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Wang v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 25, 2016

AMY WANG, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant. Re Document No. 19

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Citing acts of insubordination and communication issues, Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) placed its former Financial Control Manager, Plaintiff Amy Wang, on a thirty-day corrective action plan. After Ms. Wang’s supervisor found Ms. Wang’s performance on the corrective action plan unacceptable, WMATA terminated Ms. Wang’s employment.

         This suit followed. Ms. Wang alleges that WMATA violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by discriminating against her based on her national origin, race, and sex, and by retaliating against her in response to her opposition to those discriminatory acts. Ms. Wang also alleges that WMATA retaliated against her in response to her whistleblowing in relation to federal funds WMATA received under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

         WMATA now moves for summary judgment. On the record the parties present, a reasonable jury could find that WMATA’s reasons for terminating Ms. Wang are a pretextual cover for discrimination. A reasonable jury could alternatively find that WMATA terminated Ms. Wang as retaliation for her opposition to what she reasonably perceived to be WMATA’s discrimination. The Court therefore declines to grant summary judgment on Ms. Wang’s Title VII claims. But, because Ms. Wang has not established that she made a disclosure that the ARRA’s whistleblower provision protects, the Court will grant WMATA’s motion for summary judgment on Ms. Wang’s ARRA retaliation claim.

         II. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Ms. Wang’s First Two Years at WMATA (2006-2008)

         Defendant WMATA provides transit services in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Am. Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 9; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 20, ECF No. 10.[2] On May 22, 2006, Plaintiff Amy Wang, a Chinese-American female, began working as the Financial Control Manager in WMATA’s Office of Accounting. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 30; Answer Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 30; Statement of Material Facts Not in Dispute ¶ 1, ECF No. 19-2 [hereinafter Def.’s Statement]; Pl.’s Statement of Material Facts in Dispute 1, ¶ 1, ECF No. 20-1 [hereinafter Pl.’s Statement].[3]As WMATA’s Financial Control Manager, Ms. Wang’s responsibilities included managing WMATA’s General Ledger and WMATA’s Accounts Receivable group. Def.’s Statement ¶ 2; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 2. She also supervised several employees. Def.’s Statement ¶ 2; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 2. During Ms. Wang’s first two years at WMATA, Ms. Wang reported to Kathleen Smith, WMATA’s Comptroller, until Ms. Smith left WMATA in January 2008. Pl.’s Statement 5-6, ¶¶ 42, 45; accord Audette Dep. 17:12-18:8, Pl.’s Statement Ex. 2, ECF No. 20-4. Between January 2008 and October 2008, Ms. Wang reported to Fawzia Hafeez, WMATA’s Acting Comptroller. Pl.’s Statement 5-6, ¶ 45; accord Audette Dep. 18:4-15.

         B. Ms. Wang’s Years Under Ms. Audette’s Supervision (2008-2012)

         1. Performance Evaluations and Corrective Action Plan

         In October 2008, Stephanie Audette became WMATA’s Comptroller and Ms. Wang’s direct supervisor. Def.’s Statement ¶ 8; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 5. Ms. Audette remained Ms. Wang’s direct supervisor until August 2012. Pl.’s Statement 5, ¶ 42; accord Audette Dep. 16:22-17:3. Between October 2008 and August 2012, Ms. Audette prepared Ms. Wang’s yearly performance evaluations. Pl.’s Statement 5, ¶¶ 43-44; accord Audette Dep. 16:22-17:6.

         Ms. Wang received her 2009 performance evaluation from Ms. Audette on September 9, 2009. Def.’s Statement ¶ 8; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 5. In that evaluation, Ms. Audette gave Ms. Wang a “Needs Improvement” rating in ten of the thirteen categories in the evaluation. Def.’s Statement ¶ 8; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 5. Ms. Audette accordingly placed Ms. Wang on a corrective action plan, in which Ms. Wang received three and a half months to meet the goals specified in the plan. Def.’s Statement ¶ 8; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 5; id. at 19, ¶ 3; Def.’s Resp. Pl.’s Statement 7, ¶ 3, ECF No. 21-1 [hereinafter Def.’s Resp. Statement]. Ms. Wang successfully completed the tasks specified in the plan. Pl.’s Statement 19, ¶ 4; Def.’s Resp. Statement 7, ¶¶ 2, 4. Ms. Wang received a satisfactory performance evaluation in 2010, and she received a “competent” or “exceeds expectations” rating for each metric in her 2011 and 2012 performance evaluations. Am. Compl. ¶ 38; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 38; Pl.’s Statement 14, ¶ 25; Def.’s Resp. Statement 5, ¶ 24.

