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Greta Faison v. District of Columbia

September 28, 2012

GRETA FAISON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosemary M. Collyer United States District Judge

OPINION

Greta Faison challenges the failure of the Office of the Attorney General, District of Columbia, to promote her to supervisor of the customer services unit in the Child Support Services Division in July 2005. Ms. Faison alleges that the District discriminated against her because of her age and promoted instead a younger, less qualified candidate, who had been given a special opportunity to qualify. After a bench trial, the parties submitted post-trial briefs. The Court has closely reviewed the transcripts, exhibits, briefs and the entire record and determines that Ms. Faison has not proved that age discrimination played a part in her non-selection. Judgment will be entered in favor of the District of Columbia.

I. FINDINGS OF FACT

Based on the entire record and the credibility of the witnesses, as noted, the Court makes the following findings of fact.

1. In 2005, Greta Faison was employed by the District of Columbia as a Child Support Enforcement Specialist at the DS-11 level in the Office of the Attorney General, Child Support Services Division ("CSSD"), a position she had held since November 1999. T1 at 30 (Faison).*fn1

At the time in question, July 2005, she was 57 years old, as she was born on March 20, 1948. Id. at 27.

2. In June 2005, Ms. Faison applied for the position of Supervisory Management Analyst ("Supervisor") in the customer services unit. She and another employee, Rocelia Johnson, interviewed for the position. T2 at 126 (Johnson). Ms. Johnson, who was in her mid-30s, had been serving as acting Supervisory Management Analyst ("Acting Supervisor") for nearly one year. Id. at 115, 122-23.

3. Ultimately, Ms. Johnson was selected for the position as Supervisor of the customer services unit, which led to this suit.

A. Child Support Services Division

4. CSSD "helps a person caring for a child to get child support from a non-custodial parent." http://cssd.dc.gov/page/about-cssd (last visited Sept. 26, 2012). It is part of the District of Columbia's implementation of the federal child support program established at 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-687 (Social Security Act, chapter 7, subchapter IV). Part D of Subchapter IV (referred to in testimony as "Title IV D") provides for block grants to the states for child support and establishment of paternity; it is administered and regulated by the Social Security Administration, Office of Child Support Enforcement. 42 U.S.C. §§ 651-699b. The federal Office of Child Support Enforcement was established in 1975; every jurisdiction must designate a subchapter IV part D director. T3 at 34 (Rice). Originally, CSSD was part of D.C.'s Department of Human Services, but it was transferred to the Office of the Corporation Counsel (now D.C.'s Attorney General) by former Mayor Anthony Williams in 1999. See id. The customer services unit, where Ms. Faison worked, conducts interviews by phone to determine the child support needs of the caller and then directs the caller to the unit within CSSD that can provide assistance. T1 at 17, 34-35 (Rice).

5. In 2004, the customer services unit was one of several units within the Child Support Services Division that included a locate unit "which did investigative work, located the missing parent . . . ," T1 at 37 (Faison); an "interstate unit which did reciprocal work with other states," id.; an "intake unit" which took information to establish whether a child custodian needed an order of child support or enforcement of an order through the "litigation unit," id. at 38; an "establishment unit" which worked to establish rights to child support and the non-custodial parent's obligation to pay, id. at 38-39; and various support units such as quality assurance, information technology, and audit and program management, id. at 40. Each unit was headed by a person titled Supervisory Management Analyst, who was the first-line supervisor. Id. at 41.

6. Ms. Faison testified that customer service representatives "had to know exactly what each unit did . . . because we would delegate referrals to them once we interviewed the customer and determined the need. If it fell in their unit, then we would send a referral to them . . . ." T1 at 34 (Faison).

7. If a customer service representative did not know the answer to a caller's question, she could turn to the unit's lead tech or, as a last resort, ask the Supervisor of the unit. T1 at 35-37 (Faison).

