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Vinh v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 19, 2018

ANDY B. VINH, Plaintiff,


          Royce C. Lamberth United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Andy B. Vinh brought this action against the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") alleging that the defendant discriminated against him based on his race, gender, and national origin, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., when he was rehired by the defendant, as opposed to reinstated, after his criminal conviction was overturned on appeal. Before the Court is defendant's motion for summary judgement on all claims. ECF No. 22. Upon consideration of the motion, the response and reply thereto, the entire record of the case, and the relevant case law, the Court GRANTS the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Andy B. Vinh, who is of Asian origin and of Vietnamese national origin, began working as a police officer for the Metro Transit Police Department (MTPD)-WMATA's police force-in 2008. On October 31, 2013, the plaintiff was convicted of second degree assault in Montgomery County, Maryland District Court. In response to the conviction, WMATA terminated the plaintiffs employment on November 25, 2013. He appealed his conviction and in January of 2014 the Montgomery County Circuit Court reversed his conviction and found him not guilty. At that point, the plaintiff reapplied for a position as a police officer with WMATA and was rehired, and not reinstated, on March 5, 2014.

         At the time of his firing and rehiring, the plaintiff was a paying union member of the Fraternal Order of the Police ("FOP"). On the plaintiffs behalf, FOP only filed a Step One Grievance and failed to pursue any additional grievance procedures under the Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA"), including arbitration.

         On September 18, 2015, the plaintiff filed a Complaint in the present action against WMATA. He alleges three counts of discrimination under Title VII (race, national origin, and gender based discrimination). The plaintiffs allegations center on the claim that WMATA should have reinstated him, as opposed to rehiring him, following the reversal of his second degree assault conviction.


          A. Summary Judgement

         Summary judgment is appropriate "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). Courts must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor." Athridge v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 604 F.3d 625, 629 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). To show that a dispute is "genuine" and defeat summary judgment, the nonmoving party must present evidence "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. (internal citations omitted). Summary judgment is also appropriate when, "after adequate time for discovery, " the nonmoving party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial . . . since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         B. Title VII-National Origin, Race, and Gender Discrimination

         Federal employment discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which it is unlawful for an employer "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).

         Title VII claims that rely on circumstantial evidence-as opposed to direct evidence of discrimination-are analyzed under the burden-shifting framework found in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under McDonnell Douglas, the employee "must carry the initial burden under the statute of establishing a prima facie case of racial discrimination." Id. at 802. In cases concerning disparate treatment based on national origin, race, or sex, a prima facie case consists of a showing that "(1) [the plaintiff] is a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) the unfavorable action gives rise to an inference of discrimination." Chappell-Johnson v. Powell, 440 F.3d 484, 488 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         A plaintiffs "burden of establishing a prima facie case of disparate treatment is not onerous, " Texas Dep't of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 253 (1981), and the requirement of establishing a prima facie case "is 'not intended to be an inflexible rule.'" Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 135 S.Ct. 1338, 1353 (2015). Thus, "an individual plaintiff may establish a prima facie case by 'showing actions taken by the employer from which one can infer, if such actions remain unexplained, that it is more likely than not that such actions were based on a discriminatory criterion illegal under' Title VII." Id.

         If the employee establishes a prima facie case of discrimination, the burden "must shift to the employer to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the" adverse action. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802. The employer "must clearly set forth, through the introduction of admissible evidence, the reasons for the [the action]" so as to "raise[] a genuine issue of fact ...

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