         2. IFO Project

         In 2010, while Ms. Audette was Ms. Wang’s supervisor, WMATA began work with a contractor named Metaformers on a project titled the PeopleSoft Integrated Finance Organization Project, or the “IFO Project.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 50, 54 (indicating that WMATA awarded Metaformers the contract for the IFO Project in July 2010); Answer Am. Compl. ¶¶ 50, 54 (same); Pl.’s Statement 5, ¶ 43 (indicating that Ms. Audette was Ms. Wang’s supervisor in 2010); Audette Dep. 16:22-17:3 (same). Supported by about five million dollars in federal stimulus funds, the IFO Project sought to upgrade, restructure, and bring new modules into the PeopleSoft Enterprise software that WMATA’s financial departments used. Def.’s Statement ¶ 75; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 24; id. at 55-56, ¶¶ 1-2; Def.’s Resp. Statement 15, ¶¶ 1-2. One of the IFO Project’s major goals was to eliminate manual communication between different modules by allowing the modules to be integrated together. Def.’s Statement ¶ 79; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 28. To that end, for instance, the IFO Project integrated WMATA’s Project Costing accounting system with WMATA’s PeopleSoft Financial system. Am. Compl. ¶ 113; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 113.

         The IFO Project proceeded in stages: a design phase came first, followed by a testing phase, then an implementation phase, and finally a maintenance phase. Def.’s Statement ¶ 76; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 25. During the course of the project, a “Project Team” of WMATA employees (“leads”) worked full-time on the IFO Project alongside Metaformers. Def.’s Statement ¶ 77; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 26. But regardless of WMATA employees’ Project Team membership, WMATA required everyone in its Office of Accounting to contribute to the IFO Project. Def.’s Statement ¶ 78; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 27. Thus, although Ms. Wang and her staff were not Project Team members, they were “subject-matter experts” for IFO Project purposes, because they used the modules that the IFO Project upgraded. Def.’s Statement ¶ 77; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 26.

         While work for the IFO Project was ongoing, it was Ms. Wang’s group’s top priority. Pl.’s Statement 57, ¶ 13; Def.’s Resp. Statement 16, ¶ 13. Ms. Wang helped the Project Team with the design and testing for software used in Ms. Wang’s areas of responsibility. Pl.’s Statement 57, ¶ 11; Def.’s Resp. Statement 16, ¶ 11. For instance, during the testing phase, Metaformers would produce testing kits, and Ms. Wang would organize her staff so that affected staff members could use the kits to test affected modules. Def.’s Statement ¶ 80; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 29. Because she did not believe she could do all the testing herself, Ms. Wang relied on her staff to test the modules: she assigned testing tasks and monitored her staff’s performance and completion of the tasks. Def.’s Statement ¶ 80; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 29; id. at 57-58, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 16, ¶ 14. Throughout the IFO Project, at the end of each accounting period, Ms. Wang was responsible for ensuring that all accounts’ transactions were properly completed, and that fiscal years and accounting periods closed in a timely manner. Am. Compl. ¶ 94; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 94.

         As the IFO Project went on, however, extensive data issues arose that required manual interventions, data deletions, and data corrections. Am. Compl. ¶ 109, Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 109. In September 2012, for instance, the IFO Project created a $26 million erroneous billing entry, which Ms. Audette asked Ms. Wang to correct. Pl.’s Statement 60, ¶ 28; Def.’s Resp. Statement 17, ¶ 28 (declining to dispute this fact). After Ms. Wang refused to correct the entry because she claimed that she lacked supporting documentation for the correction, Ms. Audette asked one of Ms. Wang’s staff members to correct the entry, because Ms. Audette believed that the correction did have supporting documentation. Pl.’s Statement 60, ¶¶ 28-29; Def.’s Resp. Statement 17, ¶¶ 28-29.

         Ms. Wang raised issues with the IFO Project’s implementation in emails to Ms. Audette and others in October 2011, in a meeting in November 2011, and in an email in July 2012. Pl.’s Statement 58-60, ¶¶ 19, 25; Def.’s Resp. Statement 16-17, ¶¶ 19, 25. The issues meant that WMATA never completed a design that allowed automated integration of assets. Pl.’s Statement 62, ¶ 35; Def.’s Resp. Statement 17, ¶ 35. By July 2012, the issues were well-known and widely discussed. Def.’s Statement ¶ 95; Pl.’s Statement 5, ¶ 35. Despite the group efforts taken to resolve the issues, they persisted for years after the upgraded software’s implementation. Am. Compl. ¶ 118; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 118; Pl.’s Statement 57, ¶ 9; Def.’s Resp. Statement 15, ¶ 9.

