United States District Court, District of Columbia
CECILY M. MORGAN, Plaintiff,
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION RE DOCUMENT NO. 8
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
in part and Denying in part Defendant's Motion for
Ms. Cecily M. Morgan was hired by the Washington Metropolitan
Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to manage a grant. After
several tumultuous months, she was terminated. Ms. Morgan
brought this suit alleging discrimination claims of a hostile
work environment (Count 1) and discriminatory termination
(Count 2) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Currently before the Court is WMATA's motion for summary
reasons discussed in this opinion, the Court grants summary
judgment to WMATA on Ms. Morgan's hostile work
environment claim, and denies WMATA summary judgment on Ms.
Morgan's discriminatory termination claim.
summary judgment, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is
to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be
drawn in his [or her] favor.” Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). For purposes of
this motion, the Court believes Ms. Morgan's evidence and
draws inferences in her favor when the parties
Cecily Morgan, an African-American woman, Compl. ¶ 4,
ECF No. 1, began working at WMATA on June 10, 2013 with the
job title “Transit Works Project Manager, ”
Def.'s Statement of Mat. Facts Not in Dispute (Def.'s
Mat. Facts) ¶ 1, ECF No. 8-2. Ms. Morgan had received a
B.S. from the University of Maryland at College Park and an
M.B.A. from the University of Maryland University College,
and had previously worked with “a variety of federal
contractors and grantees.” Compl. ¶ 6. Ms. Morgan
was hired after an interview with Linda Stoffregen and Rhoda
Beachum. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 3; Morgan Dep. at
22:5-6, ECF No. 8-4.
Stoffregen, a Caucasian woman, directed WMATA's
Operations Management Services division and served as Ms.
Morgan's direct supervisor throughout her time at WMATA.
Compl. ¶ 7; see Def.'s Mat. Facts
¶¶ 2, 4. Ms. Stoffregen supervised five people: Ms.
Morgan; Kristen Janes, a Caucasian woman; Rhoda Beachum, an
African-American woman; Linda Everest, a Caucasian woman; and
Gill Lot, a Caucasian man. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 5.
Ms. Beachum retired a few months after Ms. Morgan began
working. See Beachum Dep. at 5:19-6:10, ECF No. 8-7
(stating that Ms. Beachum's last day at work was July 31,
2013 and her official retirement date was September 1, 2013).
Mr. Lott, who is of particular interest in this litigation,
was the Training Manager responsible for WMATA's
instructors and was a “peer” of Ms. Morgan's.
Stoffregen Dep. 104-05, ECF No. 8-5; OPMS Organizational
Chart, ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 2.
provides transit service to the Washington metropolitan area.
Compl. ¶ 5. Ms. Morgan's job was to manage a newly
received federal grant, the Transit Works Grant. Def.'s
Mat. Facts ¶ 1. The granted provided funding for WMATA
to train high school students and veterans for careers in
transit. Def''s Mat. Facts ¶ 7. Ms. Morgan began
work with a one-year probationary period. Def.'s Mat.
Facts ¶ 6.
Morgan describes an unpleasant workplace due to rude
treatment by Ms. Stoffregen. According to Ms. Morgan,
“most of her discussions with me were very sharp in
tone, she would never let me finish a statement, she talked
over me, she would point at me, she would talk very loudly to
me, she would point at the table as she spoke with me, and
that was far different than when other senior managers spoke
with her.” Morgan Dep. at 38:12-18, ECF No. 11-1.
See also Morgan Dep. 43:20-21 (describing Ms.
Stoffregen as “extremely belligerent and nasty with
me”); Morgan Decl. ¶ 29 (describing an incident in
which Ms. Stoffregen “continued to scream at me and
call me a liar”). Ms. Morgan also claims that Ms.
Stoffregen at times publicly ridiculed her for perceived work
failures, and once scheduled a meeting but then did not
attend. Morgan Decl. ¶¶ 16, 23. Ms. Morgan asserts
that this behavior was a form of discrimination based on
race. Compl. ¶ 13. Ms. Morgan does not assert that she
experienced any “racially insensitive comments,
language, jokes, or slurs.” Def.'s Mat. Facts
Ms. Morgan's Responsibilities
both parties agree that Ms. Morgan was hired to manage the
Transit Works Grant, they differ significantly on the precise
contours of that position. In particular, WMATA characterizes
Ms. Morgan's role as one with a great deal of
responsibility and autonomy, while Ms. Morgan emphasizes that
Ms. Stoffregen held ultimate authority, and, in fact,
reversed several of her decisions.
Transit Works Grant provided $795, 000 for WMATA to use
in training high school students and veterans for careers in
transit. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 7. Two high schools and
one veterans organization, the VETS Group,  participated.
Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 8. One of Ms. Morgan's key
tasks was completing the Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)
with each partner organization. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶
9. The MOUs describe the relationship between WMATA and its
partners, including the budget, schedule, and various
responsibilities of the organizations. VETS Group MOU, ECF
No. 11-10. WMATA spent money directly under the grant,
including hiring instructors and at least a portion of Ms.
