The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge
Plaintiff Eric Antrum, a Special Police Officer employed by defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("defendant" or "WMATA"), brings this action pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.*fn1 Antrum contends that defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his race (African American) by applying its "no beard" policy to him (Count 3), and then retaliated against him when he sought redress through the EEOC (Count 1). Presently before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. Upon careful consideration of the motion and the parties' memoranda, the applicable law, and the entire record, the Court will grant defendant's motion.*fn2
Antrum is a Special Police Officer ("SPO") with WMATA's Metro Transit Police Division ("MTP"). Pl.'s Ex. 1, ¶ 2 (Declaration of Eric Antrum) ("Pl.'s Decl."). The MTP policy on facial hair -- MTP General Order No. SPO-225 -- provides that "[e]xcept for a moustache, on-duty SPO's will be clean shaven," but makes an exception for employees diagnosed by a dermatologist as having pseudofolliculitis barbae ("PFB"). See Def.'s Ex. 2, at 1-2 ("General Order No. SPO-225"). This exception provides as follows:
SPO's diagnosed by a private dermatologist as having pseudofolliculitis barbae (PFB), upon compliance with the following requirements, will be permitted to grow a well trimmed symmetrical beard. . . .
(1) After obtaining a certificate from a private dermatologist and prior to growing a beard, the member will contact the Administrative Captain . . . who will schedule an examination by a WMATA physician.
(2) SPO's responding to the WMATA Medical Office will present the dermatologist's certificate and a Pseudofolliculitis Barbae Verification Form (MPT Form #124).
(3) If the WMATA physician disagrees with the diagnosis of the private dermatologist, the member will continue to shave.
(4) If the WMATA physician agrees with the diagnosis of the private dermatologist and completes the MTP #124, the original copy of same and the dermatologist's certificate will be returned to the Administrative Captain . . . who will . . . notify the member's section commander.
On May 11, 2005, Antrum's supervisor, Lieutenant Metcalf, saw him wearing a beard at work and instructed him to shave. Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 5. The next day Antrum visited his physician's office and received a letter from a nurse stating that he had "folliculitis." Id. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Ex. 2 (nurse's letter stating that plaintiff has "a medical condition called folliculitis"). On or about May 17, Metcalf instructed Antrum to bring the letter to WMATA's Medical Office. Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts ¶ 6. Over a month passed before Antrum sought a PFB exception from his supervisors on June 30 and he submitted the nurse's letter to WMATA's Medical Office on July 1. Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 7-8. When Antrum presented the nurse's letter to the Medical Office, he was informed that the letter was not adequate and that the certification must come from a dermatologist. Id. ¶ 8. Antrum states that he then shaved on July 2 because he "did not have the means to be referred to a specialist and get an appointment in time for my next scheduled shift." Id. ¶ 9. On July 11, Antrum filed an EEOC charge of racial discrimination against WMATA. Id. ¶ 10. The next month, on August 3, 2005, Antrum received his annual evaluation, which included a statement that "Antrum is not in compliance with his professional appearance. He has been counseled on his Facial Hair growth." Pl.'s Ex. 3, at 2. The written explanation in support of the overall rating -- "competent" -- stated:
Officer Antrum is a dedicated employee who takes pride in his daily assignments. He's very reliable and dependable. He has not provided the proper documentation of his grooming standards. Deputy Chief Lee had to counsel him on his uniform appearance.
Id. at 6. Antrum characterizes this as a "negative performance evaluation," but on its face, the evaluation rated him "competent" overall and qualified him for a pay increase. See id. at 6; Def.'s Ex. 6 (record of Antrum's August 18 pay increase).
By April 2006, Antrum had again grown a beard. See Def.'s Ex. 7, at 1. The MTP began investigating Antrum's conduct on April 17, and concluded on April 24 that "Antrum is not and will not comply with Metro Special Police General Orders." Id. On May 1, 2006, Antrum was suspended for one day. Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 12. ...