         C. Ms. Wang’s Year Under Mr. Greaves’s Supervision (2012-2013)

         1. Supervisory Structure

         In August 2012, WMATA hired Ian Greaves to become its Assistant Comptroller, a newly created position that reported to Ms. Audette. Def.’s Statement ¶ 11; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 6; id. at 6, ¶ 49; see also Greaves Dep. 15:3-5, Pl.’s Statement Ex. 3, ECF No. 20-5 (noting that Ms. Audette was Mr. Greaves’s supervisor). Mr. Greaves became Ms. Wang’s direct supervisor, as well as the supervisor for WMATA employees in five other positions in the Office of Accounting: (1) Jessie Li, the Accounts Payable Manager;[4] (2) Colleen Clancy, the Asset Management Supervisor; (3) the Financial System Manager, a position that was vacant at the time; (4) Fawzia Hafeez, the Financial Analysis Manager; and (5) Jamette Williams, the Project Costing Manager. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 11-12; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶¶ 6-7; id. at 6-7, ¶¶ 53, 56; see also Greaves Dep. 18:18-21:7 (noting the various employees that reported to Mr. Greaves). Of the five managers reporting to Mr. Greaves in 2012, at least four were women. Def.’s Statement ¶ 12; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 7. Ms. Li, like Ms. Wang, was Chinese-American and was not a native English speaker. Def.’s Statement ¶ 12; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 7. And Ms. Hafeez was not born in the United States. Def.’s Statement ¶ 12; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 7.

         When Mr. Greaves became Ms. Wang’s supervisor, Ms. Wang herself supervised three employees: (1) Shawn Brown, the General Ledger Supervisor; (2) Dale Dixon, the Accounts Receivable Supervisor; and (3) Francisco Julia, a Financial Analyst. Pl.’s Statement 7, ¶ 58; accord Greaves Dep. 39:8-40:6. Ms. Brown was an African-American woman. Pl.’s Statement 44, ¶ 3; Def.’s Resp. Statement 12-13, “Page 44 of 63, ” ¶ 3.

         2. Performance Evaluation

         On February 1, 2013, Mr. Greaves issued Ms. Wang her 2012 performance evaluation. Am. Compl. ¶ 46; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 46. Ms. Wang received a “competent” rating in many areas, including interpersonal skills, and an “exceeds expectations” rating for customer focus, decisionmaking, and innovation. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-48; Answer Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-48. Because Mr. Greaves had only recently joined WMATA, the performance evaluation included comments from both Ms. Audette and Mr. Greaves. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 27-28; Pl.’s Statement 2-3; ¶¶ 10-11. Ms. Audette noted that Ms. Wang needed to continue to improve her communication skills, and that Ms. Wang “ha[d] good ideas but need[ed] to make them clear to her team and peers.” Def.’s Statement ¶ 28; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 11. Mr. Greaves’s sole comment on Ms. Wang’s evaluation stated that

Amy is cooperative and willing to work with new management. Amy can continue to improve her performance by administering appropriate review of all journal entries to ensure transactions are accurate and properly supported. Amy should also seek to broaden her knowledge of the basic financial statements. Finally, Amy needs to make an avid effort to enhance her communication skills.

Def.’s Statement Ex. 9, at 280, ECF No. 19-11 (reproducing Ms. Wang’s performance evaluation); accord Def.’s Statement ¶ 27; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 10; id. at 16, ¶ 35; Def.’s Resp. Statement 5, ¶ 35.

         3. IFO Project

         Mr. Greaves and Ms. Wang had one discussion about IFO Project issues relating to WMATA’s Asset Management module. Def.’s Statement ¶ 92; Pl.’s Statement 4, ¶ 33. In July 2013, Ms. Wang alerted Mr. Greaves to instances in which software improperly “pulled” data from WMATA’s operating inventory expense account, instead of from WMATA’s capital transactions account, into the Asset Management module. Pl.’s Statement 59, ¶ 20; Def.’s Resp. Statement 16, ¶ 20. Ms. Wang created a spreadsheet with short-term and long-term items, including additional staff training, that she thought would address the problems. Pl.’s Statement 59, ¶ 20; Def.’s Resp. Statement 16, ¶ 20. Ms. Wang gave her list of solutions to Mr. Greaves, and Mr. Greaves gave that list to one of the IFO Project Team leads. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 92-93; Pl.’s Statement 4-5, ¶¶ 33-34.

