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Wilkerson v. Gruenberg

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 12, 2018

JO ANN WILKERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MARTIN J. GRUENBERG, in his official capacity as Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TREVOR N. MCFADDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jo Ann Wilkerson claims that her former employer, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), discriminated against her on the basis of her race, sex, and age, and requests relief under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 633a. Am. Compl. ¶ 1, ECF No. 10. The FDIC moved for summary judgment. Upon consideration of the pleadings, relevant law, related legal memoranda in opposition and in support, and the entire record, the Court finds that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that the FDIC articulated legitimate, non-discrimination reasons for its actions, which Ms. Wilkerson has not rebutted as pretextual. Accordingly, the Defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Ms. Wilkerson's Employment at the FDIC

         Ms. Wilkerson is a 58 year old, [1] African-American woman who served as a Senior Community Affairs Specialist within the FDIC's Outreach and Program Development Section (the “Section”). Id. ¶ 5. She held this role, a CG-15 level position, as a term employee for four years, between February 2011 and February 2015. Id. ¶ 8. Ms. Wilkerson describes her responsibilities to include “conduct[ing] research on community development issues of concern to financial institutions, and [] develop[ing] educational/outreach material to help facilitate bank investment in economic and community development projects.” Id. One of the educational materials on which she worked was a handbook called “Strategies for Community Banks to Develop Partnerships with Community Development Financial Institutions” (the “CDFI Guide”). See id. ¶¶ 9, 10(i).

         Throughout her tenure at the FDIC, Ms. Wilkerson's first-level supervisor was Section Chief Luke Reynolds, who Ms. Wilkerson characterizes as “a white male in his late 30s.” Id. ¶ 8. For most of her tenure, Ms. Wilkerson's second-level supervisor was Elizabeth Ortiz, Deputy Director of the FDIC's Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection, but Janet Gordon, Associate Director of the Section, became her second-level supervisor for the last nine months of her term (i.e., June 2014 to February 2015). Def.'s Statement of Material Facts as to Which There is No. Genuine Dispute (“Def.'s SOMF”) ¶¶ 4-5, ECF No. 17.[2]

         B. Ms. Wilkerson's Complaint - Discrimination Claims

         Ms. Wilkerson alleges that the FDIC discriminated against her on the basis of her race, sex, and age, particularly as compared to a “younger white male colleague, ” James Yagley, who held the same position as Ms. Wilkerson and was another of Mr. Reynolds' direct reports. Am. Compl. ¶ 9. Her discrimination claims fall into three categories.

         First, Ms. Wilkerson claims that in the time leading up to November 2014, she received disparate treatment than Mr. Yagley, such as: (i) being told that she was not permitted to travel to meetings and conferences as a term employee; (ii) being denied access to certain shared electronic resources (e.g., computer drive, Community Affairs folder, CARDs system); (iii) not being given a laptop; (iv) not being provided opportunities to present at meetings of the Regional Community Affairs Officers or moderate national webinars; (v) not being able to attend the meetings of the FDIC Chairperson's Advisory Committee of Economic Inclusion; and (vi) being denied attendance at the Community Reinvestment Act training held in March 2012 and the FDIC's Examination School for Non-Examiners held in February 2015. Id. ¶ 10.[3] She also alleges that her performance rating of “III - Accomplished Practitioner” on her 2013 performance evaluation was lower than she previously received. Id.

         Second, Ms. Wilkerson argues that her 2014 performance evaluation, where she received a “III - Accomplished Practitioner, ” was lower than she deserved vis-à-vis Mr. Yagley's performance that year, for which he was rated a “IV.” Id. ¶ 9; Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. 4 (Aff. of Luke Reynolds) at 9, ECF No. 17-2. The 2014 evaluation period covered September 2013 to August 2014, and was delivered to Ms. Wilkerson in November 2014. Id. Ex. 3, ECF No. 17-2; Am. Compl. ¶ 9.

         Third, Ms. Wilkerson claims that her work in 2014 on the CDFI Guide deserved a monetary award since Mr. Yagley received “substantial cash awards for much less important work” at the FDIC. Id. ¶¶ 9-10.

         C. Ms. Wilkerson's Complaint - Retaliation Claims

         Approximately a week before her term at the FDIC concluded, Ms. Wilkerson filed a formal complaint of discrimination with the FDIC's Office of Minority and Women Inclusion. Id. ¶ 11. A few days later, she applied to be a permanent Community Affairs Specialist at either the Lexington, Kentucky or Raleigh, North Carolina positions, both CG-13 level postings. Id. ¶ 13. Ms. Wilkerson conducted two rounds of interviews for the positions, but was not selected for either. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. She claims that her second-level supervisor, Ms. Gordon, was aware of her discrimination complaint and retaliated against her by not selecting Ms. Wilkerson for either position. Id. ¶14.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To prevail on summary judgment, the movant must show an absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that 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); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact is one that would change the outcome of the litigation. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. The Court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Johnson v. Perez, 823 F.3d 701, 705 (D.C. Cir. 2016).

         Discrimination and retaliation claims are evaluated under the framework explained in McDonnell Douglas Corporation v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Under this framework, the plaintiff must first establish a prima facie case; the burden then shifts to the employer to “articulate a legitimate, non[-]discriminatory and/or non-retaliatory reason for the adverse employment action;” whereupon the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to “demonstrate that the offered non-discriminatory reason was, in fact, pretext for a prohibited reason.” Mokhtar v. Kerry, 83 F.Supp.3d 49, 70 (D.D.C. 2015). In this Circuit, at the summary judgment stage, a court need not decide whether the plaintiff actually made a prima facie case under McDonnell Douglas. Brady v. Office of Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, 494 (D.C. Cir. 2008). The central inquiry is whether the employee has “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. To answer this, the court considers the “total circumstances of the case, ” including “any evidence the plaintiff presents to attack the employer's proffered explanation for its actions, and [] any further evidence of discrimination that may be available to the plaintiff . . . or any contrary evidence that may be available to the employer.” Evans v. Sebelius, 716 F.3d 617, 620 (D.C. Cir. 2013).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Each of Ms. Wilkerson's claims fail as a matter of law because she has not presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the FDIC's articulated, non-discriminatory and ...


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