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Nurriddin v. Bolden

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 25, 2014

AHMAD B. NURRIDDIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES F. BOLDEN, JR., Administrator, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Defendant

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For AHMAD B. NURRIDDIN, Plaintiff: Jeffrey Walter Mikoni, LEAD ATTORNEY, CLEARSPIRE LAW CO., PLLC, Washington, DC; Joshua David Rogaczewski, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP, Washington, DC.

For CHARLES F. BOLDEN, JR., Administrator, National Aeronotics and Space Administration, Defendant: Andrea McBarnette, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Civil Division, Washington, DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Ahmad Nurriddin brought this suit against the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (" NASA" ), Nurriddin's former employer. In an earlier opinion, the Court dismissed Nurriddin's claims of disability discrimination, conspiracy to violate constitutional rights, and hostile work environment. See Dec. 4, 2009 Mem. Op. [ECF No. 97] & Order [ECF No. 98]. His remaining claims are brought under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging discrimination based upon his race (African-American), sex (male), and religion (Muslim), as well as retaliation for protected activity. Now before the Court are [183] Nurriddin's motion for partial summary judgment (primarily regarding damages) and [185] NASA's motion for summary judgment (on liability). Upon careful consideration of the motions and the parties' memoranda, the applicable law, and the entire record, and for the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Nurriddin's motion and will grant NASA's motion.

BACKGROUND

This suit is Nurriddin's second action against NASA. His first suit was filed in 1999, alleging that certain employment actions that occurred between 1991 and 1996 constituted a hostile work environment and were motivated by discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and religion, and by retaliation for his engagement in protected activity. See Nurriddin v. Goldin, 382 F.Supp.2d 79 (D.D.C. 2005) (" Nurriddin I" ). On August 17, 2005, this Court entered summary judgment for NASA on all claims. See id. The D.C. Circuit affirmed in all respects. See Nurriddin v. Griffin, 222 F.App'x 5 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 16, 2007). The events underlying the current suit began where Nurriddin I left off and chronicle the continuation of Nurriddin's tumultuous relationship with his supervisors at NASA. See 2d Am. Compl. [ECF No. 49] ¶ ¶ 56-140. The relevant facts recounted below are largely undisputed [1] and relate to Nurriddin's remaining claims, which are based on the following alleged events in his employment history: (1) denial of a noncompetitive increase in grade from GS-13 to GS-14 in 1998; (2) diminished performance award in 1997-1998; (3) denial of a performance award in 1998-1999; (4) denial

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of two travel requests in 1998; (5) designation as " absent without leave" (" AWOL" ) for 59 days in 2000; (6) denial of donated leave after 2000; (7) denial of a timely " Within Grade Increase" (" WGI" ) around 2000-2001; and (8) termination in 2004.

In 1996, Nurriddin was a federal employee at level GS-12 in NASA's Education Division. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ ¶ 1-2, 6. His " first-level supervisor" was Dr. Malcolm Phelps and his " alternate first-level supervisor" was Sherri McGee. Id. ¶ 7; 2d Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 7, 11. Nurriddin's " second-level supervisor" was Frank Owens. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 10. Annual performance evaluations of Nurriddin were conducted each summer and covered his performance for the preceding 12 months. See, e.g., Def.'s Stmt. ¶ ¶ 8, 10. For the 1995-1996 evaluation period, he received a performance rating of " Outstanding" and an $800 performance award for that rating. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 54-55. At the time, NASA used a five-level scale in which " Outstanding" was the highest possible rating. Id.; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 8.

Nurriddin filed two EEO complaints alleging disparate treatment in February 1995 and April 1997 that were addressed in Nurriddin I. See 382 F.Supp.2d at 87-88. He filed his third EEO complaint in June 1997, naming Owens and McGee as " responsible management officials," and alleging continued disparate treatment based upon his race, sex, and religion, and in reprisal for his prior EEO activity. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 56; Ex. 2 to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [ECF No. 190] (" Def.'s MSJ" ), Nurriddin's List of His Complaints [ECF No. 187-2] (" Pl.'s List" ) ¶ 7C. Nurriddin then filed another formal complaint in December 1997, naming Owens, McGee, and Phelps. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 24; Pl.'s List ¶ 7D. This and the June 1997 complaint were followed by seven additional EEO complaints in the years to come. Pl.'s List ¶ ¶ 7E-8.

