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Patzy v. Gerrish

United States District Court, District of Columbia

February 12, 2019

RODRIGO A. PATZY, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY GERRISH, Acting Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Rosemary M. Collyer, United States District Judge.

         Rodrigo A. Patzy, an employee at the Export-Import Bank of the United States and a Latino male, alleges that he was denied a promotion at the Bank because of his race, national origin, and gender, in violation of Title VII. Defendant responds that Mr. Patzy was not promoted because he was not the best qualified applicant for the position and moves for summary judgment. Having considered the parties' arguments and the record, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

         I. FACTS

         Rodrigo A. Patzy is a Latino male who emigrated from Bolivia and is now a citizen of the United States. Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶¶ 7, 17. He has been employed by the Trade Credit Insurance (TCI) Division of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (the Bank) since 2002, and has been a Senior Loan Specialist, a GS-13 position, since 2006. Patzy Aff., Ex. 1, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-2] at 2. In that capacity and for the time period relevant to this case, Mr. Patzy has been responsible for reviewing transactions underwritten by the Bank, particularly in the Southeast region. Kosciow Aff., Ex. 5, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-6] at 3. From 2008 until at least the events at issue in this case, Mr. Patzy's first-line supervisor was Miguel Cornejo, a Latino male and TCI Director. Id. at 2. Before 2008, Mr. Patzy's first-line supervisor was Jean Fitzgibbon, a white female and TCI Director. Id. At all times relevant to this case, Mr. Patzy's second-line supervisor was Walter Kosciow, a white male and Vice President of the TCI Division. Id.

         In May 2012, the Bank posted two vacancy announcements for a single Supervisory Loan Specialist (TCI Director) hire, graded as a GS-14 position. The first vacancy announcement (M035-12-SB-665332) was open only to internal Bank candidates. Internal Vacancy Announcement, Ex. 2, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-3]. The second vacancy announcement (D032-12-SB-654498) was external, i.e., open to all U.S. citizens. External Vacancy Announcement, Ex. 3, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-4]. Applicants who apply through internal postings are evaluated without preference. Kosciow Tr., Ex. 8, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-9] at 119:10-120:20. However, military veterans who apply through external postings are entitled to a veteran's preference-if a veteran and a non-veteran external candidate are both similarly qualified for the job, the veteran will be preferred. Id. at 133:2-12. Mr. Patzy applied through both announcements. Patzy Tr., Ex. 4, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-5] at 22:3-5.

         Four candidates, pulled from both announcements, were interviewed for the position, including Michelle Miller, Sandra Donzella, and Mr. Patzy. Kosciow Aff. at 4. The interview panel consisted of Mr. Kosciow, Ms. Fitzgibbon, Mr. Cornejo, and a third TCI Director, Christine Gerges. Id. Mr. Kosciow was the Selecting Official. Id.

         After the interviews, Mr. Kosciow determined that Ms. Miller, a white female, was the most qualified applicant and offered her the position. Id. She declined. Id. Mr. Kosciow also determined that Ms. Donzella was the next-best qualified applicant. Id. However, Ms. Donzella was based in California, not Washington, D.C., and was unwilling to relocate. Id. Mr. Kosciow did not offer her the position. Id.

         Mr. Kosciow was also made aware that, due to complications with a new electronic application form, three internal applicants, Johnny Gutierrez, a Latino male, Carlos Vidal, also a Latino male, and Anita Turi-Wright a white female, had inadvertently applied through the external announcement. Id. at 5; Kosciow Tr. 217:3-12. Although these applicants would have qualified for an interview had they applied through the internal announcement, because they applied through the external announcement and because none of them was a veteran, Mr. Patzy's veteran status precluded their interview. Kosciow Tr. 150:4-19. After consulting with the Bank's Human Resources Division, Mr. Kosciow reposted the vacancy announcement internally (M047-12-SB-711432), allowing the three to reapply, along with Mr. Patzy. Kosciow Aff. at 5; Second Internal Vacancy Announcement, Ex. 9, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-10].

         On the second internal posting, the interview panel included only Ms. Gerges and Mr. Kosciow. Kosciow Aff. at 5. Together they interviewed five candidates, including Mr. Gutierrez, Mr. Vidal, Ms. Turi-Wright, and Mr. Patzy. Gerges Aff., Ex. 10, Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 28-11] at 4. After the interviews were completed, Mr. Kosciow determined that Ms. Turi-Wright was the best qualified applicant and offered her the position. Kosciow Aff. at 5-6. She accepted. Mr. Patzy filed suit. See Compl.

         Mr. Patzy alleges discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, and gender, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[1] 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The Bank argues that Mr. Patzy was not awarded the position because he was not always attentive to detail, did not have as much experience as Ms. Turi-Wright working with large, complex transactions, and did not perform as well as Ms. Turi-Wright on the technical component of the interview. Mr. Patzy contends that this explanation is a pretext to hide discrimination. The parties having completed discovery, the Bank has moved for summary judgment.[2]

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that summary judgment shall 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); accord Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). Summary judgment is properly granted against a party who “after adequate time for discovery and upon motion . . . fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, a court must draw all justifiable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. A nonmoving party, however, must establish more than “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence” in support of its position. Id. at 252. The nonmoving party must point to specific facts showing that a genuine issue of material fact that requires trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324. The nonmoving party may not rely solely on allegations or conclusory statements. Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Rather, the nonmoving party must present specific facts that would enable a reasonable jury to find in its favor. Id. at 675. If the evidence “is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50. “While summary judgment must be approached with special caution in discrimination cases, a plaintiff is not relieved of his obligation to support his allegations by affidavits or other competent evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Hussain v. Principi, 344 F.Supp.2d 86, 94 (D.D.C. 2004) (quoting Calhoun v. Johnson, No. 95-2397, 1998 WL 164780, at *3 (D.D.C. March 31, 1998)).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Title VII prohibits discrimination in the workplace because of an individual's race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The “two essential elements of a discrimination claim” under Title VII are “that (1) the plaintiff suffered an adverse employment action (2) because of the plaintiff's race, color, religion, sex, [or] national origin.” Baloch v. Kempthorne, 550 F.3d 1191, 1196 (D.C. Cir. 2008). In McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973), the Supreme Court laid out a three-part burden-shifting test necessary to establish a claim for discrimination under Title VII: (1) the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case demonstrating that he was subjected to an adverse employment action under circumstances that would support an inference of discrimination; (2) the defendant then may offer a legitimate, ...


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