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Anthony M. Hill v. Martha Johnson

September 27, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Virginia M. Kendall


Plaintiff Anthony M. Hill ("Hill") filed suit against Defendant Martha Johnson, former Administrator of General Services Administration ("GSA") pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. Defendant was sued in her official capacity as the former Administrator and designated representative of GSA, a federal agency. Plaintiff is a former employee of GSA who was terminated approximately one year after being hired as a program specialist in GSA's Federal Career Intern Program. Plaintiff alleges GSA discriminated against him on the basis of his race and gender (Count I), and retaliated against him when he complained of the discrimination (Count II). Defendants move for summary judgment on all counts of Plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted.


Hill began his employment with GSA on May 12, 2008, as a program specialist in the GSA Federal Career Intern Program ("FCIP"). (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 1.) The FCIP is a two-year program with a one-year probationary period. (Id. ¶ 2.) Hill was hired as a non-targeted trainee, meaning that throughout the internship, he would rotate to various divisions of GSA and be assigned to a supervisor in each respective work area. (Id. ¶ 3.) These supervisors would assign Hill work, monitor his progress, and provide feedback on his performance. (Id.) Timothy Gabrish ("Gabrish") oversaw the FCIP, serving as the supervisor of record for rotational trainees like Hill. (Id. ¶ 4.)

I. Hill's EEO and MSPB Complaints

Soon after he began working at GSA, Hill told Gabrish that he believed he should have been hired by GSA at a GS-9 pay grade rather than a GS-7 because he had a master's degree.*fn2 (Id. ¶ 6.) Gabrish informed Hill that the grade levels were based on the position applied for as indicated in the job vacancy announcement, which was determined by human resources, not his group. (Id. ¶ 7.) Hill subsequently filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEOC") complaint and a Merit Systems Protection Board ("MSPB") claim concerning his pay grade. (Id. ¶ 5; Pl. 56.1 Resp. Ex. J.) GSA and Hill entered into a settlement agreement, dated August 26, 2008, in which GSA retroactively compensated Hill at a GS-9 pay grade.*fn3 (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 8.)

II. Hill's Altercations with Co-Workers

A. Fall 2008 Altercation Between Hill and Dwayne Thomas

In his first rotation assignment, Hill reported to Bruce Hall ("Hall"), branch manager of the Communications and Technology Capital Asset Management Branch ("Communications Group"). (Id. ¶ 9.) Dwayne Thomas ("Thomas"), a team leader in the Communications Group, provided Hill with assignments and served as his mentor. (Id.)

Sometime in September or October 2008, Hill was involved in an altercation with Thomas. (Id. ¶¶ 10-11, 13; Def. 56.1 Resp. Ex. D.) The incident began when Hill approached Thomas's cubicle to ask why he had not been selected by Thomas for certain training opportunities. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 10.) Thomas felt threatened by Hill's demeanor, which he described as "loud and aggressive," and ordered Hill to step back and leave his cubicle. (Id. ¶ 13.) Later that day, Thomas called Hill into a conference room to discuss the incident. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 4.) After their discussion, Thomas believed he and Hill had resolved the dispute. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Thomas eventually discussed the incident with Hall, who met with Hill to inform him that his behavior toward Thomas was inappropriate. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 14; Pl. 56.1 Resp. Ex. B, p. 4.)*fn4

Hall subsequently told Gabrish of the altercation, and informed Gabrish that he told Hill his behavior was not acceptable. (Pl. 56.1 Resp.¶ 16; Def. 56.1 Ex. B, pp. 38, 40.)*fn5 Gabrish thought the altercation between Hill and Thomas may have been the result of a personality conflict, and decided to rotate Hill to his next assignment to see how things went. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 17.) Hill's probationary evaluation, which was signed by Gabrish on November 11, 2008, was satisfactory and did not mention the incident with Thomas. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 28; Pl. 56.1 Ex. I, GSA 231-35.)

B. March 2009 Incident Between Hill and Marcy Nordahl

In March 2009, Hill was rotated from the Communications Group to the Customer Projects Division ("Customer Projects"). (Pl. 56.1 Resp ¶ 18.) There, Hill worked on census team initiatives under the supervision of Christine McKenna ("McKenna"). (Id.) When Hill was transferred, John Siegel ("Siegel"), the Deputy Director of Customer Projects, asked Gabrish about Hill. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 19.) Gabrish told Siegel that Hill had issues with other managers. (Id. ¶ 21.) Gabrish also informed Siegel about Hill's MSPB-EEO complaint and the settlement that raised Hill from a GS-7 pay grade to a GS-9. (Id.)

Shortly after his transfer, Hill was involved in a verbal confrontation with Marcy Nordahl ("Nordahl"), a manager in the central supply service area ("CSS"). (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 19.) The dispute began when Hill went to CSS to request color copies of individual FedEx air bills. (Id. ¶ 19; Def. 56.1 Ex. F; Def. 56.1 Ex. A, pp. 59-61.) Nordahl asked Hill to come back in a few hours because CSS was extremely busy with other copy requests. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 20.) When Hill returned, Nordahl informed him that she had discussed his request with the acting team manager, Katrina Trimble, and that she would not grant Hill's request because color copying was unnecessary and costly. (Id. ¶ 21; Def. 56.1 Ex. F.) Hill responded to Nordahl in a loud and aggressive tone,*fn6 yelling that she "had no right to put him on report."*fn7 (Id. ¶ 22; Def. 56.1 Ex. F.) Nordahl responded that she had not put Hill on report.(Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 22; Def. 56.1 Ex. F.) Hill told Nordahl, "respectfully, you did put me on report" and walked out. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶22; Def. 56.1 Ex. F.) Nordahl reported the incident to Siegel, who did not speak with Hill or investigate the matter further. (Pl. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 39; Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶¶ 24-25.) Instead, Siegel complained directly to Gabrish about Hill's behavior and that Hill was bragging about receiving back pay due to his settlement with the EEO. (Def. 56.1 Resp. ¶ 26.)No further action was taken by GSA at that time. Hill ...

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