United States District Court, District of Columbia
MARK E. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant. Re Document No. 19
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN
PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS United States District Judge.
District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department uses
high-tech cameras to catch traffic offenders without the need
for real-time observation by police officers. To organize the
photographs, analyze evidence of violations, and issue
citations, the police department created the Automated
Traffic Enforcement Unit (“ATEU”). Plaintiff Mark
Robinson, a Sergeant with the Metropolitan Police Department
who has devoted his career to traffic safety, worked in the
ATEU full-time starting in 2008. In 2011, he began training
and certifying sworn officers to work as part of the ATEU
Overtime Program, which allowed police officers to supplement
their normal workload with traffic-safety work in the ATEU.
Mr. Robinson himself logged considerable time in the ATEU-in
many years exceeding 1, 500 hours of overtime. Then, in
December 2011, Mr. Robinson was transferred out of the ATEU
as part of a civilianization of the Unit. Although MPD
asserts that no sworn officers worked in the ATEU full-time
after 2011, the Overtime Program continued, meaning hundreds
of officers were able to work there outside of their normal
assignments. Mr. Robinson's requests to work overtime,
however, were denied. He believes he was transferred out of
the ATEU and denied overtime opportunities because of his
race, and thus sues for discrimination. He also believes that
his requests for reassignment to the ATEU and overtime were
continuously denied because he previously had complained of
discrimination, and thus sues for retaliation.
District of Columbia moves to dismiss on relatively narrow
grounds. It argues that neither the reassignment from the
ATEU nor the denial of overtime opportunities constituted
sufficiently adverse employment actions to support a lawsuit
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also
argues that it had a nondiscriminatory reason for
transferring Mr. Robinson-it civilianized the unit, and thus
no sworn officer worked in the ATEU on a full-time basis
after the transition in 2011.
civilianization of the ATEU is indeed a valid
nondiscriminatory reason for Mr. Robinson's transfer, and
Mr. Robinson has not shown any indication that it was not the
actual reason that he was transferred. Thus, the Court will
grant Defendant summary judgment with respect to
Plaintiff's claim that his transfer from the ATEU was
discriminatory and retaliatory. But because Mr. Robinson has
shown that he sought out and was denied a significant amount
of overtime while other sworn officers were allowed to work
in the ATEU Overtime Program, he has shown that he suffered
an adverse employment action in the form of loss of
significant overtime opportunities. As a result, the Court
will deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment insofar
as it relates to the alleged loss of overtime.
The Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit
Robinson is a police officer whose career has been devoted to
traffic safety. Aff. of Mark E. Robinson (“Robinson
Decl.”) ¶ 4, ECF No. 24-1. He has worked for the
D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (“MPD”) since
1990. Robinson Decl. ¶ 3. Prior to working
for MPD, he worked for the Fairfax County Police Department,
where he was certified in the use of radar to detect
speeding. Robinson Decl. ¶¶ 1-2. Shortly after
starting with MPD, Mr. Robinson was certified in the use of
Traffic Doppler Radar, and then two years later, became
certified as an instructor in the use of radar devices to
detect speed. Robinson Decl. ¶¶ 5-6. In 2004, after
having been certified as an instructor for
“Lidar”-another speed-detecting device- Mr.
Robinson was certified to operate photographic speed
measuring equipment. Robinson Decl. ¶¶ 9-10. In
2008, Mr. Robinson was permanently assigned, on a full-time
basis, to the ATEU, the unit that administers automated
traffic tickets based on photographic evidence. Robinson
Decl. ¶¶ 10, 12-13. In that role, Mr. Robinson
worked with other officers to draft MPD regulations
pertaining to automated traffic enforcement, instructed
classes, and supervised ATEU employees. Robinson Decl.
¶¶ 12-15. For over ten years, he also co-taught
classes on traffic enforcement for other MPD officers.
Robinson Decl. ¶ 14.
Robinson, along with other certified ATEU operators, logged
significant overtime in the ATEU. Robinson Decl. ¶ 15.
Shortly after Mr. Robinson began working in the ATEU, MPD
solicited officer volunteers to work overtime in the Unit.
Robinson Decl. ¶ 15. Over 855 MPD members volunteered,
of which 213 were selected through a lottery system. Robinson
Decl. ¶ 15. Because Mr. Robinson was one of the two
officers who trained the volunteers to be ATEU-certified and
was already working in the ATEU, he claims that he was not
required to participate in the lottery system. Robinson Decl.
to Defendant's affiant-who is also Plaintiff's
supervisor-Lisa Sutter, ATEU was civilianized in 2011, after
which no sworn officers were employed on a full-duty basis.
Aff. of Elisabeth Sutter (“Sutter Decl.”)
¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 19-3. Mr. Robinson states that Ms.
Sutter's account of the ATEU civilianization is “a
misrepresentation, ” noting that several officers
received overtime from the ATEU from 2011 to 2016. Robinson
Decl. ¶ 31. Importantly, Ms. Sutter only stated that no
sworn officers were employed within the ATEU on a
full-time, permanent basis; in fact, she specifically
stated that, “[f]ollowing the civilianization of the
ATEU, some sworn officers were detailed to the ATEU on a
less-than-full-duty temporary basis.” Sutter Decl.
¶¶ 3-4; see also Aff. of Lamont Hinton
(“Hinton Decl.”) ¶¶ 3-4, ECF No. 27-1.
Regardless, both sides agree that, by 2014, MPD employed
civilian technicians to operate automated traffic devices.
Sutter Decl. ¶¶ 3-4; Robinson Decl. ¶ 17.
Notably, no witness has stated that the ATEU continued
employing officers on a full-time basis after 2011.
See Robinson Decl. ¶ 17 (quoting MPD
regulations as stating that the ATEU program uses
“‘sworn MPD members' who ‘receive
compensation . . . outside of their regular assigned duties
and responsibilities'” (ellipses in original)).
The Transfer of Mr. Robinson
2011, following the start of MPD's civilianization of the
ATEU, MPD reassigned Mr. Robinson to MPD's Special Events
Branch. See Robinson Decl. ¶ 18; Sutter Decl.
¶¶ 2-3. Mr. Robinson's supervisors-Ms. Sutter
and Commander Sund-told him that he was transferred as part
of the civilianization process. Robinson Decl. ¶ 18. Mr.
Robinson believes that he was transferred out and repeatedly
denied reassignment back because of his race. Robinson Decl.
Robinson was also denied overtime work in the ATEU. Although
he did not participate in the lottery described above, he was
a certified operator and instructor, and thus, according to
him, qualified to work in the ATEU Overtime Program. Robinson
Decl. ¶ 18. He requested overtime work starting on
February 8, 2014 until the program ended on May 16, 2015, but
his requests were denied each time by Ms. Sutter and
Commander Sund. Robinson Decl. ¶ 18; Sutter Decl. ¶
6; see also Dep. of Mark E. Robinson
(“Robinson Dep.”) at 31, ECF No. 19-1. His
supervisors' stated reason for denying his request was
that he did not meet the requirements for participation in
the program, including the requirement to deploy radar car
within the last six months. Robinson Dep. at 20-21. At one
point, MPD also suggested that he was denied overtime
opportunities because he did not participate in the 2010
lottery. Robinson Decl. ¶ 23. Mr. Robinson does not
contend that he completed the usual prerequisites, instead
arguing that they were only required for newly trained
employees. Robinson Dep. at 21. Despite his claim that he was
denied overtime in the ATEU, he did earn over 525 hours of
overtime elsewhere in MPD from February 8, 2014 through May
16, 2016. Aff. of Priya Mathews (“Mathews Decl.”)
¶ 6, ECF No. 19-2. In comparison, the average number of
overtime hours received by officers participating in the ATEU
Overtime Program was 468 during that same period. Mathews
Decl. ¶ 4. Mr. Robinson states that, had he been allowed
to work overtime in the ATEU, he would have worked many more
hours than the 525 hours he already worked, citing his
history of working 1, 500 to 2, 000 hours of overtime per
year. Robinson Decl. ¶¶ 29-30.
support of his contention that he was transferred out of ATEU
and denied overtime opportunities because of his race, Mr.
Robinson points to situations where he believes
less-qualified white employees were given opportunities ahead
of him in the ATEU. According to Mr. Robinson, Terry
Thorne-who is white-was selected to teach a photo radar class
in the ATEU over Mr. Robinson in 2014, despite the fact that
Mr. Thorne was less qualified. Robinson Decl. ¶ 26. In
fact, all of Mr. Thorne's trainees were ultimately denied
certification “because a problem was identified with
respect to [Mr.] Thorne's qualifications.” Robinson
Decl. ¶ 26. Mr. Robinson also stated that Keith Blakely,
who is white, was allowed to work in the ATEU Overtime
Program despite not having participated in the lottery or
used ATEU equipment in many years. Robinson Decl. ¶ 25.
According to Mr. Robinson, Mr. Blakely was in the exact same
situation he was with respect to the purported prerequisites
to earning overtime, but Mr. Blakely did not have as much
experience with the latest speed-detection equipment.
Robinson Decl. ¶ 25. More broadly, Mr. Robinson contends
that he is “more qualified to work in the ATEU overtime
program than all of the white sworn members who earned