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Rossi M. Potts v. Howard University Hospital et al

February 16, 2012

ROSSI M. POTTS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HOWARD UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

Re Document No.: 44

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING THE DEFENDANTS'MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. The pro se plaintiff is a former employee of Howard University Hospital ("Hospital") and a member of the United States Air Force Reserves. He brings a suit for employment discrimination against the defendants, Howard University and the Hospital. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants violated the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 ("USERRA"), codified at 38 U.S.C. §§ 4301 et seq., by denying him a promotion because he went on a three-month military leave. The defendants now move for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff offers no evidence that he was discriminated against on the basis of his military status. Because no reasonable juror could conclude from the record that the plaintiff was discriminated against on the basis of his military status, the court grants the defendants' motion.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff was employed by the defendants as an Echocardiograph Technologist ("ET") from June 1994 until April 2002. Defs.' Mot. at 1, 2. During this period, he also served as a member of the United States Air Force Reserves. Id.; Pl.'s Opp'n at 2. According to the plaintiff, he provided the defendants with documentation regarding his military obligations, which included his requirement to take leave for military training. Am. Compl. at 8-9. He also claims to have given the defendants materials describing their corresponding legal obligations, including USERRA's requirement that employers allow officers like the plaintiff to take leave for military training. Id. at 9.

Throughout the course of his employment with the defendants, the plaintiff held one of the Hospital's two ET positions. Id. The other position was held by a co-worker named Jane Spencer. Id. at 3. The plaintiff and Spencer worked together until May 1998, when Spencer took leave due to illness. Id. While Spencer was on sick leave, the plaintiff assisted with training the Hospital's temporary replacement ET, Colleen Williams. Id. at 5. A few months later, from September 1998 to December 1998, the plaintiff took leave from his position at the Hospital for mandatory reserve military training. Id.; Pl.'s Opp'n at 18. His co-worker, Spencer, passed away in December 1998. Am. Compl. at 9; Pl.'s Opp'n at 11. The following year, in August 1999, the defendants hired Williams to replace Spencer permanently. Am. Compl. at 9.

In response, the plaintiff claimed that the defendants had discriminated against him on the basis of gender by denying him a promotion to the position that Spencer's death had left vacant. Am. Compl. at 4; Pl.'s Opp'n at 21. In November 1999, he filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCOHR") and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") asserting these allegations. Am. Compl. at 4.

In April 2002, the defendants terminated the plaintiff for reportedly failing to perform his job responsibilities, as well as for carrying out unauthorized actions outside of such responsibilities. Defs.' Mot. at 4-5. After he was terminated, the plaintiff filed a second complaint with the DCOHR, alleging wrongful termination and retaliation. Am. Compl. at 4.

During 2004 and 2005, the plaintiff initiated several lawsuits against the Hospital alleging, inter alia, that the defendants had intentionally discriminated against and wrongfully terminated him under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. See generally Potts v. Howard Univ., Civ. No. 04-1856 (D.D.C. 2004); Potts v. Howard Univ., Civ. No. 05-1317 (D.D.C. 2005); Potts v. Howard Univ., Civ. No. 04-2103, (D.D.C. 2004); Potts v. Howard Univ., Civ. No. 05-1929 (D.D.C. 2005). These lawsuits were subsequently consolidated into one action, which was later dismissed. Min. Order (Feb. 22, 2006).

Apart from that consolidated case, the plaintiff also filed the present action in April 2008. See generally Compl. He later amended his complaint in June 2008. See generally Am. Compl. At this juncture, the plaintiff's only remaining claim is that the defendants violated USERRA by intentionally denying him a promotion because of his service obligations to the United States Air Force Reserves. Id. at 5-6. More specifically, the plaintiff alleges that Spencer's death created a vacancy for a "senior" ET position, an opening to which the plaintiff was entitled because he was senior to Williams. Am. Compl. at 9-10, 21. According to the plaintiff, the defendants chose to not promote him to this allegedly senior ET position because the plaintiff took leave from work for three months to fulfill his military obligations. Pl.'s Opp'n at 19.

The defendants now move for summary judgment. See generally Defs.' Mot. With this motion ripe for adjudication, the court turns to the parties' arguments and to the relevant legal standards.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Summary ...


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