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Musgrove v. Government of D.C.

April 7, 2011

MILDRED MUSGROVE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Signed: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, Mildred Musgrove, was employed as the principal of Anacostia High School from 1997 until 2003. Plaintiff claims that Defendant District of Columbia (the "District") discriminated against her by (i) unlawfully compensating male high school principals at a higher rate of pay than her in violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) ("EPA"); (ii) subjecting her to a hostile work environment in contravention of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"), and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, D.C. Code § 2-1401.01, et seq. ("DCHRA"); and (iii) impermissibly terminating her employment because of her gender and age in violation of both Title VII and the DCHRA. Pending before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the applicable law, the entire record, and for the reasons set forth below the Court hereby GRANTS defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a female (age 60), was employed as the principal of Anacostia High School from December 17, 1997 through August 2003. Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. ("Compl.") ¶¶ 4, 28; Def.'s Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ("Def.'s SMF") ¶ 1.*fn1 At some point in 1998, plaintiff alleges that she became aware that "other male principals . . . were being paid more than she was in the way of salary, bonuses and other financial incentives." Compl. ¶ 6. Plaintiff asserts that although she repeatedly complained about the perceived inequity, her entreaties went unanswered. Compl. ¶¶ 7-9. Plaintiff also claims that during her time at Anacostia, she was treated with hostility by various supervisors, including the superintendent. See Compl. ¶¶ 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22.

On February 24, 2003, there was a small fire at Anacostia High School. Pl.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ("Pl.'s SMF") ¶ 15. Concerned about the potential for damage or theft, plaintiff ordered the school's maintenance staff to lock the doors located near the school's computer labs. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 15. As a result of this action, plaintiff received a citation from the fire marshal for violating the fire code. Compl. ¶ 24. The next day plaintiff was placed on administrative leave for breaching a directive from the superintendent "regarding fire code violations." Compl. ¶ 24. Approximately five months later, plaintiff received a letter from the District informing her that she had been terminated. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 18. The letter specified two bases for her termination: (i) "[d]iscourteous treatment of the public, supervisor, or other employees," D.C. Mun. Regs. 5-E, § 1401.2(n) (2002), and (ii) "[v]violation of the rules, regulations, or lawful orders of the Board of Education or any directive of the Superintendent of Schools, issued pursuant to the rules of the Board of Education," D.C. Mun. Regs. 5-E, § 1401.2(t).*fn2 See Pl.'s SMF ¶¶ 18-19.

On May 14, 2004, plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCOHR") alleging "unlawful discriminatory behavior on the bases of sex, age, and retaliation." Def.'s SMF ¶ 4; see generally Def.'s Ex. 2, EEOC Form 5. This charge was cross-filed with the EEOC. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 22. Following mediation and investigation, the EEOC issued plaintiff a right to sue letter on August 7, 2006. Pl.'s SMF ¶ 22. On November 1, 2006, plaintiff filed her complaint in this Court. Upon conclusion of discovery, defendant filed a motion for summary judgment. This motion is now ripe for determination by the Court.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment should be granted only if the moving party has shown that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986); Waterhouse v. Dist. of Columbia, 298 F.3d 989, 991 (D.C. Cir. 2002). "A fact is material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,' and a dispute about a material fact is genuine 'if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 692 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial burden of demonstrating an absence of genuine issues of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In determining whether a genuine issue of material facts exists, the Court must view all facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 597 (1986); Keyes v. Dist. of Columbia, 372 F.3d 434, 436 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

The non-moving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits or other competent evidence setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. If the evidence favoring the non-moving party is "merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. Moreover, "although summary judgment 'must be approached with special caution in discrimination cases, a plaintiff is not relieved of her obligation to support her allegations by affidavits or other competent evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bolden v. Winter, 602 F. Supp. 2d 130, 136 (D.D.C. 2009) (quoting Morgan v. Fed. Home Loan Mortgage Corp., 172 F. Supp. 2d 98, 104 (D.D.C. 2001)). Summary judgment will be granted, therefore, if the plaintiff fails to submit evidence that creates a genuine factual dispute or entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Wada v. Tomlinson, 517 F. Supp. 2d 148, 181 (D.D.C. 2007); see also Marshall v. James, 276 F. Supp. 2d 41, 47 (D.D.C. 2003) (special caution "does not eliminate the use of summary judgment in discrimination cases" (citing cases)).

III. ANALYSIS

Defendant moves for summary judgment as to plaintiff's EPA, Title VII, and DCHRA claims, asserting both procedural and evidentiary deficiencies. Plaintiff, by contrast, contends that her claims are properly before the Court, and further argues that genuine issues of material fact prevent an award of summary judgment in this case. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds it appropriate to GRANT defendant's motion for summary judgment as to each of plaintiff's claims.

A. Equal Pay Act Claim

i. Legal Framework

The Equal Pay Act makes it unlawful for an employer to "discriminate . . . between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees . . . at a rate less than the rate at which he [or she] pays wages to employees of the opposite sex . . . for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions[.]" 29 U.S.C § 206(d)(1). The Act "stands for the straight-forward proposition that employees doing equal work should be paid equal wages, regardless of sex." Goodrich v. Int'l Bhd. of Elec. Workers, AFL-CIO, 815 F.2d 1519, 1523 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (internal quotation marks omitted). "The initial burden to prove wage disparity and job equality is on the plaintiff." Id. (citing Corning Glass Works v. Brennan, 417 U.S. 188, 195 (1974)).

In order to establish a prima facie violation of the EPA, "'[a plaintiff must] show by a preponderance of the evidence that [he or] she was discriminated against on the basis of sex in [his or] her pay. Particularly, [he or] she [must] show that: (1) [he or] she was . . . doing substantially equal work on a job, the performance of which required substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility as jobs held by members of the opposite sex; (2) the job was performed under similar working conditions; and (3) [he or] she was paid at a lower wage than members of the opposite sex doing equal work.'" Smith v. Janey, 664 F. Supp. 2d 1, 12 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting Nyman v. FDIC, 967 F. Supp. 1562, 1573 (D.D.C. 1997)). "Where a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of disparate pay under the Equal Pay Act, a defendant can avoid liability by pleading an affirmative defense justifying a pay disparity if it is 'pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex.'" Gaujacq v. EDF, Inc., 601 F.3d 565, 575 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (quoting 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1)).

ii. Analysis

Defendant contends that summary judgment must be granted on plaintiff's EPA claim, arguing that plaintiff cannot establish a prima facie violation of the Act. After a careful review of ...


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