Watson v. Esper, 120419 FED5, 19-50450

Docket Nº:19-50450
Opinion Judge:PER CURIAM.
Party Name:LISA L. WATSON, Plaintiff - Appellant v. MARK ESPER, Secretary, Department of the Army, Defendant-Appellee
Judge Panel:Before DAVIS, SMITH, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:December 04, 2019
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

LISA L. WATSON, Plaintiff - Appellant


MARK ESPER, Secretary, Department of the Army, Defendant-Appellee

No. 19-50450

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

December 4, 2019

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas USDC No. 5:17-CV-01280.

Before DAVIS, SMITH, and HIGGINSON, Circuit Judges.


Lisa Watson, proceeding pro se, filed suit against Mark Esper, Secretary of the Department of the Army, in his official capacity, claiming race discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendant on all claims. We AFFIRM.

I. Background

Lisa Watson, an African American, began her term appointment as a Medical Records Administrative Specialist for the Army in June 2012, her term to end on June 17, 2015. She struggled in her job from the beginning. After failing an initial quality assurance review, she was given ninety days to earn a passing score. She never did.1 The Army then placed her on a performance improvement plan ("PIP"), but even after weekly meetings with supervisors, one-on-one trainings with audit specialists, and practice audits, Watson's work product did not pass muster. Citing her subpar performance, the defendant terminated Watson on July 19, 2013.

While employed and after her termination, Watson applied to three permanent positions in the Army, but each application was rejected. On January 10, 2013, the Army also denied Watson's request to attend professional training, determining she had to first meet her productivity goals. That same day, Watson contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") to complain of harassment and a hostile work environment. She filed a formal complaint two months later.

Watson eventually filed the instant action, alleging employment discrimination, retaliation, and harassment in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.2 The district court dismissed Watson's claims on summary judgment. She now appeals. She also filed a motion for immediate release of back pay with interest.

II. Analysis

A. Title VII Claims

We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de novo.3Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine dispute of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.4

1. Discrimination Claim

Title VII prohibits employment discrimination against any individual on the basis of race.5 A plaintiff may establish a prima facie case of discrimination by presenting direct evidence of discrimination or by relying on circumstantial evidence using the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting analysis.6 Under this analysis, the plaintiff must show: "(1) she is a member of a protected class, (2) she was qualified for her position, (3) she suffered an adverse employment action, and (4) others similarly situated were more favorably treated."7 Once that is established, the employer has the burden of establishing a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse employment action.8 The burden then again shifts back to the employee, who must produce "substantial evidence" that the reason offered was in fact pretext for discrimination.9


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