United States District Court, District of Columbia
E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Andrea Johnson is a former employee of Defendant Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which, she charitably
alleges, operates the “always dependable transit
service in the Washington metropolitan area.” Amend.
Compl., ¶ 4. Her suit, however, does not depend on the
punctuality of Metro; it instead alleges that WMATA
unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of race and
sex when it demoted her from a supervisory role in January
2015. Now seeking summary judgment, WMATA contends that no
reasonable jury could find that its proffered
non-discriminatory reasons for Plaintiff's demotion were
pretextual. Agreeing, the Court will grant the Motion.
initial matter, Defendant points out that Plaintiff has not
fully complied with Local Civil Rule 7(h)(1) in her Statement
of Disputed Genuine Issues of Material Fact by failing at
times to reference the relevant part of the record that
supports certain factual assertions, submitting legal
conclusions, and not appropriately responding to
Defendant's specific assertions. As a result, it asks
that its own facts be deemed admitted. See ECF No.
23 (Reply) at 2. Although Johnson has been somewhat loose in
her Statement, her errors are not so egregious that the
entirety of Defendant's Statement of Material Facts
should simply be admitted. The Court will not, however,
accept facts that do not cite support from the record or
conclusions masquerading as facts. With this in mind, the
Court sets out the facts in the light most favorable to
who is a black woman, started work at WMATA in October 2008.
See Amend. Compl., ¶ 3; ECF No. 16-2 (Def.
SMF), ¶ 1. Johnson became a Supervisor of Recruitment
Operations in the Department of Human Resources/Talent
Acquisition in 2012. See Def. SMF, ¶ 2. In
2014, she made “salary errors in offering and hiring
two employees” within WMATA and oversaw three more
salary errors for hired employees from WMATA's
elevator/escalator apprenticeship program, which together
resulted in five employees receiving incorrect salaries.
Id., ¶¶ 10-11, 36. Additionally,
Johnson's clients - internal WMATA departments such as
access services and those responsible for escalator/elevator
hiring - complained of her “lack of responsiveness and
failures to promptly communicate.” Id.,
¶¶ 12, 18; ECF No. 20 (Deposition of Ethel Roy) at
20:15-18, 21:3-6. Johnson and her supervisor, Rod Dones, had
meetings and exchanged emails about Johnson's job
performance in which Dones outlined his concerns regarding
these communication issues. See Def. SMF,
¶¶ 13-16, 18; MSJ, Exhs. L, M, N. Johnson was
similarly informed of these concerns by the Director of
Talent Acquisition, Ethel Roy. Id., ¶ 17. In
January 2015, WMATA demoted Johnson from her supervisory role
to Senior Sourcing Specialist, citing “very serious
concerns in [her] ability as a Supervisor . . . to
lead/manage [her] staff and provide quality services to [her]
customers.” MSJ, Exh. T (Demotion Memorandum) at 4.
subsequently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission and received a right-to-sue notice in
February 2017. See Notice (attached to Complaint).
She then brought this suit against WMATA on May 19 of that
year and filed an Amended Complaint on September 5.
See ECF Nos. 1, 8. Johnson's one count alleges
that WMATA, in its “discriminatory demotion, ”
engaged in unlawful disparate treatment on the basis of race
and sex in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e.
See Amend. Compl. at 1, ¶¶ 23-27.
Defendant now moves for summary judgment.
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, 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
non-moving party. See Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
380 (2007); Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. “A party
asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must
support the assertion” by “citing to particular
parts of materials in the record” or “showing
that the materials cited do not establish the absence or
presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party
cannot produce admissible evidence to support the
fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1).
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). 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).
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, in other words, is “required to provide
evidence that would permit a reasonable jury to find”
in her favor. See Laningham v. U.S. Navy, 813 F.2d
1236, 1241 (D.C. Cir. 1987).
moves for summary judgment on the ground that it demoted
Johnson for “nondiscriminatory reason[s]” -
namely, for failing to properly communicate with employees
and clients and for salary-code errors. See MSJ at
2, 5-6; Def. SMF, ¶¶ 10-18. After articulating this
“[l]egitimate, [n]ondiscriminatory [r]eason” for
demoting her, Defendant argues that “Plaintiff cannot
produce sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find
that WMATA's asserted nondiscriminatory reason for
Plaintiff's demotion was not the actual reason, ”
and that the real reason was sex or race discrimination.
See MSJ at 5, 9. Johnson counters that there is
still a jury question as to whether WMATA's stated
reasons for her demotion are pretext for discrimination,
alleging that Defendant deviated from its internal policies
and treated similarly situated employees of different classes
more favorably. See Opp. at 1.
VII makes it 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). The Supreme
Court established the three-part burden-shifting framework
that governs claims of employment discrimination in
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792,
802-05 (1973). Under this framework, the plaintiff carries
the initial burden of establishing a prima facie
case of discrimination. When a plaintiff “meets this
burden, ‘[t]he burden then must shift to the employer
to articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason'
for its action. If the employer succeeds, then the plaintiff
must ‘be afforded a fair opportunity to show that [the
employer's] stated reason . . . was in fact pretext'
for unlawful discrimination.” Chappell-Johnson v.
Powell, 440 F.3d 484, 487 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting
McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802, 804) (citation
however, “an employee has suffered an adverse
employment action and an employer has asserted a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for the decision, the district
court need not - and should not - decide whether the
plaintiff actually made out a prima facie case under
McDonnell Douglas.” Brady v. Office of
Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, 494 (D.C. Cir. 2008)
(emphasis added). The Court's task in such cases is to
“resolve one central question: Has the employee
produced sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find
that the employer's asserted non-discriminatory reason
was not the actual reason and that the employer intentionally
discriminated against the employee on the basis of race,
color, religion, sex, or national origin?” Id.
If, even crediting the employee's evidence as true, no