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Figueroa v. Pompeo

United States District Court, District of Columbia

January 8, 2020

Richard A. FIGUEROA, Plaintiff,
v.
Michael R. POMPEO, Secretary, U.S. Department of State,[1] Defendant.

Page 161

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 162

          Richard A. Figueroa, Washington, DC, pro se.

          Amelia Igo Pelly Frenkel, James Miller Rosenthal, Jaclyn Delligatti, Wilkinson Walsh Eskovitz, PLLC, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

          Daniel Patrick Schaefer, U.S. Attorney's Office, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

         CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Richard Figueroa believes that, but for his Hispanic heritage, he would have been promoted by the State Department rather than forced into mandatory retirement. He filed suit in 2016 against the Department, advancing claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for both disparate treatment and disparate impact. After the parties conducted discovery regarding those claims, both moved for summary judgment in 2017. In a January 2018 decision, this Court sided with the State Department. That decision concluded, with respect to the disparate treatment claim, that Figueroa had not produced evidence to rebut the Department's proffered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying his promotion. Figueroa v. Tillerson, 289 F.Supp.3d 212, 224-28 (D.D.C. 2018). It further held that Figeuroa had failed to establish a prima facie case of disparate impact. Id. at 228-30.

         The D.C. Circuit, in May 2019, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part. Figueroa v. Pompeo, 923 F.3d 1078 (D.C. Cir. 2019). Although it agreed that Figueroa's disparate impact claim lacked merit, id. at 1086, it determined that the Department's claimed nondiscriminatory reason for denying Figueroa a promotion was so vague that it denied him the opportunity to meaningfully rebut it, id. at 1094-95. Accordingly, the Circuit reversed the portion of this Court's order granting summary judgment to the Department on Figueroa's disparate treatment claim and revived Figueroa's cross-motion for summary judgment with respect to that claim for fresh consideration. Because the Court now concludes that Figueroa has established a prima facie case of disparate treatment, and because the Circuit has determined that the Department failed to rebut that case by providing a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for denying his promotion, the Court will enter summary judgment on that claim in Figueroa's favor.

Page 163

          I. Background

         In its first ruling on the parties' motions for summary judgment, the Court described in detail the State Department's promotion process. Figueroa, 289 F.Supp.3d at 215-18. Because the intricacies of that process are no longer at issue—and the focus is now exclusively on whether Figueroa has established a prima facie case of disparate treatment—the Court elides that description here. Readers interested in a more comprehensive background may refer to the Court's prior opinion.

         Figueroa, a Hispanic man born in Puerto Rico, began working at the Department of State in March 1986 in the political cone. Def. Mot. Summ. J., Ex. B ("Figueroa Dep."), at 6:3-4. Figueroa was first appointed at the FS-05 level, serving overseas with an initial assignment in Madrid, Spain. Id. at 6:10-11. He was administratively promoted from FS-05 to FS-04 in 1988 and up to the FS-02 level by 1997. Id. at 6:16-25.

         Figueroa was first eligible to be promoted to the FS-01 level in 2000, but he was low-ranked by the selection boards in both 2000 and 2001. Id. at 25:20-26:2. He was then mid-ranked the next two years, in 2002 and 2003. Def. Mot. Summ. J., Ex. D ("Pierangelo Dep."), at 128:20-129:2, 130:11-13. In 2004, Figueroa was recommended for promotion and ranked 79th out of the 87 employees eligible that year. Id. at 130:20-131:2. But, he ultimately did not receive a promotion because only 43 promotions were awarded in 2004. See Def. Mot. Summ. J., Ex. F, at DOS001043. Similarly, Figueroa was recommended for promotion in 2005, this time ranked 118th out of 141 eligible employees. Pierangelo Dep. at 131:22-132:3. Again, though, Figueroa did not receive a promotion because only 39 promotions were awarded that year. See Def.'s MSJ, Ex. F, at DOS001043. In 2006 through 2009, Figueroa was again mid-ranked and not ultimately promoted each year. Pierangelo Dep. ...


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