United States District Court, District of Columbia
B.B. CRAIG, Plaintiff,
JACOB J. LEW, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Treasury, Defendant.
GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL DISMISSAL,
OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT Re Document No. 10.
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, District Judge.
Plaintiff B.B. Craig, an African-American male, has been employed by the United States Mint (the "Mint") and a member of the Senior Executive Service (the "SES") since 2008. Mr. Craig has commenced this civil action against Defendant Jacob J. Lew in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of the Treasury (the "Government") for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16, alleging race discrimination in connection with an unsuccessful application by Mr. Craig for employment with the Mint in 2008 (Count V), subsequent race and/or sex discrimination in connection with the Government's review of Mr. Craig's performance in 2012 (Count IV), and race discrimination and retaliation in connection with his reassignment within the Mint effective in 2013 (Counts I, II & III). See Compl., ECF No. 1.
Now before the Court is the Government's pre-discovery motion for partial dismissal, or, in the alternative, for partial summary judgment on Counts I and V of the Complaint. See Mot. Partial Dismissal or Summ. J., ECF No. 10 ("Def.'s Mot."). The Government argues that Count I, Mr. Craig's retaliation claim concerning his reassignment in late 2012 and early 2013, should be dismissed because Mr. Craig cannot establish a causal link between his protected Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") activity and his reassignment. See id. at 18-20. The Government argues that Count V, Mr. Craig's discriminatory non-selection claim concerning his unsuccessful employment application in 2008, should be dismissed because Mr. Craig failed to timely exhaust his administrative remedies under Title VII and because the same Mint official who Mr. Craig alleges discriminated against him recommended him for another SES position in the Mint shortly thereafter. See id. at 9-18.
For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny the Government's motion with respect to Count I without prejudice in order to permit Mr. Craig to take relevant discovery and will grant summary judgment in favor of the Government on Count V.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
Upon consideration of the evidentiary record submitted by the parties, the Court finds that the following relevant facts are not in dispute, except where otherwise noted as an allegation by Mr. Craig or a disputed fact.
A. Mr. Craig's Background
Mr. Craig, an African-American male, is currently a member of the SES and employed by the Mint, which is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. See Pl.'s Stmt. of Genuine Issues ("Pl.'s SGI") ¶ I.1, ECF No. 12-1. Mr. Craig alleges that prior to joining the Mint, he held senior management level positions at Dell Computers and served as a Commissioned Officer in the U.S. Army. See Compl. ¶¶ 21-22. Mr. Craig alleges that he became a Fellow at Harvard Business School while employed by Dell and earned an M.P.A. and B.A. while serving in the military. Id. ¶ 23.
B. Mr. Craig's Applications for Employment in 2008
In or about March 2008, Mr. Craig applied for the position of Associate Director of Manufacturing, an SES position within the Mint. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.2. Mr. Craig's qualifications were reviewed by Mint Human Resources staff, and Mr. Craig was determined to be among the "best qualified" candidates for the Manufacturing position. See id. ¶ I.3. After the review by Human Resources, members of the U.S. Mint Executive Resources Board (the "ERB") conducted a telephone interview of Mr. Craig on or about June 19, 2008 and recommended him to then-Deputy Director of the Mint, Andrew D. Brunhart, for a further interview. See id. ¶ I.4. Mr. Craig claims that he was only aware of the identities of two of his three interviewers, Jerry Horton and Daniel Shaver, and was mistaken about the identity of the third. See Decl. B.B. Craig ("Craig Decl.") ¶¶ 26-27, ECF No. 12-2.
Mr. Brunhart, a Caucasian male, interviewed Mr. Craig for the Manufacturing position in or about July 2008. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.5. In late August 2008 or early September 2008, Mr. Brunhart informed Mr. Craig that the Mint had not selected him for the Manufacturing position. See id. ¶ I.6. Mr. Craig alleges that, during that conversation, Mr. Brunhart falsely informed him that he was not selected for the position because the ERB had recommended a different candidate who was better qualified. See id. ¶ II.26; Craig Decl. ¶ 34; Compl. ¶ 49. Mr. Craig characterizes Mr. Brunhart's statements to him as a "fraud that was worked on [him]." Craig Decl. ¶ 86. See also Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.18 (characterizing the statements as "an elaborate fraud"). Mr. Craig argues that "Mr. Brunhart's falsehoods thwarted any potential EEO complaint that Mr. Craig might have filed in 2008." Pl.'s SGI ¶ II.25.
