891 F.2d 316 (D.C. Cir. 1989), 88-5295, Parker v. Secretary, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development

Docket Nº:88-5295.
Citation:891 F.2d 316
Party Name:Elaine G. PARKER, Appellant, v. SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, Appellee.
Case Date:December 08, 1989
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 316

891 F.2d 316 (D.C. Cir. 1989)

Elaine G. PARKER, Appellant,

v.

SECRETARY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT, Appellee.

No. 88-5295.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

December 8, 1989

Argued Oct. 23, 1989.

Page 317

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of columbia.

James E. McCollum, Jr., College Park, Md., for appellant.

Diane M. Sullivan, Asst. U.S. Atty., with whom Jay B. Stephens, U.S. Atty., John D. Bates, Michael J. Ryan, Asst. U.S. Attys. and Carol W. Bernstein, Attorney, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C., were on brief for appellee.

Before MIKVA, EDWARDS and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge MIKVA.

MIKVA, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Elaine Parker appeals the district court's judgment for the Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD") in this Title VII action. Parker, a former auditor at HUD, alleged that HUD had discriminated against her on the basis of her race and/or sex in its decisions to demote her from a grade GS-13 to GS-11 and to deny her a within-grade pay increase. In addition Parker alleged that her supervisors had subjected her to discriminatory treatment by, inter alia, denying her educational opportunities accorded to others, failing to accord her the respect accorded white male GS-13 auditors in her department, and denying her the opportunity for a weekend return to her home during an extended field audit. The district court concluded that while Parker established a prima facie case of discrimination, she did not meet her burden of proving that the government's reasons for adverse employment actions were a pretext for discrimination. In reaching this conclusion the district court stated that the evidence of the merit of Parker's work was immaterial because Parker had not shown that the managers "were so clearly wrong that they, in fact, knew that they were." We reverse this judgment because the district court did not apply the correct legal standards regarding what Title VII plaintiffs must prove to demonstrate pretext. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

  1. BACKGROUND

    1. Parker's Work Experience

      Elaine Parker, a black female, began her career with the federal government as a clerk typist in 1964. Through evening education she received her B.A. degree in accounting in 1975 and advanced to the position of auditor, first at the Department of Transportation as a GS-7, progressing to a GS-11. Later she moved to the Department of Commerce to work as a GS-12 Auditor-Manager. In 1979 Parker applied and was selected for a position at HUD. She entered HUD as a GS-13 supervisory auditor in the Technical Services Division of the Office of the Inspector General ("OIG"), which was headed by Glen Dale.

      Mr. Dale interviewed Ms. Parker for this position. At trial Parker testified that upon meeting her, Dale appeared startled, stating that he had assumed Parker was white because of her maiden name, Garbett. According to Parker, the entire interview proceeded in a discriminatory fashion because Dale: (1) suggested incorrectly that she had falsified her qualifications form; (2) suggested that being a black female was an "asset" that led to Parker's advancement; and (3) failed to discuss the substance of the job position. Dale testified that he did not recall anything about the interview other than discussing "varying aspects of the job and so forth." Dale did not recommend Parker for the job, he testified, because, based on her application and the interview, he did not believe she had the necessary writing and oral skills for the position. Dale conceded that he never saw a writing sample. Dale recommended a white female for the job but Dale's supervisor, Mr. Yazurlo, selected Parker. At the time Parker was the only black, female auditor at HUD in grades 13 through 15.

      Page 318

      Parker spent her initial year at HUD working under Dale. The three other GS-13's in the department were all white males. Parker asserted at trial that Dale initially gave her little work to do and then gave her "above-grade" tasks which the other GS-13's in her group were not required to complete. Dale denied these allegations. Early in Parker's tenure with HUD, Dale sent Parker to San Francisco to work on an audit of a mortgage company. Dale testified that this was part of Parker's "training" and that he sent her to San Francisco, as opposed to a closer location, because ninety percent of the agency's "Mortgage Review Board" cases came from the San Francisco region. Parker testified that Dale told her that there were three other audits that were geographically closer, including one in Washington D.C., but that he felt she would get the best exposure in California. Parker was assigned to supervise three lower grade employees who, because of her unfamiliarity with the mortgage area, knew more about the audit than she did. The audit took about five weeks to complete.

      During the entire audit Parker did not return home for a weekend visit, despite a HUD policy which would have allowed such a visit after two weeks. Parker claims that Dale told her before she left that his budget would not allow such a visit. According to Parker, after her supervisor in California intervened on her behalf, Dale called her two days before the audit was to be completed and told her to "come home" because he was getting heat about her lack of a weekend visit. Parker said she would rather complete the two remaining days before returning home. Dale testified that he called Parker at the end of two weeks to tell her she was entitled to a weekend return, to which Parker replied, " 'If I come home now...

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