Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, Case No. 1:15-cv-1261-RCL

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtRoyce C. Lamberth, United States District Court Judge
Citation443 F.Supp.3d 67
Parties Avery Renee WEBSTER, Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, Defendant.
Docket NumberCase No. 1:15-cv-1261-RCL
Decision Date10 March 2020

443 F.Supp.3d 67

Avery Renee WEBSTER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY, Defendant.

Case No. 1:15-cv-1261-RCL

United States District Court, District of Columbia.

Signed March 10, 2020


443 F.Supp.3d 74

Avery Renee Webster, Upper Marlboro, MD, pro se.

Michelle D. Jackson, U.S. Attorney's Office Homicide Section, Denise M. Clark, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Court Judge

443 F.Supp.3d 75

In 2015, plaintiff Avery Renee Webster filed suit against the Department of Energy ("DOE") for alleged racial, gender, and disability discrimination and for allegedly creating a hostile work environment. DOE filed a Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment in 2016, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. The Court ordered full discovery to give Ms. Webster the opportunity to explore her surviving claims. DOE has since filed a Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 70). After considering that motion, Ms. Webster's opposition (ECF No. 71), and DOE's reply (ECF No. 74), the Court will GRANT Defendant's Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment and DISMISS the case with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

In its previous opinion issued on August 25, 2017, the Court summarized the background of this case as follows:

Plaintiff, who is an African American female, was employed by DOE as an attorney examiner in the Office of Hearings and Appeals ("OHA") from August 2007 through April 2012. Plaintiff's supervisors were Ms. Ann S. Augustyn, Ms. Janet N. Freimuth, Mr. Fred L. Brown, and Mr. Poli A. Marmolejos. Plaintiff's complaint is based on several specific events that occurred throughout the course of her employment, some of which occurred during her high risk pregnancy from October 2010 through July 2011. They are as follows: 1) she was denied regular flexi-place in February 2011; 2) she was denied medical flexi-place in February 2011; 3) she was denied the reasonable accommodation of a chair for her pregnancy in January and February 2011; 4) she was denied a promotion in May 2011; 5) she was issued a fourteen day suspension on October 3, 2011; 6) she received a performance rating of "needs improvement" on November 3, 2011; 7) she was given a counseling memorandum on November 3, 2011; 8) she was placed on a Performance Improvement Plan ("PIP") on February 24, 2012; 9) DOE management refused to return her personal banking information to her; 10) DOE officials "loaded [her] Personal Security Investigative File and OPM File with defamatory and inappropriate statements" thereby affecting her ability to get a security clearance; and 11) she was terminated from her position at DOE and removed from federal service employment on April 16, 2012.

During the course of the above described incidents, plaintiff initiated administrative proceedings. On June 6, 2011 she initiated contact with an EEO counselor and on January 18, 2012, filed a formal EEO complaint with the Agency's Office of Civil Rights ("OCR"), alleging violations of Title VII and the ADA. On February 6, 2012, she formally realleged that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment. On May 24, 2012, after she was removed from federal service, plaintiff added her removal as an additional issue in her EEO complaint. The allegations described above formed the basis of plaintiff's complaint.

On January 11, 2013, the OCR issued its Final Agency Decision, finding that the defendant had offered legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for the actions taken and that plaintiff failed to demonstrate pretext. On January 28, 2013, plaintiff filed a mixed-case appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board ("MSPB"). Administrative Judge Ben-Ami considered plaintiff's removal and any affirmative defenses, but declined to
443 F.Supp.3d 76
consider the merits of the nine other issues raised in her complaint regarding actions taken prior to her removal. This decision was confirmed by MSPB Administrative Judge Clement on November 27, 2013. On September 12, 2014 Judge Clement issued her initial decision affirming DOE's decision to remove plaintiff from federal service. On October 16, 2014, plaintiff filed a petition to review the initial decision, and on July 6, 2015 received MSPB's final order affirming the initial decision.

ECF No. 47 at 2-3.

In August of 2016, the government filed a Motion to Dismiss and for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18), which the Court granted in part and denied in part (ECF Nos. 46, 47). Specifically, the Court dismissed the following claims:

• Plaintiff's Title VII intentional discrimination and retaliation claims based on (1) the denial of regular flexi-place in February 2011; (2) the denial of medical flexi-place in February 2011; (3) the denial of the reasonable accommodation of a chair in January and February 2011; and (4) DOE management's refusal to return plaintiff's personal banking information to her

• Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act intentional discrimination claims based on (1) the denial of regular flexi-place in February 2011; and (2) DOE's alleged refusal to return banking information to plaintiff

• Plaintiff's Whistleblower Protection Act claims

The Court did not dismiss the following claims:

• Plaintiff's Title VII intentional discrimination and retaliation claims based on (1) the denial of a promotion in May 2011; (2) the 14-day suspension issued on October 3, 2011; (3) the performance rating of "needs improvement" on November 3, 2011; (4) the counseling memorandum issued on November 3, 2011; (5) the PIP issued on February 24, 2012; (6) the allegedly false and defamatory statements placed in plaintiff's Personal Security Investigative File and OPM File; and (7) the termination on April 16, 2012

• Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act intentional discrimination claims based on (1) the denial of a promotion in May 2011; (2) the 14-day suspension issued on October 3, 2011; (3) the performance rating of "needs improvement" on November 3, 2011; (4) the counseling memorandum issued on November 3, 2011; (5) the PIP issued on February 24, 2012; and (6) the termination on April 16, 2012

• Plaintiff's hostile work environment claims brought under Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act

The Court ordered additional discovery on the surviving claims to give Ms. Webster the opportunity to find supporting evidence. After the close of discovery, DOE filed its Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment on August 31, 2019. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant that motion.

