URBINA, District Judge.
Granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
This matter comes before the court upon defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff's opposition thereto and defendant's reply therein. Plaintiff's action is premised on four claims: (1) that defendant violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by failing to provide plaintiff with assurances that her position would have some permanence to it and by offering her another position; (2) that defendant violated the District of Columbia Human Rights Act (DCHRA) by engaging in discrimination based on race, gender and family responsibilities; (3) that defendant violated the DCHRA by constructively discharging her; and (4) that plaintiff was subjected to an unlawful termination in violation of public policy as expressed by statute or municipal regulation.
After careful consideration of the submissions, the applicable law, memoranda, excerpts from depositions and numerous exhibits,
I. Factual Background
In 1988, plaintiff, Christina McHenry Lempres (Ms. Lempres), a Black woman, was hired by defendant CBS as an associate producer for the morning news show. Ms. Lempres' duties included identifying and booking guests to appear on the morning news program; preparing a description of guests' backgrounds and their roles in current events covered by CBS. In December of 1992, following the birth of her first child, Ms. Lempres began her first maternity leave. While on maternity leave, Ms. Lempres contacted her supervisor, Barbara Cochran (Ms. Cochran); they discussed plaintiff's return to work. Ms. Cochran offered Ms. Lempres a position as Futures Editor, which plaintiff described as one with "regular hours" and "intended for someone who was not going anywhere fast."
Hill producers identify newsworthy events occurring on Capitol Hill and brief the Chief Correspondent on Capitol Hill, Bob Schieffer (Mr. Schieffer). This position would entail a promotion from her former position.
Mr. Schieffer oversaw the Hill positions and as a result, interacted with the Hill producers in order to develop the news stories Mr. Schieffer was to report. During her six month tenure as House producer, Ms. Lempres complained that she was ignored by Mr. Schieffer, who she alleges assigned her projects that were not as noteworthy as those given to her Senate counterpart. She further claims that Mr. Schieffer did not recognize her contributions and that he did not want to share an office with her. Ms. Lempres claims that these acts also constituted discriminatory treatment because she was accorded different treatment than white producers.
In December of 1993, Ms. Lempres began a second six-month maternity leave. On May 17, 1994, Ms. Lempres contacted her supervisor, Ms. Cochran, to discuss her return to CBS. Ms. Cochran informed plaintiff that a tape producer position was available on the Morning News. Plaintiff and Ms. Cochran also discussed other possibilities for employment, including part-time and per diem work at CBS.
A. Legal Standard
Summary judgment is appropriate when there is "no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). "The inquiry performed is the threshold inquiry of determining whether there is a need for trial — whether, in other words, there are any genuine issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). In general, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating to the court the absence of any genuine dispute as to material facts. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553-54, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). However, if the evidence offered by the opposing party is "merely colorable" or "not significantly probative," summary judgment is still appropriate. Richardson v. National Rifle Ass'n, 871 F.Supp. 499, 501 (D.D.C.1994) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. at 249-250, 106 S.Ct. at 2511). It is the objective of the summary judgment procedure to "isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323-324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553.
Further, if a 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, Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-323, 106 S.Ct. at 2552-53. "In such a situation there can be no genuine issue as to any material fact, since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. Summary judgment shall be granted in favor of defendant, because plaintiff in this case has failed to demonstrate the existence of elements essential to her claims and on which plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial and because there are no material facts in dispute.
B. Family and Medical Leave Act Claim
In Count 1 of her complaint, Ms. Lempres alleges that CBS "discriminated against [her] on account of her pregnancy ... with respect to terms, conditions, and privileges of Lempres' employment at CBS ... in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993." 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654.
Ms. Lempres avers that CBS' refusal to provide her with an assurance that,
Ms. Lempres' deposition attests to the fact that Ms. Cochran never told plaintiff that the terms, responsibilities, benefits, title or salary would in any way be changed from those provided by her employment contract.
C. District of Columbia Human Rights Act
1. Continuing Violation
In Count II of her complaint, plaintiff alleges that the defendant discriminated against her during the course of her employment based on her race, gender, and family responsibilities in violation of the DCHRA. In Count III, plaintiff asserts that she was constructively discharged from her employment, also in violation of the DCHRA. Defendant argues that these claims are time-barred. Civil actions under the DCHRA must be filed within one year of the occurrence of the unlawful discriminatory practice or the discovery of it.
The court must employ a two-step inquiry in determining whether plaintiff has asserted a viable continuing violation claim. First, the court must determine whether an actual violation of the DCHRA occurred during the statutory period.
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination under the DCHRA, a plaintiff must show that: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she suffered an adverse employment action; and (3) employees who were not members of the protected class were not subjected to similar treatment.
(a) The May 17, 1994 Conversation
Plaintiff argues that she was being steered into a "mommy track" position, because in the May 17 conversation, Ms. Cochran addressed the possibility of Ms. Lempres working part-time at CBS. It is undisputed that plaintiff initiated this conversation with Ms. Cochran, during which they discussed employment options available to plaintiff upon the latter's return to work the following month.
(b) The May 27, 1994 Conversation
On or about May 27, 1994, the second conversation took place. Ms. Cochran initiated the call to advise Ms. Lempres about CBS' expectation that she assume her Hill producer position upon her return from maternity leave. It is undisputed that plaintiff was offered her former position, with no alterations in benefits, responsibilities, title or salary.
The court further notes that plaintiff has failed to establish that the telephone conversations are in any way related to the past discrimination that she allegedly suffered during her six month tenure as House producer. "In order for present employment practices to give rise to a continuing violation thereby permitting recovery for past conduct, there must be an interrelation between the current practice and the past conduct."
Ms. Lempres provides no evidence linking the events that occurred outside the limitations period, that is during the six months in 1993 that she worked as House producer or the treatment she received prior to that date, with the two phone calls. Plaintiff asserts that certain acts of discrimination occurred during the limitations period. Specifically, CBS' offer to place plaintiff in an inferior position and defendant's failure to give her adequate assurances that if she returned to her former position as House producer, that position would have some permanence. However, the supervisors involved in the two sets of circumstances were different; the alleged discriminatory nature of the acts also differs; and there is no common thread connecting the past events with the two phone calls that took place in May in 1994. As a result, plaintiff has failed to establish both components necessary to maintain a viable claim pursuant to the continuing violation theory.
2. Constructive Discharge Claim
In order for plaintiff to sustain her claim of constructive discharge, she must offer evidence that she was discriminated against, and that defendant deliberately made working conditions so intolerable that plaintiff was forced to resign.
Plaintiff's reliance on the two telephone calls to establish her constructive discharge claim is similarly misplaced. Specifically, she asserts that "the straw that broke the camel's back and which forced Ms. Lempres' resignation — was the May 1994 refusal by CBS to offer assurances to Ms. Lempres respecting her position."
D. Wrongful Termination Claim
Plaintiff alleges, in Count IV of her complaint, that the defendant unlawfully terminated her via the constructive discharge that she alleges took place, in violation of public policy as articulated by the DCHRA, FMLA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In addition, the public policy exception to the general rule that an at-will employee can be terminated without cause only applies to at-will employees.
Therefore, pursuant to the court's order dated February 9, 1996, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is hereby
(1) ... any eligible employee who takes leave under [this Act] shall be entitled, on return from such leave: