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Thomas v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 5, 2019

ERNEST A. THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DABNJ Y L. FRIEDRICH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro se plaintiff Ernest Thomas brings this action against his employer, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Thomas alleges that WMATA rejected his application to serve as Deputy Chief Vehicle Engineer because of his national origin and age, and in retaliation for his previous discrimination complaints. Before the Court are Thomas's and WMATA's cross-motions for summary judgment. WMATA's Mot., Dkt. 23; Thomas's Cross-Mot. (Apr. 12, 2019), Dkt. 27; Thomas's Cross-Mot. (May 13, 2019), Dkt. 28. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant WMATA's motion and deny Thomas's cross-motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Thomas, a 64-year-old of Liberian nationality, works for WMATA as a Senior Vehicle Engineer. WMATA's Statement of Material Facts ¶¶ 2-3, Dkt. 23-1; Thomas's Resp. ¶¶ 1-2, Dkt. 26. In January 2017, Thomas applied for the position of Deputy Chief Vehicle Engineer. WMATA's Statement of Material Facts ¶ 6; Thomas's Resp. ¶ 2. The job description previously required a bachelor's degree in engineering and at least ten years of “progressively responsible and diversified engineering management, analysis, and contract oversight experience . . . for a large transit organization.” Nov. 26, 2013 Position Description at 3, Dkt. 23-5. When Thomas applied for the position in January 2017, however, the description had been revised to require a bachelor's degree in engineering and at least ten years of experience “for a large transit organization or other engineering firm business experience within the private sector (e.g., consultant, car builder, sub-supplier[, ] or major contractor).” Jan. 10, 2017 Position Description at 4, Dkt. 23-6.

         Although Thomas's resume was forwarded to Chief Vehicle Engineer Sachit Kakkar for review, Thomas was not selected for an interview. WMATA's Statement of Material Facts ¶¶ 5, 7; Thomas's Resp. ¶ 2. Instead, Kakkar and two other WMATA employees interviewed Anthony Johnson and Curtis Moses, and on March 7, 2017, Johnson was named as Deputy Chief Vehicle Engineer. Selection Memo at 1-2, Dkt. 23-7. According to WMATA, Johnson was selected for an interview (and ultimately for the position) because he had over 17 years of transit experience and ten years of engineering management experience in a rail-oriented firm. WMATA's Mot. at 2, 6. Thomas, by contrast, had substantial experience in the telecommunications industry but did not have ten years of transit or rail-oriented engineering management experience. Id.; see also Thomas's Dep. at 13, Dkt. 23-3.

         Relevant here, Thomas filed two other complaints alleging discrimination by WMATA in 2014 and 2015. Thomas's Aff. ¶¶ 12, 17, Dkt. 26-1. He also filed a third complaint in June 2017 following Johnson's selection for the position of Deputy Chief Vehicle Engineer. Id. ¶ 19.

         In July 2017, Thomas sued WMATA, Kakkar, WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Weidefeld, and WMATA Chief of Internal Business Operations John Kuo, alleging national origin and age discrimination as well as retaliation under Title VII and the ADEA. Compl., Dkt. 1. The Court later granted in part and denied in part a motion to dismiss. Apr. 9, 2018 Order, Dkt. 8. It dismissed several of Thomas's claims, but it permitted his Title VII claims against WMATA and his ADEA claims for prospective injunctive relief against the individual defendants in their official capacities to proceed. Id. at 1. The parties have now cross-moved for summary judgment. WMATA's Mot.; Thomas's Cross-Mots.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party “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); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). A “material” fact is one that could affect the outcome of the lawsuit. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb v. Powell, 433 F.3d 889, 895 (D.C. Cir. 2006). A dispute is “genuine” if a reasonable jury could determine that the evidence warrants a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248; Holcomb, 433 F.3d at 895. In reviewing the record, the court “must draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, and it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.” Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         It is well established, however, that “a plaintiff opposing summary judgment” must “substantiate [his allegations] with evidence” that “a reasonable jury could credit in support of each essential element of h[is] claims.” Grimes v. District of Columbia, 794 F.3d 83, 94 (D.C. Cir. 2015). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if the nonmoving party “fails 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).

         Because Thomas is proceeding pro se, the Court will construe his various filings together, see, e.g., Richardson v. United States, 193 F.3d 545, 548 (D.C. Cir. 1999), and it will hold him “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Thomas's National Origin and Age Discrimination Claims

         Title VII bars employers from “discriminat[ing] against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's . . . national origin.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Similarly, the ADEA bars employers from “discriminat[ing] against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, ...


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