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Oviedo v. Wmata

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 16, 2018

HENRY OVIEDO, Plaintiff,
v.
WMATA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TANYA S. CHUTKAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this employment discrimination action filed pro se, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (“WMATA”), unlawfully discriminated against him because of his national origin (Chilean) and age, and retaliated against him for engaging in protected activity. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 20). Following a period of discovery, Defendant has moved for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 (ECF No. 27). For the reasons explained below, the Court will GRANT Defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Plaintiff's Work History and Job Applications

         Plaintiff worked as a Project Manager in WMATA's engineering services department from August 1999 until his retirement in April 2015, at age 80. Plaintiff alleges that he “was disappointed by the lack of promotion during [his] 16 years of uninterruptible work for WMATA and tired of the daily long walking from the Eisenhower Metro Station to the office” in Alexandria, Virginia. As a result, Plaintiff “felt like” he was “forced to retire . . . at the same job classification . . . and the same grade/pay 14.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 2).

         Plaintiff alleges that over the course of his employment, WMATA denied him “any promotion and discriminated against [him] in the selection process in about 12 . . . engineering job[ ] positions” for which he had applied. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3). When he first applied for a position in 2003, Plaintiff “had graduate level education and a good 25 years of engineering experience, which [were] better than any of the selected candidates' qualification[s].” (Id.). In January 2014, Plaintiff “suffered stress and emotional pain when on or around January 31, 2014, ” he apparently learned that WMATA's hiring manager, Mr. John Thomas, had “refused to interview [him] to compete for promotion against other candidates for a position in the Construction Department, ” despite the Human Resources Department's alleged assessment of Plaintiff “as a well-qualified candidate for that engineering position.” (Id. ¶ 4, citing Compl. Ex. 1, Thomas's Jan. 31, 2014 Memorandum re: Selection of Project Manager Interviewees). That decision, stemming from events that occurred in November 2013, forms the basis of this action.

         In the fall of 2013, Plaintiff applied for two advertised project manager positions in WMATA's Office of Major Capital Projects (“MCAP”). Plaintiff's resume was among “a package” of six or seven applicants forwarded to Thomas from the Human Resources department. (June 15, 2017 Oral Dep. of John D. Thomas, P.E., at 17:17-18, 18:3, ECF No. 27-3). Thomas, who was “ultimately responsible” for hiring individuals to fill the positions, reviewed Plaintiff's resume but did not select him for an interview. (See WMATA's Stmt. of Material Facts Not in Dispute ¶ 7; Decl. of John D. Thomas ¶ 3, ECF No. 27-1). Thomas avers that both of the positions were “primarily to manage projects, as opposed to performing engineering tasks and functions.” (Thomas Decl. ¶ 3). The primary function of the first position, filled by an African American man, was “to oversee the installation of canopies over escalators at Metrorail station entrances.” (Id.). The second position, filled by a white woman, was “financial manager for the various projects at MCAP.” (Id.).

         Thomas avers that despite Plaintiff's “significant experience in electrical engineering tasks in another department at WMATA, ” he “did not feel that Mr. Oviedo was the right person for either of [the] specialized positions” since he had “concentrated primarily on electrical engineering design, which was not the focus of either” position. (Thomas Decl. ¶ 4). Plaintiff's resume “did not indicate [his] familiarity with WMATA processes and procedures, ” which for Thomas was “a necessity[.]” (Id.). Thomas determined that the two individuals who were selected “had the best combination of leadership ability, breadth of experience, and technical knowledge so as to be the best candidates for the respective positions.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that “WMATA Hiring Managers did not promote me and discriminated against me because of several factors: my age (79 years old), my strong Hispanic accent, and also as a way of retaliation” because he had “complained twice” to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) about WMATA's alleged violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (“Title VII”), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”). (Am. Compl. ¶ 5). Plaintiff also complained to WMATA's Civil Rights Office about alleged violations of the Hiring and Promotion Policy. (Id.).

         B. Plaintiff's EEO Activity

         Plaintiff states that he filed his first complaint with the EEOC in 2009, “followed by another similar complaint to EEOC in 2013.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 10). Allegedly, each complaint raised “the same . . . argument and content, as they were all related to no promotions due to discrimination, ” which resulted in “a diminished salary affected by long-past discriminatory decisions.” (Id.).

         Plaintiff alleges that on June 18, 2009, and June 26, 2009, he emailed WMATA's Office of Civil Rights about his “lack of selection for the Manager of Engineering (job ref # 090035) position and was “notified” that the Office “does not investigate claims unless there is evidence of discrimination.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 12(c)). In November 2009, Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC, claiming discrimination based on “race/national origin (Hispanic-Chilean)” and age (74). (Charge of Discrimination, ECF No. 27-7). Plaintiff checked the box for “continuing action” but listed the earliest date of discrimination as March 13, 2009, and the latest date as September 2, 2009. (Id.). In the “Particulars” section, Plaintiff wrote that since October 2006, he had been denied “promotion to various positions” for which he was “well qualified.” (Id.). Plaintiff claimed specifically that on March 13, 2009, he applied for an open Manager of Engineering position (# 090035) but was not interviewed, and on September 2, 2009, he was interviewed for another Manager Engineering position (# 08064) but was not hired. (Id.). In each instance, Plaintiff wrote, “a younger less qualified non-Hispanic American was hired.” (Id.) The EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Rights on March 15, 2011, informing Plaintiff, inter alia, of his right to file a lawsuit within 90 days from his receipt of the notice (ECF No. 27-8). Plaintiff did not file a lawsuit. WMATA's Facts ¶ 4.

         In January 2014, Plaintiff filed a charge with the EEOC, claiming discrimination based on “race (White), ” national origin (Chilean), age (78), and retaliation. (Charge of Discrimination, ECF No. 27-5). Plaintiff listed the earliest date of discrimination as January 1, 2013, and the latest date as November 18, 2013, but specifically claimed that on the latter date, WMATA failed to interview him for “the position of Project Manager.” (Id.). Plaintiff did not check the “continuing action” box. In the Particulars section, Plaintiff wrote: “I believe I have more experience than most, if not all, of the persons who were selected for the positions.” (Id.). The EEOC issued its Dismissal and Notice of Rights on July 14, 2016. Plaintiff timely filed this lawsuit on September 20, 2016.

         In the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff lists seven engineering positions announced between October 27, 2006 and August 2011 for which he applied but was not selected. (Am. Compl. ¶ 11). Plaintiff claims generally that “supervisors and staff members” failed (1) to “provide an equal opportunity on the job competition, ” (2) to select “the best candidates, ” (3) to follow “WMATA Hiring and Promotion practices, ” and (4) to enforce Title VII and the ADEA. Plaintiff alleges that the interviewers allowed their “personal judgment [to prevail] over the candidate with the best qualifications. (Id.). Plaintiff also claims he sought “numerous times” to redress his discrimination claims with WMATA between September 2007 and June 2009. (Id. ¶ 12).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is no disputed genuine issue of material fact, and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). A dispute is “genuine” only “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the court must view ...


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