United States District Court, District of Columbia
COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY United States District Judge
Clifton Stanley Diaz filed suit against Defendant Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”)
alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 after he was terminated from his employment as a
probationary officer with WMATA's Metro Transit Police
Department (“MTPD”). Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant discriminated against him on the basis of his
national origin and sexual orientation. Presently before the
Court is Defendant's  Motion for Summary Judgment.
Upon consideration of the pleadings,  the relevant legal
authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court shall GRANT
Defendant's Motion. Plaintiff has not presented evidence
that would allow a reasonable juror to find that
Defendant's asserted non-discriminatory reason for
terminating Plaintiff was not Defendant's actual reason
for doing so.
Clifton Stanley Diaz was employed as a probationary recruit
police officer with the MTPD until his termination in 2013.
Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts Not in Dispute, ECF No.
[21-1] (“Def.'s Stmt.”), ¶¶ 1, 7.
In 2013, MTPD conducted an investigation into allegations
that Plaintiff had abandoned his Field Training Officer
(“FTO”) during a service call, returned to the
police station without said FTO, failed to submit his
paperwork for review by a supervising official, and failed to
check off with the official on duty before ending his shift.
Id. ¶ 4; see also Def.'s Stmt.,
Exs. 1, 2 (May 7, 2013 and May 27, 2013 MTPD Investigative
Reports outlining Plaintiff's alleged misconduct). As a
result of the investigation, MTPD charged Plaintiff with a
violation of its Ethical Standards of Conduct and Financial
Interest, General Order # 217, section III.A, number 3, which
states that “Members will respond promptly and
truthfully to all inquiries initiated by an official”
and “will not knowingly make false statements in any
written or verbal reports.” Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 5.
The MTPD subsequently terminated Plaintiff, effective June 1,
2013. Id. ¶ 7. According to Defendant,
Plaintiff was terminated as a result of this investigation
and due to his failure to satisfactorily complete his field
training program. Id. ¶ 6; see also
Def.'s Stmt., Ex. 3 (May 31, 2013 MTPD Field Training
Failure Notice summarizing “performance deficiencies
exhibited by Recruit Officer Clifton Diaz during his Field
has not presented evidence that rebuts the facts laid out
above, but claims that he was in fact discharged either
because he is Hispanic or because his superiors at WMATA
“perceived [him] to be gay.” Def.'s Stmt.,
Ex. 5 (Deposition of Clifton Stanley Diaz) at 18:6-12.
Plaintiff expounded on the basis for his claims at his
deposition. At that deposition, Plaintiff stated that he
“was the only Hispanic in [his] training group.”
Id. at 16:2-3. He further stated that “[t]he
Deputy Police Chief, Jeffrey Delinski, asked me if I had
girlfriends. When I responded no, he laughed and chuckled,
then discharged me.” Id. at 16:21-17:1.
Additionally, Plaintiff-who has repeatedly indicated that he
is a heterosexual-claims that he overheard two unidentified
peers at WMATA refer to him using a derogatory term for
homosexuals. Id. at 17:12-13, 19:3-4, 22:6-23:4.
Finally, Plaintiff stated that he was required to wear pants
that did not fit him. Id. at 17:13-20.
judgment is appropriate where “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). The mere existence of some factual
dispute is insufficient on its own to bar summary judgment;
the dispute must pertain to a “material” fact.
Id. Accordingly, “[o]nly disputes over facts
that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law will properly preclude the entry of summary
judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Nor may summary judgment be avoided
based on just any disagreement as to the relevant facts; the
dispute must be “genuine, ” meaning that there
must be sufficient admissible evidence for a reasonable trier
of fact to find for the non-movant. Id.
order to establish that a fact is or cannot be genuinely
disputed, a party must (a) cite to specific parts of the
record-including deposition testimony, documentary evidence,
affidavits or declarations, or other competent evidence-in
support of its position, or (b) demonstrate that the
materials relied upon by the opposing party do not actually
establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1). Conclusory assertions offered without
any factual basis in the record cannot create a genuine
dispute sufficient to survive summary judgment. See
Ass'n of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO v. Dep't
of Transp., 564 F.3d 462, 465-66 (D.C. Cir. 2009).
