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Rudder v. Vilsack

United States District Court, D. Columbia

January 28, 2014

TOM VILSACK, Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture, Defendant

Page 191

JULIE MOSES, Interested Party, Pro se, Upper Marlboro, MD.


For THOMAS J. VILSACK, Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Defendant: Marian L. Borum, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

Page 192


RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff, the Estate of Andre P. Rudder (" Estate" or " plaintiff" ), brings this action against Tom Vilsack in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture (" USDA" or " defendant" ). Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Rudder's former employer, the National Resources Conservation Service (" NRCS" ), a unit of the USDA, engaged in discrimination and retaliation based on race, color, national origin, and prior Equal Employment Opportunity (" EEO" ) activity in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § § 621 et. seq. See Compl. [Dkt. #1]. Currently before the Court is defendant's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. See Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. #7]. Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings, the entire record in this case, and relevant law, the Court GRANTS summary judgment in favor of defendant.[1]


The deceased Mr. Rudder was an American of Trinidadian descent who worked as an Information Technology (" IT" ) Specialist at an NRCS facility in Beltsville, Maryland until he was reassigned to Fort Collins, Colorado, effective September 28, 2008. See Defendant's Statement of Material Facts As To Which There Is No Genuine Dispute (" Def.'s Facts" ) [Dkt. #7] ¶ 1; Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Statement of Facts Showing There Are Material Facts In Genuine Dispute (" Pl.'s Facts" ) [Dkt. #9] ¶ 1; Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. (Final Agency Decision dated 9/4/09) [Dkt. #7-1] at 1. Indeed, in 2008, all NRCS IT security functions were consolidated at the NRCS facility in Fort Collins, Colorado. Def.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 8-10; Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 8-10. This was done in order to improve data security, responsiveness, coordination, information sharing, budget efficiency, direct supervision, and infrastructure maintenance. See Def.'s Facts ¶ 9; Pl.'s Facts

Page 193

¶ 9; Ex. B to Def.'s Mot. (Decision Memorandum regarding Optimization of the NRCS IT Security Function) [Dkt. #7-2]; Ex. C to Def.'s Mot. (IRM Recommendations for IT Services dated 11/21/07) [Dkt. #7-3]; Ex. E to Def.'s Mot. (Decision Memorandum for Mark Rey, Under Secretary, Natural Resources and Environment, dated 7/7/08) [Dkt. #7-5]. Before this consolidation took place, the NRCS IT Division in Beltsville, Maryland was reorganized in October 2007. See Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Opp. (EEOC Decision on Appeal) [Dkt. #9-1] at 1. Mr. Rudder was assigned to the Security Incident team in connection with that reorganization. Id.

The consolidation of the IT Security function at Fort Collins entailed reassignment of the complete IT Security staff in Beltsville, comprised of eight individuals including Mr. Rudder. Def.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 11, 16; Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 11, 16; Ex. L to Def.'s Mot. (Affidavit of Andre Rudder dated 4/14/09) [Dkt. #7-12]. Two of the eight reassigned employees were Caucasian, two were pacific islanders, and four--including Mr. Rudder--were black. Def.'s Facts ¶ 18; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 18. Prior to the final decision on whether to consolidate, NRCS conducted a Civil Rights Impact Analysis (" CRIA" ). Def.'s Facts ¶ 7; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 7; Ex. D to Def.'s Mot (CRIA of Reorganization of the NRCS IT Security Function dated 7/3/08) [Dkt. # 7-4]. The CRIA found that consolidation would " adversely impact minorities, females, persons with a disability and persons over the age of 40." Ex. D to Def.'s Mot. The CRIA also recommended mitigation, including provision of relocation expenses, for reassigned employees. Id.

Mr. Rudder received his formal Directed Reassignment Notice on July 24, 2008. Def.'s Facts ¶ 12; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 12; Ex. G to Def.'s Mot. (Directed Reassignment Notice dated 7/24/08) [Dkt. #7-7]. On July 30, 2008, Mr. Rudder filed an informal grievance with his first-line supervisor, opposing the reassignment. Attachment B to Def.'s Reply (Employment Grievance) [Dkt. #13-2]. Mr. Rudder ultimately accepted his reassignment on July 30, 2008. Def.'s Facts ¶ 19; Ex. H to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. #7-8]. On July 31, 2008, he withdrew the informal grievance.[2] See Ex. A to Def.'s Mot. (Final Agency Decision) [Dkt. 7-1] at 3. Plaintiff claims that Mr. Rudder's acceptance was " not entirely voluntary" because his alternative to acceptance was removal from Federal service. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 19. Plaintiff also alleges that Mr. Rudder did not receive any relocation expenses or assistance. See Pl.'s Facts ¶ 23; Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Opp at 3. As a result, plaintiff claims to have suffered financial hardship, including foreclosure on Mr. Rudder's Washington, DC home, as well as significant emotional distress, requiring Mr. Rudder to take 500 hours of sick leave. Pl.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 23-24. The record, however, contains evidence that defendant did provide Mr. Rudder with a travel authorization/advance. See Attachment A to Def.'s Reply [Dkt #13-1].

Upon his reassignment to Fort Collins, Mr. Rudder retained the same grade, title, and basic pay, without promotion or demotion. Def.'s Facts ¶ 20; Ex. K to Def.'s Mot. [Dkt. #7-11]. His position remained that of IT Specialist. See Ex. G. to Def.'s Mot. Mr. Rudder's estate claims, however, that his job responsibilities were altered from those of an IT Specialist to those of a data entry clerk. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 20; Compl. ¶ 17. He also claims that he was subjected to intolerable work conditions.

Page 194

Pl.'s Facts ΒΆ 22; Ex. 1 to Pl.'s Opp. at 3. In January 2009, Mr. Rudder left the USDA to join the Army as an IT Specialist. Ex. L ...

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