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.

Sederis Fields v. Tom Vilsack

July 19, 2011

SEDERIS FIELDS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
TOM VILSACK, SECRETARY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Sederis Fields brings this action against Tom Vilsack, Secretary of the United States Departure of Agriculture ("USDA" or "agency"), claiming that the agency discriminated against her on the basis of her race and gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"). Presently before the Court is the USDA's motionfor judgment as a matter of law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 [#60]. Upon consideration of the motion, Fields' response thereto, and the entire record of the case, the Court concludes that the motion should be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Since 1999, Fields, who is Black and female, has been employed at the GS-13 level in the office of Douglas Frago, the Deputy Administrator for Field Operations ("DAFO") in the Farm Services Agency ("FSA") of the USDA. In 2003, the USDA posted three GS-14 vacancies: two Administrative Management Services ("AMS") positions and one Agricultural Program Specialist ("APS") position. Fields applied for the AMS positions, as did USDA employees Ken Nagel and Pat Spalding, who are both White and male. Nagel also applied for the APS vacancy, but Fields did not.

The applications for all three positions were sent to Human Resources. Carolyn Taylor, a Human Resources personnel staffing specialist, determined whether each applicant met the minimum qualifications of each position for which he or she applied and developed a "best qualified" list of thirteen applicants based on their answers to questions submitted through a computer program. Taylor then sent the list to Frago, who was the selecting official.

Although Frago was permitted under agency rules to select two applicants from the best qualified list for the AMS positions without holding any interviews, he chose to hold two rounds of interviews for the AMS position. During the first round, each of the applicants on the best qualified list had a panel interview,*fn1 conducted by Frago; Frago's assistant, John Chott; USDA employee Salomon Ramirez, a Hispanic male; and EEO representative Sean Clayton, a Black male. Fields' first interview was held on July 8, 2003.

The five applicants who earned rankings of "High" as a result of the first interview, including Fields, had a second interview. When Chott asked Taylor if an EEO observer was needed for the second interview, Taylor told him that "[t]he EEO representative is required only for 'panel interview' process. If you are doing a second interview, which is usually with the selecting official or representative, you do not need EEO present." Joint Exhibit ("JX") 22 (7/11/03 Email from Taylor to Chott). Fields' second interview was conducted by Frago, Chott, and Linda Treese, a new employee who would be supervising the employees selected for the AMS positions.No EEO representative was present for Field's second interview. On the same day as her second interview, Fields learned that she had not been selected for either AMS position. Chott announced the next day that Frago had selected Nagel and Spalding for the AMS vacancies.

Fields alleges that she was not selected for the AMS position due to unlawful discrimination on the basis of her race and gender. The USDA moved for summary judgment, contending that Nagel and Spalding were selected instead of Fields because they were more qualified. The Court denied the USDA's motion for summary judgment, concluding that there was "enough evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the USDA's explanation [for not selecting Fields] is pretextual." Fields v. Johanns, 574 F. Supp. 2d 159, 161 (D.D.C. 2008). The Court found "no evidence that Fields was significantly more qualified than Nagel and Spalding for the AMS position," and "substantial evidence that shows that Nagel and Spalding were just as qualified for the position - and perhaps even more qualified - as Fields."Id. at 163.However, the Court held that a factual dispute existed as to whether Nagel was preselected, and as to which set of regulations regarding interview procedures applied at the time of Fields' application. Id. at 164. Because preselection and the failure of an agency to follow its own procedures could be evidence of pretext, the Court held that it could not grant summary judgment for the USDA. Id.

A jury trial was held. At the close of all the evidence, the USDA moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50 for judgment as a matter of law, which the Court took under advisement. When the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict, the Court declared a mistrial. Presently before the Court is the USDA's renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law.

II. LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Judgment as a Matter of Law Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 50(a)

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 50(a), a court may render judgment as a matter of law after a jury trial if "the court finds that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the party on that issue." Fed. R. Civ. P. 50(a). When deciding a Rule 50 motion, "the court should review all of the evidence in the record."*fn2 Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000). "In doing so, however, the court must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Id. "Judgment as a matter of law is appropriate only if the evidence and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are so one-sided that reasonable men and women could not have reached a verdict in plaintiff's favor." McGill v. Munoz, 203 F.3d 843, 845 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (internal quotation omitted).

B. Title VII

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer . . . to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. ยง 2000e-2(a)(1). In the absence of direct evidence of discrimination, courts analyze Title VII discrimination claims under the procedural framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04 (1973). See Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 901 (D.C. Cir. 2006). Under this framework, a plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case of discrimination; the defendant must then offer a legitimate ...


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.