Moreover, where “a party fails to properly support an
assertion of fact or fails to properly address another
party's assertion of fact, ” the district court may
“consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the
motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).
faced with a motion for summary judgment, the district court
may not make credibility determinations or weigh the
evidence; instead, the evidence must be analyzed in the light
most favorable to the non-movant, with all justifiable
inferences drawn in his favor. Liberty Lobby, 477
U.S. at 255. If material facts are genuinely in dispute, or
undisputed facts are susceptible to divergent yet justifiable
inferences, summary judgment is inappropriate. Moore v.
Hartman, 571 F.3d 62, 66 (D.C. Cir. 2009). In the end,
the district court's task is to determine “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.” Liberty
Lobby, 477 U.S. at 251-52. In this regard, the
non-movant must “do more than simply show that there is
some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts, ”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); “[i]f the
evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly
probative, summary judgment may be granted.”
Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (internal
recognition of the difficulty in uncovering clear evidence of
discriminatory or retaliatory intent, the district court
should approach summary judgment in an action for employment
discrimination or retaliation with “special
caution.” Aka v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 116 F.3d
876, 879-80 (D.C. Cir. 1997), vacated on other
grounds, 156 F.3d 1284 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en
banc). Be that as it may, the plaintiff is not relieved
of his burden to support his allegations with competent
evidence. Brown v. Mills, 674 F.Supp.2d 182, 188
(D.D.C. 2009). As in any context, where the plaintiff would
bear the burden of proof on a dispositive issue at trial,
then at the summary judgment stage he bears the burden of
production to designate specific facts showing that there
exists a genuine dispute requiring trial. Ricci v.
DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557 (2009). Otherwise, the plaintiff
could effectively defeat the “central purpose” of
the summary judgment device-namely, “to weed out those
cases insufficiently meritorious to warrant . . .
trial”-simply by way of offering conclusory
allegations, speculation, and argument. Greene v.
Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999).
VII of the Civil Rights Act makes it unlawful for any
employer to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any
individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any
individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such
individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national
origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). To establish a
prima facie case under Title VII, a plaintiff must
show that he “is a member of a protected class, ”
that he “suffered an adverse employment action, ”
and that “the unfavorable action gives rise to an
inference of discrimination.” Youssef v.
F.B.I., 687 F.3d 397, 401 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (quoting
Stella v. Mineta, 284 F.3d 135, 145 (D.C. Cir.
represents himself pro se in this matter and his
pleadings are not a model of clarity. Accordingly, two
preliminary points must be made. First, Plaintiff appears to
allege in his Amended Complaint that he was discriminated
against based on his sexual orientation. Am. Compl., ECF No.
, at 5. However, “Title VII does not prohibit
discrimination based on sexual orientation or sexual
preference.” Schroer v. Billington, 424
F.Supp.2d 203, 208 (D.D.C. 2006). Accordingly, Plaintiff has
not established an actionable claim for discrimination based
on his sexual orientation. That being said, it is unclear from his
pleadings whether Plaintiff intended to additionally assert
claims for gender or sex-stereotyping, which could be
actionable. Assuming that Plaintiff did intend to plead such
claims, the Court explains further below why they would not
survive summary judgment.
although Plaintiff's pleadings include references to
various other conduct, the only actionable “adverse
employment action” Plaintiff has alleged in this case
is his termination. “[N]ot everything that makes an
employee unhappy is an actionable adverse action.”
Russell v. Principi, 257 F.3d 815, 818 (D.C. Cir.
2001). An adverse action must be “‘a significant
change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing
to promote, reassignment with significantly different
responsibilities, or a decision causing significant change in
benefits.'” Taylor v. Small, 350 F.3d
1286, 1293 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (quoting Burlington Indus.,
Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 761 (1998)). In this
case, other than Plaintiff's termination, the acts
complained of in Plaintiff's ...