         D. Events Leading to Ms. Wang’s Termination

         1. Meeting About Mr. Julia’s Transfer (September 5, 2013)

         Until September 5, 2013, Ms. Wang described her relationship with Mr. Greaves as “fine” and “okay.” Def.’s Statement ¶ 16; Pl.’s Statement 2, ¶ 8. On September 5, Mr. Greaves held a meeting with Ms. Wang, the Financial Control Manager; Ms. Li, the Accounts Payable Manager; Mr. Dixon, the Accounts Receivable Supervisor; and Mr. Julia, the Financial Analyst who reported to Ms. Wang. Am. Compl. ¶ 121; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 121. At the meeting, Mr. Greaves issued a “directive to allocate the duties currently performed by Francisco [Julia] to the Accounts Receivable (AR) staff.” Am. Compl. ¶ 140 (reproducing Mr. Greaves’s written account of what transpired at the meeting); Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 140 (admitting that the text reflects Mr. Greaves’s written account). Although the parties dispute what else occurred during that meeting, they do not dispute that, after the meeting and on that same day, Mr. Greaves prepared a written warning to give to Ms. Wang. Def.’s Statement ¶ 32; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 12; cf., e.g., Def.’s Statement ¶ 30 (alleging that “Ms. Wang yelled, interrupted, and shouted” during the meeting); Pl.’s Statement 21-22, ¶¶ 3-4 (alleging that Ms. Wang “did not raise her voice and was not disrespectful or insubordinate, ” and that Mr. Greaves “was angry and did not want to listen to” Ms. Wang’s concerns).

         The record shows that Ms. Wang emailed Ms. Audette at 3:57 PM on September 5, 2013 after the meeting with Mr. Greaves. See Pl.’s Statement Ex. 17, ECF No. 20-19 (reproducing the email); accord Am. Compl. ¶ 134. In her email, Ms. Wang stated that Mr. Greaves “called a meeting and told [Ms. Wang] that he was taking [Mr. Julia]” and moving him to another WMATA component, and so Ms. Wang “would have to assume all of [Mr. Julia’s] responsibilities.” Pl.’s Statement Ex. 17. Ms. Wang further stated that “[she] felt that [she was] being taken advantage of because [she does] not complain and just get[s] the job done.” Id. She concluded by stating that “[she was] not sure about [her] next step, ” but hoped to discuss the matter with Ms. Audette at Ms. Audette’s convenience. Id.

         The record further shows that, within an hour of when Ms. Wang sent her email to Ms. Audette, Mr. Greaves learned about Ms. Wang’s September 5 email because Ms. Audette had forwarded the email to Mr. Greaves. See Def.’s Statement Ex. 12/13, at 488-89, ECF No. 19-14 (showing that Ms. Audette forwarded Ms. Wang’s email to Mr. Greaves at 4:31 PM, and that Mr. Greaves replied to Ms. Audette at 4:43 PM). In Mr. Greaves’s 4:43 PM reply to Ms. Audette, sent immediately after he received a copy of Ms. Wang’s email, Mr. Greaves alleged that Ms. Wang was “mischaracterizing the event in an attempt to create a case.” Id. at 488. Mr. Greaves replied to Ms. Audette’s email once more that day at 6:20 PM. See Id. at 487-88. In his second reply, Mr. Greaves provided six enumerated responses to what he characterized as Ms. Wang’s “allegations.” Id. As one of his responses, he wrote to Ms. Audette that “[s]aying words like angrily, abruptly, and advantage as you know are words Amy [Wang] is documenting to develop a case.” Id. at 488.

         2. First Written Warning (September 6, 2013)

         The next day, Mr. Greaves and Ms. Wang argued about another issue: whether to train Mr. Dixon (in addition to Ms. Wang’s other supervisee, Ms. Brown) about the month-end closing process. Pl.’s Statement 25-26, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 8-9, “Page 25 of 63, ” ¶ 1. On September 6, Mr. Greaves also delivered to Ms. Wang the written warning he had prepared the day before. Def.’s Statement ¶ 32; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 12. The warning, reproduced in full below, stated that Ms. Wang had been insubordinate in the meeting held on September 5, 2013:

This memo is to issue a disciplinary warning as a result of an act of insubordination you committed on September 5, 2013 . . . during a department planning meeting that was conducted in my office. The meeting participants were Francisco Julia, Jessie Li, Dale Dixon, Amy Wang (you), and Ian Greaves (me).
You disagreed with my directive to allocate the duties currently performed by Francisco to the Accounts Receivable (AR) staff, thereby realigning the AR branch responsibilities. In addition to emphatically defying a directive, you ignored multiple verbal warnings and continuously interrupted the discussion. I attempted to give you a more confidential setting to express your concerns by dismissing the staff and inviting only Tywanda Diggs to the meeting. Yet, you continued to disrupt that session as well.
Your behavior as a manager in the presence of peers and your subordinates was unprofessional. As a manager, you are in a trusted position where a higher level of accountability is expected of you to conduct yourself as a professional and serve as a role model for your subordinates.
Further displays of insubordinate behavior will not be tolerated and can result in further disciplinary action up to and including termination, Metro/Policy Instruction 7.8.5, Disciplinary Actions.
Again, please provide the realignment of duties as requested by 5:00 PM Friday, September 13, 2013.

