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Potts v. Howard University Hospital

September 8, 2010


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

Re Document No.: 91




This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff, a male, brings this action against his former employer, Howard University Hospital (the "Hospital" or the "defendant"), asserting claims of disparate treatment based on his gender and retaliation, in violation of the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. code § 2-1402.11 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and wrongful termination under the laws of the District of Columbia. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment.


A. Factual History

The plaintiff was employed by the Hospital from 1994 to 2002 as an echocardiograph technologist ("ET") in the echocardiography ("echo") lab. 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 4. During his tenure, the plaintiff was supervised directly by Bernice Jackson, M.D., the director of the echo lab. Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ("Def.'s Statement") ¶ 3. Jackson's supervisor was the chief of the cardiology division, Deborah Williams, M.D. Id. ¶¶ 4-5. Williams, in turn, reported to Randall McKennie, the Administrative Director of the Department of Medicine. Id.

Upon joining the Hospital, the plaintiff worked with Jane Spencer, an ET whose salary exceeded his own. Id. ¶ 6. Both Spencer and the plaintiff were, however, "at the same level," because there was no hierarchy among the ETs. Pl.'s Dep. 67:14-21; Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 5, 6. Instead, the Hospital's Director of Human Resources, Anthony Jacks ("Jacks") attributes the salary discrepancy between Spencer and the plaintiff to Spencer's approximately thirty years of service at Howard University. Def.'s Mot., Ex. A. ("Jacks Aff.") ¶ 9.

The plaintiff and Spencer worked together until May 1998, when Spencer took leave due to illness. Def.'s Statement ¶ 9. During Spencer's absence, the plaintiff "helped [to] train and orientate" the Hospital's temporary replacement ET, Colleen Williams. 4th Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. Spencer ultimately passed away and the plaintiff "made it known to the defendant that he was interested and wanted to be considered for [Spencer's] vacancy." 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 18; see generally Pl.'s Dep. The plaintiff believed that Spencer's death had created a vacancy for a higher-paid position and understood that "higher pay [would] constitute a promotion." Pl.'s Dep. 181:20-21. The Hospital, however, did not advertise any such vacancy and, instead, hired Williams permanently on August 26, 1999. Def.'s Statement ¶ 10; Pl.'s Opp'n at 2.

The plaintiff acknowledged that during his employment he received numerous complaints regarding his performance. Pl.'s Opp'n at 2. In a written reprimand issued in 2000, the Hospital advised the plaintiff that he had been "late forty-six time[s] between December, 1999 through June, 2000." Def.'s Mot., Ex. F.; see also id., Ex. D (noting in a 1996 performance evaluation that the plaintiff "continue[d] to have multiple late arrivals"); Ex. E (stating in his 1998 performance evaluation that the plaintiff had received "a letter of formal counseling on his time and attendance"). In addition to these tardiness and attendance issues, the plaintiff's co-workers and supervisors complained that, on multiple occasions, he had refused to perform echocardiograms despite a physician's orders to do so. Def.'s Statement ¶ 19; see also Def.'s Mot. Exs. J-M. Based on such acts of insubordination, which "needlessly delayed the delivery of care to the patient," McKennie recommended in July 2001 that the Hospital fire the plaintiff. Def.'s Mot., Ex. M. Termination was proposed for a second time sometime prior to March 26, 2002, "based on [the plaintiff's] failure to identify himself to patients as a technician, misrepresentation of himself as a doctor and performance of inappropriate unrequested abdominal ultrasound examinations of female." Id., Ex. G.

On March 26, 2002, Williams recommended the plaintiff's termination yet again after he allegedly, "without medical authorization, placed a patient on a monitoring device and then left the room, failing to monitor the patient." Def.'s Statement ¶ 23; see also Def.'s Mot., Ex. G. On April 19, 2002, the Hospital terminated the plaintiff, indicating in a letter that he was being terminated for this incident described by Williams and because he "continued to conduct [him]self outside of the boundaries of [his] job description." Def.'s Mot., Ex. N. The plaintiff contends that the Hospital never "investigated" the incident or discussed the allegations with him. 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 24; Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. After his termination, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), claiming that the Hospital had retaliated against him for his previously filed gender discrimination complaint. 4th Am. Compl. ¶ 2.

B. Procedural History

On September 25, 1999, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the District of Columbia's Office of Human Rights (DCOHR), "claiming gender discrimination based on the defendant's failure to consider him" for Spencer's position, which he maintains would have been a promotion. 4th Am. Compl. ΒΆ 21. Between October 2004 and September 2005, the plaintiff filed four lawsuits in the district court, alleging gender discrimination, retaliation, retaliatory discharge, wrongful termination, breach of contract, obstruction, fraud, reliance and other violations of federal and state statutes. See Mem. Op. (Jan. 4, 2007) at 2. All four cases were consolidated and, on January 4, 2007, the court dismissed the case after determining that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See generally id. Upon appeal, the Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the ...

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