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Thompson v. Veterans Canteen Service

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 12, 2016



JAMES E. BOASBERG, United States District Judge

Two weeks after starting her job as a food-service associate at the Veterans Canteen Service, pro se Plaintiff Bonnie Thompson was fired. She has sued, claiming that the VCS’s employment action constitutes unlawful age and sex discrimination. As the undisputed evidence instead demonstrates that a rude interaction with a patron precipitated her termination, the Court will grant Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. Background

Although the facts here are quite simple, the procedural history is somewhat involved. Thompson initially filed suit in this court on December 4, 2013. See ECF No. 1 (Complaint). Her very abbreviated Complaint alleged that she had been terminated “as a food service associate” at the Veterans Canteen Service on July 25, 2012. See id. at 1. She claimed that she “was discriminated against based upon my gender in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. [¶] Moreover, I believe that I was discriminated against based upon my age 57, in violation of the age discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 as amended.” Id.

After setting out these legal bases, the remainder of the Complaint alleges, in its entirety:

I was having breakfast prior to my shift and there was another person having breakfast in the room, shortly afterwards another person came in and sat next to me. He got up from his seat picked up the TV remote and asked the other person whom was a male, “Hay Man” are you watching this”. The person didn’t respond verbally so the person who came in last rudely changed the channel At that time, I said to him Sir there is such a thing as mannerism, you could have asked both of us, he stated it doesn’t matter you’re out numbered anyway.
At that time I left the room, I was approached by Rodney Guiles (Cafeterial Supervisor) who indicated he wanted to speak with me I waited for Mr. Guiles approximately 15 minutes before he called me into his office, at that time Mr. Guiles asked another Supervisor name Pat to come into the office to listen to my statement, along with Chief Manager Gavin Moore After giving my statement Mr. Guiles ask me to sit in the cafeteria while he call the other person, when I was recalled back into his office Mr. Guiles stated he had to terminate my employment even though my shift had not begun At that time I asked Mr. Guiles for a reason and a letter of termination which he refused I can only conclude that Mr. Guiles treated me differently than the other people involved in the incident which were males. I feel Mr. Guiles is bias against older workers which are females [sic]


Defendant’s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (SUMF) accompanying its Motion largely confirms this account and add a few additional facts - all from Thompson’s own deposition testimony. See Mot., Exhs. A & B (extracts from Plaintiff’s deposition). She had been working at the cafeteria for only two weeks at the time of the incident. See Def.’s SUMF, ¶ 4. On that day, while wearing her uniform, she was seated in the cafeteria eating breakfast before her shift began. See id., ¶¶ 5-7. A dispute occurred over television channels, leading Thompson to make the comment she alleges in her Complaint. See id., ¶¶ 10-15. Her supervisor then terminated her for this interaction. See id., ¶¶ 24-25.

The case was initially transferred at the end of 2013 to the Eastern District of Missouri, where the VCS is headquartered. See ECF No. 3 (Transfer Order). On February 6, 2014, Thompson filed an Amended Complaint, using a form apparently provided by the court there. She checked a space indicating her suit was brought under Title VII, but she did not check the space next to “Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.” Am. Compl. at 1. This document elsewhere indicates that she believed she was discriminated against based on gender and possibly age. See id. at 5. In the narrative, she stated that she did not “feel that the incident was properly and adequately investigated between the customer and myself. Also I received bias treatment due to the fact I’m a woman and at that time, I was the only woman in the room.” Id. To give Thompson the benefit of the doubt, the Court will treat this Amended Complaint as supplementing, not superseding, her original Complaint.

After Defendant answered, see ECF No. 12, Plaintiff successfully moved for venue to be returned to Washington. See ECF Nos. 20 (Motion); 21 (Order transferring case based on convenience of parties, convenience of witnesses, and interests of justice). This Court thereupon held an initial scheduling conference on April 1, 2015, and the parties engaged in discovery through October 1, 2015. See ECF No. 24 (Scheduling Order). The VCS has now moved for summary judgment.

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment may be granted if “the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A fact is “material” if it is capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. A dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007); Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. “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” or “showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).

When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Mastro v. PEPCO, 447 F.3d 843, 850 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “eschew making ...

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