In November 1997, Nurriddin received a long-sought noncompetitive promotion to GS-13. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ ¶ 8, 49; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 2. In April 1998, he filed another formal complaint, naming Owens, McGee, Phelps, and others. Pl.'s List ¶ 7E. Thereafter, he began to take significant sick leave. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ ¶ 11, 13; Ex. 13 to Def.'s MSJ, Sept. 16, 1998 Official Reprimand (" 9/16/98 Official Reprimand" ).

For the 1997-1998 annual performance evaluation, which covered the period of July 1, 1997, to June 30, 1998, NASA switched from a five-level scale to a pass-fail system. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 8. Nurriddin received a " pass" on his performance evaluation, but Phelps noted in the text of his review a " 'pattern of missed deadlines and unresponsiveness to his management that must be addressed and improved during the next year for [Nurriddin's] work to continue to be judged satisfactory.'" Id. ¶ 9 (quoting Ex. 7 to Def.'s MSJ, Nurriddin's 1997-1998 Performance Evaluation (" Pl.'s 1997-1998 Performance Evaluation" )). Nurriddin received an $800 performance award for the 1997-1998 period on August 17, 1998. Id. ¶ 10.

Two other events occurred in August 1998: Nurriddin received an official reprimand for failing to follow procedures regarding conference attendance and for failing to follow directions, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 79; Ex. 2 to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [ECF No. 9-3], Aug. 26, 1998 Official Reprimand (" 8/26/98 Official Reprimand" ); and one of Nurriddin's co-workers, Gary Gans, received a grade increase from GS-13 to GS-14, but Nurriddin did not receive a grade increase, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 78.

Nurriddin took sick leave for " 'a significant part of the time from August 1998 through January 1999.'" Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 11 (quoting Ex. 9 to Def.'s MSJ, Affidavit of

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Sherri McGee (" McGee Aff." ) ¶ 15). In September 1998, Phelps issued an official reprimand of Nurriddin concerning his " continuing attendance problems," stating that Nurriddin had been out of the office for 408 hours between May and September 1998, and that 161 of those hours were unplanned leave, and warning him " about the need to provide medical documentation when citing illness as a reason for absence." Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 13; 9/16/98 Official Reprimand. Also in September 1998, Nurriddin filed another formal complaint, naming Owens, McGee, and Phelps. Pl.'s List ¶ 7H. In October 1998, Phelps issued another official reprimand of Nurriddin for his " continuing attendance problem and . . . failure to follow leave procedures." Ex. 40 to Def.'s MSJ, Oct. 30, 1998 Official Reprimand (" 10/30/98 Official Reprimand" ).

Thereafter, Nurriddin's requests to attend conferences in November and December 1998 were denied, 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 84, and Nurriddin filed another EEO complaint, naming Owens, McGee, and Phelps, Pl.'s List ¶ 7G. In February 1999, he left the office for a one-year detail assignment at the National Science Foundation. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 11. Nurriddin did not receive a performance award for the July 1998 to June 1999 timeframe, and his annual performance evaluation for that period is not in the record.[2] Id. His supervisors, McGee and Phelps, explained that he was not given a performance award because he had been mostly out of the office on leave and then on a detail assignment. Id. In August 1999, Nurriddin filed another EEO complaint, naming Owens, McGee, and others. Pl.'s List ¶ 7H.

Nurriddin returned to NASA from his one-year detail assignment in February or March 2000. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ ¶ 11, 12. Not long after, he took leave from NASA for medical reasons. Id. ¶ 12. On April 12, 2000, Phelps sent Nurriddin a memorandum stating that he had failed to provide sufficient medical documentation for his leave requests. Id. ¶ 15; Ex. 16 to Def.'s MSJ, Apr. 12, 2000 Memorandum from Phelps to Nurriddin (" 4/12/00 Memo from Phelps to Nurriddin" ). Nurriddin briefly returned to work from May 15, 2000, through May 18, 2000, but then resumed medical leave.[3] Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 12. On June 15, 2000, Phelps again sent Nurriddin a memorandum stating that he had failed to provide sufficient medical documentation for his leave requests. Id. ¶ 15; Ex. 17 to Def.'s MSJ, Jun. 15, 2000 Memorandum from Phelps to Nurriddin (" 6/15/00 Memo from Phelps to Nurriddin" ). " On July 6, 2000, NASA noted that [Nurriddin] hadn't 'made any attempt even to request leave in a month; he has apparently refused to provide any medical documentation in support of his most recent absences, much less acceptable documentation.'" Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 15 (quoting Ex. 18 to Def.'s MSJ, July 6, 2000 Email Chain (" 7/6/00 Email Chain" )). Around the same time, Nurriddin applied for and was accepted into NASA's Voluntary Leave Transfer Program, which permits eligible employees to receive annual leave donated by other federal employees. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 16; Pl.'s Resp. ¶ 17.

