United States District Court, District of Columbia
P. Mehta United States District Court Judge.
Tameka Tillman was a Budget Analyst at the Department of
Justice for more than five years before her termination in
September 2013. Plaintiff, an African-American woman, claims
that during her tenure she was subject to discrimination on
account of race. Based on her firing, suspensions, denial of
pay increase, leave restrictions, and other allegedly adverse
actions, Plaintiff asserts that she was subject to (1) a
hostile work environment, (2) disparate treatment on the
basis of race, and (3) retaliation following complaints to
her Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Office.
Attorney General William P. Barr seeks summary judgment as to
all claims. For the reasons below, the court grants
Defendant's motion in full.
Tameka Tillman was a Budget Analyst for the Administrative
Management Section of the Department of Justice's Civil
Rights Division from 2008 until her termination in September
2013. Def.'s Stmt. of Material Facts, ECF No. 24-1
[hereinafter Def.'s Facts], ¶¶ 1, 3; Pl.'s
Stmt. of Disputed Material Facts in Supp. of her Opp'n to
Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss & Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No.
30-1 [hereinafter Pl.'s Facts]; Decl. of Tameka Tillman,
ECF No. 30-2 [hereinafter Pl.'s Decl.], ¶ 3. As a
Budget Analyst, Plaintiff was responsible for “the
formation, justification, presentation, and execution for the
Division's various budget submissions.”
See Def.'s Ex. C, Position Description, ECF No.
24-4, at 2; see also Def.'s Facts ¶ 4;
Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 4.
Delamar was Plaintiff's first-line supervisor from the
time she began in 2008 until January 2010, when Ms. Delamar
retired. Def.'s Facts ¶ 5; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 5.
Plaintiff's second-line supervisor was Milton McConkey,
until late 2011 when he became her fourth-line supervisor.
Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 5.
January 2009, Ms. Delamar removed Plaintiff from her
alternate flexible work schedule (“AWS”) citing
the need to “see improvement” before she could
consider “putting [Plaintiff] back on AWS.”
See Def.'s Ex. E, Delamar Emails, ECF No. 24-6
[hereinafter Def.'s Ex. E], at 1-2; Def.'s Facts
¶ 9; Pl.'s Facts, ¶ 9 (not disputing that
Plaintiff was removed from AWS). On October 5, 2009, Ms.
Delamar sent Plaintiff an email expressing her belief that
Plaintiff's feelings toward her had been negative and
disrespectful, but that she nevertheless spent
“countless hours . . . trying to help [Plaintiff]
understand [her] job.” Def.'s Facts ¶ 10;
Pl.'s Facts ¶ 10 (not disputing the substance of the
email); Def.'s Ex. E at 3. When Ms. Delamar retired in
January 2010, Linda Ellinger became Plaintiff's new
first-line supervisor. See Def.'s Facts ¶
5; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 5. Plaintiff's performance
evaluation for the 2009-2010 year, completed by Ellinger,
also noted Plaintiff's need for improvement in the budget
formation process. Def.'s Facts ¶ 11; Pl.'s
Facts ¶ 11 (not disputing the content of the
evaluation). Despite these issues, Plaintiff received a
“Successful” overall rating in her 2009-2010
performance evaluation. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 11; Pl.'s
Ex. 4, ECF No. 30-5 [hereinafter Pl.'s Ex. 4], at
April 2010 until October 2010, Plaintiff was detailed to the
National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, effectively
removing her from the 2010 fiscal year budget formulation
cycle. Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 12-13; Pl.'s Facts
¶¶ 12 (not disputing missing the 2010 budget
cycle); Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 9. In her 2010-2011
evaluation, Ms. Ellinger again noted that she would like to
see Plaintiff “demonstrate a greater initiative in
finding ways to improve” her budget formation skills as
required for her position. Def.'s Facts ¶ 14;
Pl.'s Facts ¶ 14 (not disputing Ellinger's
evaluation). Notwithstanding that critique, Plaintiff
received ratings of “Excellent” overall, and
either “Excellent” or “Outstanding, ”
the second-highest and highest possible marks, respectively,
in all categories. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 14; Pl.'s Ex. 4
Chowdhury become Plaintiff's first-line supervisor
following Ellinger's departure in November 2011.
Def.'s Facts ¶ 6; Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 5-7.
Jody Harry became Plaintiff's second-line supervisor in
July of 2012. Def.'s Facts ¶ 7; Pl.'s Facts
¶ 7. In the 2011-2012 evaluation, Mr. Chowdhury reported
that Plaintiff performed her budget formulation duties at a
“minimally satisfactory level” and her work
“contained numerous and substantive errors.”
See Def.'s Ex. I, 2011-2012 Performance
Evaluation, ECF No. 24-11 [hereinafter Def.'s Ex. I], at
2; Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 16-17; Pl.'s Facts
¶¶ 15-17 (not disputing the report itself). Mr.
