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Krishnan v. Foxx

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 11, 2016

SAMPATH KRISHNAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANTHONY FOXX, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Defendant.

OPINION

ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.

Sampath Krishnan is a telecommunications specialist/program manager at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Mr. Krishnan is a seventy-two year-old Asian, East Indian and Hindu male who has worked at DOT for 28 years. His current job title is FV-J Telecommunications Specialist/ Program Manager. In 2011, Mr. Krishnan applied for two posted supervisory specialist positions, but the FAA filled a single position and selected another candidate, David Meusel, who is a “white, younger, Caucasian, Christian, non-Asian Indian.” Am. Compl. [Dkt. 4] ¶ 23. As a result, Mr. Krishnan, proceeding pro se, brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), 42 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., against Anthony Foxx in his official capacity as the Secretary of DOT.

Specifically, Mr. Krishnan asserts claims of race discrimination (Count I), age discrimination (Count II), retaliation (Count III), “Preferential Treatment Resulting in Discrimination” (Count IV), “Ongoing Pattern of Discrimination” (Count V), religious discrimination (Count VI), national origin discrimination (Count VII), ethnic background discrimination (Count VIII), and gender discrimination (Count IX). See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 103-48. DOT has filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the alternative, a Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims. Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 6] (MSJ). Mr. Krishnan filed a timely opposition, to which DOT replied. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant DOT’s Motion to Dismiss as to some claims and Motion for Summary Judgment as to others.

I. FACTS

Mr. Krishnan’s discrimination and retaliation claims arise from his non-selection in 2011 for two posted supervisory specialist positions.[1] The FAA interviewed three people, including Mr. Krishnan, but ultimately selected Mr. Meusel to fill a single vacancy. Am. Compl. ¶ 30. Mr. Krishnan was ranked second and “scored significantly lower on [the] selection procedure” than did Mr. Meusel. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30, 47-48.[2] According to the selecting official, Jeffrey McCoy, “Mr. Krishnan was not selected because another candidate was found to be more qualified.” MSJ, Ex. 1 [Dkt. 6-1] (McCoy Aff.) ¶ 38. Mr. Krishnan did not have “any direct managerial or leadership experience in managing a large workforce responsible for managing mission critical telecommunications networks.” Id. Mr. Meusel, however, had worked as Acting Manager of the Network Operations team in 2010 for a period of six months. Id. ¶ 45.

Mr. McCoy concluded that Mr. Krishnan could have been successful in the supervisory specialist position, but that it would have required a considerable amount of time, training, and close supervision as he learned the ropes. Id. ¶ 38. Mr. Meusel did not present the same concerns due to his prior experience as Acting Manager and his detailed responses to questions during his interview. Id. ¶ 45.[3] Mr. Meusel was found to be more qualified than Mr. Krishnan.

Mr. Krishnan also asserts that since 1991, he has been discriminated against and consistently turned down for promotions. See, e, g., Am. Compl. ¶ 16 (“Krishnan was interviewed for close to two dozen positions, but learn[ed] that these positions went to younger non-Asian Indians, non-Hindu, non-brown and mostly to white, Caucasian Christians.”); ¶ 39 (“Since 2002, Krishnan has applied for numerous promotional positions with the USDOT/FAA”); ¶ 42 (alleging a reassignment request made around 2003); ¶ 63 (alleging that DOT “[b]locked Krishnan’s promotions to more than 30 positions”); ¶ 93 (“[A]t least since 2003, employment history for DOT/ FAA . . . show[s] that it gives its employees who are white, Caucasian, Christian and younger disproportionately more leadership roles, higher performance appraisals, more frequent and larger bonuses, awards and pay increases, and more frequent and faster promotions.”). Mr. Krishnan included his own affidavit in support of his opposition, but it contains equally imprecise allegations concerning events prior to 2011. See generally Opp’n, Ex. 1 (Krishnan Aff.).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) challenges the adequacy of a complaint on its face. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must be sufficient “to give a defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Although a complaint does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. A court must treat the complaint’s factual allegations as true, “even if doubtful in fact, ” id., but a court need not accept as true legal conclusions set forth in a complaint, see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570. A complaint must allege sufficient facts that would allow the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.

In deciding a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a court may consider the facts alleged in the complaint, documents attached to the complaint as exhibits or incorporated by reference, and matters about which the court may take judicial notice. Abhe & Svoboda, Inc. v. Chao, 508 F.3d 1052, 1059 (D.C. Cir. 2007). If, in considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56[.]” Holy Land Found. For Relief & Dev. v. Ashcroft, 333 F.3d 156, 165 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment shall 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); accord Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Moreover, summary judgment is properly granted against a party who “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party’s favor and accept the nonmoving party’s evidence as true. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in support of its position. Id. at 252. In addition, the snonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Rather, the nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Id. at 675. If the evidence “is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

III. ANALYSIS

Sampath Krishnan has had a long career at FAA and has never been promoted above a GS-13, despite his many applications for such positions. At some points in the past, he filed discrimination complaints against FAA, in which the most recent event was a 2009 settlement. In the instant case, he complains of years of discriminatory treatment. Most particularly, he complains ...


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