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Boston v. Mabus

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 13, 2016



          Paula Xinis United States District District Judge.

         Pending in this employment discrimination case is Defendant's motion to dismiss the amended complaint, or in the alternative, for summary judgment (ECF No. 28). The issues are fully briefed and the parties were granted a hearing on the matter, which took place on December 8, 2016. ECF No. 37. This matter is ripe for determination. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's motion is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Plaintiff Felicia Boston's History of Employment

         Plaintiff Felicia T. Boston (“Boston” or “Plaintiff”) is an African-American female born in 1958 and was employed as a civilian Information Technology Specialist, with the pay plan and grade of IA-04 (GG-13), at the Office of Naval Intelligence, Department of the Navy. ECF No. 27 at 2; ECF No. 35-1 at 2-3. Plaintiff worked for the Navy's Hopper Information Services Center (Hopper ISC) from June 2008 to September 2011 as the Requirements Team Lead.

         Declaration of Felicia T. Boston, ECF No. 35-1 at 2, 5. Plaintiff's job duties included providing “input related to requirements and business analysis functions to Statements of Work, Requests for Proposals, and costs estimates.” ECF No. 35-1 at 4. Plaintiff “reviewed and provided comments to the Requirements Project Plans and approved the list of requirement management deliverable contained in the plan.” ECF No. 35-1 at 4.

         In February 2011, the Hopper ICS was reorganized, and Plaintiff was placed in the Control Department where she held a new title as the Governance Division Team Lead but continued to perform many of the same responsibilities. ECF No. 35-1 at 2, 5. Plaintiff's duties included leading the team responsible for requirements management and business processes, defining Governance Division tasks, roles and responsibilities, and assigning tasks to team members. ECF No. 35-1 at 4. Plaintiff directed team members in defining and analyzing requirements, documenting business processes, and identifying opportunities for process improvement. ECF No. 35-1 at 4. Plaintiff also evaluated contractor performance and provided training and guidance to the team. ECF No. 35-1 at 4.

         On July 13, 2011, a notice was sent to all eligible employees concerning voluntary separation incentive pay (“VSIP”) and voluntary early retirement authority (“VERA”) for the Office of Naval Intelligence. See July 13, 2011 Memorandum, ECF No. 35-2; ECF No. 35-1 at 8. The deadline for employees to complete a survey of interest applying for VSIP and VERA was July 22, 2011. ECF No. 35-2 at 2.

         On July 19, 2011, Plaintiff met with her immediate supervisor, Captain David Porcaro (“Capt. Porcaro”), who informed her that Defendant intended to disband the Governance Division and eliminate her position. ECF No. 27 at 3. Although the Governance Division functions would continue, the reorganization plan included other divisions absorbing those tasks and responsibilities.

         At that same meeting, Capt. Porcaro praised Plaintiff's fine work and sought her input as to where she may prefer to work going forward. ECF No. 35-14; 35-12 (Gnibus Declaration “Capt. Porcaro asked Ms. Boston what she would like to do after the division was gone.”). Porcaro offered many suggestions as to where Plaintiff may be relocated, including the Protection Department (computer security). Id. The Protection Department offer involved shepherding security packages through the accreditation process. ECF No. 35-1 at 5; ECF No. 35-5 at 7.

         Plaintiff expressed her dissatisfaction with that offer. According to Plaintiff, but only according to Plaintiff, the Transformation position “would not be a position comparable with my skills and abilities and would not be a GG-13 position. It would be an administrative position. To maintain a G-13 in Computer Security, you must have the proper certifications, I do not.” ECF No. 35-1 at 5; see also ECF No. 35-5 at 7. Procaro invited Plaintiff to suggest alternatives. ECF No. 35-15. Plaintiff told Porcaro she would think about it and get back to him. That same day, on July 19, 2011, Plaintiff signed and returned paperwork which conveyed her interest in taking early retirement. ECF No. 35-3 at 2.

