United States District Court, District of Columbia
RICHARD J. LEON United States District Judge
Ranowsky ("plaintiff or "Ranowsky") brings
this action against the National Railroad Passenger
Corporation ("Amtrak"), Amtrak Inspector General
Tom Howard ("Howard"), and Chief Human Capital
Officer for the Amtrak Inspector General, Terry Gilmore
("Gilmore"). Ranowsky alleges that Amtrak
discriminated against her on the basis of her age and gender,
unlawfully terminated her from her position as Deputy Counsel
to the Amtrak Inspector General, and discriminated and
retaliated against her when it refused to rehire her at
Amtrak, all in violation of the District of Columbia Human
Rights Act ("DCHRA"), D.C. Code § 2-1401,
et seq., and § 2-1402.11, et seq.
Ranowsky further alleges that Howard and Gilmore aided and
abetted Amtrak's discriminatory and retaliatory conduct,
in violation of D.C. Code § 2-1402.62. Currently before
the Court is defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
[Dkt. #31], Upon consideration of the parties' pleadings,
the entire record in this case, and relevant law, the Court
GRANTS summary judgment in favor of defendants.
began her employment with Amtrak on July 21, 1997, as an
attorney in Amtrak's Law Department. Defs.' Statement
of Undisputed Material Facts ("Defs.' SOF")
¶ 5 [Dkt #31-2]; Ranowsky Dep. at 24:17-20 [Dkt. #31-3].
In April of 2002, Ranowsky became Deputy Counsel in the
Office of the Inspector General ("OIG"), where she
remained until her termination. Defs.' SOF ¶ 6;
Ranowsky Dep. at 24:19-22; 46:25-47:2. At all times,
defendants Terry Gilmore ("Gilmore") and Thomas
Howard ("Howard") were Chief Human Capital Officer
for the Amtrak Inspector General and Inspector General for
Amtrak, respectively. Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 12, 30;
PL's Statement of Material Facts Genuinely in Dispute
("PL's SOF") ¶¶ 12, 30 [Dkt. # 40].
November 18, 2014, Howard notified Ranowsky of her
termination in a letter which stated: "[t]his letter
serves as notification of the termination of your position as
Deputy Counsel for the Office of Inspector General with the
National Railroad Passenger Corporation, in accordance with
Amtrak's Policy and Instruction Manual (APIM) Human
Resources Policy 7.32.0[.] Termination will be effective
December 2, 2014." 11/18/14 Termination Letter at 1
[Dkt. #38-4]. The stated reason for the termination was
"loss of confidence" in Ranowsky's
"ability to perform in the role of Deputy Counsel."
Id. Her termination was designated as a
"reduction in force, " thereby making Ranowsky
eligible for a severance agreement not ordinarily available
to those employees who are involuntarily terminated unless
designated as a reduction in force. Defs.' SOF ¶ 34;
Gilmore Dep. at 33:12-18; 54:19-55:4 [Dkt. # 31-10]. Ranowsky
declined the package and later opted to collect early
retirement benefits, so her termination designation was
changed to "Early Retirement." Defs.' SOF
¶ 35; Gilmore Dep. at 63:22-65:14. At the time of her
termination, Ranowsky was sixty-two years old. Ranowsky Dep.
at 5:15-16. Howard, also sixty-two years old at the time, was
Ranowsky's second level supervisor and was the sole
decision-maker behind the decision to terminate
Ranowsky's employment, although he did consult with other
senior colleagues. Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 21, 65; Howard
Dep. at 19:6-7, 97:17-99:8 [Dkt. #31-4]; Howard Deck ¶ 2
[Dkt. # 31-9].
