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Chambers v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

July 24, 2019

MARY E. CHAMBERS, Plaintiff,


          Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Mary E. Chambers, brings this civil action against the defendant, the District of Columbia (the “District”), alleging that she was unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of her gender and retaliated against for filing a charge of discrimination against the District with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in 2011, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2 to -17 (2012). See Second Amended Complaint (“2d Am. Compl.”) at 1, 8-10.[1] Currently before the Court is the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (“Def.'s Mot.”). Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions, [2] the Court concludes for the following reasons that it must grant the District's motion for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At all relevant times, the plaintiff was employed as a Support Enforcement Specialist in the Interstate Unit of the Child Support Services Division at the District's Office of the Attorney General. See 2d Am. Compl. ¶ 3. The plaintiff alleges that during her employment, the Office of the Attorney General discriminated against her based on her sex [ ], and retaliated against her because she opposed [the] District['s] . . . discriminatory employment practices” in a number of ways. Id. ¶ 10. She claims that (1) “a male co-worker, who had communication and performance issues with customers, was not disciplined, while [she] . . . was disciplined because she had filed a [prior] charge of employment discrimination with the EEOC” in August 2010, id.; (2) the District allegedly “permitt[ed] male employees to transfer to other departments . . . [, ] but denied [the] [p]laintiff . . . the same opportunity to transfer, ” id.; (3) the District “permitt[ed] male employees to . . . receive incentive awards and special awards[, ] but denied [the] [p]laintiff . . . the same opportunity . . . to receive incentive awards and special awards, ” id.; (4) the District “assigned [the] [p]laintiff . . . an excessive amount of cases compared to other employees in the unit, ” id.; (5) when she “was away from the office [on medical leave] . . . [between] October 2011 [and] February 2012[, ] . . . [the] District['s] . . . Family Medical Leave Act [(“FMLA”)] Coordinator, Tarifah Coaxum[, ] willfully delayed the processing of [the] [p]laintiff['s] . . . medical leave, ” id. ¶ 12; (6) the District “failed and refused to allow [the] [p]laintiff . . . to transfer to the other unit to alleviate the stress that she was experiencing, ” id. ¶ 13; (7) the District “refus[ed] to authorize the performance of a desk audit for her [ ] Support Enforcement Specialist position, ” id. ¶ 14; and (8) the District “continued its discrimination and retaliation against her by willfully failing and refusing to properly process her pay checks.” Id. ¶ 15; see also id. ¶ 16.

         On March 4, 2011, the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, claiming that she was “discriminated against based on [her] sex [ ] and retaliated against.” Def.'s Mot., Exhibit (“Ex.”) 6 (Charge of Discrimination No. 570-2011-00598) at 1. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that (1) a male co-worker who “had weekly communication problems and performance issues with customers” was not disciplined, but when she had a “single incident with a customer, ” she “was suspended for [four] days”; (2) this same male co-worker was granted a transfer to another department, while the plaintiff was “denied [a] transfer in the past”; and (3) her “caseload was taken from [her] and [she] was reassigned to another unit without being given proper training.” Id., Ex. 6 (Charge of Discrimination No. 570-2011-00598) at 1.

         On November 20, 2014, the plaintiff initiated this civil action.[3] Complaint at 1. Thereafter, the Court granted the District's motion to dismiss “the plaintiff's claims of discrimination based on her age . . . because the plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies . . ., a deficiency that cannot be cured, ” Chambers v. District of Columbia (Chambers I), 249 F.Supp.3d 66, 72 (D.D.C. 2017), but dismissed without prejudice “the plaintiff's claims of retaliation . . . because the plaintiff failed to plead a prima facie case, ” id. On June 23, 2017, the plaintiff filed her Second Amended Complaint, see 2d Am. Compl. at 1, and after discovery concluded on May 29, 2018, see Min. Order (Apr. 18, 2018), the District filed its motion for summary judgment, which is the subject of this Memorandum Opinion.


         A court may grant a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment only if “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 fact is material if it ‘might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law,' and 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.'” Steele v. Schafer, 535 F.3d 689, 692 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, “[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [her] favor.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. “Credibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment.” Id. The movant has the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and that the non-moving party “fail[ed] to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

         In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Accordingly, unsupported allegations or conclusory statements are not sufficient to defeat summary judgment, see Ass'n of Flight Attendants-CWA v. U.S. Dep't of Transp., 564 F.3d 462, 465-66 (D.C. Cir. 2009); Pub. Citizen Health Research Grp. v. FDA, 185 F.3d 898, 908 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (“[C]onclusory allegations unsupported by factual data will not create a triable issue of fact.” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)), and the non-moving party “must set forth specific facts showing that there [are] genuine issue[s] for trial, ” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Therefore, “[t]he mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [non-moving party's] position [is] insufficient” to withstand a summary judgment motion; rather, “there must be [some] evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Id. at 252.