         After July 19, 2011 until her retirement in early September, Plaintiff took substantial vacation time. ECF No. 35-5 at 5; ECF No. 38. From July 20, 2011 to July 30, 2011, Plaintiff took off from work completely. ECF No. 38. And cumulatively, from July 20, 2011 to September 10, 2011, which consists of 38 work days, Plaintiff worked 41 hours of a total of 304 scheduled work hours, taking 87 hours of sick leave, 128 hours of annual leave, and 48 hours of compensatory time. ECF No. 38.[2] Plaintiff asserts that she did so because she was not given any work by her managers, ECF No. 35-1 at 6, but this contention is belied by her taking ten days of leave immediately upon learning of the reorganization.

         While on leave, her supervisor Jim Sigafoose offered her a position as the Defense Civilian Intelligence Personnel System Career Development Specialist for Hopper ISC, which she also turned down. ECF No. 35-1 at 9. According to Sigafoose, he expressed to Plaintiff that he was “impressed” with her “performance, experience and expertise, and that her talents and knowledge could definitely be used within the Command.” ECF No. 35-9. Plaintiff contends now, as she did then, that she was not qualified for the position but offered no reasons as to why. ECF No. 35-5.

         Plaintiff also inquired about another position known as a “Joint Duty Assignment.” Id. She was provided with a job description that, in her estimation, was “not an Information Technology position. It was more in line with Facilities Management duties for which I have no skills or experience.” ECF No. 35-5 at 5.

         Seeking a job outside of Hopper ISC and within Naval Intelligence, Plaintiff also contacted Tim Sydnor, Chief Information Officer of the Office of Naval Intelligence (“Naval Intelligence”). ECF No. 35-1 at 7. Mr. Sydnor discussed with Capt. Porcaro the potential move, but it could not be accomplished because Hopper ISC did not intend to transfer Plaintiff's “billet” or personnel position. ECF No. 35-5 at 6; ECF No. 35-1 at 7.

         On September 6, 2011, Plaintiff signed a Standard Form 52, Request for Personnel Action, for retirement special option. ECF No. 35-7. In consideration for Plaintiff's early retirement, Plaintiff received a lump sum payment of $25, 000. See Notification of Personnel Action, ECF No. 35-8; ECF No. 35-15 at 83. Plaintiff alleges that she “could not continue to work in a hostile and abusive environment, subject [herself] to poor evaluations . . . by taking a position that I was not qualified, and accept a position that did not support my present grade that could result in a downgrade based on erosion of duties.” ECF No. 35-1 at 9.

         At the center of Plaintiff's complaint is that while she elected early retirement, many other members of the Governance Team moved to other divisions but continued to do the same work. ECF No. 35-1 at 4; see generally ECF No. 35-9 at 5 (“The roles that the contractors on the Governance Team performed are still being performed by contractors . . . . Requirements management is conducted by other government civilian employees.”). Specifically, Sigafoose moved some of Plaintiff's responsibilities to the Contract and Business Division which was headed by Kathy Vitkow, a younger Caucasian female who was later promoted. ECF No. 35-5 at 3, 7. Captain Vicky Gnibus, a younger Caucasian female, was moved to the Transition Division of the Hopper ISC and continued to perform many of the same functions that Plaintiff performed with the Governance Division. ECF No. 35-1 at 5. Don Billups, a younger African-American male subcontractor of L3 Inc., was appointed the Requirements Team Lead, which was part of Plaintiff's job and position before the February 2011 Hopper ISC reorganization. ECF No. 35-1 at 4-5; ECF No. 35-5. Clauzell McIntyre, a younger African-American male contractor of Eagle Ray Inc., began performing Plaintiff Boston's duties as the Subject Matter Expert. ECF No. 35-1 at 4-5; ECF No. 35-5 at 4. Mark Branham and Rik Sneeuwjagt, Caucasian male contractors of Eagle Ray Inc., were moved to another department doing the same job they did with the Governance Department. ECF No. 35-1 at 5. Sigafoose also offered Nehemiah Douglas, a younger[3] male civilian employee, a job managing an upcoming contract when Douglas announced he was leaving Hopper ISC in August 2011. ECF No. 35-5 at 3. Despite her qualifications, Plaintiff was not offered the position that Douglas received. ECF No. 35-5 at 3.

         B. ...

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