also alleges Amtrak did not interview her for two positions
to which she applied in 2015 as further age and gender
discrimination and as an act of retaliation for the Charge of
Discrimination she filed with the United States Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in
January 2015. See EEOC Charge of Discrimination,
[Dkt. # 39-9 (Under Seal)]. First, in March 2015, Ranowsky
applied to the open Deputy Counsel Position in Amtrak OIG,
but OIG Deputy Inspector/Counsel Kevin Winters decided not to
interview her. Defs.' SOF ¶¶ 47-51; Winters
Dep. at 79:20-22 [Dkt. #31-11]. Winters instead chose to hire
Frank Mazurek, who was under the age of forty and had nearly
a decade of experience in NASA's Office of Inspector
General. Defs.' SOF ¶ 56; Winters Dep. at 102:16-19;
Mazurek Dep. 19:6-20:16 [Dkt. # 31-13]. In July 2015,
Ranowsky applied to an opening for an experienced
transactional attorney position with the Amtrak Law
Department, but the Managing Deputy General Counsel for the
Law Department, William Herrmann, made a determination not to
interview her because of his prior experience working with
her and his determination that she would not "be a
positive addition or contribution to the work" of the
Department. Defs.' SOF ¶ 59; Herrmann Decl. ¶3
[Dkt. #31-14], Plaintiff filed this Complaint in the Superior
Court of the District of Columbia on June 10, 2015. Notice of
Removal ¶ 1 [Dkt.# 1]. On July 15, 2015, defendants
collectively removed this case to federal court pursuant to
28 U.S.C. §§ 1441(a) and 1446, on the grounds that
Amtrak is a federally-chartered stock corporation and the
United States owns more than one-half of its capital stock.
Id. See 28 U.S.C. § 1349; Nat'l R.R.
Passenger Corp. v Lexington Ins. Co., 365 F.3d
1104, 1105 (D.C. Cir. 2004) ("The case is in federal
court because Amtrak is a federal corporation and the federal
government owns more than one-half of its stock.").
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment is
appropriate when "there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to summary judgment
as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The
burden is on the movant to show that there is no dispute of
fact, but the non-moving party carries the "burden of
producing . . . evidence that would support a jury
verdict." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 256 (1986). The non-moving party "may not rest
upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but must set
forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial." Id.
ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must
accept as true the evidence of the non-moving party, and draw
"all justifiable inferences" in favor of that
party. Id. at 255. However, to the extent that the
party opposing summary judgment will bear the burden of
proving facts at trial, those facts must be supported by
competent evidence, and the absence of that evidence forms
the basis for summary judgment. See Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-24. A genuine dispute of material fact exists
only where "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
brings her claims under the DCHRA, which makes it unlawful
for an employer "to fail or refuse to hire, or to
discharge, any individual" because of his or her
"race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age,
marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation,
gender identity or expression, family responsibilities,
genetic information, disability, matriculation, or political
affiliation." D.C. Code § 2-1402.11(a)(1). The
statute also prohibits retaliation against employees who
exercise their DCHRA rights, stating that it is unlawful to
"retaliate against... any person ... on account of
having exercised or enjoyed ... any right granted or
protected" under the DCHRA, and imposes liability on
persons who aid or abet DCHRA violations. Id. §
2-1402.61(a), § 2-1402.62.
discrimination and retaliation claims are analyzed the same
as claims brought under federal employment discrimination
statutes, and are thus subject to the traditional three-step
framework set forth in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-03 (1973). Vatel v.
Alliance of Auto. Mfrs., 627 F.3d 1245, 1246 (D.C. Cir.
2011) ("We analyze discrimination claims under the D.C.
Human Rights Act in the same way that we analyze
discrimination claims under the federal anti-discrimination
laws."); McCain v. CCA of Term., Inc., 254
F.Supp.2d 115, 124 (D.D.C. 2003) ("The elements of a
retaliation claim under the DCHRA are the same as those under
the federal employment discrimination laws.").
this three-step framework, the plaintiff must first make out
a prima facie case of discriminatory or retaliatory conduct.
For discrimination claims, the plaintiff must show that
"(1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she
suffered an employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action
gives rise to an inference of discrimination."
Stella v. Mineta,284 F.3d 135, 145 (D.C. Cir.
2002). For retaliation claims, a plaintiff needs to show
"that she engaged in protected activity, that she
suffered an adverse employment action, and that there was a
causal link between the former and the latter."
Allen v. Johnson,795 F.3d 34, 39 (D.C. Cir. 2015).
Once a plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the employer
must provide a legitimate non-discriminatory or
non-retaliatory reason for its adverse action.
McDonnell-Douglas, 411 U.S. at ...