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Robbins v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

September 10, 2014

DWIGHT E. ROBBINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

For DWIGHT E. ROBBINS, Plaintiff: Camilla C. McKinney, LEAD ATTORNEY, MCKINNEY & ASSOCIATES, PLLC, Washington, DC.

For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, A Municipal Corporation, Defendant: Kerslyn D. Featherstone, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL, Washington, DC; Charles Joseph Coughlin, DC OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF DC, Civil Litigation, Section IV, Washington, DC.

Page 142

MEMORANDUM OPINION

EMMET G. SULLIVAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiff Dwight E. Robbins alleges that he was discriminated against because of his race and was subjected to retaliatory acts during his employment with the District of Columbia Public Schools (" DCPS" ), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Following a period of discovery, the District of Columbia, as the real party in interest, moves for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 [Dkt. # 24], plaintiff, through counsel, opposes the motion [Dkt. # 32], the District has replied [Dkt. # 36], and plaintiff, by leave of court, has filed a surreply [Dkt. # 38]. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record, the Court will grant the District's motion and enter judgment accordingly.

I. BACKGROUND

DCPS hired plaintiff in 1982 as an Educational Aide. At the time of his separation in August 2011, plaintiff was a full-time teacher. Compl. ¶ 11. During school year 2009-10, plaintiff was a physical education (PE) teacher at Eastern High School, but at the end of the school year, plaintiff's position was eliminated or " excessed." Def.'s Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No Genuine Dispute (Def.'s Facts) ¶ 1. Under the terms of the then-operative contract between DCPS and the Washington Teachers' Union (WTU), excessing occurred at a particular school when there was " a decline in student enrollment, a reduction in the local school budget, a closing or consolidation, a restructuring, or a change in the local school program, [and] when such an elimination [was] not a 'reduction in force' or 'abolishment.' " Id. ¶ 2 (citing 2007-2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement [Dkt. # 32-3]).

Plaintiff had three options as an excessed teacher. He could (1) resign and receive a $25,000 buyout, (2) retire with full benefits if he had 20 years of creditable service, or (3) attempt to secure a position at another school but, if unsuccessful, agree to be placed at another school for one year and thereafter lose his DCPS position if he did not secure another position. Id. ¶ 3. Plaintiff " was told that he was ineligible for early retirement," Compl. ¶ 17, chose the third option, and was placed at Jefferson Middle School as a full-time PE teacher beginning August 2010. Def.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 6-7; Compl. ¶ 14.

At the relevant time period, Patricia Pride, " a Caucasian female, was assigned to Jefferson as the new Principal." Compl. ¶ 14. Upon learning of plaintiff's assignment to Jefferson, Pride adjusted the previously created teaching assignment schedule " to make sure [plaintiff] would have his own schedule of classes" since the school already had half-time PE teacher Howard Mebane. Def.'s Ex. B, Decl. of Ms. Patricia Pride (Pride Decl.) ¶ ¶ 7-8, 10. Plaintiff " was given the same responsibilities as all other full[-]time teachers at Jefferson." Id. ¶ 9. Initially, neither plaintiff nor Mebane (an African American man) was assigned a homeroom. Id. ¶ 12. But after Pride noticed that two first-year teachers assigned homerooms were struggling with their duties, she assigned homerooms to plaintiff and Mebane so that the two struggling teachers could focus on their class preparation and instruction. Id. ¶ 13. Pride also " determined that it was appropriate to assign [plaintiff] a home room because he did not have a full class schedule at the time" and

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this assignment would bring him closer to having a " full class schedule." Id. Pride avers that she " did not consider race" in assigning homerooms, and that all but three teachers--the two who were struggling and a third teacher who agreed to perform other additional duties--had homeroom assignments. Id. ¶ ¶ 13, 14.

In February 2011, plaintiff complained in correspondence to Pride about an uneven distribution of homeroom teachers based on academic disciplines. Specifically, plaintiff took issue with the fact that he and Mebane, the two PE teachers, were assigned homerooms while three other teachers, two of whom taught English, were not assigned home rooms. Def.'s Fact ¶ 18. When Pride explained, but did not change, the homeroom assignments, plaintiff filed a grievance and had a hearing in March or April of 2011 with DCPS's Assistant Superintendent Eric King and WTU's Field Representative Rachel Hicks. Id. ¶ 20.

In his deposition taken in June 2013, plaintiff answered " Yes" to the question of whether he told Pride in a " verbal" conversation that he " may contact the EEOC." Def.'s Ex. A, Pl.'s Dep. 85:10-12. In addition, plaintiff testified that " [e]very African American teacher in the building had a home room" and that " three Caucasian teachers . . . on the second floor [] did not have a home room." Id., 82:10-11, 15-17. Plaintiff could not recall whether any Caucasian teacher was assigned a home room but admitted that the school employed more than three Caucasian teachers. Id., 83:1-6. Also during discovery, plaintiff stated in further support of his discrimination claim only that he had " described, in great deal, my race discrimination and retaliation claims against the Defendant in my Complaint." Def.'s Ex. D, Pl.'s Resp. to Interrog. No. 13.

In March 2011, plaintiff learned about a vacant PE teacher position at Jefferson for the following school year, 2011-12. Pride offered the position to Mebane " because he had worked as a [PE] teacher, but he declined the position." Pride Decl. ¶ 19. Plaintiff gave his resume to Pride who states that she placed the resume in a file with all other resumes and " gave the file . . . to the office secretary and a personnel committee, as they were reviewing resumes for the position and scheduling a first round of interviews, which they would conduct." Id. ¶ 20. Pride further states that she suggested that the office secretary and personnel committee " conduct approximately five interviews because we had received a significant number of resumes," and that " they begin with veteran teachers who are already certified." Id. ¶ 21. Otherwise, Pride states that she played no role in the initial selection of qualified applicants and the first-round interviews, and she " do[es] not know how many first round interviews were conducted." Id. Plaintiff was not selected for a first-round interview. Def.'s Facts ¶ ¶ 36-37. Plaintiff disputes, among other things about the selection process, that the personnel committee had " receive[d] any resumes in advance of ...


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