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Chowdhury v. Bair

January 26, 2010

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

Re Document No.: 32

MEMORANDUM OPINION DENYING THE DEFENDANT'S SUPPLEMENTAL MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON THE PLAINTIFF'S HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT CLAIM

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the court on the defendant's supplemental motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's hostile work environment claim. 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 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., against the FDIC alleging discrimination, retaliation and hostile work environment. On March 30, 2009, the court denied the defendant's summary judgment motion with respect to the plaintiff's claims of discrimination and retaliation. The defendant has now filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's claims of hostile work environment based on his religion and the defendant's allegedly retaliatory motive. Because the plaintiff has demonstrated that material facts are in dispute, the court denies the defendant's supplemental motion for summary judgment on that claim.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND*fn1

The plaintiff was employed by the FDIC from June 1991 to July 2005. Def.'s Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Issue ("Def.'s Statement") ¶¶ 1, 54; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 3. Mark Henning became the plaintiff's supervisor in 2003, Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2009) at 2, and the plaintiff alleges that shortly thereafter Henning created a hostile work environment by making it clear that he did not want the plaintiff on the Central Data Repository ("CDR") team to which they were both assigned, id. at 3. The plaintiff claims that Henning was hostile toward him because of an EEO complaint the plaintiff had filed against his previous supervisor and because the plaintiff is Muslim. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Supplemental Mot. For Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Opp'n"), Ex. 1 ("Pl.'s Decl.").

The plaintiff filed his complaint on December 9, 2005. See generally Compl. On March 30, 2009, the court denied the defendant's motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims, see generally Mem. Op. (Mar. 30, 2009), and ordered further briefing on the plaintiff's hostile work environment claim, id. at 15-17. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff had failed to detail the offensiveness, frequency or severity of the allegedly harassing conduct and that the defendant likewise had failed to address those deficiencies in the plaintiff's allegations. Id. at 16-17.

On May 4, 2009, the defendant filed a supplemental motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's hostile work environment claim. See generally Def.'s Supplemental Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mot."). The plaintiff opposed the motion on May 19, 2009. See generally Pl.'s Opp'n. In support of his opposition, the plaintiff submitted a five-page, self-executed declaration, providing his first-hand account of his relationship with Henning. See generally Pl.'s Decl. The plaintiff specifically alleges that Henning made it known that he would cast an especially critical eye toward the plaintiff's work because of the plaintiff's previous EEO complaint. Id. at 1. The plaintiff further proffers that Henning did not consider the plaintiff a "full member of the team" because Henning often referred to the CDR team as a "Christian family," forced the plaintiff to report to a co-worker (as opposed to a supervisor), humiliated the plaintiff at weekly staff meetings and precluded the plaintiff from attending other important meetings. Id. at 1-2. Other forms of harassment, the plaintiff explains, included Henning placing the plaintiff on a performance improvement plan ("PIP") and advertising that fact and Henning forcing the plaintiff to attend weekly meetings where Henning would "point his finger . . . clench his teeth and make angry faces the entire time." Id. at 3. Because of this conduct, the plaintiff states that he "sought weekly therapy for this stress and eventually had to go on medication for depression. . . . Mr. Henning's harassment ended my enjoyment of [his] job and made it impossible for [him] to continue working." Id. at 4-5.

The defendant proffers that the plaintiff still has not alleged conduct that was sufficiently offensive, severe or frequent enough to constitute a hostile work environment. See generally Def.'s Reply in Support of Supplemental Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Reply"). The court turns now to the applicable legal standards and 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 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.

The nonmoving party may defeat summary judgment through factual representations made in a sworn affidavit if he "support[s] his allegations . . . with facts in the record," Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (quoting Harding v. Gray, 9 F.3d 150, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1993)), or provides "direct testimonial evidence," Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 338 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Indeed, for the court to accept anything less "would defeat the central purpose of the summary judgment ...


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