8. The customer service representatives needed to "have a supervisor available to us almost at all times" because when a lead tech could not handle a call -- such as with an irate customer -- it would be transferred immediately to the Supervisor. T1 at 37 (Faison).

9. Ms. Benidia Rice was 44 when she became director of CSSD in September 2003;*fn2 she had not previously worked for the District government. T2 at 151 (Rice). Before she came to the District of Columbia, she had been director of the child support services program for the State of Arizona. Id. at 152. Ms. Rice hired June Mickens as the deputy director in December 2003. Id. at 154.*fn3 Both Ms. Rice and Ms. Mickens are attorneys; Ms. Rice holds a dual role as Deputy Attorney General and Director of Child Support Services Division. T3 at 34 (Rice).

10. Quentin Manson was the Supervisor of the customer services unit until his retirement in 2004. T1 at 50 (Faison). He supervised 10-11 support specialists in the customer services unit, with the assistance of one clerk. Id. at 52. The unit's lead tech, Deborah Deal (mid-fifties), transferred to another unit just before Mr. Manson retired. Id. at 53-54. It was Mr. Manson's position for which both Ms. Faison and Ms. Johnson applied. The position was in the Management Supervisory Service (MSS), both when held by Mr. Manson and when the vacancy announcement was posted. T3 at 6 (Rice).

B. Greta Faison's Background and Government Service

11. Ms. Faison is a graduate of North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, class of 1970. T1 at 28 (Faison); see also Pl.'s Ex. 21.

12. She worked as an operator with the telephone company in North Carolina until she was promoted into advertising and worked as an account executive telephonically selling advertising in the yellow pages before moving to advertising in military newspapers. T1 at 30-31 (Faison). After approximately 20 years, Ms. Faison moved to Washington, D.C. and continued with the telephone company as a sales trainer, "teaching people how to sell over the phone." Id. at 31.

13. She also worked for about five years for the Washington Star, a former D.C. daily newspaper. T1 at 31 (Faison). She was a manager in circulation, again working as a sales trainer. Id.

14. Ms. Faison joined the D.C. government on November 8, 1999, in the customer services unit, CSSD, at grade 7. She testified that "[i]t took years and years and years to really get competent in customer service" and that "[I] probably was the only one that I know of who actually finished the training under our team leader [Deborah Deal], . . . because it was so in depth." T1 at 35 (Faison).

15. Over the years, Ms. Faison was promoted to grade DS-9 and in 2002 to grade DS-11. T1 at 41-42 (Faison). "The DS-11 requires a much higher level of performance and requires that you know most of the issues and answers to the questions of customer service." Id. at 42. Customer service representatives at the DS-11 grade are authorized to answer questions for lower-level employees and "to [do] minimal training . . . ." Id.

16. Ms. Faison was evaluated during her tenure with the customer services unit and received outstanding and excellent reviews before 2004. T1 at 45-46 (Faison). She received two commendations from the Mayor's Office for outstanding work. In August 2005, after Ms. Rice had become CSSD Director and Ms. Johnson had become Acting Supervisor of the customer services unit, Ms. Faison received a letter from Attorney General Robert Spagnoletti congratulating her on her excellent performance. Pl.'s Ex. 11; see T1 at 49 (Faison) (Ms. Faison received the letter because Acting Supervisor Rocelia Johnson had commended Ms. Faison on her job performance).

C. Ms. Johnson's Background and Experience

17. Rocelia Johnson, who was born on January 8, 1968, was 37 years old in July 2005. T2 at 115 (Johnson). She is twenty years younger than Ms. Faison. Ms. Johnson received a college degree in mathematics from Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1990, and she pursued a graduate degree at Howard University in 1991 but had to drop out because of financial issues.

Id. at 131.