         The District argues that “summary judgment in favor of the District is appropriate[]” because (1) “[the] [p]laintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies, ” and (2) “[n]o jury could find that the District violated Title[] VII by not giving [the] [p]laintiff a lateral transfer.” Def.'s Mot. at 1.[4] In response, the plaintiff argues that “[t]here are numerous genuine material facts that are in dispute.” Pl.'s Opp'n at 1. However, the plaintiff's opposition to the District's motion for summary judgment is “strikingly deficient.” Richardson v. D.C. Dep't of Youth Rehab. Servs., 271 F.Supp.3d 113, 116 (D.D.C. 2017).[5] Notably, the plaintiff fails to respond to any of the arguments advanced by the District in its motion for summary judgment, but rather relies on factually unsupported conclusory assertions as support for her legal arguments, [6] which are insufficient to survive summary judgment. See Greene v. Dalton, 164 F.3d 671, 675 (D.C. Cir. 1999) (“Because [the plaintiff's] claim [under Title VII] rest[ed] entirely upon a conclusory representation, the district court was right to dismiss it.”).[7] Notwithstanding these deficiencies, the Court independently reviewed the evidence currently in the record, drew “all justifiable inferences . . . in [the plaintiff's] favor” as it is required to do, Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, and construed liberally the arguments set forth in the plaintiff's opposition, but nevertheless concludes that the District is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         The District argues that the “[p]laintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies for discrete acts of alleged unlawful discrimination and retaliation, ” Def.'s Mem. at 11, and therefore, “she cannot now sue for those claims, ” id., and “[t]he District is “entitled to judgment on [these] claim[s], ” id. at 9.[8] The plaintiff, without any evidentiary support, argues that she “did exhaust [her] administrative remedies, ” Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. A (Affidavit of Mary Elizabeth Chambers (“Chambers Aff.”)) ¶ 3; see also id. at 26 (claiming that she “has shown that . . . the charges of employment discrimination were filed within a reasonably period of time after the [ ] action was taken against her”), and in furtherance of her argument, states that she, “[i]n fact, . . . filed a charge of employment discrimination, ” id., Ex. A (Chambers Aff.) ¶ 3. However, contrary to the plaintiff's argument that the District does not dispute that she indeed filed a charge of discrimination, the District argues that the plaintiff either failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to certain claims by failing to include it in her charge of discrimination or failed to timely file her charge of discrimination within the requisite filing period, see Def.'s Mem. 8-11. And, based on the evidence currently in the record, the Court agrees with the District and finds that the only allegation in the Second Amended Complaint for which the plaintiff has timely exhausted her administrative remedies is that the District denied the plaintiff a transfer.[9]

         This Circuit has made clear that “Title VII ‘[c]omplainants must timely exhaust the[ir] administrative remedies before bringing their claims to court.'” Payne v. Salazar, 619 F.3d 56, 65 (D.C. Cir. 2010) (alterations in original) (quoting Bowden v. United States, 106 F.3d 433, 437 (D.C. Cir. 1997)). To exhaust her administrative remedies, a plaintiff is required to “file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice, ” Lattisaw v. District of Columbia, 118 F.Supp.3d 142, 154 (D.D.C. 2015), unless she “has initially instituted proceedings with a State or local agency with authority to grant or seek relief from such practice, ” in which case she must file a charge within 300 days, see 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1). However, regardless of whether an aggrieved party initially instituted proceedings with a State or local agency, the 300-day filing period applies “where a worksharing agreement exists between the EEOC and a local fair employment practices agency.” Carter v. George Wash. Univ., 387 F.3d 872, 877, 879 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (citing 29 C.F.R. § 1601.13(a)(4)(ii)(A)); cf. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(b) (authorizing the EEOC to “cooperate” and “enter into written agreements” with the State or local agency “charged with the administration of . . . employment practices law”). Therefore, because “the EEOC has entered into [a] worksharing agreement[] with . . . the [District's Office of Human Rights (“DCOHR”)], ” Schuler v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 514 F.3d 1365, 1372 (D.C. Cir. 2008); see Carter, 387 F.3d at 879, “[i]n the District of Columbia, a plaintiff has 300 days to file a charge with the EEOC, ” Proctor v. District of Columbia, 74 F.Supp.3d 436, 455 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Carter, 387 F.3d at 879); see Craig v. District of Columbia, 74 F.Supp.3d 349, 361 (D.D.C. 2014) (“Ordinarily, . . . a plaintiff alleging a violation of Title VII must file an EEOC charge within 180 days of the date that the allegedly discriminatory act occurred[;] [i]n the District of Columbia . . . a ‘worksharing agreement' between the EEOC and the [DCOHR] results in the automatic cross-filing of an EEOC complaint with the [DCOHR], thereby extending the filing deadline for plaintiffs in the District to 300 days.” (citing 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) and Carter, 387 F.3d at 879)); Slate v. Pub. Def. Serv. for the D.C., 31 F.Supp.3d 277, 294-95 (D.D.C. 2014) (same); Cruz-Packer v. District of Columbia, 539 F.Supp.2d 181, 189 (D.D.C. 2008) (“Under a formal work-sharing agreement, filing a formal charge with the EEOC satisfies any requirement to file a formal charge with the District's OHR, and vice-versa.”).

         The Court recognizes that other members of this Court have interpreted 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(e)(1) to require that a plaintiff, in the District of Columbia, first initiate a proceeding with the DCOHR regardless of the existence of a worksharing agreement, and have thus declined to apply the 300-day limitations period in cases where the plaintiff, rather than filing a charge with the DCOHR, had her claim automatically cross-filed with the DCOHR by having initiated proceedings only with the EEOC. See Epps v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., Civ. Action No. 18-1423 (CKK), 2019 WL 2423712, at *4 (D.D.C. June 10, 2019) (finding that the plaintiff may not “take advantage of the 300-day limitations period simply by having a claim automatically cross-filed with a state or local agency” (collecting cases)); Ashraf-Hassan v. Embassy of Fr. in the U.S., 878 F.Supp.2d 164, 170-71 (D.D.C. 2012) (concluding that the plaintiff must “pursue her grievances through the state's administrative processes” to “invoke the longer presentment window” or otherwise “must file her claims within the 180-day window to be timely”); Bowers v. District of Columbia, 883 F.Supp.2d 1, 7 (D.D.C. 2011) (“Although plaintiff's EEO charge lists the local agency, the [DCOHR] as the ‘State or local Agency,' nothing indicates that plaintiff initially filed her claim with [DCOHR], a prerequisite to qualifying for the 300-day window instead of the 180-day window.”).[10] However, this Court finds the ...

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