The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge
Before the Court is Defendant's, Michael Johanns', motion for summary judgment (Doc. 47). For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES Defendant's motion.
I. Factual & Procedural History
On February 13, 2006, Plaintiffs, Gary Vaughn and Chuck Twardowski, Caucasian employees of the United States Department of Agriculture ("USDA"), filed separate lawsuits alleging that they were denied promotion to a senior position because of racial discrimination, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. Plaintiffs allege that another employee of Defendant, an African-American, was promoted to the position in spite of being neither the most qualified nor the highest scoring applicant. On February 13, 2007, the Court granted Defendant's motion to consolidate pursuant to FED. R. CIV. P. 42(a) and consolidated Vaughn's and Twardowski's cases.
Plaintiffs allege that, in 2004, a vacancy became available for the position of Supervisory Social Services Assistant ("SSSA"). The initial job announcement, in March, 2004, required that a successful applicant possess a GS-9 level of experience. Both Plaintiffs were qualified for this position. The vacancy announcement was canceled on March 25, 2004, and was later re-posted as a GS-8/9, for which both Plaintiffs were also qualified. Plaintiff Vaughn had the most experience in performing the job listed in the vacancy announcement; Plaintiff Twardowski received the highest interview score. On July 7, 2004, Roy Lee, an African-American employee of the USDA, who had a GS-7 classification, was promoted to the position. Plaintiffs allege that they were not promoted to the senior position because of race discrimination.
In support of Defendant's motion for summary judgment, he provides the affidavits of five USDA employees at the USDA's Golconda Job Corps Center (the "Center"): David C. Floyd, Director, African-American; Elaine Lassner, human resources officer, Caucasian; Jim Steffen, counselor, Caucasian; Sharon Newbold, computer technician, Caucasian; and Ted McCreary, residential supervisor, African-American. Doc. 48, Exhibits 1-5. Lassner advertised the vacancy, discovered that she had made a mistake in how the position was advertised and, after consulting with the Job Corps National Field Office, readvertised the position. Id., Exhibit 2. She alone chose the selection committee, which consisted of McCreary, Newbold and Steffen. Id. The committee reviewed the list of qualified candidates, interviewed them telephonically and recommended that Lee be hired for the vacant position. Id. Lassner declares that race played no role in any of her actions and decisions during this process. Id. Floyd declares that he gave great deference to the recommendation of the selection committee, as was his custom and practice, and that he agreed with their choice. Id., Exhibit 1. Floyd, too, asserts that race played no role in his choosing Lee for the vacancy. Id.
The members of the selection committee agree on their role in the process. Id., Exhibits 3-5. Having reviewed the applications and interviewed the candidates, they unanimously agreed to recommend Lee for the position. Id. Using the evaluation criteria published in the vacancy announcement, the committee assessed the individual applications and ranked the candidates as follows:
Chuck Twardowski 75 points
Roy Lee 74 points Gary Vaughn 68 points Jack Terrell 60 points Id. The numerical rankings were a tool only and were not meant to be a decisive factor in the evaluation process. Id. The committee believed that ". . . Lee was the best person for the job because he demonstrated a very consistent, positive philosophy for impact on the Center's culture." Id. Lee's "vision for the position and the overall success of the Center elevated his application to be the number one candidate." Id. The committee members declare that race played no role in their recommending Lee for the position. Id.
II. Applicable Legal Standard
Defendant seeks summary judgment on Vaughn's and Twardowski's discrimination claims, pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 56(c).
Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, depositions, interrogatory answers, admissions, and affidavits leave no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. FED.R.CIV.P. 56(c). The moving party bears the burden of establishing both the absence of fact issues and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law. Santaella v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 123 F.3d 456, 461 (7th Cir. 1997).
In determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the Court reviews the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and makes all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986); Ulichny v. Merton Community School Dist., 249 F.3d 686, 699 (7th Cir. 2001); Miranda v. Wisconsin Power & Light Company, 91 F.3d 1011, 1014 (7th Cir. 1996). However, the mere existence of an alleged factual dispute is not sufficient to defeat a summary judgment motion. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247; Salvadori v. Franklin Sch. Dist.,293F.3d 989, 996 (7th Cir. 2002). Rather, to successfully oppose summary ...