants who met the minimum qualification requirements and ranked the best qualified candidates. See id. The top candidates then were placed on the "competitive selection list" and their names were forwarded to management. See id. Juanita Young, then a manager of quality assurance at the FAA, organized an interview panel of herself and two other FAA managers to review the applications forwarded from Human Resources. See Mot., Deposition of Juanita Young ("Young Dep.") at 4, 7-9.

Plaintiff Felix J. Esquibel has worked as an FAA Area Supervisor since 1994. See Opp., Ex. 2 (Deposition of Felix J. Esquibel ("Esquibel Dep.")) at 15-17. Plaintiff submitted an application for the vacant position to the FAA. See Esquibel Dep. at 38-39. Plaintiff's name was one of eleven names submitted by the Office of Human Resources Management to the interview panel, but he was not invited to interview for the position. See Mot., Ex. 2 (Merit Selection Certificate) at 1. The interview panel did invite two other applicants to interview for the position and ultimately selected Michael J. Lightbown. See id. at 1-2. Plaintiff is Hispanic. See Esquibel Dep. at 46-47. Mr. Lightbown is not. See Mot., Ex. 5 (Answers to Requests for Admissions) ¶ 7. Plaintiff now brings suit with respect to his non-selection under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., alleging that the FAA unlawfully discriminated against him based on his race and national origin.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

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. SeeAnderson 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 his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 255; see alsoMastro v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 849-50 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc); Washington Post Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 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 his 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; seeScott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007) ("Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'") (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). To defeat summary judgment, a plaintiff must produce more than "a scintilla of evidence to support his claims." Freedman v. MCI Telecomms. Corp., 255 F.3d 840, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2001).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Summary Judgment Under Title VII

Plaintiff asserts that the FAA violated Title VII by not hiring him because of his race and national origin.*fn4 Absent direct evidence of discrimination, his disparate treatment claim must be analyzed under the burden-shifting framework of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). SeeBarnette v. Chertoff, 453 F.3d 513, 515 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Traditionally, within that framework, plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination. SeeTeneyck v. Omni Shoreham Hotel, 365 F.3d 1139, 1149 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Doing so creates a rebuttable presumption of discrimination and "triggers the employer's burden to produce admissible evidence that, if believed, would establish that the employer's action was motivated by a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason." Id. at 1151. If the employer meets this burden, all presumptions drop away and the Court must address the ultimate question: "whether intentional discrimination may be inferred from all the evidence before the trier of fact," including any evidence that the employer's asserted reasons are pretextual. Id.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently made clear that a "district court need not - and should not - decide whether the plaintiff actually made out a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas" at the summary judgment stage if the plaintiff "has suffered an adverse employment action, and [the defendant] has asserted a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the decision." Brady v. Office of the Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, 494 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (emphasis in original). The Court continued:

Rather, . . . in those circumstances, the district court must resolve one central question: Has the employee produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the employer's asserted non-discriminatory reason was not the actual reason and that the employer intentionally discriminated against the employee on ...


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