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From September 12, 2000, through December 1, 2000, Nurriddin's employment status was changed to AWOL. 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 121. At some point in September 2000, he requested advance sick leave. On September 26, 2000, Phelps sent Nurriddin a letter denying his request for advance sick leave because he had been out of the office for over 1,000 hours since his return from detail, had failed to complete assignments, and had " fail[ed] to live up to [his] commitments concerning [his] return to work," and because " we are not confident that you will return to work for a long enough period to repay the advance leave." Ex. 45 to Def.'s MSJ, Sept. 26, 2000 Letter from Phelps to Nurriddin (" 9/26/00 Letter from Phelps to Nurriddin" ). Also on September 26, 2000, Nurriddin's doctor, Dr. John Echeverry, sent a letter to Phelps recommending that Nurriddin be permanently transferred away from Phelps' supervision to an environment where " confrontations or incidents are non-existent." Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 20 (quoting Ex. 23 to Def.'s MSJ, Sept. 26, 2000 Letter from Echeverry to Phelps (sealed) (" 9/26/00 Letter from Echeverry to Phelps" )). In December 2000, Nurriddin filed another EEO complaint, naming Phelps, Owens, and others. Pl.'s List ¶ 7I.

The Office of Workers' Compensation (" OWCP" ) referred Nurriddin to Dr. Teodor Postolache, who examined him in November 2000. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 18 (citing Ex. 22 to Def.'s MSJ, Nov. 23, 2000 Letter from Postolache (sealed)). Postolache diagnosed Nurriddin with " major depression." Id. Around this time, Nurriddin began receiving workers' compensation through OWCP for the " occupational disease" of " major depression," which he claimed resulted from " his federal job duties." Id. ¶ 17; Ex. 27 to Def.'s MSJ, Feb. 5, 2002 Letter from OWCP to Human Resources (" 2/5/02 Letter from OWCP to HR" ). Nurriddin remains on workers' compensation to this day. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 19.

In 2001, while he was still on leave, Nurriddin received a WGI from GS-13, step 4 to GS-13, step 5. Id. ¶ 15a.[4] Also while Nurriddin was on leave, Echeverry sent a letter to Phelps on March 16, 2001, recommending that Nurriddin work " at another worksite in NASA or outside of NASA." Id. ¶ 20 (citing Ex. 24 to Def.'s MSJ, Mar. 16, 2001 Letter from Echeverry to Phelps (sealed)). Thereafter, NASA conducted a job search for Nurriddin within NASA in an attempt to find him a different position. Id. ¶ 21. In October 2001, NASA offered him a job as an Education Programs Specialist under McGee and Owens, individuals who he had previously named in his EEO complaints for disparate treatment. Id. Echeverry informed Human Resources at NASA Headquarters that Nurriddin could not accept the position because it did not resolve his " perceived discriminatory treatment." Id. ¶ 22 (quoting Ex. 26 to Def.'s MSJ, Nov. 7, 2001 Letter from Echeverry to Castillo (sealed)). Because the proposed supervisors had been named in Nurriddin's complaints " as contributing to [his] condition," OWCP decided that the 2001 job offer was " not suitable," id. ¶ 23; 2/5/02 Letter from OWCP to HR, and Nurriddin remained on medical leave. In January 2002, he filed another EEO complaint, naming Owens and others. Pl.'s List ¶ 7J.

On July 11, 2003, Nurriddin was evaluated by Dr. John K. Hsiao, for a second opinion for workers' compensation. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 31 (citing Ex. 38 to Def.'s MSJ,

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July 11, 2003 Letter from Hsiao to QTC Medical Services (sealed) (" 7/11/03 Letter from Hsaio to QTC" )). Hsaio stated that " there is no way that [Nurriddin] could work for NASA. . . . [I]t would be foolish to try to place him back at NASA. . . . [Nurriddin] should not return to work for NASA. Regardless of the position or supervisor, his level of distrust is such that conflicts and worsening of his condition are inevitable." 7/11/03 Letter from Hsaio to QTC.

NASA underwent a reorganization in 2002, which included elevating the role of education in the organization. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 24. Dr. Clifford Houston became Nurriddin's new first-level supervisor. Id. ¶ 24a.[5] Houston had never met Nurriddin and had not started working at NASA's Office of Education until February 2003. Id. In October 2003, Houston ordered that another job search be conducted for Nurriddin. Id. ¶ 26. The job search did not result in any potential positions. Id. Houston subsequently proposed that Nurriddin be terminated because he " needed [Nurriddin's] 'encumbered' position in the Office of Education to be filled with an employee who could ease the office's work demands." Id.

