United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta United States District Judge
Gwendolyn Mitchell is the Manager of Metadata and Taxonomy
Operations at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
System, a position she has held for the past four years.
Plaintiff, an African American woman, alleges discrimination
by her employer on the basis of race and gender. First, she
asserts that she was subjected to a hostile work environment
by three of her co-workers, and that Defendant is liable for
failing to act in response to her complaints. Second, she
alleges that Defendant retaliated against her after she
complained of this treatment by removing some of her
responsibilities and transferring them to other employees.
Finally, she maintains that the decision not to promote her
to the role of Assistant Director was both discriminatory and
in retaliation for her protected activity.
seeks summary judgment as to all claims. For the reasons
below, the court grants Defendant's motion as to
Plaintiff's claims for hostile work environment and for
non-promotion. However, Plaintiff's claim for the
retaliatory removal of responsibilities can proceed to trial.
Gwendolyn Mitchell is the Manager for Metadata and Taxonomy
Operations in the Office of the Chief Data Officer
(“OCDO”) at the Federal Reserve Board of
Governors, a position she has held since January 2014.
Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 15 [hereinafter
Def.'s Mot.], Def.'s Stmt. of Uncontested Facts, ECF
No. 15-2 [hereinafter Def.'s Facts], ¶ 1; Pl.'s
Opp'n to Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 19 [hereinafter
Pl.'s Opp'n], Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Facts,
ECF No. 19-35 [hereinafter Pl.'s Facts] (uncontested);
Def.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 15-3 [hereinafter Def.'s Ex.
A]. A few months into her tenure, Plaintiff began to clash
with another OCDO employee, Jeff Monica, the Assistant
Director for Data Strategy and Policy. Pl.'s Opp'n at
3-9; Def.'s Ex. A. As an Assistant Director, Mr. Monica
outranked Plaintiff, but did not act as her supervisor.
Def.'s Mot. at 2; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3; Def.'s
Ex. A. During the relevant period, both Plaintiff and Mr.
Monica reported directly to Michael Kraemer, the Chief Data
Officer. Def's Mot. at 2-3; Pl.'s Opp'n at 3;
Def.'s Ex. A.
recounts a series of incidents, starting in October 2014, in
which Mr. Monica yelled at Plaintiff and made rude comments
to her at work, often in public settings such as meetings.
See, e.g., Pl.'s Opp'n, Pl.'s Ex. 27,
ECF No. 19-27 [hereinafter Mitchell Decl.], ¶ 17
(“Jeff demanded that I assume the sole lead role of the
Taxonomy work associated with his project and drafting a
project charter because he wanted ‘one neck to
choke.'”); id. (“[H]e began yelling
that he didn't care about that and that he would
influence what went into my performance appraisal.”);
id. ¶ 19 (“Mr. Monica yelled at me rather
than allowing me to explain what MDRM codes and what Fed
names were and how important they were.”); id
¶ 20 (“Jeff yelled at me because he was upset
about the progress of the Taxonomy project and continued to
discount the taxonomy and metadata work of my team.”).
According to Plaintiff, Mr. Monica's subordinates, Irena
Zadonsky and Sridhar Dronamraju, also took actions to
undermine Plaintiff's ability to do her job, including
telling Plaintiff's subordinates not to work with her and
excluding Plaintiff from meetings relevant to her work.
See id. ¶ 31 (“Sridhar Dronamraju
scheduled and attended EDI Lite kick-off meetings with the
stakeholders without me . . . despite [my] obvious
involvement in the program.”); id. ¶ 29
(“Irena Zadonsky instructed my subordinates not to
complete the visual regarding data use at the Board[, a
project which had been assigned to Plaintiff's
team].”); id. ¶ 39 (“Irena Zandosky
distributed an organizational chart relating to OCDO that
relegated me to a subservient role in Enterprise Taxonomy
Development.”); id. ¶ 40 (“Irena
Zadonsky excluded me from a presentation by Patrick Lamb, an
international taxonomy expert.”).
also offers some evidence that Mr. Monica and his
subordinates directed such behavior toward African American
women in particular. See, e.g., Pl.'s Opp'n,
Pl.'s Ex. 1, ECF No. 19-1, at 87 (responding to a
deposition question as to when she was convinced that she had
been subject to discrimination, Plaintiff replied that she
became aware that the “behavior [was] being . . .
directed at Yinka, Bunmi and myself [all of whom are African
American women]”); Pl.'s Opp'n, Pl.'s Ex 2,
ECF No. 19-2 [hereinafter Pl.'s Ex. 2], at 69-70
(describing an incident where Ms. Zadonsky yelled at Ms.
Atkintade, an African American woman); Mitchell Decl. ¶
20 (stating that Mr. Monica yelled at only Plaintiff at a
meeting where Plaintiff and a white woman were updating Mr.
