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Craig v. Mnuchin

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 29, 2017

B.B. CRAIG, Plaintiff,
STEVEN MNUCHIN, Secretary, United States Department of the Treasury, [1]Defendant. Re Document No. 33


          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge


         Plaintiff B.B. Craig, an official at the United States Mint (the “Mint”), brings this suit against Steven Mnuchin, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Treasury, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Now before the Court is the Secretary's Motion for Summary Judgment. See generally Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 33. For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant in part and deny in Defendant's motion.

         II. BACKGROUND[2]

         The Mint, which is a bureau of the United States Department of Treasury (“Treasury”), is responsible for not only manufacturing and distributing coins used by the public in commerce, but also for manufacturing, marketing and selling collectible (“numismatic”) coins and investment grade bullion. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 1. Within the Mint, marketing and selling of such products is the responsibility of the Sales and Marketing Division (“SAM Division”), which is overseen by the Mint's Associate Director for Sales and Marketing (“A/D SAM”). See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 7, 13-14.

         On November 17, 2008, the Mint hired B.B. Craig, an African-American man, to be its A/D SAM. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 13. In that role, Mr. Craig reported directly to the Deputy Director of the Mint and was charged with leading an organization responsible for generating sales of approximately $500 million annually. See Dep. B.B. Craig (“Craig Dep.”) at 25:12- 26:5, 32:24-33:9, ECF No. 51-3. Mr. Craig had “authority to speak and act on behalf of the Mint in public meetings and private conferences with senior officials of the [] Treasury, top-level Mint management, and representatives of other agencies of the federal government and international governments.” Decl. B.B. Craig (“Craig Decl.”) ¶ 3, ECF No. 40-2. Mr. Craig also had significant supervisory authority, with approximately ninety-four full-time equivalent employees allotted to the SAM Division. See Craig Decl. ¶ 4.

         Upon assuming the A/D SAM position, Mr. Craig also became a member of the Senior Executive Service (“SES”), the Federal government's executive management core. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 6-7, 13. Members of the SES are “charged with executive management of key governmental programs, divisions, offices, and functions within Federal executive branch agencies, such as the Mint.” Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 8. However, they are governed differently than other federal employees and can, at the discretion of the agency, be reassigned to any SES position within an agency for which they are qualified or be “detailed” to a position with unclassified duties within the agency or to another agency for up to 240 days. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 10-12; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 16 at 9, 11-12, ECF No 41-14.

         This case primarily concerns Mr. Craig's removal from his position as A/D SAM, his placement into other inferior roles at the Mint, and Defendant's refusal to reassign him to a position that was commensurate with the A/D SAM position. Of central importance to all of these claims is Mr. Craig's performance on two critical projects during the 2012 fiscal year rating period (“FY 2012”)-the Order Management System Project and the Comprehensive Numismatic Marketing Plan and Advertising Spend Request. The Secretary claims that Mr. Craig's inadequate performance on these two projects set into motion a series of employment actions that Mr. Craig is now alleging were discriminatory and retaliatory. Indeed, Defendant argues that Mr. Craig's performance justified Mr. Craig's FY 2012 performance evaluation, his removal from the A/D SAM position, and prompted Defendant to find another position at the Mint that was a “better fit” for Mr. Craig. Ultimately, the “better fit” that Defendant identified was a detail to a position called “Executive Lead, ” which, unlike Mr. Craig's previous position, had unclassified duties and no supervisory authority. Although Mr. Craig remained in the Executive Lead position beyond the 240-day limit, he was eventually reassigned to a permanent SES position as Associate Director of Environment, Safety, and Health (“A/D ES&H”), which Mr. Craig argues is only marginally better than the “Executive Lead” position and was far from commensurate with his former A/D SAM position.

