United States District Court, District of Columbia
DEBORA C. BURFORD, Plaintiff,
JEROME H. POWELL, Chairman, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Defendant.
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
C. Burford sues her former employer, the Board of Governors
of the Federal Reserve System, for retaliation in violation
of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
She alleges that she was assigned to
“non-critical” security posts rather than the
“critical” ones to which she was entitled as a
Lead Officer, in retaliation for her protected activity. The
Board of Governors maintains that Ms. Burford's post
assignments did not constitute materially adverse actions and
even if they did, Ms. Burford cannot show the requisite
causal nexus between her protected activity and the actions.
Both parties move for summary judgment.
C. Burford was employed as a Senior Law Enforcement Officer
(sometimes, LEO) for the Board of Governors of the Federal
Reserve System (the Board) in its Law Enforcement Unit
(sometimes, LEU) from 2002 until 2011. Def.'s SOF ¶
1. In 2009 the Law Enforcement Unit instituted a program by
which certain “exemplary” Law Enforcement
Officers were designated as “Lead Officers” and
routinely assigned to five “critical” security
posts “in order to raise the standards of the Unit,
improve performance, and to assist in establishing a positive
rapport with Board employees.” Def.'s SOF ¶ 3;
see also Def.'s Mot., Ex. B, Lead Officer
Program Description [Dkt. 53-2]; Pl.'s Cross-Mot., Ex. A,
Deposition of Larence Dublin (Dublin Dep.) [Dkt. 54-1] at
50-51. Participation in the Lead Officer Program
was voluntary and did not involve any additional compensation
or benefits. See Lead Officer Program Description;
Def.'s Mot., Ex. D, Deposition of DeBora Burford (Burford
Dep.) [Dkt. 53-4] at 46. Lead Officers were expected to be able
to handle posts independently, but they had no supervisory
responsibilities. See Lead Officer Program
Description; Burford Dep. at 54-56.
as a Lead Officer was, thus, not a promotion but a mark of
November 2009, Lieutenant Larence Dublin notified Ms. Burford
and 11 other LEOs by email that they had been selected for
the Lead Officer Program for the day shift:
Congratulations. You have been selected to serve as a Lead
Officer on the Day Shift. Your supervisors selected you from
a pool of applicants based on technical ability, the ability
to work under pressure, and sound judgement [sic]. You will
be rotated daily through the five critical posts . . . as
well as non-critical posts.
Def.'s Mot., Ex. C, Lead Officer Selection Email [Dkt.
53-3]. Thus, the 12 new Lead Officers were assigned to both
the five critical posts and other, non-critical posts.
Id. The five critical posts were: the Board's
Visitors Center (E1), East Court (E4), West Court (E5),
Podium (M1), and South Garage (M8) locations. Id.;
see also Burford Dep. at 36-37. It appears that the
advantage to the critical posts may have been that the
Officer was seated, and not standing; certainly there was
more interaction with the other staff of the Board. In the
late summer and early fall of 2010, post assignments were
made by Sergeant Michelle Tillery-Fuller, the LEU
Administrative Sergeant at that time. Def.'s SOF ¶
9; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 40, 44.
summer of 2010, Lead Officer Burford and Law Enforcement
Officer Sandra Love had two altercations. As Ms. Burford
later complained, Ms. Love had used vulgar language in
talking to Ms. Burford in December 2009, and then accused Ms.
Burford of “bumping” her on July 23, 2010, and of
“putting [her] butt in [Ms. Love's] face” on
August 11, 2010. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. A, EEOC
Decision [Dkt. 17-1] at 2 (describing Ms. Burford's
allegations). At an unspecified time, Ms. Burford
“filed her EEO complaint and LEU managers failed to
address Love's aggressive and potentially violent
behaviors.” Am. Compl. ¶ 120. As a result of
various disputes with Ms. Love, Ms. Burford testified that
“what I did was basically just stayed to myself. I
stayed to myself.” Burford Dep. at 23. Ms. Burford
further alleges, and Defendant essentially admits, that from
August 12, 2010 to October 7, 2010, Ms. Burford was assigned
primarily to regular (standing) post duties and not to
critical (seated) posts. See EEOC Decision at 2
(stating Ms. Burford's allegations); see also
Pl.'s Cross-Mot., Ex. A, Deposition of Michelle
Tillery-Fuller (Tillery-Fuller Dep.) at 79-80.
the ensuing EEO investigation, several of Ms. Burford's
fellow officers were interviewed in early 2011; Ms. Burford
submits signed affidavits from these persons with her
briefing. See Pl.'s Cross-Mot., Ex. A, Aff. of
Shandra Love (Love Aff.) at 2-6; Aff. of Larence Dublin
(Dublin Aff.) at 43-48; Aff. of Michelle Tillery-Fuller
(Tillery-Fuller Aff.) at 66-69; Aff. of Franklin Williams
(Williams Aff.) at 106-110; Aff. of Billy Sauls (Sauls Aff.)
at 121-128. Several of these individuals were also deposed in
the instant action. See Pl.'s Cross-Mot., Ex. A,
Deposition of Shandra Love (Love Dep.) at 9-42; Deposition of
Larence Dublin (Dublin Dep.) at 49-65; Tillery-Fuller Dep. at
70-88; Deposition of Melvin Barksdale (Barksdale Dep.) at
89-105; Deposition of Franklin Williams (Williams Dep.) at
Burford requested a hearing before an EEOC Administrative
Judge (AJ). See EEOC Decision. The Board filed a
motion for summary judgment, which the AJ granted, and the
Board adopted the AJ decision as its own. Id. The
EEOC affirmed the finding of no discrimination and no hostile
work environment. Id.
Burford brought this lawsuit pursuant to Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended, 42 §
U.S.C. 2000e-16 et seq., and the Age Discrimination
in Employment Act (ADEA), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 621
et seq. In an earlier Memorandum Opinion, this Court
dismissed all but one of Ms. Burford's claims.
See 3/31/17 Mem. Op. [Dkt. 24]; 3/31/17 Order [Dkt.
25]. Remaining is Ms. Burford's claim that she was
retaliated against for her EEO activities when she was
assigned to non-critical posts from August 12 to October 7,
2010. The parties have completed discovery and
each has filed a motion for summary judgment.
Jurisdiction and Venue
Court has jurisdiction over this matter under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1331, as the retaliation claim arises under the laws
of the United States, specifically Title VII and the ADEA.
Venue is proper in the District of Columbia because the Board
is located in the District, Ms. Burford was employed at the
Board in the District, and the relevant actions complained of
occurred in the District. See 28 U.S.C. § 1391.