Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Karl Hampton v. Tom Vilsack

June 14, 2011

KARL HAMPTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ellen Segal Huvelle United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

United States Department of Agriculture, Plaintiff Karl Hampton was terminated from his position as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture ("USDA") and filed suit against his former employer, claiming numerous violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. In a Memorandum Opinion issued on January 13, 2011, the Court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed all but one of plaintiff's original ten counts. Before the Court is plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. As explained herein, the Court will deny the motion, since it finds that the Supreme Court's recent decision in Staub v. Proctor Hospital, 131 S. Ct. 1186 (2011), does not necessitate reconsideration of this Court's prior opinion.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an African-American male who was terminated for cause from his position as a Foreign Service Officer with the USDA following allegations that he had submitted altered hotel receipts for reimbursement.*fn1 Plaintiff filed a ten-court complaint on December 6, 2007, alleging discrimination on the basis of his race, retaliation for engaging in protected activity, and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII. (See generally Compl. [Dkt. No. 1].) Defendant moved for summary judgment on July 21, 2010, and on January 13, 2011, the Court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment and dismissed all nine of plaintiff's ten counts. Trial has been set for August 2, 2011, on the sole remaining count, Count Five, which alleges that USDA retaliated against plaintiff by denying him a foreign assignment.*fn2

On March 1, 2011, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Staub v. Proctor Hospital, 131 S. Ct. 1186, which addressed the question of when an employer may be held liable in "cat's paw" situations under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act ("USERRA"). On April 4, 2011, plaintiff filed a "Motion for Reconsideration," *fn3 claiming that Staub constitutes an intervening change of controlling law that "calls into serious question the correctness of this Court's judgment in granting in part Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment." (Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration ["Mot."] at 4.)

ANALYSIS

I. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Rule 60(b)(1)

Rule 60(b)(1) provides in pertinent part: "On motion and upon such terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or his legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect . . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1). The D.C. Circuit has stated that a court may reconsider an order which was inconsistent with an intervening decision of controlling law pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1). See D.C. Federation of Civic Ass'ns v. Volpe, 520 F.2d 451, 453 (D.C. Cir. 1975). "[A] district court enjoys significant discretion in deciding whether to grant or deny a Rule 60(b) motion." Computer Prof'ls for Soc. Responsibility v. U.S. Secret Serv., 72 F.3d 897, 903 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

B. Staub v. Proctor Hospital

In Staub, an employee of Proctor Hospital was a member of the United States Army Reserve. 131 S. Ct. at 1189. Both his immediate supervisor and his supervisor's supervisor were hostile to his military obligations and fabricated allegations against him, causing the hospital's Vice President of Human Resources to fire him upon reviewing his personnel file. Id. at 1190. Staub sued Proctor under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which forbids an employer to deny "employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment" based on a person's "membership" in or "obligation to perform service in a uniformed service," and provides that liability is established "if the person's membership . . . is a motivating factor in the employer's action." Id. (quoting 38 U.S.C. § 4311(a), (c)). Staub contended not that the ultimate decisionmaker was motivated by hostility to his military obligations, but that his immediate supervisors were, and that their actions influenced the vice-president's decision. Id. A jury found Proctor liable and awarded damages, but the Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that Proctor was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because he had brought a "cat's paw" case, and the decisionmaker had relied on more than the supervisors' advice in making her decision.*fn4 Id.

The Supreme Court reversed, holding that "if a supervisor performs an act motivated by antimilitary animus that is intended by the supervisor to cause an adverse employment action, and if that act is a proximate cause of the ultimate employment action, then the employer is liable under USERRA." Id. at 1194. "So long as an agent intends, for discriminatory reasons, that the adverse action occur, he has the scienter required to be liable under USERRA." Id. at 1192. In addition, the Supreme Court held that the exercise of independent judgment by the ultimate decisionmaker "does not prevent the earlier agent's action (and hence the earlier agent's discriminatory animus) from being the proximate cause of the harm. Proximate cause requires only 'some direct relation between the injury asserted and the injurious conduct alleged,' and excludes only those 'link[s] that are too remote, purely contingent, or indirect.'" Id. (quoting Hemi Group, LLC v. City of New York, 130 S. Ct. 983 (2010)).

II. PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION

Plaintiff reasserts his earlier claim that Dale Miller, plaintiff's first-line supervisor, harbored discriminatory animus towards him and took active steps to have him fired for discriminatory reasons. (Mot. at 4-5.) Mr. Hampton now argues that the Court should reverse its ruling in light of Staub,*fn5 because, in his view, the Court improperly "stated on numerous occasions that the reason for its decision was ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.