United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION Re Document No: 14
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge
in Part and Denying in Part Defendant's Motion for
a case where there simply is no “there” there.
Ms. Laurie Samuel was forced to resign from the District of
Columbia Metropolitan Police Department because her visa
expired and she could not obtain permanent residency status.
Ms. Samuel claims that her employer, through human resources
director Ms. Diane Haines-Walton, withheld information from
her that would have given her the opportunity to apply for a
visa extension, which would allow her to continue working in
the United States. Neither side disputes that Ms. Samuel was
threatened with termination and that it would have been
illegal for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department to
continue to employ her. Understandably frustrated, Ms. Samuel
contends that her resignation was the inevitable consequence
of Ms. Haines-Walton's sabotage of her visa application,
a sabotage Ms. Samuel asserts was carried out because she is
from Canada and because she complained about Ms.
Haines-Walton's discriminatory treatment.
assuming such an act of sabotage occurred (an assumption
based on scant evidence), the simple problem with Ms.
Samuel's theory is that there is no permissible evidence
in the record suggesting that the sabotage had any effect on
Ms. Samuel's eventual resignation. Her immigration status
would necessarily have expired a year before she was
terminated because she was not eligible for further
extensions, and she has not shown any other way that she
could have continued working legally. Thus, the alleged
sabotage of Ms. Samuel's visa is analytically unconnected
to her resignation for Title VII purposes.
the adverse employment action that she experienced, Ms.
Samuel has not shown that the basis for her termination-her
unlawful immigration status-was a mere pretext for
discrimination or retaliation. She openly admits that she had
strong relationships with the individuals who made the
decision to force her to resign. And even if the only person
allegedly biased against her, Ms. Haines-Walton, did have
power to fire her, Ms. Samuel has not shown that she actually
had any animus against her because of her Canadian national
origin or because she complained about discriminatory
treatment. Indeed, during her deposition, Ms. Samuel did not
even mention national-origin discrimination despite being
asked about it. Putting aside inadmissible information that
the Court cannot consider at the motion-for-summary-judgment
stage, the only evidence that Ms. Samuel can point to in
support of her claim of pretext is a statement in her
last-minute declaration repeating the allegation in her
complaint that Ms. Haines-Walton prefaced sentences with
something to the effect of “here in America, we do
things this way.” This preface, though arguably
offensive, is insufficient to establish pretext. Taking
everything together, the Court enters summary judgment in
favor of Defendant insofar as Plaintiff seeks recovery for
disparate treatment. However, because Plaintiff also appears
to seek relief on hostile-work-environment grounds and
Defendant did not satisfactorily address that claim on
summary judgment, Plaintiff's case survives (at least for
Laurie Samuel, a Canadian citizen, sued the D.C. Metropolitan
Police Department (“MPD”) for discriminating and
retaliating against her based on her national origin.
See Compl. at 10-11, ECF No. 1; see also
Decl. of Laurie Samuel (“Samuel Decl.”) ¶ 2,
ECF No. 32-2. She claims that she experienced disparate
treatment and a hostile work environment because she is
Canadian. See Compl. ¶ 34 (“Ms.
[Haines-Walton's] discriminatory treatment of her created
a hostile work environment . . . .”); Compl. ¶ 36
(“Ms. [Haines-Walton] continued her discriminatory
treatment . . . .”); Compl. ¶ 72 (“Plaintiff
was constructively discharged . . . due to Ms.
[Haines-Walton's] discriminatory treatment.”).
Starting in 2006, Ms. Samuel began working for MPD as a
project specialist in the MPD Human Resources Management
Division. Samuel Decl. ¶ 14. Ms. Samuel interviewed
with, and ultimately was hired by, the director of the Human
Resources Management Division, Ms. Diana Haines-Walton.
Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 19- 20. According to Ms. Samuel,
Ms. Haines-Walton was aware of Ms. Samuel's Canadian
national origin during the interview, and immediately began
harassing her about it after she started working at MPD.
Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 20, 22. Ms. Samuel alleges that no
MPD employee other than Ms. Haines-Walton discriminated or
retaliated against her. Dep. of Laurie Samuel (“Samuel
Dep.”) at 30, ECF No. 32-3. In January 2013, Ms. Samuel
transferred from H.R. to Internal Affairs, meaning she
stopped working for Ms. Haines-Walton. Samuel Decl. ¶
to Ms. Samuel, Ms. Haines-Walton discriminated against her by
“maintain[ing] an ongoing pattern of harassing”
behavior toward her, in part by making “snide
comments” about her national origin. Samuel Decl.
¶¶ 22, 24-26. After Ms. Samuel had worked at MPD
for around two years, the Chief of Police began giving her
more responsibility, which made Ms. Haines-Walton even more
upset with Ms. Samuel. Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 23-24;
Samuel Dep. at 31. Ms. Samuel maintains that Ms.