Def.’s Statement Ex. 11, ECF No. 19-13.

         The parties agree that the written warning neither terminated Ms. Wang’s employment nor changed her benefits, salary, or title. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 34, 43; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶¶ 13, 15. During the encounter between Mr. Greaves and Ms. Wang, however, Ms. Wang had the impression of being terminated. Pl.’s Statement 26-27, ¶ 3; Def.’s Resp. Statement 8-9, “Page 25 of 63, ” ¶ 3. Specifically, Ms. Wang alleges that, during their September 6 conversation, (1) Mr. Greaves began to “yell and scream”; (2) Ms. Wang told him that, because of his yelling and screaming, Mr. Greaves “seem[ed] to abuse [his] authority”; (3) Mr. Greaves replied that “[a]buse would be a word you would tell a lawyer”; (4) Ms. Wang replied “[m]aybe”; and (5) Mr. Greaves became very excited, pointed his finger to Ms. Wang’s nose, and said “You’re fired. You’re fired. You’re fired immediately.” Wang Dep. 194:3-7, 206:2-6, 212:10-214:20, Pl.’s Statement Ex. 1, ECF No. 20-3. Mr. Greaves admits that Ms. Wang may have mentioned that she might retain an attorney, but he generally disagrees with Ms. Wang’s version of events and contends that he has never yelled at Ms. Wang. Greaves Dep. 147:16-150:18, Pl.’s Statement Ex. 3, ECF No. 20-5.

         Thomas Vu, a WMATA employee who had an office adjacent to Ms. Wang’s, recalls an occasion “early in the morning, ” about two weeks before WMATA fired Ms. Wang, when Mr. Vu “heard a lot of shouting and voice raising” coming from Ms. Wang’s office, as well as Mr. Greaves saying “You’re fired” and “You’re fired immediately.” Pl.’s Statement 27-28, ¶¶ 5-8; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, ¶¶ 5-8. Mr. Vu also recalled that Ms. Wang responded by saying “This is not professional” in a lower tone. Pl.’s Statement 27-28, ¶¶ 5-6; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, ¶¶ 5-6.

         3. First OIG Visit (September 6, 2013)

         After the encounter in which Ms. Wang received the written warning from Mr. Greaves, Ms. Wang went to WMATA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Def.’s Statement ¶ 35; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 14; id. at 30, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶ 1. Ms. Wang sought out the OIG because she thought that the OIG was “in charge of abuse” and that Mr. Greaves had been harassing her. Pl.’s Statement 30, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶ 1. At the OIG, Ms. Wang reported that her supervisor had “yelled and screamed” at her and that she was scared. Pl.’s Statement 30, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶ 1. In an interview with OIG Special Agent Mark Coulter, Ms. Wang explained what had happened between Mr. Greaves and herself, beginning with the meeting when Mr. Greaves announced the plan to move Mr. Julia. Pl.’s Statement 30-31, ¶¶ 2, 4; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1-2, 4. See generally Def.’s Statement Ex. 15 (reproducing the audio file from Special Agent Coulter’s interview with Ms. Wang). Ms. Wang told Special Agent Coulter that, in the face of the disagreement between Mr. Greaves and Ms. Wang, Mr. Greaves’s immediate response was to tell Ms. Wang “You’re fired.” Pl.’s Statement 31, ¶ 6; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9-10, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1, 6. Ms. Wang also told Special Agent Coulter that she thought Mr. Greaves was treating her unfairly, that she had unsuccessfully tried to meet with Ms. Audette, and that overall she “was very unhappy in how she had been treated.” Pl.’s Statement 31-32, ¶¶ 3, 7; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9-10, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1, 3, 7.

