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Jenkins v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 21, 2017

EILEEN E. JENKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.

         For the past 25 years Plaintiff Eileen Jenkins has built a career as an architect for the District of Columbia. In 2011, her particular office was consolidated into D.C. General Services, Construction Division. Jenkins's lateral transfer into that Division is the foundation for many of her grievances today. Because she was transferred “as is, ” Plaintiff was required to apply for a new position within General Services in order to move onto the new D.C. pay scale. In 2014, she applied for two such jobs as a Project Manager - one of which was grade 13 on that pay scale, and the other of which was grade 14. Jenkins was offered only the lower position, which she subsequently declined.

         This case largely arises out of her non-selection for the grade 14 post, a decision that she alleges was the result of both race discrimination, in violation of Title VII and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act, and age discrimination, in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Jenkins further claims that she was subjected to a hostile workplace at the Division, also in violation of Title VII. The District now moves for summary judgment on all counts, claiming that no reasonable jury could find Plaintiff's non-selection discriminatory or her work environment hostile. This Court agrees and will grant Defendant's Motion.

         I. Background

         Because the District is moving for summary judgment, the Court describes the facts in the light most favorable to Jenkins. See Talavera v. Shah, 638 F.3d 303, 308 (D.C. Cir. 2011). In 1992, Plaintiff was hired by the Design and Engineering Unit of the D.C. Public Schools as an architect. In 2008, that Unit was reorganized into the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization (OPEFM). See ECF No. 20-1, Exh. B (Notification of Personnel Action). Three years later, Jenkins's job was again restructured when the OPEFM became part of the District of Columbia General Services, Construction Division (DGS). Id. at 20. For the transfers to both OPEFM and DGS, Jenkins was transferred “as is, ” meaning that her pay plan, title, grade, and step remained the same. See ECF No. 23 (Opposition to MSJ) at 6. At the time of her assignment to DGS, Jenkins was a grade 14, step 7 architect under the Education Service System (EG) pay scale. See Notification of Personnel Action.

         In order to transfer from the EG scale to that used by DGS - the Career Service (CS) scale - Jenkins was told that she was required to apply for an open position within the Construction Division. Beginning in 2012, DGS posted numerous job openings for internal candidates, including multiple positions for grade 13 and 14 Project Managers. See ECF No. 20-1, Exh. C (Vacancies List). Although these vacancies were open to all employees, Jenkins did not apply for any. Id. Instead, she seems to have directed her energies toward contesting the terms of her lateral transfer. For example, Jenkins sent a series of emails and letters to D.C. Council members and to the mayor of the District, all of which discussed her alleged “pay disparity, ” ECF No. 23-3 (Email to Mayor Muriel Bowser) at 2, and perceived lack of adequate compensation. See ECF No. 23-3 (Email to D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson); id. (Letter to Council Member Kenyan McDuffie). The Court notes that, interestingly, none of these communications mentioned race or age discrimination as a basis for her disputes with DGS.

         In March 2014, Jenkins finally submitted applications for two of the available DGS positions - Project Manager CS-14, #24562, and Project Manager CS-13, #24563 - both of which would have transferred her to the Career Service pay scale. See Opp. at 9. On March 26, 2014, DGS offered Plaintiff the CS-13 Project Manager position. See ECF No. 23-10 (Selection Certificate for CS-13). Even though this move might seem to have demoted her (from a grade 14 to a grade 13), the EG and CS pay scales are different. In fact, if accepted, this job would have increased Jenkins's salary from $81, 642 to $86, 056, as well as making her eligible for an additional 3% cost-of-living increase. See ECF No. 20-1, Exh. G (Offer of CS-13 Position). Jenkins nonetheless rejected the CS-13 offer, expressing her discontent with DGS's decision not to select her for the CS-14 position. See ECF No. 23-5 (Letter from Jenkins to June Locker).

         In June 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge with the D.C. Office of Human Rights, alleging race and age discrimination. See Opp. at 10. DCOHR dismissed the charge and transferred the case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Id. The EEOC, in turn, did not sustain Jenkins's charges and sent her a Dismissal and Notice of Rights on September 1, 2015. Id. Although neither party has submitted the EEOC filings or records, the District does not argue that Jenkins failed to administratively exhaust her claims. The Court therefore proceeds under the assumption that this has properly occurred.

         On December 1, 2015, Jenkins filed suit in this Court. Her Complaint alleges that she was treated differently by DGS because of her race, in violation of Title VII and the D.C. Human Rights Act, an assertion she bases largely on her non-selection for the CS-14 position. See Compl., ¶¶ 28-38. She also alleges age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, stating that “less experienced similarly situated Architects and/or Project Managers under the age of 40 were hired at a higher pay scale and/or paid a higher wage than [Jenkins] for same or similar [work] performed during the relevant period.” Id., ¶¶ 45-52. Finally, Jenkins brings a hostile-workplace claim under Title VII, alleging that as a result of her race and age, her “supervisors routinely humiliated [her] and engaged in [a] persistent pattern of severe and pervasive harassment.” Id., ¶¶ 58-65. The District has now moved for summary judgment on all counts, asserting that there is no record evidence supporting any of Jenkins's allegations. See ECF No. 20 (MSJ).

         II. Legal Standard

         Summary judgment may be granted if “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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A fact is “material” if it is capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the litigation. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. A dispute is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

         When a motion for summary judgment is under consideration, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor.” Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255; see also Mastro v. PEPCO, 447 F.3d 843, 850 (D.C. Cir. 2006); Aka v. Wash. Hosp. Ctr., 156 F.3d 1284, 1288 (D.C. Cir. 1998) (en banc). On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must “eschew making credibility determinations or weighing the evidence.” Czekalski v. Peters, 475 F.3d 360, 363 (D.C. Cir. 2007). The non-moving party's opposition, however, must consist of more than mere unsupported allegations or denials and must be supported by affidavits, declarations, or other competent evidence, setting forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The non-movant is required to provide evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find in his favor. See Laningham v. Navy, 813 F.2d 1236, 1242 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

         III. Analysis

         There are a few issues to address before proceeding to Plaintiff's more substantive claims. First, the Court can easily dispose of her allegation that the District violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981. See Compl., ¶ 1. As Defendant notes in its Motion - and Jenkins concedes in her response - a plaintiff cannot sue a municipality under § 1981. See MSJ at 10; Opp. at 1. The District is correct that the Supreme Court has held that 42 U.S.C. § 1983, not § 1981, provides the exclusive remedy for discrimination and retaliation claims when the alleged violation is by a state actor. See Jett v. Dallas Independent School ...


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