         A. The OMS Project

         One of the projects that Mr. Craig worked on during the FY 2012 rating period was the Order Management System Project (“OMS Project” or “the Project”). See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 22-23. This Project was undertaken by the SAM Division and the Mint's Information Technology Division (“IT”). See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 22; Pl.'s Statement Genuine Issues ¶ 16, ECF No. 40-1. The Mint's goal was to overhaul, upgrade, and revise the Mint's existing online ordering system that the public used to purchase Mint products. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 22. Between SAM and IT, SAM was responsible for specifying its needs and how the system should function, while IT was responsible for delivering the system. See Dep. Beverly Babers (“Babers Dep.”) at 120:5-121:13, ECF No. 51-1 (SAM is responsible for identifying “what we need and this is how we need it to work and this is why it important to our customers, ” while IT is responsible for presenting “here is how you do it and here are your options for doing it.”); Craig Dep. at 84:1-5 (“So the way it was designed, IT was the lead of the [P]roject. I was the customer, but I had say-so and I was supposed to give up resources to make the [P]roject an accomplishment.”). However, this was to be a highly collaborative process between the two departments. See Babers Dep. at 121:13-15 (“So it's got to be really, really collaborative. And they are both [SAM and IT] both very critical to the situation.”). Overseeing the Project was an Executive Steering Committee (“ESC”), which was to provide support, guidance, and resources to ensure that the OMS Project was a success. See Dep. Richard Peterson (“Peterson Dep.”) at 76:10-20, ECF No. 50-2. Both Mr. Craig and the Mint's Chief Information Officer (“CIO”) served on this committee. See Peterson Dep. at 75:14-17; accord Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 51.

         The Project was initiated at the beginning of FY 2012, but by Spring of 2012, problems had emerged. Richard Peterson, the Deputy Director of the Mint, recalled that by early April, he felt that the “[P]roject was not on track” and knew “the [P]roject was late and behind budget.” Peterson Dep. at 79:17-20. Thus, in May 2012, Mr. Peterson made the decision to temporarily halt the OMS Project and retain the Mitre Corporation (“Mitre”) to conduct an analysis of the OMS Project's continued viability. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 31.

         Around this same time, Mr. Peterson hired Beverly Babers. Earlier that year Mr. Peterson had decided to seek additional executive management resources for the Mint. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 32. Thus, in April and May of 2012, Mr. Peterson interviewed and ultimately hired Ms. Babers to be the Mint's Chief Administrative Officer. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 33. Before she began working at the Mint, however, Mr. Peterson asked Ms. Babers to attend a meeting with Mitre and other Mint executives to discuss the OMS Project. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 34. At that meeting, Mitre described its findings and recommended that the OMS Project be temporarily suspended. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 35; Babers Dep. at 106:1-11. Ms. Babers testified that her understanding of Mitre's findings from that meeting was that “there was lack of . . . governance and oversight that contributed to the failure of the [P]roject and, specifically, [that] the IT and Sales and Marketing Departments had failed to effectively collaborate.” Babers Dep. at 107:14- 19.

         Indeed, Mitre found systemic and programmatic deficiencies in the OMS Project, one of which was “governance.” See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 36. One problem that Mitre identified was the Project's “shifting program accountability and decision making.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 15 at Bates No. 002548, ECF No. 35-3. According to Mitre, while the documented governance processes indicated that the CIO was “responsible and accountable for program delivery, ” it observed that the ESC “[did] not operate in accordance with its documented roles and responsibilities and [was] acting in a de facto decision-making capacity.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 16 at 7, ECF No. 35-4. So while, “program accountability [resided] with the [CIO], [] decision-making [was] diffused via the ESC.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 16 at 7. In addition, Mitre identified “weak communications, ” “conflicting assumptions about program scope and intent, ” and “internal discord.” Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 36, 38; see also Def.'s Mot., Ex. 15 at Bates No. 002548. It concluded that this “infighting [was] endangering pursuit of [the Mint's] goal.” Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 36, 38; see also Def.'s Mot, Ex. 15 at Bates No. 002548. Thus, Mitre recommended that the Mint make improvements to its “program governance and management structures, methods, and disciplines, ” Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 37, but also that it “slow down” the Project until “certain systemic improvements in governance and management of the [P]roject were incorporated.” Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 39.

         Mr. Craig does not dispute that Mitre made such findings or that they were discussed during the meeting with Ms. Babers. However, according to Mr. Craig, the failure of the Project had nothing to do with him or the SAM Division, but was, instead, attributable to the CIO who was responsible for both the budget and the timeline for the OMS Project. See Craig Dep. at 84:13-15. He also claims that it was the CIO that was hostile towards other members of the OMS Project team and who refused to share information about the budget, status, or progress of the Project with Mr. Craig. See Craig Dep. at 50:2-52:7. And even though Mr. Craig brought these issues to Mr. Peterson's attention, he claims that Mr. Peterson did nothing to address them. See Craig Dep. at 153:14-154:18.