         In response, Special Agent Coulter explained to Ms. Wang that, for terminations of employment, WMATA had specific procedures, which Mr. Greaves did not appear to have followed. Pl.’s Statement 31, ¶ 4; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1, 4. Thus, Special Agent Coulter advised Ms. Wang to stay at WMATA for the time being. Pl.’s Statement 30, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶ 1. Special Agent Coulter also told Ms. Wang that he would report the matter to his boss and that the OIG would investigate the incident. Pl.’s Statement 30, ¶ 1; id. at 31, ¶ 4; Def.’s Resp. Statement 9, “Page 30 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1, 4. After her interview with Special Agent Coulter, Ms. Wang emailed Special Agent Coulter and asked him to provide her with the contact information for WMATA’s “EEO office.” Def.’s Statement Ex. 18, ECF No. 19-18 (reproducing Ms. Wang’s email to Special Agent Coulter).

4. Communications with Ms. Audette and Mr. Greaves After First OIG Visit

         When Ms. Wang returned to her office after speaking with Special Agent Coulter at the OIG, she saw a note from Mr. Greaves. Pl.’s Statement 32-33, ¶ 12; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, ¶ 12. The note requested that Ms. Wang meet with Mr. Greaves and Ms. Audette before leaving the office for the day. Pl.’s Statement 33, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, ¶ 14. Mr. Greaves had also sent Ms. Wang an email, in which he stated that he and Ms. Audette wanted to “review expectations” with Ms. Wang, and that Ms. Wang would still be expected to report to work the following Monday. Pl.’s Statement 33, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, ¶ 14.

         Mr. Greaves then came to Ms. Wang’s office, escorted Ms. Wang to Ms. Audette’s office, and left the two in Ms. Audette’s office. Pl.’s Statement 33, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, ¶ 14. There, Ms. Wang told Ms. Audette that she was scared, threatened, and insulted by Mr. Greaves’s behavior. Pl.’s Statement 33, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, ¶ 14. Ms. Wang also told Ms. Audette that she had reported Mr. Greaves’s behavior to the OIG. Pl.’s Statement 33, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, ¶ 14.

         At some point later, Mr. Greaves heard a rumor that Ms. Wang may have complained to the OIG or WMATA’s human resources department. Pl.’s Statement 42, ¶ 1; id. at 43, ¶ 4; Def.’s Resp. Statement 12, “Page 42 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1, 4. Meanwhile, in emails on September 9, 2013, Mr. Greaves and Ms. Wang continued to argue about whether Ms. Wang should train Mr. Dixon to perform the month-end closing process. Pl.’s Statement 34-35, ¶¶ 1-3; Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, “Page 34 of 63, ” ¶¶ 1-3.

         5. Visit to WMATA’s Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources (September 11, 2013)

         On September 11, 2013, Ms. Wang visited WMATA’s Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources. Def.’s Statement ¶ 49; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 18. At the time, Lisa Johnson worked in the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Division of that office as an EEO Assistant/Coordinator. Def.’s Statement ¶ 50; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 19. Ms. Johnson was responsible for handling complaints involving discrimination claims; no one else in the EEO Division had those duties and responsibilities. Def.’s Statement ¶ 50; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 19; id. at 38, ¶ 11; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 11.

         The parties dispute what happened during Ms. Wang’s visit to the Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources: Ms. Wang alleges that she spoke first with Ms. Johnson, that Ms. Johnson said that a woman named Belinda Press would speak with Ms. Wang, that Ms. Wang told both Ms. Johnson and Ms. Press that she had come to file a discrimination complaint against Mr. Greaves, and that Ms. Press told Ms. Wang that Ms. Press would call Ms. Wang later to obtain the details of her complaint. See Pl.’s Statement 35-36, ¶¶ 2-3. WMATA disputes this version of events and contends that Ms. Press, as an Employee Relations Officer, would not have handled equal employment opportunity issues, but instead would have handled “discipline matters, performance issue matters, [and] peer-to-peer conflict issues.” Def.’s Statement ¶ 51; see also Def.’s Resp. Statement 10, “Page 35 of 63, ” ¶¶ 2-3 (disputing Ms. Wang’s version of events). But the parties do agree that, after the visit, Ms. Wang’s communications with the Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources were through Ms. Press. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 53-56; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 20; id. at 39, ¶¶ 14-15; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶¶ 14-15.

