United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Randolph D. Moss United States District Judge.
Irma Portillo, a former employee at the Uncommon Café,
is suing Defendant IL Creations Inc., the restaurant's
owner, for race/national origin discrimination, gender and
pregnancy discrimination, and retaliation, in violation of
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title
VII”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. The matter is before
the Court on Defendant's motion for summary judgment.
Dkt. 13. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
GRANT summary judgment in favor of Defendant
on Portillo's pregnancy discrimination claim and will
DENY summary judgment as to the remainder of
worked as a cashier at the Uncommon Café from June
2014 until her termination in August 2015. Dkt. 1 at 2
(Compl. ¶ 8). She alleges that, throughout her
employment, her supervisor, Jiyoung Kim, forbade her from
speaking Spanish at work, Dkt. 15 at 5 (Pl. Statement of
Material Facts (“SMF”) ¶ 81) (citing Dkt.
15-13 at 9 (Portillo Dep.)); denied her request to sit on a
stool during her shift to accommodate her pregnancy,
id. at 6 (SMF ¶¶ 90-93) (citing Dkt. 15-13
at 11 (Portillo Dep.)); and treated her (and the other
Hispanic employees) less favorably than the Korean employees
at the restaurant, id. at 5, 7 (SMF ¶¶ 84,
96) (citing Dkt. 15-13 at 10, 18 (Portillo Dep.)).
came to a head when the CEO of IL Creations Inc., Steven
Choi, conducted a site visit in August 2015. Dkt. 13-1 at 4
(Def. Statement of Undisputed Material Facts
(“SUMF”) ¶ 38). During the visit, Kim
informed Choi that “Portillo would not listen to [her],
or do what she instructed.” Dkt. 13-1 at 10 (Choi Aff.
¶ 12). Choi then requested to meet with Portillo, Kim,
and Jose Lopez, the General Manager of the store. Dkt. 15-16
at 6 (Choi Dep.). It is undisputed that, at this meeting,
Portillo repeatedly accused Kim of being “a racist,
” see Dkt. 13-1 at 10 (Choi Aff. ¶ 12);
Dkt. 15 at 10-11 (Pl. SMF ¶¶ 110-113). In response,
Choi terminated Portillo on the spot. Dkt. 13-1 at 10 (Choi
Aff. ¶ 12).
denies that either Kim or Choi engaged in any discriminatory
or retaliatory conduct towards Portillo. With respect to
Portillo's allegations about Kim, Defendant contends that
Kim was merely enforcing the company's policies, which
required employees to speak English in front of customers,
Dkt. 13-1 at 4 (Def. SUMF ¶ 37) (citing id. at
31 (Yoo Aff. ¶ 9)), and prohibited cashiers from sitting
at the register because “[it] was not an appropriate
look, ” id. (Def. SUMF ¶ 32) (citing
id. at 31 (Yoo Aff. ¶ 7)). Moreover, Defendant
argues that Kim did not favor the Korean employees. Rather,
the only two Korean employees at Uncommon Café worked
as chefs in the kitchen and were permitted to eat breakfast
on the job and to coordinate their own breaks because they
were salaried employees. Id. at 3 (Def. SUMF
¶¶ 26-27) (citing id. at 31 (Yoo Aff.
¶ 6)). By contrast, Portillo was an hourly employee who
had to punch in and out on a timecard. Id.
for his part, admits that he fired Portillo for calling Kim a
racist. See Dkt. 13-1 at 10 (Choi Aff. ¶ 12)
(“The only reason I terminated her was because she
repeatedly called her Manager, Ms. Kim, a racist.”). He
explains, however, that:
[Portillo] provided no information to support [her] claim.
As an immigrant and minority myself, I found this conduct
particularly reprehensible. There was no way Portillo could
continue to work for the Company after repeatedly calling her
supervisor a “racist.” I told Portillo she was
terminated right then and there, and asked her to leave the
Id. (Choi Aff. ¶¶ 10-11). Portillo's
termination notice indicated that she was terminated for
“language”-specifically, “false accusation
of her supervisor” for being a racist and failure to
“follow the direction of her supervisor.” Dkt.
13-1 at 54 (Termination Notice).
she was terminated, Portillo filed a complaint with the Equal
Opportunity Employment Commission (“EEOC”). Dkt.
15-3 (EEOC Determination). On August 16, 2015, the EEOC
issued a decision letter that stated, in relevant part:
[T]he evidence shows that [Portillo] had a good-faith basis
for her complaint that [Defendant] was engaging in national
origin discrimination. The evidence also established a strong
causal connection between [Portillo's] protected activity
and [Defendant's] issuance of the Employee Discipline
Warning Notice that served as [her] termination notice.
Based on the foregoing, . . . there is reasonable cause to
believe that [Defendant] engaged in unlawful retaliation
[against Portillo] in violation of Title VII when it
terminated her employment.
With regard to [Portillo's] remaining allegations, I make
no finding . . . [T]he commission now invites the parties to
join with it in ...