Monica on a project).
October 6, 2015, Plaintiff and two colleagues met with Mr.
Kraemer to discuss their concerns about the pattern of
harassing behavior. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10; Pl.'s Ex.
1 at 92. At this meeting, Plaintiff and her colleagues
discussed their belief that the behavior was motivated by
discrimination based on race and sex. Pl.'s Opp'n at 10;
Pl.'s Ex. 1 at 92. Following this meeting, Defendant took
no steps to address the issues raised. See
Def.'s Facts (offering no examples of actions taken
between October 6 and a second meeting on December 4, 2015);
Def.'s Mot. (same); Def.'s Reply to Pl.'s
Opp'n, ECF No. 23 [hereinafter Def.'s Reply] (same).
Not surprisingly, Plaintiff continued to experience harassing
behavior. In November of 2015, Mr. Monica yelled at Plaintiff
in a meeting, and in a separate incident Ms. Zadonsky
excluded Plaintiff and another African American female
colleague from a meeting. Pl.'s Opp'n at 9, 12;
Pl.'s Opp'n, Pl.'s Ex. 26, ECF No. 19-26 (email
showing the exclusion from a meeting); Mitchell Decl. ¶
Plaintiff asserts that Mr. Kraemer engaged in retaliatory
actions against her after she complained to him in October
2015. Specifically, she claims that he removed certain
responsibilities from her purview or countenanced such action
by Mr. Monica. See, e.g., Pl.'s Opp'n at 11
(“Mr. Kraemer approved the exclusion of Ms. Mitchell
from the Enterprise Data Inventory Advisory Group.”);
id. (“Mr. Kraemer allowed Jeffrey Monica to
completely remove Ms. Mitchell's responsibility for the
modernization of the MDRM codes and Fed names, which Ms.
Mitchell had been overseeing.”); id.
(“Mr. Kraemer also signed a memo supporting Mr.
Monica's intention to decide all ‘future planning
for MDRM coding and FEDnames/Nomenclature. . . '”).
raised her concerns again on December 4, 2015, in a meeting
with Mr. Kraemer and Donald Hammond, Mr. Kraemer's
supervisor. Def.'s Mot., Def's Ex. P, ECF No. 15-18,
at 5-6. No immediate actions were taken in response to the
complaints. See Def.'s Facts (offering no
examples of actions taken between the second meeting on
December 4, 2015 and “early” 2016 when a
consultant was hired to conduct a “climate
assessment”); Def.'s Mot. (same); Def.'s Reply
early 2016, Defendant hired a third-party contractor, ADR
Vantage, to conduct a “climate assessment” of the
OCDO. Def.'s Facts ¶ 27; Pl.'s Facts
(uncontested). The parties dispute whether this was done in
response to Plaintiff's complaints. Compare
Def.'s Facts ¶ 27 (“[T]he OCDO engaged an
outside consultant, ADR Vantage, to conduct a climate
assessment . . . based on workplace tensions . . . including
complaints raised by plaintiff in late 2015”)
with Pl.'s Opp'n at 26 (“Mr. Kraemer
contended at his deposition that [the climate assessment] was
not conducted because of Ms. Mitchell's complaints of
race discrimination.”). ADR Vantage released a summary
report of its findings in June of 2016. Pl.'s Opp'n,
Pl.'s Ex. 31, ECF No. 19-31. Defendant issued letters of
reprimand based on the findings of the report to Mr. Monica,
Ms. Zadonsky, and Mr. Dronamraju in August 2016.
Id.; Pl.'s Opp'n, Pl.'s Ex. 32, ECF No.
19-32; Pl.'s Opp'n, Pl.'s Ex. 33, ECF No. 19-33.
spring of 2016, before release of the climate assessment
results, Plaintiff applied for a promotion to Assistant
Director of Data Management Business Services, also in the
OCDO. Def.'s Mot, Def.'s Ex. J, ECF No. 15-12;
Def.'s Ex. A. Plaintiff was one of three finalists for
the position. Def.'s Facts ¶ 24; Pl.'s Facts
(uncontested). Defendant ultimately selected Phil Daher, a
white male who had served as the Manager for Information
Management at the Federal Reserve in another division for the
preceding nine years. Def.'s Facts ¶ 17; Pl.'s
Facts (uncontested); Def.'s Mot., Def.'s Ex. M, ECF
sought Equal Employment Opportunity counseling at the end of
June 2016, and filed a formal administrative complaint in
July of that year. Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.],
¶ 4; Def.'s Answer, ECF No. 7, ¶ 4.
filed her complaint in this case on January 27, 2017,
alleging race and sex discrimination, hostile work
environment, and retaliation under Title VII. See
Compl. The parties conducted substantial discovery, and
Defendant filed this ...