United States District Court, D. Columbia
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
ZAHRA DORRIZ, Plaintiff: Brian J. Markovitz, Jarrod Stephen
Sharp, LEAD ATTORNEYS, JOSEPH, GREENWALD & LAAKE, P.A.,
Greenbelt, MD; Cary Johnson Hansel, III, HANSEL LAW, P.C.,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Martha J. Mullen, LEAD
ATTORNEY, Aaron Josiah Finkhousen, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY
GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC.
S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge.
Zahra Dorriz brings this retaliation action against the
District of Columbia Department of Transportation pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (" Title
VII" ), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the
District of Columbia Human Rights Act (" DCHRA" ),
D.C. CODE § 2-1401.01 et seq. Presently before
the court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
(ECF No. 24). For the reasons set forth below, the court will
grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
judgment is appropriate where the record shows there is no
genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. 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); Waterhouse v. D.C., 298 F.3d
989, 991, 353 U.S.App.D.C. 205 (D.C. Cir. 2002). " A
party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed must support the assertion by . . . citing to
particular parts of materials in the record, including
depositions, documents, . . . affidavits or declarations,
stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion
only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other
materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). In determining
whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court
must view all facts in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. See Adickes v. S.H. Kress &
Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142
FIRST EEOC CHARGE: DEMOTION CLAIM
who is Iranian, began her employment as an engineer with the
District of Columbia Department of Transportation ("
DDOT" ) in October 2003 as a Project Manager. (
See Pls. Ex. 25, Dorriz Dep. 35). In that position
she supervised one or two employees. (Dorriz Dep. 36). At the
time she was hired, her immediate supervisor was Said
Cherifi. (Dorriz Dep. 38). Five years later, she was promoted
to Deputy Program Manager within the Infrastructure Project
Management Administration (" IMPA" ) division of
DDOT. ( Id. 41). Her immediate supervisor in the
IMPA division was Ali Shakeri, who is also Iranian, and there
was another Iranian supervisor, Adeesh Nafici, at DDOT during
this time. (Dorriz Dep. 41; Pls. Ex. 23, Cherifi Dep.
132-33). In her new position, Dorriz was responsible for
design and construction projects, while supervising up to 30
employees. (Dorriz Dep. 43-44).
Sometime later, a terminated Nigerian co-worker, Sylvester
Okpala, filed a discrimination complaint against DDOT
alleging that he had been discriminated against by Iranian
supervisors, including Dorriz's supervisor, Shakeri.
See Okpala v. D.C., 09-cv-1948-RLW (D.D.C.). Okpala
also alleged that Dorriz received preferential treatment from
the Iranian supervisors. ( Id., Compl. ¶ ¶
9-10). Around this same time, a rumor circulated that these
supervisors had used their influence to get Dorriz promoted
and that she was having a sexual relationship with Nafici.
(Cherifi Dep. 132-34, 136).
fall of 2009, Michael Jelen (who is Caucasian) conducted
Dorriz's performance evaluation. (Pls. Ex. 2, Jelen Aff.
¶ 3; Pls. Ex. 3). He rated Dorriz's performance at
four on a five-point scale, but before the evaluation was
finalized he was transferred to another division at DDOT and
Maduabuch Udeh, who is Nigerian, became Dorriz's
supervisor. (Jelen Aff. ¶ 3; Cherifi Dep. 42). According
to Dorriz, Udeh was friends with Okpala, the Nigerian former
co-worker who filed the discrimination complaint. (Dorriz
this same time, Jelen became aware that Dorriz's
performance evaluation had been altered and her rating
lowered. (Jelen Aff. ¶ 4). He responded by complaining
about the matter in an email to Operations Manager Stephanie
Dunbar, who is African-American. (Jelen Aff. ¶ 5; Pls.
Exs. 4-5). After failing to receive a satisfactory response,
Jelen sent a series of emails to Dunbar, some of which were
copied to Udeh. (Jelen Aff. ¶ ¶ 5-9; Pls. Exs.
4-5). In those emails, Jelen not only complained about the
altered evaluation, but also complained because he had not
been consulted prior to the change, and explained his reasons
for rating Dorriz as he had. (Jelen Aff. ¶ ¶ 5-9;
Pls. Exs. 4-5).
also complained, first to Dunbar, who allegedly dismissed the
matter and instead asked Dorriz if she knew where Nafici was
now working. (Dorriz Dep. 88-89). When Dorriz responded that
she did not know, Dunbar reportedly said " C'mon,
how wouldn't you know? You guys had [a]
relationship." ( Id. ). Dorriz was shocked by
the response. ( Id. ).
