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Trevor Burt v. National Republican Club of Capitol Hill

December 8, 2011

TREVOR BURT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CLUB OF CAPITOL HILL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Trevor Burt claims that his employer, the National Republican Club of Capitol Hill (the "Club"), and his supervisor, Stanley Lawson, the Club's General Manager (collectively, "defendants"), discriminated against him based on his race in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401 et seq. Burt is African American. He alleges that because of his race defendants did not compensate him fairly when he assumed the duties of Interim Executive Chef at the Club, and did not hire him for the permanent Executive Chef position. Before the Court are defendants' motion for summary judgment, Burt's opposition, and defendants' reply. For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion will be granted.

LOCAL CIVIL RULE 7(H)

As defendants argue, Burt has failed to comply with Local Civil Rule 7(h), which provides that a motion for summary judgment must "be accompanied by a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue" and that any opposition must counter with a statement of disputed facts and substantiating record citations. LCvR 7(h). Here, in accordance with Rule 7(h), defendants have filed a Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. (See Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Sept. 23, 2011 [Dkt. No. 17] ("Defs.' Mot.") at 16--21 ("Defendants' Statement of Undisputed Material Facts" or "Defs.' SOF").) Defendants provide a factual account in thirty separately-numbered paragraphs, each supported by "references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement." LCvR 7(h).

In opposing defendants' motion, Burt was required under Rule 7(h) to provide "a separate concise statement of genuine issues setting forth all material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated, which shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement." Id. Burt has failed to do this. His memorandum opposing defendants' motion includes sections entitled "Statement of Material Facts in Dispute" and "Statement of Facts," and he has also submitted a separate "Statement of Facts." (See Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and Hearing Request, Oct. 10, 2011 [Dkt. No. 18] ("Pl.'s Opp'n") at 1--4 ("Statement of Material Facts in Dispute"); Statement of Facts, Oct. 10, 2011 [Dkt. No. 18-3] ("Pl.'s SOF").) Yet, in all of these sections, which overlap considerably, Burt makes no meaningful attempt to dispute-or even respond to-defendants' statement of material facts. The majority of Burt's assertions merely parrot the allegations in his complaint. (Compare Pl.'s SOF ¶¶ 1--7 with Complaint, Nov. 8, 2010 [Dkt. No. 1] ("Compl.") ¶¶ 12--21.) The remaining paragraphs consist of legal conclusions. (See, e.g., Pl.'s SOF ¶ 8 ("Plaintiff was discriminated against in the making of his employment contract with Defendant.").) All paragraphs are supported only by citation to the entire affidavit of Kim Crawford, the Club's former Assistant Controller and Human Resources Manager, or forty-seven pages of deposition testimony from Linda Mintz, the Club's former Controller. (See id. ¶¶ 1--5, 7--10 ("Affidavit of Kim Crawford and Depo of Lina [sic] Mintz p5-51"); id. ¶ 6 ("Affidavit of Kim Crawford").)

Burt's assertions "fail[] to controvert most of the facts set forth by defendant[s]" and instead "merely repeat[] the complaint's allegations and conclusions." Carter v. Greenspan, 304 F. Supp. 2d 13, 21 (D.D.C. 2004). Accordingly, "the court will assume that [Burt] admits those facts presented by defendant[s] in [their] statement of material facts . . . which he does not refute." Id.; see LCvR 7(h) ("In determining a motion for summary judgment, the court may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its statement of material facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the motion."); Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 154 (D.C. Cir. 1996) ("[P]ursuant to the remedy afforded by Rule [7(h)], the district court is to deem as admitted the moving party's facts that are uncontroverted by the nonmoving party's Rule [7(h)] statement."); see also S.E.C. v. Banner Fund Int'l, 211 F.3d 602, 616 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (concluding that the district court was "fully justified" in treating the moving party's statement of material facts as admitted where the nonmoving party did not follow Rule 7(h) in opposing the motion for summary judgment and instead "filed a response and an affidavit, neither of which pointed to specific parts of the record controverting the [moving party's] lengthy statement of undisputed facts" (citing Jackson, 101 F.3d at 154)). As such, in summarizing the factual background the Court relies on those facts put forward by defendants which Burt has not contravened.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Burt applied for the position of Banquet Chef at the Club on December 29, 2009. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 1.) After completing an employment application on January 7, 2010, Burt was interviewed by Lawson, AlaaEldin Saleh (the Club's Executive Chef at the time), Mintz, and Israel Canada (the Club's Catering Director). (Id. ¶ 2.) Lawson hired Burt as Banquet Chef with a start date of January 25, 2010. (Id. ¶ 3.)

