United States District Court, District of Columbia
A. Howell Chief Judge
the plaintiff, Audrey Easaw, was terminated from her position
at the American Association of Retired Persons
(“AARP”), she sued her former employer's
consultants, the defendants Debbie Newport and Calade
Partners (collectively, the “defendants”),
claiming, inter alia, tortious interference with
employment. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 33-36, ECF No.
The plaintiff alleges that when AARP retained Ms.
Newport's company, Calade Partners, in 2015 to provide
consulting services, Ms. Newport began interfering with the
plaintiff's employment by making negative comments about
the plaintiff to her supervisors, excluding the plaintiff
from AARP meetings, rewriting the plaintiff's job
description, and advocating for changes in the
plaintiff's position, which interference caused the
plaintiff's termination. Pl.'s Am. Mem. Opp'n
Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s Opp'n”)
at 15-16, ECF No. 39. The defendants have now filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 32, on the remaining tortious
interference claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 56(a). For the reasons explained below, the
defendants' motion is granted.
factual background for the plaintiff's allegations has
been previously summarized based on the Complaint, see
Easaw, 253 F.Supp.3d at 24-25, but is supplemented here
following almost nine months of discovery. The plaintiff
began working for AARP in 2011 as a Corporate Engagement
Management Director. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A, Decl. of
Audrey Easaw (“Pl.'s Decl.”) ¶¶
3-4, ECF No. 36-2. The plaintiff's troubles appear to
have started in the fall of 2015, as AARP began shifting the
plaintiff's responsibilities from her initial Corporate
Engagement Management Director position to a different role
in a new department called AARP Experience
(“AARPx”). The facts associated with the
plaintiff's transitioning role and AARP's eventual
decision to terminate the plaintiff's employment are
The Plaintiff's Initial Role as Corporate Engagement
fall of 2015, AARP began reducing the plaintiff's
responsibilities as Corporate Engagement Management Director.
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. B, Pl.'s Resps. Defs.' First
Set Interrogs. and Req. Produc. Docs. (“Pl.'s
Resps. Interrogs.”) at 10, ECF No. 36-3. Ultimately,
AARP decided to eliminate the Corporate Engagement Management
Director position. Pl.'s Resps. Interrogs. at 10;
Defs.' Statement Material Facts (“Defs.'
SMF”) ¶ 5 (undisputed), ECF No. 32-2; Defs.'
Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Defs.' Mem.”), Ex.
1, Ed O'Day Dep. (“O'Day Dep.”) at 24,
ECF No. 32-3. The defendants were not involved in the
decision to eliminate the Corporate Engagement Management
Director role. Pl.'s Resps. Interrogs. at 10; Defs.'
SMF ¶ 5 (undisputed); O'Day Dep. at 24.
The Plaintiff's Work in the AARPx Department
August 2015, around the same time that AARP began reducing
the plaintiff's role as Corporate Engagement Management
Director, AARP began creating a new department called AARPx.
Pl.'s Resps. Interrogs. at 8-10. AARP retained Ms.
Newport and her company, Calade Partners, to provide
consulting services for the creation of AARPx. Defs.' SMF
¶ 6; Defs.' Mem. at 1, ECF No. 32-1. The plaintiff
also started to work on AARPx, and she spent most of her time
as the acting “AARP Experience Management
Director” due to AARP's “organizational
need.” Pl.'s Resps. Interrogs. at 9-10.
plaintiff worked with Ms. Newport to help “stand
up” AARPx, and shortly after that, in the
plaintiff's view, Ms. Newport developed a habit of
speaking to the plaintiff in an abrasive and disrespectful
tone. Pl.'s Decl. ¶¶ 6-7. In October 2015, the
plaintiff spoke to Ms. Newport about her tone, explained her
approach to leading and managing assignments, and said that
Ms. Newport should speak to her in a respectful manner.
Id. ¶ 7. Ms. Newport responded, “I get
it.” Id. The plaintiff also raised her
concerns about Ms. Newport's approach to Ed O'Day,
the then-interim SVP for AARPx. Id.
the plaintiff's conversation with Ms. Newport about her
tone, the plaintiff felt that Ms. Newport expressed an abrupt
“coolness” toward her. Id. Ms. Newport
provided feedback about the plaintiff's work to the
plaintiff's supervisors, including negative comments. For
instance, Ms. Newport told Michelle Musgrove, who supervised
some of the plaintiff's work on AARPx, that
“apparently deliverable date commitments aren't
something [plaintiff] thinks are a priority.” Pl.'s
Opp'n, Ex. D, Email from Def. to Michelle Musgrove, Nov.
3, 2015, at 2, ECF No. 36-5; Defs.' Mem., Ex. 3, Jim
Pendergast Dep. (“Pendergast Dep.”) at 7, ECF No.
32-5. Ms. Newport also privately emailed another AARP
employee, David Wickenden, whose position is unclear,
criticizing “brand promise” language circulated
by the plaintiff. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. F, Email from Def.
to David Wickenden, Jan. 12, 2016, at 19-20, ECF No. 36-7. At
the same time, Ms. Newport provided positive comments about
the plaintiff's work, including, for example, telling Ms.
Musgrove about a slide created by the plaintiff: “I
like the start of this slide . . . thoughts?” Pl.'s
Opp'n, Ex. F, Email from Def. to Michelle Musgrove, Nov.
16, 2015 (“Nov. 16, 2015 Email”), at 23, ECF No.
The Plaintiff's Attempt to Obtain a Permanent Position in
January through March 2016, the plaintiff noticed delayed or
no responses to her emails or requests to Ms. Newport and Ms.
Musgrove, as well as her exclusion from AARPx meetings.
Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 10. In mid-March 2016, Mr. O'Day
told the plaintiff that AARP was rewriting the job
description for AARPx Management Director. Id.
¶ 11. The plaintiff then learned that she could obtain a
permanent position in AARPx in two ways: (1) she could either
be “slotted” in, or retain, her then-current
position; or (2) she could apply for a position if AARP did
not “slot” her. Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 11;
O'Day Dep. at 15, 17-18; Pendergast Dep. at 22.
Eligibility for the first option allowing the plaintiff to
retain her position was contingent on AARP determining that
she was already completing 70% of the work in the finalized
AARPx Management Director job description. Pl.'s Decl.
¶ 11; Pl.'s Resps. Interrogs. at 3-4; O'Day Dep.
at 15, 17-18.
Human Resources determined, after the job description was
finalized by AARP, that the plaintiff was not performing 70%
of the duties. O'Day Dep. at 17-18. Therefore, AARP did
not retain the plaintiff in the AARPx Management Director
suggestion of Mr. O'Day, the plaintiff spoke to Jim
Pendergast, the incoming SVP of AARPx. Pl.'s Decl.
¶¶ 9, 12-13. Mr. Pendergast informed the plaintiff
that she could apply for jobs in AARPx once posted, and that
she would be considered through that process. Pendergast Dep.
at 8-9, 22. The plaintiff never applied for any posted AARPx
position, however. Defs.' Mem., Ex. 2, Pl.'s Dep.
(“Pl. Dep.”) at 13, ECF No. 32-4.
Newport worked with Mr. Pendergast on staffing for AARPx,
see Pl.'s Resps. Interrogs. at 3-6; Pl.'s
Opp'n, Ex. D, Email from Jim Pendergast, May 6, 2016
(“May 6, 2016 Email”), at 5-6, ECF No. 36-5;
Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. F, Email from Def. to James
Pendergast, May 25, 2016 (“May 25, 2016 Email”),
at 2, ECF No. 36-7, but Ms. Newport testified under oath that
she neither discussed with anyone at AARP the elimination of
the plaintiff's job, nor recommended termination of the
plaintiff, Defs.' Mem., Ex. 4, Debbie Newport Dep.
(“Newport Dep.”) at 3-4, ECF No. 32-6. Ms.
Newport's testimony on these latter points is
corroborated by Mr. Pendergast, who was involved in staffing
AARPx, Pendergast Dep. at 10-12, and the plaintiff testified
at her deposition that no one from AARP told her that Ms.
Newport advised that she should be fired, Pl. Dep. at 13.
16, 2016, Mr. O'Day told the plaintiff that she would be
displaced from employment with AARP, effective July 8, 2016.
Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 15. At the plaintiff's request,
AARP extended her termination date until August 1, 2016, so
that the ...