Morgan's salary. See, e.g., Transit Works
Program Budget, ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 5 (showing that WMATA would
seek reimbursement under the grant for a total of $214, 400
in technical instructors' salary and $100, 000 of the
project manager's salary); Transit Work Grant Budget, ECF
No. 8-3, Ex. 6 (same); Compl. ¶ 7 (stating that Ms.
Morgan's salary as a project manager was $125, 000). Each
of the partner groups also made expenditures under the grant,
such as providing transit stipends and time-in-class stipends
to participants. See, e.g., Transit Works Program
Budget, ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 5; Transit Work Grant Budget, ECF
No. 8-3, Ex. 6. The partner groups paid these expenses
out-of-pocket, and then submitted invoices to WMATA for
reimbursement. See Email from Joe Wynn to Linda
Stoffregen (Dec. 12, 2013), ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 11. WMATA was to
reimburse the partner organizations after it had validated
the invoices, and then WMATA itself would submit for
reimbursement from the Federal Transit Administration.
See Stoffregen Dep. at 18:4-19:9. Thus, both the
partner organizations and WMATA risked losing their own money
if reimbursement was denied. Helping the partner
organizations track their expenditures and get their invoices
approved, as well as ensuring that WMATA's records would
enable its ultimate reimbursement, was another of Ms.
Morgan's key tasks. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 9.
to WMATA, Ms. Morgan was “a ‘team of one'
responsible for management of all aspects” of the
grant, including the MOUs, invoices, and associated
documentation. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 9; see
also Stoffregen Dep. at 17-19, ECF No. 8-5. Ms. Morgan
agrees that “it was [her] job to prepare and get
approval of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) between WMATA
and its grant partners and then to see that training called
for under the grant was provided and that WMATA's
partners were compensated.” Pl.'s Mem. Opp'n
Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 1, ECF No. 11. Ms. Morgan
disputes the characterization of her role as a “team of
one, ” since she asserts that Ms. Stoffregen
“insisted on being the final authority on all
decisions” and “indiscriminately interfered when
[Ms. Morgan] attempted to resolve any matter.” Morgan
Decl. ¶ 10, ECF No. 11-1. Ms. Morgan's examples of
this interference include Ms. Stoffregen's inconsistent
decisions about whether students who left within the first
weeks could be replaced, Morgan Decl. ¶ 26, and Ms.
Stoffregen's several, contradictory decisions about
whether parking passes or travel reimbursements would be
provided to veterans who drove to the training site, Morgan
Decl. ¶ 25.
parties agree that Ms. Morgan “was not
responsible for the [grant's] curriculum or hiring of
instructors.” Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 11 (emphasis
added). WMATA asserts that Mr. Lott, another of Ms.
Stoffregen's direct reports, “hired and managed the
instructors” but had no other management role in the
grant. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 12. Ms. Morgan disagrees
with the last point, citing meetings that Mr. Lott attended
which covered issues including travel reimbursements, parking
passes, invoices, and the substitution of students. Pl.'s
Statement Genuine Issues (Pl.'s Mat. Facts) at 3, ECF No.
11-20; see also Morgan Decl. ¶¶ 25-26.
Morgan further asserts that she was not informed of all of
her supposed responsibilities because she never
“received a position description” or
“participate[d] in a written goal setting.”
Compl. ¶ 9. WMATA does not disagree, but points to a
written position description “available in WMATA's
Human Resources' Department and on WMATA's internal
intranet server [that] could be accessed by any WMATA
employee.” Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 10; see
also Job Description, ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 3 (describing the
responsibilities of a Project Manager, TA-25). Ms. Morgan
disputes that this job description applied to her
job, calling it “transparently false” due to a
variety of inaccuracies. Pl.'s Statement of Genuine
Issues (Pl.'s Mat. Facts) at 2-3. For example, the
manager of the description “carr[ies] out the
Authority's construction program” (no construction
was involved in managing the grant) and, unlike Ms. Morgan,
is a Professional Engineer with “a minimum of seven (7)
years demonstrated successful experience in overall technical
management with a large engineering and construction
project.” See Pl.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 2-3;
Job Description; Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 9. Nor does the
job description describe the responsibilities on which WMATA
and Ms. Morgan agree-such as executing the MOUs or
supervising the invoicing process. Job Description. Ms.
Morgan explains that she requested a position description and
regular meetings with Ms. Stoffregen, but Ms. Stoffregen said
the initial interview had conveyed the responsibilities and
refused to meet. Morgan Dep. 25:13-22, ECF No. 8-4.
WMATA's Reasons for Terminating Ms. Morgan
Morgan was terminated December 17, 2013, still within her
probationary year.Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 17. Ms. Morgan
asserts that she was fired as a form of discrimination based
on race. Compl. ¶ 15. WMATA avers that the termination was
performance based. WMATA's Termination Memorandum, signed
by Ms. Stoffregen and shown to Ms. Morgan when she was
discharged, states that “issues have continued to occur
during the last few months that demonstrate your inability to
perform the primary duties of [the] position” and that
“overall productivity has been unsatisfactory.”