         Ms. Press was one of three Employee Relations Officers in WMATA’s Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources. Pl.’s Statement 8, ¶ 72; accord Press Dep. 11:13-12:6, Pl.’s Statement Ex. 9, ECF No. 20-11. After Ms. Wang visited WMATA’s Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources on September 11, 2013, Ms. Wang and Ms. Press exchanged emails that same day. Pl.’s Statement 39, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 14. Their email exchange that day ended with an email from Ms. Wang to Ms. Press, in which Ms. Wang sought to describe what had happened between Ms. Wang and Mr. Greaves: “I am able to give you the timelines now so you can see what happened, briefly. Please see the attachment. I am also attaching the desk duties of my staff that Ian [Greaves] wants to take away from my group. Thanks.” Pl.’s Statement 39, ¶ 14; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 14. Ms. Wang’s email listed attachments titled “Timelines.docx” and “Desk Procedures - Detailed - Francisco Julia.docx, ” which provided a timeline of Ms. Wang’s interactions with Mr. Greaves between September 5, 2013 and September 9, 2013, as well as a description of Mr. Julia’s duties. Pl.’s Statement 39, ¶ 15; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 15; see also Pl.’s Statement Ex. 22, ECF No. 20-24 (reproducing Ms. Wang’s email and the accompanying attachments). Ms. Wang and Ms. Press also had one conversation by phone. Def.’s Statement ¶ 53; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 20.

         6. Second Written Warning and Corrective Action Plan (September 11, 2013)

         On September 11, 2013, the same day as Ms. Wang’s visit to WMATA’s Office of Civil Rights and Human Resources, Ms. Wang received a second written warning from Mr. Greaves. Def.’s Statement ¶ 47; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 16. The second warning, reproduced in full below, addressed Mr. Greaves and Ms. Wang’s September 6, 2013 encounter, Ms. Wang’s communication skills, and Ms. Wang’s performance issues:

This memo serves as a written warning for professional misconduct and performance regarding behaviors you exhibited on Friday, September 6, 2013 as well as on-going lack of follow-up on action items requested by management.
At about 9 AM on Friday, September 6, 2013, I attempted to give you a verbal and written warning for your insubordinate behavior during a staff meeting on Thursday, September 5, 2013. Your actions during and following my attempt to issue that warning clearly demonstrated to me that you had no remorse for your behavior. You continuously talked while I was speaking to you and refused to stop when I asked you to do so. This confirmed your lack of regard and respect for me and my office.
Later that morning you had an opportunity to speak with Stephanie [Audette] and me in my office, and yet again, you continuously interrupted me while I attempted to discuss expectations for you to train your supervisors on month-end closing procedures.
As part of your 2013 performance goals, I requested that you take action to improve your communication. Since the issuance of your 2013 goals, we have had more than one meeting (i.e. June 7, 2013 1-n-1 and Feb 1, 2013 goals discussion) in which I reiterated your need to fulfill this goal. As a manager you are expected to communicate effectively and properly to everyone including all WMATA personnel and business partners. I noted this in your 2012 annual performance review and your 2013 performance goals.
To date you have made no progress as indicated by your email correspondence and discussions with me. Moreover, you do not display a willingness to make any improvement. Your insubordination to me and your lack of respect for your own subordinates (as indicated by your emails to your staff) substantiate this observation.
These behaviors cannot be tolerated and once again, this memo is to inform you that you are being placed on verbal and written warning. Over the next 30 days, I will review and evaluate your behavior in this manner. I will also work with you if you require additional support to rectify your conduct. If the aforementioned behavior and performance persists and/or does not improve, it could result in further disciplinary action(s), up to and including dismissal (termination).

Def.’s Statement Ex. 16, ECF No. 19-16. This warning, like the first warning, did not change Ms. Wang’s benefits, salary, or title. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 47-48; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶¶ 16-17.

         As prefaced in the warning, Mr. Greaves placed Ms. Wang on a thirty-day corrective action plan at the same meeting in which he issued the warning. Pl.’s Statement 40, ¶ 18; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 18; see also Def.’s Statement ¶ 64 (indicating that the plan lasted thirty days); Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 22 (same). See generally Def.’s Statement Ex. 20, ECF No. 19-20 (reproducing the corrective action plan). The plan outlined goals for Ms. Wang to perform, with the purported overall purpose of improving her performance so that it would become “competent.” Am. Compl. ¶ 173; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 173.

         7. OIG Communications and Second OIG Visit (September 22-24, 2013)

         On September 22, 2013, during the thirty-day corrective action plan period, Ms. Wang emailed Special Agent Coulter in WMATA’s OIG about her situation. Pl.’s Statement 41, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 1. Ms. Wang told Special Agent Coulter that she had been placed on a corrective action plan after telling Ms. Audette that she had complained to the OIG. Pl.’s Statement 41, ¶ 2; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 2. She also told Special Agent Coulter that the corrective action plan was “reprisal for speaking with the [O]IG” and that she was “being discriminated against because of [her] age, race and gender.” Pl.’s Statement 41, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 1.