         Ms. Babers officially reported for duty at the Mint in July 2012. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 44. Once she arrived, Mr. Peterson shifted the reporting lines of Mr. Craig and other executives as part of an organizational realignment. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 45. From that point forward, Mr. Craig and others, including the CIO, were to report directly to Ms. Babers who, in turn, reported to Mr. Peterson. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 45; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 2, ECF No. 34-2. After joining, Ms. Babers took several steps to improve the project governance of the OMS Project. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 48-51. For example, an Executive Lead was assigned to the Project and an official from the Treasury's Office of the Chief Information Officer was added to assist on technical aspects of the Project. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 48-49. The Project was ultimately reconstituted as “OMS II” and, later, both Mr. Craig and the CIO were removed from the ESC. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 50-51.

         B. The Marketing Plan

         In addition to the OMS Project, Mr. Craig was responsible for developing the “mission-critical” Comprehensive Numismatic Marketing Plan and Advertising Spend Request (“Marketing Plan” or “the Plan”). Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 52. At that time, the Mint was looking for ways to halt or reverse the years-long decline in the numismatic customer base and revenue for numismatic product sales. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 53. To do this, it wanted to engage in advertising, but it first needed approval from Treasury to obtain the funds. See Dep. Sherry Suggs (“Suggs Dep.”) at 54:7-55:5, ECF No. 51-8. Thus, Mr. Craig and his team were responsible for developing a marketing plan to support their request for funds. See Suggs Dep. at 54:7-55:5. This Marketing Plan would explain how the funds were to be spent, the kinds of marketing and advertising the Mint wanted to pursue, what those efforts were expected to produce in terms of revenue and customers, and would include supporting evidence for the various recommendations. See Id. Although Mr. Craig was responsible for the Plan, Ms. Babers felt that he left much of the oversight for the Plan to his Deputy. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at Bates No. 00178 (Mr. Craig “left primary oversight of the plan to his deputy”), ECF No. 34-12; see also Babers Dep. at 174:16-21 (“it was my understanding from [Mr. Craig] that [his deputy] had the more technical [marketing] experience and in fact that she was the one who was within Sales and Marketing leading this . . . marketing plan effort.”).

         Work on the Marketing Plan first began in FY 2011 and continued through FY 2012. During that time, the Plan received both praise and criticism. For example, in June 2012, the Mint's Chief Counsel reviewed a draft of the Marketing Plan and said it was “the best piece of work in terms of a marketing plan that [he] [had] seen in some time” and told Mr. Craig “Nice Job!” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 19, ECF No. 41-16. Others, however, noted issues. For example, the Mint's Director of Public Affairs wrote Mr. Peterson and Ms. Babers a lengthy email in July 2012 in which he raised several substantive questions concerning the Plan and stated his belief that the Plan outlined or identified many problems, but failed to provide many good solutions or recommendations. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 58; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 22, ECF No. 34-17.

         On August 23, 2012, there was a meeting among various Treasury and Mint officials to discuss the Marketing Plan. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 23, ECF No. 34-18. Following that meeting, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Management sent an email to Mr. Craig and others, including the Treasurer of the United States, Mr. Peterson, and Ms. Babers, in which she raised questions about the Plan's recommended new customer base, the Plan's ability to capture new customers, the requested spend amount, and the Plan's return on investment calculation. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 58; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 23 Indeed, she noted that some of the Plan's arguments were not sufficiently “convincing” or “compelling” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 23.

         At this same time, however, there was a draft action memorandum that was going through the Mint clearance review process. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 24, ECF No. 34-19; Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 59. The memorandum was a draft of the formal funding request from the Mint to the Treasury and summarized the Marketing Plan. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 24. According to Mr. Craig, Ms. Babers put this memorandum together using excerpts of the SAM Division's Marketing Plan. See Craig Decl. ¶ 24. Although the Mint's Executive Secretary and its Chief Counsel each approved the memorandum on August 22 and 23 respectively, Ms. Babers and Mr. Peterson did not sign off on it. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 24. Thus, the memorandum was never presented to Treasury. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 59.

         At her deposition, Ms. Babers recalled that, at some point in August or September, Mr. Craig, Ms. Babers, and Mr. Peterson had a meeting with the Treasurer where they attempted to “instill confidence” that they “had a plan of action that was credible and baked for moving forward with marketing and advertising” in the event Treasury approved their spend request. Babers Dep. at 164:2-165:1. According to Ms. Babers, that meeting “went poorly” and it became clear from the Treasurer that the Marketing Plan was not “going well.” Babers Dep. at 164:18, 165:12-15.