Haines-Walton tried to stand in the way of her career
progression, see Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 101-02,
but does not contend that Ms. Haines-Walton ever successfully
prevented her from receiving a promotion, see Samuel
Dep. 23-27. See also Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s
Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) at 14, ECF
No. 32 (“While Plaintiff was successful in obtaining
promotions to Acting Manager, EEO & Diversity and the EEO
Director, she accomplished these feats despite Ms.
Haines-Walton's continued attempts to sabotage her
success.”). Ms. Samuel also claims that Ms.
Haines-Walton sabotaged her applications for a visa extension
and permanent residency, which ultimately led to her
termination because MPD could not employ her without a visa.
Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 37-38.
retaliation, Ms. Samuel contends that, after she approached
supervisors at MPD about the discrimination outlined above,
Ms. Haines-Walton started withholding important immigration
information from her. Compl. ¶ 85. She claims that this
inevitably led to her resignation, which was actually a
constructive termination. Compl. ¶ 84; Samuel Decl.
¶¶ 68- 69.
Samuel's Pursuit of Permanent Residency
she was not a United States citizen, Ms. Samuel needed a visa
to begin working at MPD. So, she transferred her H-1B visa-a
non-citizen visa that allows foreign nationals in
“specialty occupations” to work in the United
States, see RCM Techs., Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of
Homeland Sec., 614 F.Supp.2d 39, 42 (D.D.C. 2009)-from
her previous job to MPD. Samuel Decl. ¶ 15. She received
her H-1B visa with MPD in January 2006. Samuel Dep. at 49-50;
Samuel Decl. ¶ 15. But because H-1B visas are only valid
for three years and may be extended only up to an additional
three years, Ms. Samuel needed to upgrade her immigration
status to continue working for MPD after September 2012.
See 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(h)(15)(ii)(B)(1)
(“An extension of stay may be authorized for a period
of up to three years for a beneficiary of an H-1B petition .
. . . [But] [t]he alien's total period of stay may not
exceed six years.”); Samuel Dep. Ex. C Attach. 6, ECF
No. 27-1. Thus in mid-2009, Ms. Samuel asked MPD, as her
employer, to sponsor her application for permanent residency
status. Samuel Decl. ¶ 29.
Samuel began the process of seeking sponsorship by
approaching employees in the MPD's Office of the Chief.
Samuel Decl. ¶ 29. Eventually those employees told Ms.
Samuel that she should go through her supervisor, Ms.
Haines-Walton. See Samuel Decl. ¶ 32. When Ms.
Samuel approached her about the situation, Ms. Haines-Walton
was annoyed by the fact that she had gone over her head to
the Chief, but nonetheless agreed to look into the matter.
Samuel Decl. ¶ 32. MPD ultimately agreed to sponsor Ms.
Samuel. Dep. of Diana Haines-Walton (“Haines-Walton
Dep.”) at 32-33, ECF No. 32-4. Ms. Haines-Walton was
solely responsible for managing Ms. Samuel's visa
application. Samuel Decl. ¶ 33.
about a week of Ms. Samuel approaching Ms. Haines-Walton, Ms.
Haines-Walton drafted a memorandum requesting $10, 000 to
support Ms. Samuel's application. See
Haines-Walton Dep. at 33. Having received the funding, in
around August 2009, Ms. Haines-Walton contracted with the
Immigration Law Group to pursue the permanent resident
status. Samuel Decl. ¶ 36. In July 2010, Ms.
Haines-Walton terminated the Immigration Law Group because it
did not timely file immigration paperwork, causing the
Department of Labor to deny Ms. Samuel's
permanent-residency application. Samuel Decl. ¶¶
50-53. Ms. Haines-Walton then contracted with the law firm
Duane Morris to pursue another application for permanent
residency. Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 33, 54-55. In addition
to submitting another application, Duane Morris filed a
petition to have Ms. Samuel's H-1B visa extended for one
year plus any time that she had spent outside the United
States. Samuel Decl. ¶ 66. Sometime between Ms.
Haines-Walton contracting with Duane Morris and the spring of
2011, Ms. Haines-Walton stopped working with Ms. Samuel.
Samuel Dep. at 83 (stating that Ms. Haines-Walton
“washed her hands of anything” to do with Ms.
Samuel frequently checked on the status of her applications
with Duane Morris, but was never given information about any
updates or decisions related to her case. Samuel Decl. ¶
80. Other MPD staff members checked on the status of her H-1B
extension application with the Department of Homeland
Security (“DHS”), but each time they checked, it
showed as “pending” with DHS. However, according
to Ms. Samuel, Ms. Haines-Walton “did not express much
concern for the status of [her] extension.” Samuel
Decl. ¶ 84. Ms. Samuel told Ms. Haines-Walton that she
was concerned with the status of her application in light of
her conversations with Duane Morris and DHS, but Ms.
Haines-Walton “did nothing to address the issue.”
Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 84-87.
2011, DHS granted Ms. Samuel's extension to April 2012.
Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 110- 112; see also
Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 5, ECF No. 32-6. In DHS's
approval notice, it informed Ms. Samuel that to apply for
another extension, MPD would have to submit an application by
April 2012. Samuel Decl. ¶ 111. According to Ms. Samuel,
Ms. Haines-Walton and Duane Morris received notice, but Ms.
Haines-Walton never informed Ms. Samuel of the approval.
Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 112-13. In support of her
statement, Ms. Samuel points to a copy of the notice, which
is addressed to MPD, “c/o Diana Haines.”
Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 4, ECF No. 32-5. Ms. Haines-Walton
claims that she did not personally receive this notice.
Haines-Walton Dep. at 59.
Haines-Walton also did not maintain any kind of public folder
containing Ms. Samuel's immigration papers, which Ms.
Samuel contends she was required to do under Department of
Labor rules. Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 116-17. But MPD claims
that Chief Rodney Parks was the official responsible for
placing the visa documents in a public file. Haines-Walton
Dep. at 59-60. Eventually, Ms. Samuel's visa expired.
Samuel Decl. ¶ 108-09; Samuel Dep. at 41. Another
employee emailed the DHS's notice and deadline for
reapplication to Ms. Samuel in September 2013, over two years
after approval and well past the deadline to apply for
another extension. Samuel Decl. ¶¶ 110, 114;
Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. 4. Ms. Samuel states that she would
have applied for another extension had she known about the
deadline. Samuel Decl. ¶ 114. But, as noted above, given
that H-1B visas are only valid for three years and may be
extended for only an additional three years, the latest that
Ms. Samuel could have worked using her H-1B visa was
September 2012. See Samuel Dep. Ex. C Attach. 6.
Nonetheless, she asserts that she would have made other
arrangements had she been aware of the deadline. Samuel.
Decl. ¶ 114.
2011, Ms. Samuel's request for permanent residency was
denied. See Samuel Dep. Ex. C. Duane Morris
unsuccessfully appealed that decision. See Samuel
Dep. Ex. C. In August 2013-nearly a year beyond the date for
which Ms. Samuel could have obtained an extension- when MPD
realized that Ms. Samuel's visa had expired and she did
not have a legal basis to remain in the United States, the
Assistant Chief of Police asked Ms. Samuel to demonstrate
that she had a valid work visa. Samuel Decl. ¶ 105;
Samuel Dep. at 40-41. On August 30, 2013, Ms. Samuel was
placed on administrative leave. Samuel Decl. ¶ 107. In
October, an MPD Assistant Chief, at the behest of the Chief
of Police, called Ms. Samuel to tell her she was going to be
terminated. Samuel Dep. at 43. The employee asked Ms. Samuel
to resign and suggested that if she did not, she would never
work in law enforcement again and would otherwise experience
professional repercussions in the future. Samuel Dep. at
43-45. These repercussions would have been devastating to her
career, because it was heavily devoted to criminal justice.
See Samuel Decl. ¶ 122. As a result, she
resigned her position at MPD on October 4, 2013. Samuel Dep.
until she was asked to resign, at that point working in a
different department from Ms. Haines-Walton, Ms. Samuel had a
good working relationship with her supervisor and colleagues.
Samuel Dep. at 24, 83. Indeed, Ms. Samuel was
“friendly” with the Chief of Police; they
“would go to dinner together” and “talk
outside of work.” Samuel Dep. at 22. Ms. Samuel even
went to the Chief's home over holidays, including for
Thanksgiving and Christmas meals with just the Chief and her
immediate family. Samuel Dep. at 22. When asked, Ms. Samuel
said she “[a]bsolutely” thought the Chief of
Police wanted her career to grow at MPD. Samuel Dep. at 23.
Ms. Samuel was also friends with her immediate supervisor,
with whom she “had a really good working
relationship.” Samuel Dep. at 24. She was also friendly
with the supervisor that ultimately asked her to resign.
Samuel Dep. at 44.
Haines-Walton's Alleged Animus
cause of the friction between Ms. Haines-Walton and Ms.
Samuel is somewhat unclear. During Ms. Samuel's
deposition, in the context of discussing national origin
discrimination, the following exchange occurred:
Q: Why do you think you were discriminated against because of
your national origin?
A: I mean, I -- I would be speculating.
[Plaintiff's counsel]: You have to state it.
A: Okay. . . . I think she did not like me. I think that she
was threatened [by] my relationship with the Chief of Police.
I think she was-and again, this is just based on comments
that she made[-]I think she was jealous about the way I
looked because she would always make snide comments about the
fact [that] I'm very into health. . . . I ultimately
think she felt threatened about her job and being usurped
eve[n] though I never wanted her job.
Dep. at 30-31. Ms. Samuel did not mention her national origin
nor any comments made by Ms. Haines-Walton about her Canadian
heritage. See Samuel Dep. at 30-31. In the context
of discussing Ms. Haines-Walton's failure to follow up
with Ms. Samuel about her visa application from 2011 until
her termination, the following exchange occurred:
Q: Did Ms. [Haines-]Walton . . . check in [with Homeland
Security] on your behalf . . . ?
Q: Is there any reason why that is? ...