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Aguilar v. Salazar

June 18, 2009

SANDRA L. AGUILAR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEN SALAZAR, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, DEFENDANT.



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

Re Document No.: 17

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The defendant*fn1 is the Secretary of the Department of the Interior ("the Department"), which oversees the National Park Service ("the NPS"). The plaintiff alleges that the defendant intentionally discriminated against her based on her race and/or national origin in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., by not selecting her for an administrative position with the National Capital Region of the NPS. The defendant argues that the NPS lawfully decided to consider only applicants who were current NPS employees. Because the plaintiff has failed to present evidence from which a reasonable jury could conclude that the defendant's asserted reason for not hiring her is merely pretextual, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On March 10, 2003, the NPS issued an initial vacancy announcement ("Initial Announcement") for the position of Associate Regional Director for Administration for the National Capital Region of the NPS. Def.'s Statement of Facts ("Def.'s Statement") ¶¶ 14-15; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 7. The Initial Announcement specified that applicants must be Department employees and noted that the position was at the GS-15 level. Id. On March 31, 2003, in order to comply with internal diversity requirements, the NPS issued an amended vacancy announcement ("Amended Announcement") soliciting applications from current Department employees as well as non-Department applicants and amending the pay level to GS-14/15.*fn2

Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 17, 21; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 10 & Ex. 12 at 7.

The plaintiff, who was not, and never had been, a Department employee, applied for the position on March 24, 2003.*fn3 Pl.'s Statement of Facts ("Pl.'s Statement") ¶¶ 7, 30-33; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 5; Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 1, 28. Despite the fact that the plaintiff submitted her application before the NPS issued the Amended Announcement, the NPS decided to consider her application after it issued the Amended Announcement. Def.'s Statement ¶ 29.

All applications for the position were separated into two categories (status applicants who worked for the government at the time they applied and non-status applicants who were not government employees) and assigned numerical rankings with a high score of 100. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 48, 59, 61. The plaintiff received a score of 97 and was deemed to be a "best qualified" non-status applicant for the GS-15 level position.*fn4 Id. ¶¶ 61, 63. Upon completion of the ranking process, NPS selecting officials determined that they would only interview those applicants from the status certificates and, within that subset, only those candidates who were NPS employees at the time. Id. ¶¶ 80, 81 (explaining that the officials believed that "NPS experience [was] a critical, key attribute for the Position"); see also Def.'s Mot., Ex. 8 at 89-90; Ex. 28 at 8-9, 13-14; Ex. 29 at 11-12. As such, the plaintiff was not invited for an interview and Dottie Marshall, a status applicant, was eventually selected for the position. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 7, 87. The plaintiff believes that she was intentionally excluded from the interview process because of her Hispanic heritage. Compl. ¶ 1. She contends that her surname and appearance make it obvious that she is Hispanic. Pl.'s Statement ¶¶ 4, 14-15 (noting that the plaintiff had met one of the selecting officials in person and concluding that he therefore knew that she is Hispanic*fn5 ).

The plaintiff filed a complaint of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 1. The plaintiff filed suit in this court on March 19, 2007. Following discovery, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the plaintiff opposed. 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 ...


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