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Hamilton v. Lew

United States District Court, District Circuit

April 30, 2013

GARY HAMILTON, Plaintiff,
v.
JACOB LEW, [1] Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

REGGIE B. WALTON, District Judge.

The plaintiff in this civil suit, Gary Hamilton, seeks compensatory damages as a result of alleged employment discrimination during the course of his employment with the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2, -3 (2006), and the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. § 2302. See generally Complaint ("Compl."); Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl."). The District of Columbia Circuit affirmed this Court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, on the plaintiff's Civil Service Reform Act claim regarding his temporary detail, reversed this Court's grant of summary judgment on the plaintiff's Title VII discriminatory promotion claim and remanded that claim for trial, and remanded the plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim based on its conclusion that the plaintiff had established a prima facie case of retaliation. See Hamilton v. Geithner (Hamilton IV) , 666 F.3d 1344, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2012). The Circuit explained that it was remanding the retaliation claim in order for this Court "to determine in the first instance whether a reasonable jury could conclude that the Secretary's proffered explanation [for the action being challenged by the plaintiff] was pretext for retaliation." Id. at 1359. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, [2] the Court concludes for the reasons stated below that a reasonable jury could not conclude that the defendant's proffered explanation was pretext for retaliation, and that the defendant must be granted summary judgment as to the plaintiff's retaliation claim.

I. BACKGROUND

The circumstances underlying this action are set forth in several memorandum opinions issued by this Court, see Hamilton v. Paulson (Hamilton I) , 542 F.Supp.2d 37, 40-42 (D.D.C. 2008) (Walton, J.); Hamilton v. Geithner, (Hamilton II) , 616 F.Supp.2d 49, 52-54 (D.D.C. 2009) (Walton, J.); Hamilton v. Geithner (Hamilton III) , 743 F.Supp.2d 1, 3-5 (D.D.C. 2010) (Walton, J.), as well as by the Circuit, see Hamilton IV , 666 F.3d at 1347-49, and so the Court will not recount all of the facts again here. In brief, "the plaintiff, an African-American male and former employee of the Real Estate and Facilities Management department of the IRS, ... alleges that the IRS retaliated against him for filing an EEO complaint based on his non-selection for the Safety Manager position in 2003 when it selected a[] white female, Camille Carraway, for a detail as a safety manager in January of 2004." Hamilton II , 616 F.Supp.2d at 52 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Hamilton I , 542 F.Supp.2d at 41 (summarizing the plaintiff's retaliation allegations). The defendant argues that he has articulated a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for offering Ms. Carraway the detail and that he is therefore entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's retaliation claim. Def.'s Mem. at 18.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(a). To determine which facts are "material, " a court must look to the substantive law on which each claim rests. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A "genuine issue" is one whose resolution could establish an element of a claim or defense and, therefore, affect the outcome of the action. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986); Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248.

When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Holcomb v. Powell , 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc. , 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000)). The Court must therefore draw "all justifiable inferences" in the non-moving party's favor and accept the nonmoving party's evidence as true. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 255. The non-moving party, however, cannot rely on "mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, " Burke v. Gould , 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002) (quoting Anderson , 477 U.S. at 248), and "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, " Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp. , 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (citation omitted). Simply put, "conclusory allegations unsupported by factual data will not create a triable issue of fact." Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp. v. FDA , 185 F.3d 898, 908 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). To survive a properly supported motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party must show that a genuine factual issue exists by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record... or... showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A)-(B). Any factual assertions in the moving party's affidavits will be accepted as true unless the opposing party submits his own affidavits or other documentary evidence contradicting the assertions. Neal v. Kelly , 963 F.2d 453, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. The Defendant's Proffered Explanation

Once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case of retaliation, the burden shifts to the employer to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions. Pardo-Kronemann v. Donovan , 601 F.3d 599, 603 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (citing McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792 (1973)). The employer's burden is one of production. Texas Dep't of Cmty Affairs v. Burdine , 450 U.S. 248, 254-55 (1981). The employer "need not persuade the court that it was actually motivated by the proffered reasons. [Rather, i]t is sufficient if the defendant's evidence raises a genuine issue of fact as to whether it discriminated against the plaintiff." Id. at 254.

The defendant here argues that he has articulated a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for offering Ms. Carraway the temporary detail and not selecting the plaintiff. Def.'s Mem. at 18. Specifically, the defendant relies on the testimony of the selecting official, Stuart Burns, who stated that

there was no formal announcement seeking volunteers [for the temporary detail] from the field. The decision to select Ms. Carraway was based upon the relationship of the Safety Program needs at the time and her skills and abilities. Ms. Carraway had demonstrated interest, experience and aptitude in this area in the past. She had participated, along with other Safety Officers, in the development of training for the Safety Advisory Committee (SACs). Additionally, she had voiced her ideas about standardization of training and development of the Safety Officers in the Safety Officer conference calls.

Def.'s Mem. at 17 (quoting Def.'s Mem., Exhibit ("Ex.") 13 (October 2004 Declaration of Stuart Burns ("Oct. 2004 Burns Decl.") at 2). Mr. Burns further recounted discussions with two other IRS employees, Barbara Cohen and Edward Crandall, which he relied upon in making his decision:

Ms. Barbara Cohen [] suggested that Ms. Carraway would be an excellent choice to lead the training/mentoring program. That staff member indicated Ms. Carraway had been very helpful to [the] National Office on other projects and she had skills and interest in Safety Officer training and development. In a separate conversation, another staff member, Mr. Edward Crandall, shared information about Ms. Carraway's frustration with her current work situation. Knowing that the senior leadership in our organization had previously advocated field details as a good method for obtaining temporary resources needed by the National Office and given the other information that I had, I ...

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