United States District Court, District of Columbia
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
P. Mehta United States District Judge
Shelagh Payne is a former employee of Defendant British
Embassy, Washington, D.C., where she served most recently as
a Trade FMS Finance Officer. Compl., ECF No. 1 [hereinafter
Compl.], ¶¶ 14-15. Following her termination in
2015, id. ¶ 41, Plaintiff filed this Complaint,
alleging violations of: (1) the Family and Medical Leave Act
of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601 et seq.
(“FMLA”); (2) the DC Family and Medical Leave
Act, D.C. Code §§ 32-401 et seq.
(“DCFMLA”); (3) the District of Columbia Human
Rights Act, D.C Code §§ 2-1401 et seq.
(“DCHRA”); as well as (4) intentional infliction
of emotional distress, see generally Compl.
Plaintiff contends that Defendant placed her on a performance
improvement plan (“PIP”), id. ¶ 33;
falsely reported to the police that she was “starving
her mother to death, ” id. ¶¶ 36-37;
and terminated her, id. ¶ 41, because of her
age and in retaliation for exercising her right to take FMLA
leave to care for her mother.
court now considers Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment. Six claims remain: (1) interference with
Plaintiff's FMLA and DCFMLA rights (Count I, Count III);
(2) retaliation against Plaintiff for exercising her FMLA and
DCFMLA rights (Count II, Count IV); (3) age discrimination
under the DCHRA (Count V); and (4) discrimination against
Plaintiff based on her family responsibilities under the
DCHRA (Count VII).
court finds that there is no genuine dispute of material fact
as to Plaintiff's age discrimination claim and therefore
grants summary judgment as to Count V. However, as to the
remaining claims, there remains a genuine dispute of material
fact. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion is denied as to all
judgment is appropriate “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). A “genuine dispute” of a
“material fact” exists when the fact is
“capable of affecting the substantive outcome of the
litigation” and “the evidence is such that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Elzeneiny v. District of Columbia, 125
F.Supp.3d 18, 28 (D.D.C. 2015). In assessing a motion for
summary judgment, the court looks at the facts in the light
most favorable to the nonmoving party and draws all
justifiable inferences in that party's favor. See
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255
makes much of Plaintiff's failure to cite to her
Declaration in her original Statement of Disputed Material
Facts, Pl.'s Opp'n Mem., ECF No. 28 [hereinafter
Pl.'s Opp'n]; Pl.'s Stmt. Disputed Material
Facts, ECF No. 28-1 [hereinafter Pl.'s Stmt.]. See
generally Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for
Leave, ECF No. 33 [hereinafter Def.'s Opp'n to
Leave]. To be sure, to defeat a motion for summary judgment,
the nonmoving party must put forward “more than mere
unsupported allegations or denials, ” and its
opposition must be “supported by affidavits,
declarations, or other competent evidence, setting forth
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Elzeneiny v. District of Columbia, 125
F.Supp.3d 18, 28 (D.D.C. 2015) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).
However, Defendant asks the court to ignore Plaintiff's
Declaration merely because Plaintiff's original Statement
does not specifically cite to it-even though the Declaration
as the source of Plaintiff's fact assertions is evident.
See Def.'s Opp'n to Leave at 5; see
also Pl.'s Stmt. at 1 (stating that “[a]ll
facts not cited to are supported by [Plaintiff]'s
affidavit, attached hereto as Exhibit 1”). The court
declines to do so. Plaintiff would have done better to cite
specifically to her Declaration in the first instance, but
the court will consider it nonetheless. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 56(c)(3).
court first disposes of Plaintiff's age discrimination
claim under the DCHRA. District of Columbia courts
“look[ ] to federal court decisions interpreting the
federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
[(‘ADEA')] when evaluating age discrimination
claims under the DCHRA.” Washington Convention Ctr.
Auth. v. Johnson, 953 A.2d 1064, 1073 n.7 (D.C. 2008).
The D.C. Court of Appeals has yet to determine whether, in
proving a DCHRA age discrimination claim, a plaintiff must
merely show that her age “had a determinative influence
on the” challenged employment action, id. at
1073 (internal citation and quotation marks omitted), or she
must prove the more rigorous “but-for” causation
standard for ADEA cases established by later Supreme Court
precedent, Gross v. FBL Fin. Servs., Inc., 557 U.S.
167, 176-77 (2009); see also Schuler v.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 595 F.3d 370, 376 (D.C.
Cir. 2010). But, no matter-under either standard,
Plaintiff's claim fails.
offers no proof connecting her age and the only adverse
decision that she claims resulted from discrimination-her
termination. See Pl.'s Opp'n at
29-30. The sole evidence on which Plaintiff
relies to show “discriminatory animus” is that,
on some unidentified date in 2014, one of her supervisors
“stated that Ms. Payne ‘was showing her age'
because Ms. Payne was unfamiliar with social media and
Skype.” Pl.'s Stmt. ¶ 119. But that evidence,
standing alone, establishes no causality. The statement's
temporal proximity to the termination is uncertain and the
supervisor who made the statement is not identified as
involved in the firing in any way. Plaintiff adds that she
was terminated “only a couple of years prior to when
she was eligible for full retirement benefits, ”
Pl.'s Opp'n at 29, but she produces no evidence that
this consideration played any role in the decision to fire
her. Because Plaintiff has not offered evidence sufficient to
show that her age was either the but-for cause or a
“determinative influence” in her termination, her
age discrimination claim cannot survive. The court therefore
grants Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Count
the remainder of Plaintiff's claims, there are genuine
disputes of material fact that preclude the court ...