United States District Court, District of Columbia
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
Sandra Marie Huckstep is a former employee of Defendant
Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
(“WMATA”). WMATA terminated Ms. Huckstep
following an accident between a WMATA bus that she was
operating and a passenger vehicle. Ms. Huckstep sued WMATA,
alleging that her termination was motivated by gender
discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act. Because no reasonable jury could find that WMATA
unlawfully discriminated against Ms. Huckstep due to her
gender, however, the Court will grant WMATA's motion for
FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Ms. Huckstep's Employment with WMATA
WMATA provides transit services in the Washington, D.C.
metropolitan area. See Compl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 1.
WMATA hired Ms. Huckstep as a Bus Operator Trainee on October
15, 2013, and she completed bus operator training on December
15, 2013, as part of a trainee class of thirty-five
individuals. See Def.'s Statement of Material
Facts Not in Dispute ¶¶ 1-3, ECF No. 9-13
[hereinafter “Def.'s SOMF”]; Pl.'s List
of Genuine Issues ¶ 1, ECF No. 10-1 [hereinafter
“Pl.'s LGI”]; see also Student Bus
Operator Chart at 1-2, Def.'s Ex. 1, ECF No. 9-2 (listing
Ms. Huckstep and her fellow training class members). WMATA
then hired Ms. Huckstep as a permanent bus operator and
assigned her to the Four Mile Run Bus Garage under the
supervision of Jeffrey Thompson. Huckstep Acc. Rep. at 1,
Def.'s Ex. 3, ECF No. 9-4 [hereinafter “Huckstep
Acc. Rep.”]; Def.'s SOMF ¶ 3-4. Upon her
assignment, Ms. Huckstep became a member of the Amalgamated
Transit Union Local 689 (“Local 689”). Def.'s
SOMF ¶ 5.
WMATA Standard Operating Procedures and Accident
member of Local 689, Ms. Huckstep is subject to the
provisions of the collective bargaining agreement
(“CBA”) between WMATA and the union. See
Affidavit of Dolores Proctor ¶ 5 [hereinafter
“Proctor Aff.”]; Def.'s SOMF ¶ 6;
Pl.'s LGI ¶ 1. Section 108 of the CBA governs the
“Probationary Period” during which WMATA may take
certain actions against new employees. See
Def.'s SOMF ¶ 6; see generally WMATA
Probationary Period Policy, Def.'s Ex. 4, ECF No. 9-5.
The probationary period lasts for ninety calendar days or
forty-five work days, whichever is longer. See WMATA
Probationary Period Policy at 1. During the probationary
period, WMATA may, “at its own discretion, discipline
or discharge any new employee, . . . and no grievance may be
claimed” by Local 689. Id. When a probationary
bus driver is involved in an accident, WMATA retains the
discretion to terminate the driver. See Def.'s
SOMF ¶ 7 (“There is no rule that a bus operator is
automatically terminated for having any accident within the
90 day probationary period.”); Proctor Aff. ¶ 6
(“At all times relevant, there was no rule that states
that a new bus operator is subject to automatic termination
for having any accident within their 90-day probationary
period.”); Pl.'s Answers to Interrog. at 2, ECF No.
10-2 (“For the first 90 days following completion of
training, all new WMATA bus drivers are on probation and any
accident may result in immediate
employs a set of Standard Operating Procedures
(“SOPs”) that govern how bus operators should
behave in specific situations. Cf. WMATA Guide to
Determining Preventable Accidents, Def.'s Ex. 6, ECF No.
9-7 [hereinafter “Guide to Preventable Acc.”]
(directing interviewers to use the Metrobus Standard
Operating Procedures when assessing the severity of
accidents). For example, the Defensive Driving SOP directs
drivers to “avoid all accidents in spite of the actions
of others or the presence of adverse driving
conditions.” See Huckstep Mem. of Dismissal at
2, Def.'s Ex. 2, ECF No. 9-3 [hereinafter “Mem. of
Dismissal”]. According to the Intersections SOP,
drivers must practice active driving techniques when crossing
intersections, including “mak[ing] complete
observations, ” keeping hands on the wheel at all
times, and scanning the intersection. Id. The
Operations SOP states that drivers must give themselves
“ample opportunity” to react to changing road
of its bus drivers is involved in an accident, WMATA
implements a standard evaluation and disciplinary process.
Proctor Aff. ¶ 7; WMATA Disciplinary Policy for
Preventable Accidents at 1, Def.'s Ex. 5, ECF No. 9-6
[hereinafter “Disciplinary Policy”]. After
performing an investigation into the accident, WMATA rates
the accident as either “Non-Preventable” or
“Preventable.” Disciplinary Policy at 1.
Non-Preventable accidents “occur despite every
reasonable action by the operator to avoid involvement in an
accident.” Id. After three Non-Preventable
Accidents, an employee must attend one day of training.
