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Pough v. Mineta

September 19, 2008

SHARON POUGH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
NORMAN MINETA, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wayne R. Andersen United States District Judge

District Judge Wayne Andersen

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

This case comes before the court on defendant Department of Transportation's motion for summary judgment [74]. Plaintiff Sharon Pough was employed at the the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") and filed a complaint against the Department of Transportation alleging race discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment. For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Sharon Pough, a former management employee of the FAA, bases her claims in the present litigation on two EEO administrative complaints filed against the FAA in March 2002 and May 2003. (Local Rule 56.1(a) Statement of Facts "SOF" ¶ 1.) The events on which Pough base the current litigation began in 1999 while she was under the supervision of Joseph Yokley. In 1999, Pough chose to support fellow African-American co-worker, Barbara Thomas-Bagrowski by providing testimony with regard to her complaint of race discrimination. (Response to Local Rule 56.1 Statement of Facts "Resp. to SOF" ¶ 47-48.) Following Pough's testimony, Yokely became aware of her participation and questioned her reasons for supporting Thomas-Bagrowski. (Id. ¶ 48.)

In July 2000, Yokley provided cash awards in recognition of various employee accomplishments within the FAA's human resources department. At a meeting called to discuss the awards, Pough discovered that she was being awarded $150 less than two of her white co-workers. (Id. ¶ 53.) While Pough contested the amount she was awarded, she did not file a complaint with an EEO counselor until September 24, 2001, more than a year after the money was awarded and Yokley had retired. (SOF ¶ 26.) Pough claims her award was reduced because of her support in Thomas-Bagrowski's EEO complaint process (Id. ¶ 25.)

In February 2001, Yokley retired as supervisor and was replaced by Karen Johnson. (Id. ¶ 5.) Shortly after Johnson began as supervisor, she became aware that Pough had "testified previously in some complaint process." (Resp. to SOF ¶ 62.) As part of her management style, Johnson began holding "all hands" meetings aimed at improving departmental communication. (SOF ¶7.) These meetings soon became a vehicle for public acknowledgment of those employees within the human resources division who had received compliments from customers. (Id. ¶ 8.) Pough alleges Johnson treated her differently from other team members, refusing to acknowledge publicly her achievements as she did for white employees. (Resp. to SOF ¶ 65.)

Pough points to two incidents in making this claim. In 2001, the human resources division's training team, of which Pough was a part, was nominated for the 2001 Employee of the Year award. In recognition of this accomplishment, every team member was awarded a wooden plaque. (SOF ¶ 9.) Pough claims she received the plaque in Johnson's office, thus being denied the public recognition enjoyed by the other team members. (Id. ¶ 11.) Pough also points to an incident involving an FAA official memo, accompanied by a water bottle, given to each employee as a thank you for serving on an interview panel. (Id. ¶ 13.) Pough alleges Johnson again denied her public recognition, having her secretary award Pough both the memo and the water bottle outside of an "all hands" meeting (Id. ¶ 14.)

Pough also bases her claim on an allegation that in September 2001, Johnson did not award her a sufficient discretionary cash award. (Id. ¶ 18.) These awards, given to several managers within the human resources department, were based on contributions made to the department. (Id. ¶¶ 18-21.) Pough received a discretionary cash award of $900, and the cash awards received by her co-workers totaled $2300, $1150 and $650. Thus, the discretionary bonus received by Pough was less than that received by two of her white co-workers, yet more than a third co-worker. (Id. ¶ 24.)

In March 2002, Pough filed an EEO complaint alleging these incidents were proof of race discrimination stemming from her 1999 support of Thomas-Bagrowski. (Id. ¶ 2.) In addition, Pough alleged that she faced a hostile work environment by being "left out of the loop" on decisions her supervisor made within the department. (Id. ¶ 2.) Pough alleges she was left out of meetings with other supervisors, faced an uncomfortable and unsettling atmosphere at the meetings she did attend, and was met with deep sighs when she chose to participate. (Res. to SOF ¶ 75-81.)

Pough filed her second EEO complaint in May 2003 alleging retaliation by Johnson in response to filing her March 2002 EEO complaint. The basis of the retaliation claim is a 2003 performance evaluation in which Pough alleges Johnson made derogatory comments. (SOF ¶¶ 3, 36.) However, Pough admits that her performance evaluation included both "positive comments and corrective criticism." (Id. ¶ 38.) Pough's retaliation claim also is based on her 2003 pay raise, which was recommended by Johnson, at the "organizational success increase" ("OSI") level rather than at the "superior ccontribution increase" ("SCI") level which Pough felt she deserved. (Id. ¶ 37.)

Defendant Department of Transportation now seeks summary judgment on all three of Pough's claims.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, an entry of summary judgment is appropriate when "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admission on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.P. 56(C); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986). In making this determination, the "judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). One may find that ...


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