         Ultimately, neither the Treasurer nor the Treasury Deputy Secretary ever approved a Marketing Plan in FY 2012, see Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 60, and Ms. Babers came to believe that Mr. Craig had been unsuccessful in his efforts to deliver an acceptable Marketing Plan, see Def.'s Mot., Ex. 10 at Bates No. 00204, ECF No. 34-10; Def.'s Mot., Ex 14 at Bates No. 00178.

         C. FY 2012 Performance Appraisal

         The performance objectives, deliverables, and standards that SES members are expected to meet over the course of a particular rating year are memorialized in a document called an Executive Performance Agreement (“EPA”), which is issued to each SES member annually. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 23. Mr. Craig's FY 2012 EPA listed the OMS Project as a critical performance deliverable and therefore it became “Commitment Element 4” of Mr. Craig's evaluations. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 23.

         Over the course of the 2012 fiscal year, Mr. Craig received both a mid-year review from Mr. Peterson and an end-of-year review from Ms. Babers. The available rating options for a Treasury SES member, such as Mr. Craig, in ascending order, are: Unsatisfactory, Minimally Successful, Fully Successful, Exceeded, and Outstanding. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 72; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 11, ECF No. 41-11. Mr. Peterson conducted a mid-year review of Mr. Craig in June 2012. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 43; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 10, ECF No. 41-10. He rated Mr. Craig as “Fully Successful” on “Commitment Element 4, ” which related to Mr. Craig's work on the OMS Project, and “Exceeded” in all other categories. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 43; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 10. This resulted in an overall rating for Mr. Craig of “Exceeded.” See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 10.

         On November 8, 2012, Ms. Babers met with Mr. Craig to issue his FY2012 performance rating. Pl.'s Resp. See SMF ¶ 71. Like Mr. Peterson, Ms. Babers gave Mr. Craig a “fully successful” rating on the OMS Project, but unlike Mr. Peterson, she also evaluated Mr. Craig as “fully successful” in the areas of “Program Management” and “Customer Service & Collaboration.” See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 73; Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 11. In all other areas Ms. Babers rated Mr. Craig as “Exceeded.” See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 11. Once combined, these grades resulted in Mr. Craig's overall rating of “Fully Successful.” See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 11. In the narrative assessment of Mr. Craig's performance, Ms. Babers specifically cited the unsuccessful OMS Project and Marketing Plan as bases for the rating. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 74 When Plaintiff sought a higher-level review of his rating from an official outside of Ms. Babers's chain of command, that official sustained Ms. Babers's rating, noting that she “did not find any documentation to change the ratings for Program Management, Customer Service and Collaboration, or Commitment Element 4.” Def.'s Mot., Ex. 27, ECF No. 34-22; see also Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 75.

         Mr. Craig argues that Ms. Babers's failure to rate him at the “Exceeded” level resulted in him not receiving an SES performance bonus for FY 2012. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 15-16. Although Mr. Craig had previously received SES performance bonuses every other year for which he had been at the Mint, [3] see Pl.'s Opp'n, Exs. 2-3, ECF Nos. 41-4 & 41-5, Ms. Babers did not recommend, and Mr. Craig did not receive, an SES performance bonus for the FY2012 rating period. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 80. According to Office of Personnel Management and Treasury-wide guidance, SES members are not guaranteed a bonus regardless of their performance level. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 81. Furthermore, Treasury-wide guidance advises agencies to make “meaningful distinctions” among SES members' performance and notes that “[a]ll bonuses are discretionary, they are not required or guaranteed, regardless of rating level.” Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 83.

         D. Removal from A/D SAM, Detail to Executive Lead, and Reassignment to A/D ES&H

         On September 25, 2012, a few days before the end of the FY 2012 rating year and shortly after the last Marketing Plan briefing with the Treasurer, Ms. Babers and Mr. Craig had a meeting. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 62-63; Babers Dep. at 164:2-165:1. At that meeting, Ms. Babers addressed concerns relating to the Marketing Plan and raised criticism of Mr. Craig's performance as A/D SAM. See Babers Dep. at 164:2-165:1; Craig Decl. ¶ 9. Ms. Babers observed that the Marketing Plan was not “going well” and told Mr. Craig she believed marketing did not appear to be his strong suit. See Babers Dep. at 165:7-18. Mr. Craig explained that, in fact, he was “a manufacturing guy” and the two had a discussion regarding his experience in that area. See Babers Dep. at 166:18-19; 169:4-11; 173:13. Thus, the two began discussing the possibility of finding another position at the Mint that would be a “better fit” for Mr. Craig.[4] See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 66; Babers Dep. at 166:22-67:2, 172:10-73:1; Craig Decl. ¶ 9.