In addition to Mr. Craig, the ERB also interviewed Richard Peterson, a Caucasian male, for the Manufacturing position in or about July 2008 and also referred Mr. Peterson to Mr. Brunhart for a further interview. Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.7. Mr. Peterson was ultimately selected for the Manufacturing position and began working in that position in October 2008. See id. ¶¶ I.7-8. The parties dispute whether Mr. Brunhart was responsible for the selection, as Mr. Craig alleges Mr. Brunhart told him at the time, or whether Mr. Brunhart recommended Mr. Peterson to the then-Director of the Mint, Daniel Moy. See id. ¶ I.7. Mr. Craig also alleges that the decision to hire Mr. Peterson was not made until at least September 22, 2008, which was after Mr. Brunhart informed Mr. Craig that he had not been selected. See id. ¶ I.6 (citing Def.'s Mot. Ex. 3, ECF No. 10-3 (September 22, 2008 memorandum authored by Mr. Moy requesting approval for Mr. Peterson's salary)).
Although Mr. Brunhart informed Mr. Craig that he was not selected for the Manufacturing position, he also suggested that Mr. Craig apply for the position of Associate Director of Sales and Marketing ("SAM"), which was another SES position. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.9. Mr. Craig alleges that, by making this suggestion, Mr. Brunhart was "steering [him] to the lesser desirable Associate Director of SAM position." Craig Decl. ¶ 36. Mr. Craig alleges that the Manufacturing position was "superior in every respect" to the SAM position, because, for example, the Manufacturing position provided oversight over employees that were greater in number and senior to the employees overseen by the SAM position. See id. ¶ 36; id. ¶ 85. Mr. Craig applied for the SAM position and, in September or October 2008, was again interviewed by the ERB. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.9. The ERB again referred Mr. Craig to Mr. Brunhart for a further interview, and Mr. Brunhart interviewed Mr. Craig for the position in October 2008. See id. With Mr. Brunhart's support, Mr. Craig was offered the SAM position and began working as the Associate Director of SAM in November 2008. See id. ¶ I.10. The parties dispute whether Mr. Brunhart was the selecting official, as Mr. Craig alleges Mr. Brunhart held himself out to be, or whether he recommended Mr. Craig to the Director of the Mint. See id.
C. Discussion Regarding a Change in Position in 2012 and First Informal EEO Complaint
Mr. Craig continued to hold his position as the Associate Director of SAM from November 2008 through December 2012. Mr. Peterson, meanwhile, was promoted to the position of Deputy Director of the Mint in January 2011. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.11.
In July 2012, Mr. Peterson modified the organizational structure within the Mint and placed SAM under the management of the Chief Administrative Officer of the Mint, Beverly Babers. See id. ¶ I.12; Craig Decl. ¶ 66. On September 25, 2012, Ms. Babers indicated to Mr. Craig during a meeting that she wanted to find a different position for Mr. Craig that would be a better fit. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.13; Craig Decl. ¶ 78; Compl. ¶ 39. Ms. Babers also discussed Mr. Craig's performance during the meeting, but the parties dispute the nature of what was said. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.13; Craig Decl. ¶ 78; Compl. ¶ 39. Mr. Craig also alleges that at no point during the meeting did Ms. Babers state or otherwise imply that Mr. Craig would be "reassigned involuntarily, or to a position that was not the equivalent of SAM Associate Director in terms of responsibilities, reporting chain, subordinates, professional exposure, or any other materials ways." Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.13; Craig Decl. ¶ 78; Compl. ¶ 39.
As a result of the September 25, 2012 meeting with Ms. Babers, on October 26, 2012, Mr. Craig commenced the federal administrative EEO process by contacting an EEO counselor at the Mint and filing his first informal EEO complaint. See Pl.'s SGI ¶ I.14; Craig Informal Compl. I, Def.'s Mot. Ex. 4, ECF No. 10-4. In his informal complaint, Mr. Craig listed the date of his meeting with Ms. Babers as the date of the relevant discriminatory incident. See Craig Informal Compl. I, at Bates No. 00099. He further wrote:
The culmination of this discrimination-which Mr. Craig lists on this form as the "discriminatory act" at issue, but which is the latest in a continuing course of conduct-occurred on September 25, 2012, when Ms. Babers informed Mr. Craig that "they [superiors at the Mint] will need to find something [a new ...