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Gaskins v. Mcintyre

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 5, 2019

MARCUS C. GASKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN J. MCINTYRE, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          AMIT P. MEHTA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Marcus Gaskins is a former engineering student intern at Defendant Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission).[1] Def.'s Stmt. of Undisputed Material Facts, ECF 24-1 [hereinafter Def.'s Facts], ¶ 1. Plaintiff contends that the Commission discriminated against him on the basis of race (African-American) when it decided not to hire him following the end of his internship. Compl., ECF 1 [hereinafter Compl.], at 4, 10.[2] He also contends that the Commission retaliated against him for reporting his concerns to the Commission's Equal Employment Office. Compl. at 4. He seeks over $21 million in relief for these alleged violations. Id. at 6. The Commission responds that it was under no obligation to hire Plaintiff, that there was no open position for which he was qualified, and that in any event Plaintiff's poor performance justified not extending him a full-time position. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF 24 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.] at 3-6.

         The court accepts as true all facts asserted by the Commission, as Plaintiff did not file a statement of genuine issues of fact in opposition to the Commission's motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)(2); LCvR 7(h)(1); see also Winston & Strawn, LLP v. McLean, 843 F.3d 503, 508 (D.C. Cir. 2016). See also Fox Neal Order, ECF. No. 25 (explaining that the Commission's facts would be taken as true unless Plaintiff disputed them). For the reasons that follow, the court grants summary judgment in favor of the Commission as to all claims.

         I.

         The court first addresses Plaintiff's contention that his supervisors at the Commission discriminated against him by declining to “convert” him from intern to permanent employee. See generally Compl. The record is undisputed that, although Plaintiff was eligible to be hired full time when his internship ended, the Commission was under no obligation to do so. Def.'s Facts ¶ 5 (“Plaintiff's [internship] agreement . . . specif[ies] that ‘eligibility for conversion does not guarantee the Agency will opt for conversion.'”). The Commission thus argues that, because Plaintiff was not entitled to a permanent position at FERC following his internship, it took no “adverse action” against him. Def.'s Mot. at 3-4. That argument, however, construes Plaintiff's claim too narrowly. Properly understood, his claim is for failure to hire, see Compl. at 4, and non-selection clearly constitutes an adverse action. The court therefore views Plaintiff's claim through that legal framework.

         To make out a prima facie case for failure to hire under Title VII, Plaintiff must show that (1) he belongs to a protected class, (2) he applied to and was qualified for an available position, (3) he was rejected despite his qualifications, and (4) after his rejection, the position remained open and the employer continued to seek applications. See McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1993); accord Teneyck v. Omni Shoreham Hotel, 365 F.3d 1139, 1149-50 (D.C.

         Cir. 2004). At summary judgment, however, where an employer provides a non-discriminatory reason for its decision, “the question whether the employee actually made out a prima facie case is ‘no longer relevant[.]'” Brady v. Office of Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, 493 (D.C. Cir. 2008). Instead, the court must ask “whether the employee produced sufficient evidence . . . to find that the employer's asserted nondiscriminatory . . . reason was not the actual reason.” Walker v. Johnson, 798 F.3d 1085, 1092 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (internal quotation marks omitted). Here, the Commission provides two primary justifications for not hiring Plaintiff: (1) there were no available positions for engineers in Plaintiff's Branch, and (2) Plaintiff's poor performance record disqualified him had there been open positions. Because Plaintiff does not offer any evidence to contradict the first reason, the court need not reach the second.[3]

         The Commission offers unrebutted evidence that there were no available engineering positions within Plaintiff's Branch at the time his internship expired, and that his supervisor informed Plaintiff of this fact. Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 14, 15; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 6, ECF No. 24-7. Moreover, the record shows that the Commission did not convert any interns to full-time positions within Plaintiff's office. Def.'s Facts ¶ 18; Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 36 [hereinafter Def.'s Reply] at 5. Plaintiff offers no evidence in response. His Complaint alludes to another intern, Ryan Stertz, who is white, and alleges that he was “converted” to a full-time position, see Compl. at 21-22, but mere allegations will not suffice to defeat summary judgment.[4]

         Accordingly, because Plaintiff has come forward with no evidence that would rebut the Commission's non-discriminatory reason for not converting him to a full-time position, judgment is entered in the Commission's favor on Plaintiff's disparate treatment claim.

         II.

         Next, the court turns to Plaintiff's claim of retaliation. See, e.g. Compl. at 4, 12. Once more, the Commission is entitled to summary judgment, as Plaintiff offers no evidence to rebut the agency's non-discriminatory reason for not converting him to a full-time position. Nor is timing on Plaintiff's side. Plaintiff filed his EEO complaint on August 12, 2013. Def.'s Facts ¶ 19. His supervisor informed him that he would not be converted to a full-time position on April 25, 2014. See Def.'s Ex. 6. Thus, over nine months passed between Plaintiff's protected activity and the claimed adverse action. This is simply too long a period to provide a reasonable inference of discrimination. Cf. Woodruff v. Peters, 482 F.3d 521, 529 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (“Temporal proximity can indeed support an inference of causation, but only where the two events are ‘very close' in time.”) (internal citations omitted); Singletary v. District of Columbia, 351 F.3d 519, 525 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (whether causal connection existed where one month separated adverse action and the filing of plaintiff's appeal for employment discrimination was question for finder of fact).[5]

         III.

         For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted as to all claims. A separate final ...


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