Termination Mem., ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 1. The memorandum lists
one textual example and five bullet points, for a total of
six areas of poor performance. The six areas are:
 [A]llow[ing] the VETs Group to start training at
WMATA's  [f]acility on September 3, 2013 without a
signed MOU. . . .
 Failure to convey [a school's] decision on their
 Failure to effectively manage the grant and achieve
 Failure to provide guidance to the grant partners on
submission of invoices and required documentation.
 Failure to review and verify submitted invoices.
 Failure to demonstrate budgetary understanding and
Court reviews each of these areas in turn, combining (4) and
(5) because WMATA does not differentiate among its
Allowing Training to Begin Prior to Completion of the MOUs
first stated reason for terminating Ms. Morgan is that she
“allowed the VETs Group to start training at
WMATA's  [f]acility on September 3, 2013 without a
signed MOU.” Termination Mem., ECF No. 8-3, Ex. 1. Both
parties agree that the VETS Group did in fact begin training
on September 3, 2013. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 12;
Pl.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 5. The MOU was executed on
September 19, 2013. VETS Group MOU at 13, ECF No. 11-10. The
parties' accounts differ as to the surrounding
circumstances. According to WMATA, Ms. Stoffregen
“discovered” the issue on September 3.
Termination Mem. This language of “discovery”
suggests that Ms. Stoffregen was previously unaware that
training started without an MOU. Ms. Morgan disputes this
assertion, claiming that she warned Ms. Stoffregen in
mid-August that the MOU was delayed and might not be
completed before the date set for starting training. Morgan
Decl. ¶ 16. According to Ms. Morgan, Ms. Stoffregen was
actually involved in trying to fix the delays in the legal
department by emailing them to “HELP.” Morgan
Decl. ¶ 16. Furthermore, Ms. Morgan argues that it was
Ms. Stoffregen who “allowed” the VETS
Group to start without the MOU, because Ms. Stoffregen
replied to the warning about the MOU that “the start
date was not to be altered under any
circumstances.” Morgan Decl. ¶ 16. Finally, Ms.
Morgan argues that she had no set deadline to complete the
MOUs. See Morgan Dep. at 51:7-9 (“Q. Did Linda
give you any timetable or timeline as to when those MOUs
should have been completed? A. No.”); but see
Stoffregen Dep. at 42:20-43:4, ECF No. 11-2 (claiming that
she had articulated that “it was critical they were
signed before training started” on “[t]he first
or second day of [Ms. Morgan's] employ”).
Personally Notifying Ms. Stoffregen of Problems with an
second stated reason for terminating Ms. Morgan is that she
“[f]ail[ed] to convey [a school's] decision on
their previous [i]nstructor.” Termination Mem., ECF No.
8-3, Ex. 1. Although this reference is somewhat opaque, the
parties appear to agree on the relevant event. On September
26, 2013, Ms. Morgan and Mr. Lott learned that one of the
instructors hired by the grant program would not be accepted
by one of the high schools because the instructor had left
his previous job at the school under unharmonious
circumstances. Def.'s Mat. Facts ¶ 22. That
instructor had been hired by Mr. Lott. Stoffregen Dep.
99:20; Lott Dep. at 14-15, ECF No. 11-3. After this
discovery, Mr. Lott repeatedly assured Ms. Morgan that
he would discuss the issue with Ms. Stoffregen.
See Lott Dep. 66:13 (“I told Cecily [Morgan]
that I would tell Linda [Stoffregen].”); see
also Morgan Decl. ¶ 28. Ms. Morgan claims that she
immediately attempted to contact Ms. Stoffregen by phone, but
“she didn't return my call, nor did she answer the
phone.” Morgan Dep. 74:12-14. Ms. Morgan also stated
that she asked the school principal to “submit a memo
to Linda Stoffregen in writing” explaining the issue,
but he did not. Morgan Decl. ¶ 30(2). After these
attempts, Ms. Morgan stated that she left the next day for a
scheduled work conference in Chicago. Morgan Decl. ¶ 28.
When she returned the next week, it was to an irate Ms.
Stoffregen, who called her screaming to blame her for not
personally communicating the news and said she was a
“liar.” Morgan Decl. ¶ 29.
Stoffregen does not dispute that Mr. Lott promised to inform
her. See Stoffregen Dep. at 97:16-18 (agreeing that
“Gill Lott had told Ms. Morgan to not-that he would be
the one to tell me”). However, she stated that
“[she] blame[d] Ms. Morgan” because “Ms.
Morgan was responsible for the Transit Work Grant”
while “Mr. Lott was managing the instructors. He had
nothing to do with the Transit Work Grant management.”
Stoffregen Dep. at 105:4-19. Ms. Morgan objects to this
reasoning, arguing that it would be unreasonable for Ms.
Stoffregen to blame her for a problem related to instructor
hiring, when Mr. Lott, and not Ms. Morgan, was explicitly