By 2004, Angela Phillips Diaz had become Nurriddin's third-level supervisor. Id. ¶ 27. " After five years away, Diaz had returned to the Office of Education in October 2003, a little over three years after [Nurriddin] had left NASA [on medical leave]." Id. Diaz terminated Nurriddin, effective February 6, 2004, because he " was medically unable to perform his duty and his removal was necessary to proceed with the efficient operation of the education organization and to meet the mission of our organization." Id. (quoting Ex. 28 to Def.'s MSJ, Affidavit of Angela Philips Diaz (" Diaz Aff." ) ¶ 2). Diaz explained that she " alone" made the decision to remove Nurriddin from his position based on " the proposal for termination submitted to [her] by Dr. Houston and the record [provided] to [her] by Dorothy Egbert in NASA Headquarters Human Resources." Id. Human Resources Officer Mello-Zieschange explained that, " [i]f a person is disabled for longer than a year and it doesn't look like they can come back to work, then it's practice to terminate the employee because they're encumbering a position." Id. ¶ 28 (quoting Ex. 35 to Def.'s MSJ, Deposition of Sharmila de Mello-Zieschang).

In June 2004, Nurriddin filed another EEO complaint, naming Houston, Diaz, and others. Pl.'s List ¶ 8. In November 2004, he brought this action against NASA.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the evidence demonstrate that " there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The moving party may successfully support its motion by identifying those portions of " the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made

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for purposes of motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

In determining whether there exists a genuine dispute of material fact sufficient to preclude summary judgment, the Court must regard the non-movant's statements as true and accept all evidence and make all inferences in the non-movant's favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). A non-moving party, however, must establish more than the " mere existence of a scintilla of evidence" in support of its position. Id. at 252. By pointing to the absence of evidence proffered by the non-moving party, a moving party may succeed on summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Moreover, " [i]f the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Summary judgment, then, is appropriate if the non-movant fails to offer " evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant]." Id. at 252.

Recognizing the potential difficulty for a plaintiff in an employment discrimination or retaliation action to uncover clear proof of discriminatory or retaliatory intent, district courts approach summary judgment in such actions with " special caution." Aka v. Washington Hosp. Ctr., 116 F.3d 876, 879-80, 325 U.S.App.D.C. 255 (D.C. Cir. 1997), vacated on other grounds, 156 F.3d 1284, 332 U.S.App.D.C. 256 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc). Nevertheless, the plaintiff is not relieved of his obligation to support his allegations with competent evidence. Brown v. Mills, 674 F.Supp.2d 182, 188 (D.D.C. 2009). " As in any context, where the plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, at the summary judgment stage, he bears the burden of production to designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine dispute requiring trial." Mason v. Geithner, 811 F.Supp.2d 128, 175 (D.D.C. 2011) (citing Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 129 S.Ct. 2658, 174 L.Ed.2d 490 (2009)). Absent this burden, the plaintiff could effectively defeat the " central purpose" of the summary judgment device, " which is to weed out those cases insufficiently meritorious to warrant . . . a jury trial," simply by offering conclusory allegations and speculation. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675, 334 U.S.App.D.C. 92 (D.C. Cir. 1999).

B. Title VII

Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating " against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." [6] 42 U.S.C. § 2000e--2. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against an employee because he has opposed any practice made illegal by Title VII or has otherwise participated in a Title VII proceeding. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e--3(a).

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To prove a violation of Title VII, a plaintiff must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the actions taken by the employer were " more likely than not based on the consideration of impermissible factors" such as race, sex, or religion. Tex. Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 254, 101 S.Ct. 1089, 67 L.Ed.2d 207 (1981) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). A plaintiff may prove his claim with direct evidence or, absent direct evidence, he may indirectly prove discrimination under the burden-shifting framework created by McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). See, e.g., Olatunji v. District of Columbia, 958 F.Supp.2d 27, 31 (D.D.C. 2013); Pollard v. Quest Diagnostics, 610 F.Supp.2d 1, 18 (D.D.C. 2009). Under that framework, the plaintiff carries the initial burden of establishing a prima facie case by a preponderance of the evidence. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. A plaintiff makes out a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that (1) he is a member of a protected class; (2) he suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination. Wiley v. Glassman, 511 F.3d 151, 155, 379 U.S.App.D.C. 122 (D.C. Cir. 2007); Brown v. Brody, 199 F.3d 446, 452, 339 U.S.App.D.C. 233 (D.C. Cir. 1999). A plaintiff makes out a prima facie case of retaliation by showing that (1) he engaged in a statutorily protected activity; (2) he suffered a materially adverse action by his employer; and (3) a causal link connects the two. Jones v. Bernanke, 557 F.3d 670, 677, 384 U.S.App.D.C. 443 (D.C. Cir. 2009); Wiley, 511 F.3d at 155.

