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Hardy v. Powell

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 10, 2018

FELICIA HARDY and BARRY POPE, as personal representatives of the estate of Andre Hardy, Plaintiffs,
v.
JEROME H. POWELL, in his official capacity as Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TREVOR N. McFADDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Felicia Hardy and Barry Pope seek $10 million in this Title VII retaliation case against Jerome Powell, whom they have sued in his official capacity as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.[1] As personal representatives of the estate of Andre Hardy, they allege that the Federal Reserve drove Mr. Hardy to commit suicide by retaliating against him for engaging in activity protected by Title VII. Because the Plaintiffs cannot show that they have exhausted their retaliation claims and because they cannot show that retaliation took place, the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.[2]

         I.

         Mr. Hardy worked for the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System as a law enforcement officer from 2011 to 2016. Compl. ¶ 22. In 2015, Mr. Hardy participated in tryouts for a new bike patrol unit. Opp. to Mot. Summary J. 5. Although he scored 95% on speed test, he scored 30% on a cone course test. Mot. Summary J. Ex. K. His supervisor, Lieutenant Kelly Graves, gave him a 100% recommendation, and he also earned a 100% “D.C. Code Score.” Id.; see also Opp. to Mot. Summary J. 5. Mr. Hardy's overall score of 81% represents the average of these four scores and placed him 17 out of 21 tryout participants. See Mot. Summary J. Ex. K. Nine participants, including three female officers, were selected for the bike team, but Mr. Hardy was not selected. Opp. to Mot. Summary J. 5.

         In June 2015, Mr. Hardy contacted the Board's Employee Relations office to discuss his concern that female officers were favored over him in the formation of the bike team. Id. at 6.[3] Employee Relations forwarded Mr. Hardy's complaint to the Board's Equal Employment Opportunity, or EEO, office. Id. In August 2015, Mr. Hardy spoke with Andre Smith, an EEO counselor, to discuss the bike selection process and other instances of perceived discrimination. Id.

         The Plaintiffs allege that Mr. Hardy's supervisors learned of his complaint as soon as he contacted the EEO office, and that Lt. Graves retaliated against Mr. Hardy because of it. Id. at 6-11. For example, they allege that when Mr. Hardy sought promotion to corporal, Lt. Graves denied his request to reschedule a necessary exam. Id. at 9-10.[4] They also allege that Lt. Graves denied Mr. Hardy's request to transfer to a different location, where Mr. Hardy would no longer be under Lt. Graves's supervision. Id. at 10-11.[5] Mr. Hardy complained about these incidents in a letter to Employee Relations. Id. Ex. 18. But rather than characterizing them as retaliation, he described them as examples of discrimination and complained that Lt. Graves made it clear from the time he first began to supervise Mr. Hardy that he “was coming for [him] personally.” Id. Ex. 18 1.

         On March 14, 2016, Mr. Hardy submitted a resignation letter:

I am writing to inform you that I am resigning from my position with The Federal Reserve. Thank you for the opportunities and professional development that I have received from the Federal Reserve Law Enforcement Unit. While I believe that that [sic] I am moving for good reasons. I am sorry to leave and I thank you for your support during my time with The LEU [Law Enforcement Unit], which I have found enjoyable and fulfilling.
I am putting in my two weeks' notice and I hope this is sufficient for you. My last day in office will be Monday, March 28 2016. With an effective date of Tuesday, March 29 2016.

Id. Ex. 25. Tragically, on March 28, Mr. Hardy committed suicide after recording an audio note explaining his frustrations with Lt. Graves and his sense that he could never advance in his career. Id. at 11.

         In April 2016, the Plaintiffs initiated an EEO complaint on behalf of Mr. Hardy's estate, alleging that discrimination and retaliation had driven Mr. Hardy to resign his position and take his own life. Id. at 11-12. The Board dismissed their complaint because Mr. Hardy's estate lacked standing. Id. at 26-27. The Plaintiffs then sued the Chairman of the Board of Governors in federal court, alleging that the Board violated Title VII by committing sex discrimination and by retaliating against Mr. Hardy for engaging in activity protected by Title VII. The Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint. In response, the Plaintiffs dropped their claims of sex discrimination but added new allegations about retaliation. Id. at 3 n.1, 17. The Board's Motion for Summary Judgment is now ripe.

         II.

         To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a movant must show 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 (1986); Celotex Corp v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A factual dispute is material if it could alter the outcome of the suit under the substantive governing law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute about a material fact is genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.

         “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once the party seeking summary judgment makes this showing, the non-moving party ...


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