18. Ms. Johnson first worked for CSSD in 1992, starting as a temporary employee and clerk in the Interstate Unit. T2 at 116 (Johnson). She became a permanent employee in 1994 at grade DS-7. Id. In July 1999, Ms. Johnson became a DS-11 support specialist*fn4 in the audit and program management unit, formerly known as the distribution unit. Id. at 118-121. Herb Jeter was the supervisor of the audit and program management unit. Id. at 135.

19. Ms. Johnson was the lead tech in the audit and program management unit, a position similar to that of Deborah Deal (lead tech for the customer services unit), when Mr. Manson retired in 2004. T2 at 122 (Johnson). In this position she performed some supervisory duties, such as approving leave. Id.

20. Ms. Johnson was asked by June Mickens to take the position as Acting Supervisor to replace Mr. Manson temporarily. T2 at 123 (Johnson). She received less than a week of training with Mr. Manson. Id.

D. Selection of Acting Supervisor

21. The retirement of Mr. Manson in 2004 created the need for an Acting Supervisor while the position was advertised and filled. To replace Mr. Manson temporarily until the position could be filled, Ms. Mickens identified the following as possible interim supervisors: (1) Deborah Deal, lead tech in the customer services unit; (2) Earlean Davis, an employee in the customer services unit; and (3) Ms. Johnson, lead tech in the audit and program management unit. T3 at 35 (Rice). At that time, each of these candidates was in her mid-40s. Id. at 35. Both Ms. Deal and Ms. Davis declined the opportunity when it was offered. Id. at 36.

22. When Ms. Deal and Ms. Davis declined, Ms. Mickens recommended that Ms. Johnson serve as Acting Supervisor, and Ms. Rice approved. T2 at 154 (Rice). Ms. Mickens told Ms. Rice that she thought Ms. Johnson would be "a good person for the position based on her status of having worked in more than one division. That she had training experience, and was really viewed as a super star in the office with regard to her work and her productivity and quality." Id. at 155.

23. Ms. Johnson assumed the position as Acting Supervisor in the customer services unit in August 2004. Pl.'s Ex. 2.

24. Ms. Johnson's selection as Acting Supervisor in the customer services unit became known and obvious only when she was observed being trained by Mr. Manson prior to his departure; there was no posting of a position as Acting Supervisor. T1 at 52 (Faison).

25. As Acting Supervisor of the customer services unit, Ms. Johnson reported directly to section chief Jennifer Longmeyer-Wood who, in turn, reported to deputy director June Mickens. T3 at 2-3, 8-9 (Rice).

26. Ms. Faison insisted that Ms. Johnson had not worked on the unit and that she did not have the knowledge to be Supervisor. T2 at 48-49 (Faison). However, Ms. Faison later conceded that "experience in CSSD was not necessary for the position because CSSD opened the position to external candidates in December 2004 to find someone with call center experience." Reply [Dkt. 70] at 3; see also T3 at 9 (Rice). 27. Ms. Faison complained "that [Ms. Johnson] had no knowledge to bring to the customer services unit. That was my dispute that she didn't know customer service and she still doesn't." T2 at 47-49. But Ms. Faison did not know until trial that Ms. Deal had turned down the position first. Id. at 46-47. Ms. Faison also did not know of Ms. Johnson's college degree, years in CSSD, work in various units in CSSD, or position as lead tech in the audit and program management unit under Herb Jeter. Id. at 46-49.

28. Ms. Faison never spoke to Ms. Rice about the opportunity to work temporarily in Mr. Manson's job but she "felt [she] was clearly denied an opportunity to perform and help the unit in a better way than what I was doing at that particular time. And I just felt like it wasn't fair." T1 at 55 (Faison).

29. To the observation of Ms. Faison, Ms. Johnson did not know enough to answer customer questions, which became a problem when Ms. Johnson stopped answering her phone, resulting in many complaints. T1 at 56-57 (Faison). Ms. Faison also estimated that the customer services unit received "on the average a thousand to two to three thousand [calls] a day." Id. at 57. The Court concludes that this number of average calls was exaggerated, see T3 ...


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