United States District Court, District of Columbia
M. ISABEL VARNADO, Plaintiff,
SAVE THE CHILDREN, Defendant.
N. McFADDEN, U.S.D.J.
Isabel Varnado has sued her former employer, Save the
Children, alleging a hostile work environment and racial
discrimination. Save the Children now moves for summary
judgment. For the following reasons, the Court will grant its
Court must at this stage, it sets out the facts and
inferences in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff.
McCready v. Nicholson, 465 F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir.
the Children is a non-governmental organization that provides
relief and support to children around the world. Def.'s
Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“DMF”),
ECF No. 21-2 ¶ 1; Pl.'s Resp. Mot. in Opp.
(“Pl.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 24 at
Within Save the Children, U.S. Programs Finance (“USP
Finance”) is responsible for managing (1) grants from
outside donors and (2) sub-award contracts with schools and
community programs. DMF ¶ 6, Pl.'s Mot. at 12.
the Children hired Ms. Varnado, who is African American, to
be an Associate Director of Financial and Sub-Award
Management within USP Finance. Pl.'s Mot. at 3, 5. During
her first performance review, Ms. Varnado received positive
feedback from her supervisor, Juliana Brannan. Id.
at 2. The next month, a finance manager on Ms. Varnado's
team gave notice, and Save the Children tried to hire someone
temporarily to cover that manager's immediate
responsibilities. Pl.'s Mot. at 5. When that proved
difficult, Ms. Varnado offered to take on the role to learn
more about it, and she moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to do
so. Id. Upon arrival, she received training from
another finance manager about the role. Id.
Ms. Varnado's telling, this arrangement was not a happy
one. First, Ms. Varnado was late to a conference call about
her finance manager responsibilities. Id. Then, she
had issues using a risk assessment tool. Id. More,
she claims that she was not properly trained for her role as
a finance manager. Id. at 6. Ultimately Save the
Children fired her. Id. at 6.
receiving her Notice of Right to Sue Letter from the EEOC,
Ms. Varnado, proceeding pro se, sued Save the
Children. Compl. at 2. She claims that Save the Children (1)
subjected her to a hostile work environment and (2) racially
discriminated against her when it fired her. See
generally Compl. at 2.
prevail on a motion for summary judgment, a movant must show
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); see also Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). A factual
dispute is material if it could alter the outcome of the suit
under the substantive governing law. Anderson, 477
U.S. at 248. A dispute about a material fact is genuine
“if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Id.
“[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the
initial responsibility of informing the district court of the
basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the
pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,
which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue
of material fact.” Celotex Corp v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the movant makes this showing,
the non-moving party bears the burden of setting forth
“specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue
for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.
document filed pro se is to be liberally
construed.” Abdelfattah v. U.S. Dep't of
Homeland Sec., 787 F.3d 524, 533 (D.C. Cir. 2015)
(quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007)). When a pro se plaintiff brings an action, a
district court has an obligation “to consider his
filings as a whole before dismissing a complaint, ”
Schnitzler v. United States, 761 F.3d 33, 38 (D.C.
Cir. 2014), because such complaints are held “to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
to Ms. Varnado, she was subjected to a hostile work
environment at Save the Children. Pl.'s Mot. at 6. To
support this claim, she points to three specific
conversations with her supervisor, Ms. Brannan:
• When Ms. Brannan met Ms. Varnado for the first time,
Ms. Brannan remarked “you're not at all like ...