For an employment action to qualify as " adverse," the employee must experience " materially adverse consequences affecting the terms, conditions, or privileges of [his] employment or [his] future employment opportunities." Forkkio v. Powell, 306 F.3d 1127, 1131, 353 U.S.App.D.C. 301 (D.C. Cir. 2002). Thus, " 'not everything that makes an employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action.'" Douglas v. Preston, 559 F.3d 549, 551-52, 385 U.S.App.D.C. 120 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Russell v. Principi, 257 F.3d 815, 818, 347 U.S.App.D.C. 222 (D.C. Cir. 2001)).

Notably, there is a difference between " adverse actions" that support a claim for discrimination and " materially adverse actions" that support a claim for retaliation. See Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 67, 126 S.Ct. 2405, 165 L.Ed.2d 345 (2006). Unlike discriminatory actions, retaliatory actions need not be employment-related or even occur in the workplace, id. at 67, nor must they result in " a materially adverse change in the terms or conditions of [one's] employment," id. at 70. Nonetheless, the alleged retaliatory action must produce " an injury or harm." Id. at 67. The injury or harm must be " material," meaning that it could " 'dissuade[ ] a reasonable worker from making or supporting a charge of discrimination.'" Id. at 68 (quoting Rochon v. Gonzales, 438 F.3d 1211, 1219, 370 U.S.App.D.C. 74 (D.C. Cir. 2006)).

If a plaintiff makes out a prima facie case under the McDonnell Douglas framework, the burden shifts to the employer to " articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason" for the adverse action.[7] 411 U.S. at 802;

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accord Ford v. Mabus, 629 F.3d 198, 201, 393 U.S.App.D.C. 400 (D.C. Cir. 2010). If the employer is successful, the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show that the employer's explanation was mere pretext for discrimination or retaliation. Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 142-43, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000). At this point, " the McDonnell Douglas framework--with its presumptions and burdens--disappear[s], and the sole remaining issue [is] discrimination vel non." Id. (internal quotations and citations omitted). Accordingly, " the 'one central inquiry' on summary judgment is 'whether the plaintiff produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that the employer's asserted non-discriminatory reason was not the actual reason and that the employer intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff on a prohibited basis.'" Hamilton v. Geithner, 666 F.3d 1344, 1351, 399 U.S.App.D.C. 77 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting Adeyemi v. District of Columbia, 525 F.3d 1222, 1226, 381 U.S.App.D.C. 128 (D.C. Cir. 2008)); see also Lathram v. Snow, 336 F.3d 1085, 1088, 357 U.S.App.D.C. 413 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (" [To] survive summary judgment the plaintiff must show that a reasonable jury could conclude from all of the evidence that the adverse employment decision was made for a discriminatory reason." ). In performing this inquiry, a court considers whether the jury could infer discrimination " 'from the combination of (1) the plaintiff's prima facie case; (2) any evidence the plaintiff presents to attack the employer's proffered explanation for its actions; and (3) any further evidence of discrimination that may be available to the plaintiff or any contrary evidence that may be available to the employer.'" Hamilton, 666 F.3d at 1351 (quoting Aka, 156 F.3d at 1289). " The ultimate burden of persuading the trier of fact that the defendant intentionally discriminated against the plaintiff remains at all times with the plaintiff." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253. The same framework applies to claims of retaliation. See, e.g., Pardo-Kronemann v. Donovan, 601 F.3d 599, 603-04, 390 U.S.App.D.C. 178 (D.C. Cir. 2010).

DISCUSSION

The Court will first address Nurriddin's motion for partial summary judgment, before turning to NASA's summary judgment motion on liability.

I. Nurriddin's Motion For Partial Summary Judgment

Nurriddin argues that the Court's earlier opinion, which granted in part and denied in part NASA's pre-discovery motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, forecloses the Court's reconsideration of the first step of the McDonnell Douglas framework, i.e., whether Nurriddin has presented a prima facie case of discrimination or retaliation.[8] See Pl.'s Mot. for Partial Summ. J. [ECF No. ...


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