         In response, Special Agent Coulter told Ms. Wang to seek outside counsel, and Ms. Wang responded that she had already hired an attorney. Pl.’s Statement 41, ¶ 1; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 1. Special Agent Coulter also interviewed Ms. Wang a second time, on September 24, 2013. Pl.’s Statement 41, ¶ 3; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 3. See generally Def.’s Statement Ex. 15 (reproducing the audio file from Special Agent Coulter’s second interview with Ms. Wang). During that interview, Ms. Wang stated that she had also contacted WMATA’s Office of Civil Rights. Pl.’s Statement 41, ¶ 4; Def.’s Resp. Statement 11, ¶ 4.

         8. EEOC Charge (October 2, 2013)

         Ms. Wang filed a Charge of Discrimination against WMATA with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on October 2, 2013. Am. Compl. ¶ 24; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 24; Pl.’s Statement 41-42, ¶ 6; Def.’s Statement 11, “Page 41 of 63, ” ¶ 6. Her Charge alleged that WMATA subjected her to ongoing discrimination because of her race and gender, and that WMATA was retaliating against her because she opposed the discrimination. Pl.’s Statement 41-42, ¶ 6; Def.’s Statement 11, “Page 41 of 63, ” ¶ 6.

         9. Termination (October 10, 2013)

         On October 10, 2013, WMATA terminated Ms. Wang’s employment as WMATA’s Financial Control Manager. Def.’s Statement ¶¶ 1, 72; Pl.’s Statement 1, ¶ 1; id. at 3, ¶ 23. Ms. Wang’s termination letter cited Ms. Wang’s unsatisfactory performance on her corrective action plan:

The results of the [corrective action plan] in summary are as follows: Two of ten deliverables (Items number 1 and 6) met the expected deadline. One ongoing goal (Item number 2) has not been met. Moreover, all but items 1 and 6 required repeated instruction and direction on how to complete. Additionally, when deliverables were re-submitted for rating, the work products did not meet the requirements.

Def.’s Statement Ex. 1, ECF No. 19-3. At the time of Ms. Wang’s termination, problems with the IFO Project persisted. Am. Compl. ¶ 120; Answer Am. Compl. ¶ 120; see also supra Parts II.B.2, II.C.3 (recounting the problems WMATA experienced with the IFO Project). WMATA received a copy of Ms. Wang’s EEOC Charge after Ms. Wang was terminated. Def.’s Statement ¶ 61; Pl.’s Statement 3, ¶ 21.

         E. Procedural History

         After exhausting administrative remedies, Ms. Wang filed suit against WMATA in this Court. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-27; Answer Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24-27. Ms. Wang claims that WMATA violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964[5] by discriminating against her on the basis of her national origin, race, and sex. See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 195-210. She further claims that WMATA violated Title VII by retaliating against her in response to her opposition to that discrimination. See Id. ¶¶ 211-220. Lastly, Ms. Wang claims that WMATA retaliated against her in violation of the whistleblower provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).[6] See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 221-230.

         WMATA now moves for summary judgment on all of Ms. Wang’s claims. See Def.’s Mot. Summ. J., ECF No. 19. For Ms. Wang’s Title VII discrimination and retaliation claims, WMATA argues that, among other reasons for summary judgment, WMATA had legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for terminating Ms. Wang’s employment: namely, a “history of performance complaints, ” which included Ms. Wang’s failure, in WMATA’s view, to meet the expectations of her position as expressed in her final corrective action plan. See Def.’s Mem. P. & A. Supp. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. 8-30, ECF No. 19-1 [hereinafter Def.’s Mem.]. For Ms. Wang’s ARRA retaliation claim, WMATA argues that (1) Ms. Wang cannot establish that any whistleblowing disclosures she made were related to funds specified in the ARRA, (2) Ms. Wang did not make disclosures that the ARRA’s whistleblower provision protects, and (3) Ms. Wang cannot show that any protected disclosures caused her termination. See Id. at 30-38. Before discussing the merits of WMATA’s summary judgment motion, the Court reviews the applicable legal standard.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court must grant summary judgment 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). A “material” fact is one capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” if there is enough evidence for a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-movant. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). The inquiry under Rule 56 is essentially “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

         The principal purpose of summary judgment is to determine whether there is a genuine need for trial by disposing of factually unsupported claims or defenses. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). The movant bears the initial burden of identifying portions of the record that demonstrate the absence of any genuine issue of material fact. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. In response, the non-movant must point to specific facts in the record that reveal a genuine issue that is suitable for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1); Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The non-movant may not rest upon mere ...


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