         Ms. Babers and Mr. Craig had further discussions between September and December 2012. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at Bates No. 00181; Babers Dep. at 198:2-202:1. According to Ms. Babers, she and Mr. Craig worked together, seeking to identify an alternative role based on Mr. Craig's stated interests and strengths. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at Bates No. 00181. Those discussions eventually came to center on the concept that would later be described as the “Executive Lead” role. See Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at Bates No. 00187; Babers Dep. at 198:2-202:1. That position would entail “long-range process planning, ” the goal of which was to identify ways of the Mint could be more efficient in manufacturing and bringing its numismatic products to market. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 100-01; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 14 at Bates No. 00181 Babers Dep. at 198:2-202:1. But, according to Mr. Craig, during the few conversations between the two, they did not discuss “specifics about what [he] would be doing in the Executive Lead position” nor did Ms. Babers ever tell him how much staff he would have, where his position would fall within the organization, or what budget he would be working with. Craig Decl. ¶ 15.

         On October 26, 2012, before being detailed to the Executive Lead position, Mr. Craig filed an informal EEO complaint. See EEO Counseling - Intake Information (“EEO Compl.”) at Bates No. 00098, ECF No. 12-18; Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 86. In it, he made various allegations of reprisal and discrimination based on his race and sex. See generally EEO Compl. He also described the September 25 meeting with Ms. Babers and stated that Ms. Babers had informed him that they “needed to discuss what he wanted to do in the future, as it was ‘time for them to find a better fit for him' than his current position.” EEO Compl. at Bates No. 00109. It also states that she “suggested that she would find a position within the Mint that would last about one year, and which would allow him to transition out of SAM and work on ‘operational issues.'” EEO Compl. at Bates No. 00109. Mr. Craig claims that he “did not know what would come of the September 25, 2012 meeting, ” but that he initiated the EEO process “as a precautionary measure to ensure that the Mint could not come back later and claim that [he] had missed a filing deadline.” Craig Decl. ¶ 10. Ms. Babers learned of Mr. Craig's EEO activity on December 5, 2012 and expressed to Mr. Craig that she understood Mr. Craig had filed an EEO complaint and indicated that she was amenable to mediation. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 87-88.

         Six days later, on December 11, 2012, Mr. Peterson issued a Mint-wide email announcing several leadership changes at the Mint. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 90-91. First, it announced that Mr. Craig would leave his role as A/D SAM and would become the “Executive Lead” for the Comprehensive Production Schedule and Plan Project. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 90; Def.'s Mot., Ex 31, ECF No. 34-25. The email also announced that Jon Marc Landry, a white SES member with no prior EEO activity, would discontinue his role as Acting Associate Director of Manufacturing (“Acting A/D Manufacturing”) and would take over, on an acting basis, the A/D SAM position that Mr. Craig was vacating. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 20, 92, 94; Def.'s Mot., Ex 31. Dave Croft, another white SES member with no prior EEO activity who had been overseeing the Denver manufacturing facility, would assume Mr. Landry's former position as Acting A/D of Manufacturing. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 21, 94. Although the Mint's Human Resources (“HR”) department would ordinarily have been consulted about an SES member's detail, neither the head of HR nor the HR representative responsible for SES executives at the Mint learned about Mr. Craig's detail until the December 11, 2012 announcement was made. See Dep. Lisa Nicholson (“Nicholson Dep.”) at 63:12-70:4, ECF No. 51-6; Dep. Anita Fogan (“Fogan Dep.”) at 30:22-32:6, ECF No. 51-5.

         Mr. Craig's detail to the Executive Lead position began effective January 3, 2013. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 91. This position had no occupational code, classified grade level, or position description and was therefore subject to the 240-day detail restriction for SES executives. See Nicholson Dep. at 60:1-62:9, 68:13-70:4, 80:4-83:21, 94:18-95:4. In that role, unlike his former A/D SAM position, Mr. Craig had no staff or administrative support and he spent a significant amount of time entering data and performing tasks that would typically be performed by a GS-5 or GS-7 employee. Craig Decl. ¶ 14. This position did not exist either before or after Mr. Craig occupied the role and the projects that he worked on were not transferred to anyone or any department after he left. Craig Decl. ¶ 14. However, Mr. Craig's detail in the role was extended several times through the 2013 fiscal year and into the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year, which caused Mr. Craig's detail to extend beyond the 240-day limit. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 103; Nicholson Dep. at 95:5-7.

