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Peterson v. Archstone

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 27, 2013

Andrea PETERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ARCHSTONE, Defendant.

Page 79

Andrea Peterson, New York, NY, pro se.

Nancy North Delogu, Sarah Elizabeth Henninger, Littler Mendelson, P.C., Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD W. ROBERTS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. For the reasons discussed below, summary judgment will be granted for defendant.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

Archstone Communities LLC (" Archstone" ) " is an investor, developer and operator of apartment communities in the United States," and its " portfolio includes numerous properties in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area." Def.'s Mem. of Law in Supp. of its Cross-Mot. for Summ. J. and Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 119] (" Def.'s Mem." ), Decl. of Chris DeLisa (" DeLisa Decl." ) ¶ 2. Its corporate headquarters are in Englewood, Colorado. See id., Decl. of Breanne Taylor (" Taylor Decl." ) ¶ 2. Archstone recruits employees principally " through its online application system which potential applicants ... access via Archstone's website." DeLisa Decl. ¶ 3. " At no time during the application process does Archstone request or solicit information regarding an applicant's age." Id.

At all times relevant to the complaint, the online application system, the Taleo system, allowed applicants to search for

Page 80

and apply for open positions. Id. ¶ 4. " In order to apply for a position, applicants were required to complete a general profile" and to upload a resume and a cover letter. Id. ¶ 5. " However, to become an active candidate, each applicant was also required to identify and apply for a specific open position." Id. At this stage, the applicant completed a pre-screening questionnaire, the answers to which determined whether he or she was minimally qualified for the position. Based on the applicant's answers, if the applicant did not meet the minimal qualifications, the system automatically " generated and sent— to the e-mail address listed by the applicant— a rejection letter." Id.

On October 30, 2006, plaintiff " created her general profile on Taleo ... through Archstone's website." Id. ¶ 6. On November 2, 2006, plaintiff uploaded her resume, a cover letter, and a " summary of skills and experience." Id. She also applied for two open positions— Community Manager for Archstone-Smith in the D.C. Metro Area, and Assistant Community Manager for Archstone— and completed the pre-screening questionnaire for each position. Id. ¶ 7; see id., Ex. 2 (pages designated ARCHSTONE 00038-47). The Taleo system deemed plaintiff not minimally qualified for either position and it generated a rejection letter which was sent to plaintiff by e-mail. Id. ¶ 7; see id., Ex. 2 (page designated ARCHSTONE 00055). Plaintiff did not apply for any other position using the Taleo system after November 2, 2006. Id. ¶ 9. However, because the system retained plaintiff's contact information, " on November 7, 2006, an electronic announcement dealing with the time and location of four job fairs being held in November 2006 in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area was e-mailed to [her]." Id. Archstone hosted these job fairs " to help identify potential candidates for open positions," id., and one such job fair occurred on November 16, 2006, in Washington, DC. Id. ¶ 10; see Taylor Decl. ¶ 5.

Plaintiff attended Archstone's job fair on November 16, 2006, at its Van Ness South property in Northwest, Washington, DC. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13. She observed that the Archstone personnel in attendance " were all younger individuals as were all of the candidates." Id. ¶ 13. There she " met with either an Archstone Recruiter, or a Community Manager, as well as an Operations Manager, regarding open Community Manager positions in the Washington, D.C. region." Def.'s Mem., Decl. of Duane Wooldridge (" Wooldridge Decl." ) ¶ 4; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 14-15. The Operations Manager with whom plaintiff spoke was Jim McDonald, the Operations Manager of an Archstone property in Arlington, Virginia. See Mem. in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 109-1] (" Pl.'s Mem." ), Ex. B2.

After " this initial pre-screening meeting, [plaintiff] was referred to [Duane L. Wooldridge] for an interview regarding an open Community Manager position," Wooldridge Decl. ¶ 5, at Archstone Dulles, id. ¶ 9, in Herndon, Virginia, id. ¶ 5.[2] Plaintiff was interested in the Community Manager position in part because Archstone employees would " receive a significant discount on apartment rent and that the amount is calculated before taxes thereby yielding a greater discount." Pl.'s Mem., Ex. L [ECF No. 113-6 (" Peterson Aff." ) ] ¶ 9. " [H]ousing was plaintiff's greatest expense

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and salary would be offset by [her] monthly social security annuity." Id.

Mr. Wooldridge describes the Community Manager position as follows:

Each Archstone residential property employs a Community Manager, which is the highest level position in each property. A Community Manager may supervise eight to fifteen Archstone associates, including maintenance staff, administrative staff, leasing staff, and assistant managers, and may be responsible for 350 to 500 units per site. As such, each Community Manager is responsible for as many as 1,000 customers on a daily basis, and represents the property to countless potential customers. The Community Manager is responsible for maximizing the long-term operating performance of his or her property, which includes personnel management and development, a thorough understanding of the competitive market, and high standards for customer service. Community Managers are responsible for recruiting, retaining, training, and developing a team of sales-focused, service-oriented, business-minded property management professionals who in turn perform day-to-day upkeep on the property. Community Managers are also responsible for developing and using strong marketing and customer service skills at the property in order to drive revenues....
In order to qualify for a Community Manager position, a candidate must possess three to ten years of professional experience, which should include experience in asset and/or property management and on-site experience. The candidate must also have strong communication skills and must be a teacher, team builder, and team player. Because the Community Manager is the highest position at a property, [she] must possess superb customer service experience and skills in order to drive sales and to develop associates that ... she supervises.

Wooldridge Decl. ¶¶ 6-7. " Administrative staff, leasing staff, and assistant managers at Archstone residential properties mu[st] also possess superior customer service skills" because each is called upon " to work directly with residents and potential residents." Id. ¶ 8.

The interview took place at Archstone's regional headquarters office in Crystal City, Virginia, in December 2006. Id. ¶ 9; Am. Compl. ¶ 16. During the interview, Mr. Wooldridge " concluded that [plaintiff] lacked residential property management experience and relevant customer service experience." Wooldridge Decl. ¶ 10. He further recalled:

I found that that [plaintiff] came across as somewhat odd and would put people off as she had a somewhat condescending manner. Indeed, my interview with [her] felt very strained as [plaintiff] acted as though she was doing me a favor by offering to work at Archstone. In general, I felt that not only did [plaintiff] lack the necessary customer service experience, I felt she would struggle with the customer service aspect of the Company's business, particularly when things got busy or did not go the way that they should, which happens all of the time. Overall, I concluded ...

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