Upon Saleh's departure from the Club in March 2010, Lawson hired Robert Vickers as Executive Chef. (Id. ¶ 8.) When Vickers left the next month, Lawson appointed Burt to the position of Interim Executive Chef. (Id. at ¶ 11; see Burt Dep., Ex. 5 (email from Stan Lawson to CHC; Subject: Trevor Burt; April 30, 2010 ("Effective immediately, Trevor has been appointed 'Interim Executive Chef.'").) According to Burt's deposition testimony, immediately after appointing him Interim Executive Chef, Lawson told Burt that "[he] was going to be the potential candidate for the [Executive Chef] position." (Burt. Dep. at 164.)

Burt's duties as Interim Executive Chef "consisted of supervising, preparing, and producing food in the main kitchen for special events at the Club." (Defs.' SOF ¶ 14.) In addition, Burt retained his duties as Banquet Chef. (Id. ¶ 11.) The Club paid Burt an additional $200 per week as compensation for his Interim Executive Chef duties. (Id. ¶ 16.)

The Executive Chef, by contrast, "is responsible for the entire culinary operation of the Club," including overseeing the grill (the Club's basement restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner), the dining room, and all of the banquets; special events; hiring, training, supervising, disciplining, and terminating other food service employees; supervising food purchasing; working with the General Manager to develop menus; and supervising all kitchen personnel. (Id. ¶ 6 (citing Lawson Dep. at 16--19).) It was Burt's understanding that, with his appointment to Interim Executive Chef, he was to assume all of the responsibilities of the Executive Chef position. (Burt Dep. at 164.) Lawson testified, however, that while Burt's responsibilities as Interim Executive Chef were "in theory" all of those assigned to the Executive Chef, in practice, "because [the Club was] somewhat short staffed, [Burt] did not have the time or wherewithal to effectively supervise the grill part of operations." (Lawson Dep. at 21; see id. at 21--22 ("[A]ll of the other activities that were going on at the [C]lub just precluded . . . Burt from being able to spend any significant time supervising the activities of the grill.").) Besides asserting, without elaboration, that he performed "this [sic] same duties" as prior Executive Chefs when he served as Interim Executive Chef (Pl.'s SOF ¶ 10*fn1 ), Burt has not responded to defendants' claim that the respective jobs' duties differed significantly. The Court concludes, therefore, that Burt has admitted defendants' assertion that, "[a]lthough Burt's duties as Interim Executive Chef consisted of some of the duties performed by the Executive Chef, he did not spend a significant amount of time supervising the grill like previous Executive Chefs." (Defs.' SOF ¶ 15.)

Burt knew that his appointment as Interim Executive Chef was temporary (id. ¶ 13 (citing Burt Dep. at 164)), and he continued to express interest in being hired for the permanent Executive Chef position. When he asked Lawson about interviewing for the position about a month after he was appointed Interim Executive Chef, Burt testified that he was told, "[W]e don't need to interview you. You're employed here. Your interview is what you are doing every day." (Burt Dep. at 183; see id. at 184.) Burt further testified that Lawson told him, "You're doing a very good job. . . . [W]e don't need to interview you. You don't need to apply for a job. Your interview is what you do every day on the job." (Id. at 183.) By the summer of 2010, at which point Burt knew that the Club was considering a number of candidates for the Executive Chef position (id. at 182), Burt testified that he also knew that he was still being considered. (Id. at 184.)

In August, at Lawson's suggestion, the Club's House Committee added a taste test component to the hiring process for the Executive Chef position, whereby the candidates would prepare a meal for members of the Committee. (Defs.' SOF ¶ 21.) Lawson testified that he developed the taste test concept "in order to more definitively determine a chef's cooking abilities." (Lawson Dep. at 11.) He acknowledged that prior hiring processes for the Executive Chef position had not included a taste test component (id. at 10), but he explained that those processes had seemed incomplete-references had proven insufficient in determining candidates' relative cooking abilities-and had produced mixed results. (Id. at 11--12.) Although Burt emphasizes that prior Executive Chefs did not undergo a taste test as part of their application for the position, he does not allege any impropriety in the Club's decision to implement the taste test in the hiring process here.

On August 19, 2010, Lawson emailed Burt and requested that Burt assemble the ingredients for the taste test. (See Burt Dep., Ex. 6, at 2--3 (email from Stan Lawson to Trevor Burt; Subject: Food items for 8/25 chef tasting; August 19, 2010).) Lawson instructed: "Trevor, there will be 3 (including you) chefs, each cooking for 6 people at the most." (Id. at 2.) In his email, Lawson acknowledged that Burt might "feel[] a bit weird" preparing the materials for the taste test, but offered that "you are getting a head start by at least knowing the ingredients." (Id.) In his deposition, Lawson cited his email of August 19 as evidence that he considered Burt for the Executive Chef position. (Lawson Dep. at 37--38.) He testified that his purpose for emailing Burt, in addition to ...


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