LEGAL STANDARD

I. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate "if the movant 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). Courts must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor." Athridge v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co. , 604 F.3d 625, 629 (D.C. Cir. 2010). To show

443 F.Supp.3d 77

that a dispute is "genuine" and defeat a summary judgment motion, the nonmoving party must present evidence "such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). "If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Id. at 249-50, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Furthermore, "[w]hen opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris , 550 U.S. 372, 380, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). Summary judgment is also appropriate when, "after adequate time for discovery," 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 ... since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

II. Title VII

A. Race and Sex Discrimination

Federal employment discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, under which it is unlawful for an employer "to discriminate against any individual with respect to his [or her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). Title VII claims that rely on circumstantial evidence—as opposed to direct evidence of discrimination—are analyzed under the burden-shifting framework found in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green , 411 U.S. 792, 93 S.Ct. 1817, 36 L.Ed.2d 668 (1973). Under McDonnell Douglas , the employee "must carry the initial burden under the statute of establishing a prima facie case of ......

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5 practice notes
  • Hall v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., Civil Action No. 19-1800 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 2 Octubre 2020
    ...Act, like the ADA, provides for hostile work environment claims based on disability. See Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 443 F. Supp. 3d 67, 81 (D.D.C. 2020); Aldrich v. Burwell, 197 F. Supp. 3d 124, 135 (D.D.C. 2016); Floyd, 968 F. Supp. 2d at 315 n.4 ("Although this circuit has not resol......
  • Moore v. Brouillette, Civil Action No. 20-1060 (CKK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 11 Diciembre 2020
    ...recognize the viability of hostile work environment claims under the Rehabilitation Act, see Webster v. United States Dep't of Energy, 443 F. Supp. 3d 67, 81 (D.D.C. 2020); Congress v. District of Columbia, 277 F. Supp. 3d 82, 91 (D.D.C. 2017). Neither does Defendant challenge the existence......
  • Arnoldi v. Bd. of Trs., Nat'l Gallery of Art, Case No. 1:20-cv-00091 (TNM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 26 Julio 2021
    ...that the employee "fail[ed] to comply with instructions or respect [his supervisor's] authority"); Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy , 443 F. Supp. 3d 67, 83, 85 (D.D.C. 2020) (finding justifications that an employee "blatantly refus[ed] to complete the tasks that were assigned to her," delay......
  • Jimenez v. Mayorkas, 17-cv-2731 (CRC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 1 Marzo 2022
    ...VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation.'” Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 443 F.Supp.3d 67, 78 (D.D.C. 2020) (quoting Univ. of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. 338, 360 (2013)). In this context a materially adverse action is on......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Hall v. Wash. Metro. Area Transit Auth., Civil Action No. 19-1800 (BAH)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 2 Octubre 2020
    ...Act, like the ADA, provides for hostile work environment claims based on disability. See Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 443 F. Supp. 3d 67, 81 (D.D.C. 2020); Aldrich v. Burwell, 197 F. Supp. 3d 124, 135 (D.D.C. 2016); Floyd, 968 F. Supp. 2d at 315 n.4 ("Although this circuit has not resol......
  • Moore v. Brouillette, Civil Action No. 20-1060 (CKK)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 11 Diciembre 2020
    ...recognize the viability of hostile work environment claims under the Rehabilitation Act, see Webster v. United States Dep't of Energy, 443 F. Supp. 3d 67, 81 (D.D.C. 2020); Congress v. District of Columbia, 277 F. Supp. 3d 82, 91 (D.D.C. 2017). Neither does Defendant challenge the existence......
  • Arnoldi v. Bd. of Trs., Nat'l Gallery of Art, Case No. 1:20-cv-00091 (TNM)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 26 Julio 2021
    ...that the employee "fail[ed] to comply with instructions or respect [his supervisor's] authority"); Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy , 443 F. Supp. 3d 67, 83, 85 (D.D.C. 2020) (finding justifications that an employee "blatantly refus[ed] to complete the tasks that were assigned to her," delay......
  • Jimenez v. Mayorkas, 17-cv-2731 (CRC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 1 Marzo 2022
    ...VII retaliation claims must be proved according to traditional principles of but-for causation.'” Webster v. U.S. Dep't of Energy, 443 F.Supp.3d 67, 78 (D.D.C. 2020) (quoting Univ. of Texas Sw. Med. Ctr. v. Nassar, 570 U.S. 338, 360 (2013)). In this context a materially adverse action is on......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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