         In February 2014, a serious, near-fatal accident occurred at the Mint's Denver manufacturing plant, where one employee was injured while operating a fork-lift. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 111. Thereafter, Mr. Peterson and Ms. Babers decided to appoint Mr. Craig to oversee the administrative investigation of the accident, conduct an analysis and review of the circumstances and cause, and generate a final report with recommendations for Mint-wide safety improvements. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 112. Mr. Craig performed this work for several months and ultimately generated a report recommending changes in safety protocols, which was well- received by Mint leadership. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 113-14. As a result of the incident and Mr. Craig's work, Mr. Peterson and Ms. Babers decided to create an SES-level position to oversee safety throughout the Mint. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 114.

         On July 31, 2014, it was announced that Mr. Craig would assume a position entitled Associate Director of Environment, Safety, and Health (“A/D ES&H”). See Def.'s Ex. 41, ECF No. 34-35. Before Mr. Craig took on this role, that same work was being performed by a GS-14 employee who had the same resources and reporting structure that Mr. Craig now has. Craig Dep. at 183:1-24. Indeed, Mr. Craig himself reports to another Associate Director at the Mint and is the only Associate Director to do so. Craig Dep. at 227:6-8. He is also not invited to any of the high-level meetings that he used to attend when he was A/D SAM. Craig Dep. at 229:1- 21. Furthermore, he is the only Associate Director who does not have a GS-15 in his organization. Craig Dep. at 227:4-228:23.

         Through the EEO process, Mr. Craig requested that he be returned to the A/D SAM position or to be placed in a comparable position, which included the Associate Director of Manufacturing (“A/D Manufacturing”). See Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 14, ECF No. 41-13. Craig was never returned to his former position nor was he ever selected for the A/D Manufacturing position.

         E. A/D Manufacturing and Acting A/D SAM Positions

         As explained above, on December 11, 2012, the same day that it was announced that Mr. Craig would become the “Executive Lead, ” it was also announced that Mr. Landry, who was serving as Acting A/D Manufacturing at the time, would leave that position and become the Acting A/D SAM. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 20, 92, 94. Ms. Babers purportedly selected Mr. Landry due to his effectiveness running the manufacturing-side of the Mint and his understanding of the SAM Division and the numismatic business. See Babers Dep. at 217:1-10; Peterson Dep. at 170:9-17. This meant, however, that someone else would need to fill Mr. Landry's former position as Acting A/D Manufacturing.

         The A/D Manufacturing position was responsible for overseeing all four of the Mint's manufacturing facilities in the United States. Def.'s Mot. at 3-4; see also Def. Ex. 2. Mr. Peterson announced that Mr. Croft, who was in charge of the Denver plant, would take over as Acting A/D Manufacturing. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶¶ 21, 92, 94. The record is unclear, however, as to how or why Mr. Peterson selected Mr. Croft for that position. Mr. Croft testified that he had never expressed any interest in the position, but Mr. Peterson had recruited him for it nonetheless. Dep. David Croft (“Croft Dep.”) at 34:2-9, ECF No. 51-4. And even though it was inconsistent with agency policy and practice, Mr. Peterson allowed Mr. Croft to remain at his duty station in Denver throughout the course of his 18-month acting assignment while performing two-week rotations to the headquarters office in Washington, D.C. Croft Dep. at 34:11-35:18; Nicholson Dep. at 152:21-153:9.

         By August 2014, Mr. Peterson began considering assigning someone to the A/D Manufacturing role on a permanent basis. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 119. To fill the position, Mr. Peterson did not undertake any competitive hiring process, but instead considered only two possible candidates-Mr. Landry and Mr. Croft. See Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 119. Mr. Landry and Mr. Croft both had extensive experience in manufacturing, both at the Mint and elsewhere. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 120. Indeed, Mr. Landry and Mr. Croft had, for several years, managed the Mint's Philadelphia and Denver manufacturing facilities, respectively, and each had previously served as Acting A/D Manufacturing for a period of approximately eighteen months. Pl.'s Resp. SMF ¶ 120. Furthermore, they both had significant manufacturing experience in the automotive industry prior to joining the Mint. See Peterson Dep. at 189:13-15; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 44, ECF No. 35-7. Mr. Croft at that time was still serving as the Acting A/D Manufacturing and Mr. Peterson considered him to be doing an “outstanding job” in that role. Peterson Dep. ...

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