Chowdhury rated Plaintiff as “Successful”
overall, and her ratings in individual job elements ranged
from “Minimally Successful” to
“Outstanding.” Pl.'s Facts ¶ 17;
Pl.'s Ex. 4 at 21.
23, 2012, Plaintiff filed a formal complaint of
discrimination with the EEO Office against Mr. Chowdhury and
Ms. Harry. Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 10.
in July 2012, Plaintiff was assigned to complete the Fiscal
Year 2014 “control numbers” by August 16, 2012.
Def.'s Facts ¶ 21; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 21 (not
disputing that Plaintiff was “initially responsible for
the control number report in 2012”). Plaintiff claims
that at some point in 2012 the project was assigned to an
agency contractor but then reassigned to her in December
2012. Pl.'s Facts ¶ 21. Defendant contends that
Plaintiff received information from the contractor on August
21, 2012, to complete the assignment. Def.'s Reply in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss & Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 31
[hereinafter Def.'s Reply], Def.'s Reply in Supp. of
Stmt. of Undisputed Material Facts, ECF No. 31-1 [hereinafter
Def.'s Reply Facts], ¶ 24. Regardless, it is
undisputed that the project was delayed, and that Mr.
Chowdhury asked to meet with Plaintiff on several occasions
in January to assist her. Def.'s Facts ¶¶
26-27; Pl.'s Facts (undisputed). Plaintiff stated on
January 23, 2013, that she would “complete the control
numbers today, ” but did not do so. Def.'s Facts
¶¶ 28-29; Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 28-29.
Ultimately, Plaintiff never completed this assignment, and it
had to be finished by her supervisors. Def.'s Facts
¶¶ 29-30; Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 29-30. These
events prompted Ms. Harry, on January 31, 2013, to issue
Plaintiff an official Letter of Reprimand, stating that her
“delay and failure to properly address [her]
assignment” were unacceptable. See generally
Def.'s Ex. L, Official Letter of Reprimand, ECF No. 25-1;
Def.'s Facts ¶ 31; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 31.
February 28, 2013, Mr. Chowdhury issued Plaintiff a leave
restriction letter for “ongoing deficiencies” in
her attendance. See Def.'s Ex. P, Leave
Restriction Letter, ECF. No. 25-5 [hereinafter Def.'s Ex.
P], at 1; Def.'s Facts ¶ 34; Pl.'s Decl. ¶
21. The letter cited Plaintiff's failure
“consistently to come to work on a regular basis [and]
. . . early departures during the period of January 29 -
February 26, 2013” as the basis for the leave
restriction. See Def.'s Ex. P at 1. The letter
required Plaintiff to obtain Mr. Chowdhury's approval for
any future absence, late arrival, or request for early
departure. See Id. Further, the letter advised
Plaintiff that her absences during the week of February 24,
2013, would be recorded as absent without leave, or AWOL,
until she provided medical documentation. See
Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 37-38; Pl.'s Facts ¶
35. When Plaintiff later provided the medical documentation,
her leave requests were approved. See Def.'s
Facts ¶ 38; Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 22.
March 7, 2013, Plaintiff violated her leave restriction by
meeting with her employment discrimination lawyer outside of
work without permission from approximately 11:30 a.m. until
4:15 p.m. Def.'s Facts ¶ 40; Pl.'s Facts
¶¶ 39, 40. During her absence, Plaintiff failed to
respond to a request to complete a work assignment, and
ultimately did not complete that assignment. Def.'s Facts
¶ 41; Pl.'s Facts (undisputed). Further, when later
questioned about her absence, Plaintiff responded
untruthfully, saying she was not “out of [her] office
from 11:30 to 4:15 pm, [but had gone] to lunch and returned
and had to make numerous trips to the restroom for a medical
condition.” Def.'s Facts ¶ 42; Pl.'s Facts
March 21, 2013, Ms. Harry proposed to one of her superiors
suspending Plaintiff for four days. Def.'s Facts ¶
43; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 43. In the proposal letter, Harry
specifically cited Plaintiff's March 7th absence without
leave, failure to follow instructions pursuant to the leave
restriction letter Plaintiff had received a month prior, and
lack of candor about her whereabouts. See Def.'s
Ex. V, March 21, 2013 Proposed Four-day Suspension, ECF No.
25-11 [hereinafter Def.'s Ex. V], at 1-4. After
considering these reasons, plus the earlier-issued Letter of
Reprimand, Deputy Executive Officer Gary Wong authorized the
suspension, finding it to be “an appropriate penalty
for this charge.” See generally Def.'s Ex.
W, May 2, 2013 Decision on Proposed Four-Day Suspension, ECF
No. 25-12 [hereinafter Def.'s Ex. W].
on April 2, 2013, Mr. Chowdhury placed Plaintiff on a
sixty-day Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”).