Dunbar's direction, Dorriz subsequently discussed her
concerns about the performance evaluation with Udeh, who
denied making the alterations. ( Id. ). Dorriz
believes Udeh or Dunbar made the alterations; she claims
Jelen told her he was unable to access the online performance
evaluation form after he left the department and, only Udeh
and Dunbar had access. (Dorriz Dep. 88-89). Jelen testified
that he believes Dunbar made the alterations or ordered
someone to make them because of what he perceived as
Dunbar's discriminatory animus toward Dorriz. (Jelen Aff.
¶ 13). Apparently,
no-one at DDOT admitted to making the alterations.
in January 2010, Dorriz spoke with an internal EEO counselor
--although the precise nature of the discussion is not
entirely clear because the record contains conflicting
evidence. ( See Pls. Ex. 7, DCHRA Determination
Letter at p. 4; Pls. Br. at 5; Pls. Ex. 10 at p. 2). In any
event, on January 26, 2010, shortly after the conversation
with the EEO counselor, the IMPA division was restructured
and Dorriz claims she was demoted from Deputy Program Manager
to Structural Engineer by her supervisor Udeh. ( See
Pls. Ex. 8; Cherifi Dep. 59-61). Less than one month later,
on February 18, Dorriz was involuntarily transferred to the
role of Project Manager for the District of Columbia Street
Car Project, where she had no supervisory authority. (Dorriz
Dep. 142-43). Dorriz notes that " Project Manager"
was the same title she had previously held when she began her
employment with DDOT five years earlier. Moreover, Dorriz
claims the Street Car Project was underfunded and she was
forced to reapply for her position periodically. (Dorriz Dep.
response to these events, on February 24, 2010, Dorriz
completed an EEO Intake Questionnaire in which she complained
about the altered performance evaluation and her "
plann[ed]" demotion. (Pls. Ex. 9). On the form, Dorriz
alleged that Dunbar, Udeh, Cherifi and others had engaged in
the challenged conduct for discriminatory and retaliatory
reasons. ( Id. ).
months later, on April 5, 2010, Dorriz filed her first EEOC
Charge of Discrimination, alleging disparate treatment and
retaliation. (Pls. Ex. 10). In that charge, Dorriz contended
that Udeh began creating a hostile environment for her
because he had been friends with Okpala. ( Id. ).
Specifically, she complained about the demotion, reassignment
to temporary duty, and about Dunbar's comment regarding
the alleged relationship between Dorriz and former DDOT
employee Nafici. ( Id. ).
remained on the Street Car Project for approximately one
year, until February 2011, when she returned to the IPMA
division. (Dorriz Dep. 85, 39). Later, during the summer of
that same year, Dorriz unsuccessfully sought a promotion and
ultimately filed a second EEOC Charge on March 1, 2012 over
the failed promotion. ( See Pls. Ex. 1; ECF No. 39,
Notice ¶ 4).
Plaintiff alleged in Count I of her complaint that the
demotion was retaliatory, DDOT does not seek summary judgment
for the demotion claim. ( See ECF No. 7, Amend.
Compl ¶ 51). Consequently, Plaintiff contends the court
should deny summary judgment on this claim. In its reply,
DDOT argues that Plaintiff's demotion claim is not
properly before this court because Plaintiff raised the claim
her first EEOC Charge, but did not raise it in the second
EEOC Charge, which is the subject of this suit.
absence of a response by Dorriz, the court issued a Minute
Order on September 16, 2015 directing Dorriz to file a Notice
with the court identifying which EEOC Charge(s) formed the
basis of the present lawsuit. In response, Plaintiff
indicated that the second charge, dated March 1, 2012, is the
only charge at issue. (ECF No. 39, Notice ¶ 4). Because
the March 1, 2012 charge does not contain any allegations
regarding the demotion or the allegedly altered performance
evaluation, those claims are not properly before this court.
Accordingly, the court will grant summary judgment on any
claims relating to those events.
SECOND EEOC CHARGE: PREFORMANCE APPRAISAL, MICROMANANGING AND
Dorriz's transfer back to the IPMA division, in February
2010, Program Manager Paul Hoffman became her immediate
supervisor. ( See Dorriz Dep. 85, 39;
Pls. Ex. 21, Khalid Dep. 105). Hoffman's supervisor ...