Id. at 2. Preventable accidents happen
“because the employee failed to do everything
reasonably expected of a trained professional to avoid
involvement in an accident.” Id. at 1.
accident is classified as Preventable, the incident is
further classified as either “Preventable-Minor”
or “Preventable-Major, ” which determines the
range of possible disciplinary actions. See id. at
1-2. WMATA has published an internal memo that assists
supervisors in further classifying Preventable
accidents. See generally Guide to
Preventable Acc. The guide lists examples of
Preventable-Minor and Preventable-Major accidents for
different types of accidents. Id. at 3. For example,
if another vehicle strikes a Metrobus that is proceeding
through an intersection with the right of way, the accident
will be rated Preventable-Minor. Id. If a Metrobus
strikes another vehicle as a result of failure to follow
street signs or control its speed, however, the accident will
be rated Preventable-Major. Id. While WMATA
specifies minimum disciplinary actions to be taken against
drivers involved in each type of accident, supervisors may
take “more severe action based on specific
circumstances.” Disciplinary Policy at 2; cf.
WMATA Department of Bus Services Employee's Handbook at
15, Def.'s Ex. 7, ECF No. 9-8 [hereinafter
“Employee's Handbook”] (stating that some
violations of WMATA policy are “more serious than
others and may result in suspension or even
dismissal upon the first offense” (emphasis
Ms. Huckstep's Accident 
January 29, 2014, during her probationary period, Ms.
Huckstep was driving Metrobus #2519 eastbound on Lee Highway
in Virginia. See Huckstep Acc. Rep. 2. Video footage
from a camera in the Metrobus showed Ms. Huckstep approaching
the intersection of Lee Highway and Kirkwood Drive, traveling
down an incline at a speed of 30 miles per hour. See
Mem. of Dismissal at 1; Huckstep Acc. Rep. at 2. As she drove
closer to the intersection, Ms. Huckstep stated that she
observed a line of cars on the westbound side of the street
waiting to make a left hand turn across the path of her bus.
See Huckstep Acc. Rep. at 2. Ms. Huckstep asserted
that the light turned from green to yellow as her bus
approached the intersection, but WMATA concluded during its
investigation that she had time to make a safe stop.
See Mem. of Dismissal at 1; cf. Huckstep
Acc. Rep. at 2 (citing Ms. Huckstep's statement that the
light was yellow “by the time [she] got to the stop
bar”). Although Ms. Huckstep reacted to the changed
traffic light by initially lowering her speed to 25 miles per
hour, she then accelerated to 37 miles per hour to try to
cross the intersection before the light turned red.
See Mem. of Dismissal at 1. WMATA found that, as Ms.
Huckstep accelerated through the intersection, she did not
look left or right to check for oncoming cars. See
Huckstep Acc. Rep. at 2.
Huckstep's bus crossed the intersection, Brian Mahoney,
the driver of one of the westbound vehicles waiting to turn
left, made a left turn in his Ford Explorer and entered the
southbound lane of Kirkwood Drive, crossing the path of Ms.
Huckstep's bus. See Id. at 2, 13-14. Ms.
Huckstep says that she determined that she could not make a
quick stop without throwing her passengers from their seats
and therefore attempted to avoid the accident by swerving,
although her accident report states that she “knew some
part of his vehicle was going to get hit.” See
Id. at 2, 5.
Huckstep's attempt was unsuccessful. The right front
corner bumper of the Metrobus collided with the right rear
side and tire of Mr. Mahoney's vehicle. See Id.
at 3, 14. The Metrobus incurred “minor damage”
(including damage to the signal light and bumper of the
Metrobus) and Mr. Mahoney's vehicle suffered
“moderate damage” (including two deployed
airbags, flat tires, broken windows, and a bent frame).
See Id. at 3. Mr. Mahoney complained of stomach and
back pain, but no other injuries were reported at the scene.
See Id. Arlington County Police responded and cited
Mr. Mahoney for “failure to yield the right [of]
way”; Ms. Huckstep was not issued a ticket. See
Id. at 3; Pl.'s LGI ¶ 5. Mr. Mahoney's
vehicle was towed and Ms. Huckstep was transported for a Post
Incident Medical Examination, see Huckstep Accident
Report at 16, 17-19. WMATA immediately placed her on paid
leave pending its investigation. See Id. at 11.
conclusion of the investigation, WMATA rated the accident as
Preventable-Major, citing Ms. Huckstep's violation of
several Standard Operating Procedures. See Mem.
of Dismissal at 1; see also Huckstep Acc. Rep. at
3-4 (specifying violations of SOPs governing defensive
driving, intersection operation, and observations);
Def.'s SOMF ¶¶ 11, 12 (describing the accident
and stating that Ms. Huckstep violated three SOPs). The
investigation found that Ms. Huckstep failed to operate the
Metrobus in accordance with the SOPs governing general
operations, operations at intersections, and defensive
driving. See Mem. of Dismissal at 2; Huckstep Acc.