Def.'s Facts ¶ 46; Pl.'s Facts ¶ 46. A
letter notifying Plaintiff of the PIP stated that she would
have sixty days to “demonstrate the required
improvement in [her] performance, ” and that by the end
of the sixty days she would have to bring her performance up
to at least a minimally satisfactory level in order to avoid
a reduction in grade or removal. Def.'s Ex. X, ECF No.
25-13 [hereinafter Def.'s Ex. X], at 1. The PIP listed
examples of Plaintiff's unacceptable performance and
discussed the steps she would have to take to come into
compliance with the Administrative Management Section's
standards. Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 46-55; Pl.'s
Facts ¶¶ 46-54 (not disputing the contents of the
early April 2013, Plaintiff received a second suspension for
different misconduct. On April 10, 2013, Ms. Harry sent a
letter to Plaintiff notifying her of a proposed five-day
suspension for “insubordination and disrespectful
conduct toward [her] supervisors, and failure to follow
instructions.” See generally Def.'s Ex. Y,
April 10, 2013 Proposed Five-Day Suspension, ECF No. 26-2
[hereinafter Def.'s Ex. Y]; Def.'s Facts ¶ 57;
Pl.'s Decl. 36 (not disputing the letter). Explaining the
reasons for the suspension, the letter states that Plaintiff
(1) refused to attend her mid-year performance review with
Mr. Chowdhury on March 22, 2013, (2) made disrespectful
remarks toward her supervisors, (3) failed to incorporate
edits by a deadline, and (4) told Ms. Harry that she was not
allowed in her office and that she had “had enough of
[Ms. Harry].” See Def.'s Ex. Y at 1-4. Mr.
Wong once more found that the evidence supported the charges
alleged and approved a five-day suspension. Def.'s Facts
¶¶ 57-60; Pl.'s Facts ¶¶ 57-60.
29, 2013, Plaintiff filed a formal EEO complaint against Mr.
Chowdhury and Ms. Harry. Pl.'s Decl. ¶ 40;
Def.'s Ex. A, Final Agency Decision, ECF No. 24-2
[hereinafter Def.'s Ex. A], at 1. On May 31, 2013, two
days after filing her complaint and at the conclusion of the
sixty-day PIP period, Ms. Harry issued Plaintiff a Notice of
Proposed Removal. Def.'s Facts ¶ 61; Pl.'s Facts
¶¶ 61, 63. The Notice stated that Plaintiff had not
met the due date or failed to complete “11 specifically
identified assignments in Plaintiff's PIP.”
Def.'s Facts ¶ 62; Pl.'s Facts ¶¶
60-62. Additionally, on June 4, 2013, Plaintiff did not
receive a Within-Grade Increase based on her poor
performance. Def.'s Facts ¶ 66; Pl.'s Decl.
¶ 43. On September 9, 2013, Executive Officer McConkey
issued a Decision on Removal, terminating Plaintiff from her
position effective September 11, 2013. Pl.'s Decl. ¶
filed her complaint in this case on March 15, 2017, alleging
hostile work environment, race discrimination, and
retaliation in violation of Title VII. See Compl.,
ECF No. 1 [hereinafter Compl.]. Following discovery,
Defendant moved for summary judgment as to all claims on
September 7, 2019. Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss & Mot. for
Summ. J., ECF No. 24 [hereinafter Def.'s Mot.].
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).
assessing a motion for summary judgment, the court considers
all relevant evidence presented by the parties. See Brady
v. Office of Sergeant at Arms, 520 F.3d 490, 495 (D.C.
Cir. 2008). The court looks at the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party and draws all justifiable
inferences in that party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). If the court
determines “no reasonable jury could reach a verdict in
her favor, ” then summary judgment against that party
is appropriate. Wheeler v. Georgetown University
Hosp., 812 F.3d 1109, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2016). When ruling
on a summary judgment motion, courts are “not to make
credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.”
Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir.
race-based claims for hostile work environment (Count III)
and disparate treatment (Count I) and her retaliation claim
(Count II) are rooted in the same ten events: (1) the removal
of certain duties, (2) the failure to train on revised
duties, (3) the imposition of reprimands and suspensions, (4)
the denial of alternative work schedule, (5) the restriction
of leave and added scrutiny placed on her leave requests, (6)
the charge of AWOL, (7) the requirement to report her daily
arrival and departure times and times she left her desk, (8)
the placement on a Performance Improvement Plan
(“PIP”), (9) the denial of within-grade pay
increase, (10) the proposed and ultimate termination from
employment. See Compl.
moves for summary judgment on all counts.
Hostile Work Environment
court begins with Plaintiff's hostile work environment
claim. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant has not moved for
summary judgment on this claim. See Pl.'s
Opp'n., ECF No. 30 [hereinafter Pl.'s Opp'n], at
34-54. Plaintiff is correct that Defendant addresses this
claim for the first time in its Reply brief, and in a
footnote no less. See Def.'s Reply at 3 n.1.
Nevertheless, the court will exercise its discretion and
consider Defendant's challenge. The record ...