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Paulk v. Architect of Capitol

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 3, 2015

JERRY W. PAULK, Plaintiff,
v.
ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL, Defendant

Page 83

For JERRY W. PAULK, Plaintiff: Leslie David Alderman, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, ALDERMAN, DEVORSETZ & HORA PLLC, Washington, DC.

For ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL, Defendant: Claire M. Whitaker, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Washington, DC.

Page 84

MEMORANDUM OPINION [Dkt. ##18, 33]

RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Jerry W. Paulk (" plaintiff" or " Paulk" ) commenced this action against the Architect of the Capitol (" defendant" or " AOC" ) on July 17, 2012, seeking damages for alleged violations of the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 (" CAA" ), 2 U.S.C. § § 1301 et seq. See Compl. ¶ 2. [Dkt. #1], Now before the Court is defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. See Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. (" Def.'s Mot." ) [Dkt. #18], Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings, the entire record in this case, and the relevant law, the Court GRANTS defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and dismisses this action in its entirety.[1]

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff is an electrician who was employed by defendant AOC as a night shift temporary employee in the House Office Buildings (" HOB" ) for approximately thirteen years. See Compl. ¶ ¶ 8-9. During his tenure, plaintiff worked on a number of Emergency Lighting Projects in the Longworth and Rayburn House Office buildings. See Def.'s Mot. Ex. 3 at 28:16-29:2 [Dkt. #18-3], Plaintiff alleges that in August 2010, David Smith (" Smith" ) and Kevin Banks (" Banks" )--both electrical division supervisors--ordered plaintiff and other night shift electricians to work in areas and with materials containing asbestos. Compl. ¶ 10. Although plaintiff and the other electricians objected to handling asbestos without proper safety equipment, they were warned by their supervisors that " there would be consequences for failing to do as instructed." Compl. ¶ 10. At the request of plaintiff's work partner, Richard Hutson, AOC's Inspector General (" OIG" ) launched an investigation into whether electricians were instructed to disturb asbestos-containing materials without proper safety precautions. Pl.'s Opp'n to Summ. J. (" Pl.'s Opp'n) at 3 [Dkt. #23], The OIG interviewed plaintiff on April 22, 2011. Compl. ¶ 13. Plaintiff's employment was terminated in June 2011. Compl. ¶ 15; Def.'s Stmt. Material Facts Not In Dispute (" Def.'s SMF" ) ¶ 10 [Dkt. #18-19]. Believing that he was terminated because of his OIG testimony, plaintiff sought counseling with the Office of Compliance (" OCC" ) and was reinstated to his temporary position in November 2011. Def.'s SMF ¶ ¶ 10-11.

Meanwhile, between 2010 and 2011. in the wake of budgetary restrictions, HOB sought to re-structure its night shift electrician staff by creating three permanent electrician positions. See Def.'s Mot. Ex. 14 (" Riley Deck" ) ¶ ¶ 8 [Dkt. #18-16]; Def.'s Mot. at 28. On November 29, 2011, HOB published a Vacancy Announcement seeking to fill these three vacancies from a pool of AOC employees. See Def.'s Mot. Ex. 8a (" Vacancy Announcement" ) [Dkt. #18-8]. The Vacancy Announcement stated that applicants would " be evaluated on their ability to perform the duties of the position rather than [on the] length of [their] experience." Vacancy Announcement at 002. Human Resources identified ten AOC employees as potential candidates for the position. See Def.'s Mot. Ex. 16 at 4 [Dkt. #18-18], Four of these candidates received interviews: (1) Robert Gallagher (" Gallagher" ), who is Caucasian, (2) Omega Armah (" Armah" ), who is African American, (3) Terrence Jones

Page 85

(" Jones" ), who is African American, and (4) plaintiff Paulk, who is Caucasian. Def.'s SMF ¶ 17. A panel consisting of Supervisor Banks, HOB Electrical Shop Supervisor Adeyemi (" Adeyemi" ), and Assistant HOB Superintendent Murphy (" Murphy" ) (collectively, the " HOB panel" or " panel" ) conducted the interviews. Def.'s SMF ¶ 13. Adeyemi served as the selecting official. Def's Mot. Ex. 5 (" Adeyemi Dep." ) at 12:10 [Dkt. #18-5],

After conducting the interviews, the HOB panel ranked each candidate and selected two of the four candidates for permanent employment. Specifically, the panel selected Armah, who held a Journeyman's license from the state of Maryland, and Gallagher, who held a Level IV Fire Alarm Technician Certificate from the National Institute of Certification of Engineering Technologies (" NICET" ). See Def.'s SMF ¶ 20; Def.'s Mot. Ex. 8b at AOC 117, 119, 218, 220-22 [Dkt. #18-9]. Neither Paulk, who received the third highest interview score, nor Jones, was selected.[2] See Def.'s SMF ¶ 27.

After filling two of the three vacancies, the panel requested a new referral list from which to select the third employee. Def.'s SMF ¶ 23. Human Resources' second referral list did not include either Paulk or Jones. Def.'s SMF ¶ 23. After completing its evaluation process, the HOB Panel selected Jabbar Sisney, an African American male, who, in addition to receiving Union training was in the process of obtaining his journeyman license. Def.'s SMF ¶ ¶ 28-29. After selecting the three permanent electricians, the HOB managers terminated the entire night shift temporary electrician work force. Def.'s SMF ¶ 31. Three of the seven terminated employees were African-American and four were Caucasian. See Def.'s Mot. Ex. 16 at 2; Def.'s SMF ¶ 32.

Plaintiff commenced the instant action against the AOC on July 17, 2012, alleging discriminatory and retaliatory practices in violation of the CAA.[3] See generally Compl. After discovery concluded, defendant moved for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. See generally Def.'s Mot. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion is GRANTED.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Summary judgment is proper when the pleadings, stipulations, affidavits, and admissions in a case show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The court must accept as true the evidence of, and draw " all justifiable inferences" in favor of, the party opposing summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Although district courts approach summary judgment in the employment discrimination and retaliation context with " special caution," plaintiffs are not relieved of the burden to support their claims with competent evidence. Brown v. Mills, 674 ...


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