Rep. at 3. Based on this finding, WMATA informed Ms. Huckstep
that she “failed to meet the high standards of WMATA
employees in the area of performance and safety.”
Def.'s SOMF ¶ 14; see also Mem. of
Dismissal at 2. Because of “her performance during her
probationary period, ” which included her accident, and
the violation of three SOPs during her accident, WMATA
terminated Ms. Huckstep's employment on February 11,
2014. Mem. of Dismissal at 2; see also Def.'s
SOMF ¶ 13.
Accidents of Other WMATA Drivers
the accidents of several comparator WMATA employees feature
prominently in Ms. Huckstep's opposition to summary
judgment, the Court briefly recounts the circumstances
surrounding those accidents.
Davis, Jr. is a male WMATA bus driver based out of the Four
Mile Run Garage (the same as Ms. Huckstep) and was a member
of Ms. Huckstep's training class. See Dan Davis,
Jr., Accident Report at 1-2, Def.'s Ex. 9, ECF No. 9-10
[hereinafter “Davis Acc. Rep.”]; Def.'s SOMF
¶ 19; Pl.'s LGI ¶ 1. On December 19, 2013, as
he was driving westbound on Good Hope Road S.E. just south of
14th Street, Mr. Davis made contact with the mirror of a
stopped Circulator bus. See Davis Acc. Rep. at 2.
Unaware of the accident, Mr. Davis continued driving. See
Id. Mr. Davis returned to the scene after Central
Communication contacted him and informed him of the contact
with the Circulator bus. See Id. Both buses
sustained minor damage and the police took an accident
report, but no charges were filed. See Id. After an
investigation, WMATA rated the accident
“Preventable-Minor, ” citing Mr. Davis'
failure to follow SOPs governing “Observation”
and “Passing Parked Vehicles or Fixed Objects.”
See Id. at 1-2. WMATA issued Mr. Davis a written
reprimand and required him to attend one day of training.
See Id. at 1-3.
December 30, 2013, Michael Coates, another male WMATA bus
driver based out of the Four Mile Run Garage and member of
Ms. Huckstep's training class, was driving a bus down
Broad Street on a route on which he had not been trained.
See Michael Coates Accident Report at 3, Def.'s
Ex. 8, ECF No. 9-9 [hereinafter “Coates Acc.
Rep.”]; Def.'s SOMF ¶ 18; Pl.'s LGI ¶
1. Mr. Coates missed his turn and attempted to turn around.
Coates Acc. Rep. at 3. As Mr. Coates was backing up, he
“misjudged [his] clearance” and made contact with
a lamp pole, knocking it over and causing a minor scratch on
the Metrobus. Id. Police responded and took a
report, although there were no injuries recorded at the
scene. Id. After an investigation, WMATA rated the
accident “Preventable-Minor, ” citing Mr.
Coates's failure to operate the bus in accordance with
SOPs relating to “Passing Parked Vehicles or Fixed
Objects, ” “Backing and Parking, ” and
“Observations.” Id. at 3-4. WMATA issued
Mr. Coates a written reprimand and required him to attend one
day of paid training. Id. at 1, 4. In its accident
report, WMATA noted that if Mr. Coates was “involved in
another accident while in his [90-day] probation [period],
” he would be terminated from employment. Id.
December 22, 2013, Marc Farmer, a male WMATA bus driver
assigned to the Montgomery Bus Division, and also a member of
Ms. Huckstep's training class, attempted to make a U-turn
on a side street after inadvertently going off-route.
See Marc Farmer Accident Report 2, Def.'s Ex.
11, ECF No. 9-12 [hereinafter “Farmer Acc.
Rep.”]; Def.'s SOMF ¶ 22; Pl.'s LGI ¶
1. During the attempted U-turn, the Metrobus tore sod on the
front lawn of a residence. See Farmer Acc. Rep. at
2. The Metrobus sustained no damage and no one was injured.
Id. Police responded, but no report was taken.
Id. After an investigation, WMATA rated the accident
“Preventable-Minor, ” directed Mr. Farmer to
review SOPs governing “Defensive Driving” and
“Making Proper Observations, ” issued him a
written reprimand, and assigned him training. Id. at
on January 11, 2014, another member of Ms. Huckstep's
training class, Jordan Butler, who was based out of the
Bladensburg Bus Division, was driving southbound on
Massachusetts Avenue south of E Street. Jordan Butler
Accident Report at 2, Def.'s Ex. 10, ECF No. 9-11
[hereinafter “Butler Acc. Rep.”]; Def.'s SOMF
¶ 21; Pl.'s LGI ¶ 1. Another Metrobus was
servicing the stop that Mr. Butler's bus was to service,
so he pulled ahead of the other Metrobus to access the stop.
Butler Acc. Rep. at 2. As he attempted to pull into the stop,
the right rear window of his bus made contact with the left
front mirror of the stopped Metrobus. Id. Each bus
sustained minor damage, but police were not called to the
scene. Id. After an investigation, WMATA ...