United States District Court, C.D. California
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY
D. WRIGHT, II UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Darrell Worthen (“Plaintiff” or
“Worthen”) brings an action against the United
States Air Force for unlawful discrimination under Title VII.
Defendant Deborah Lee James (“Defendant” or
“the Air Force”) moves for summary judgment on
all of Worthen's claims. For the reasons discussed below,
the Court GRANTS Defendant's
Motion. (ECF No. 38.)
who identifies as African American, was formerly employed as
a federal police officer for the Air Force in the 61st Air
Base Group. (Def.'s Statement of Uncontroverted
Facts (“Def.'s SUF”) ¶¶ 1-2, ECF
No. 38-1; Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts
(“Pl.'s SMF”) ¶¶ 1-2, ECF No. 46.)
Worthen alleges that the Air Force unlawfully discriminated
against him on a number of occasions based on his race and/or
in retaliation for previous discrimination complaints,
between September 2011, and November 2014. (First Am. Compl.
(“FAC”) 2-3, ECF No. 16.) In response to the
alleged discrimination, Worthen spoke with an Equal
Opportunity Counselor and received notice of his right to
file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) for each of his claims (Claim
No. 9D1S12020, Claim No. 9D1S13031, and Claim No. 9D1S15001).
(Id. Ex. 2.)
March 10, 2015, Worthen initiated this Title VII employment
discrimination case against the Air Force. (Compl., ECF No.
1.) Worthen claims that the alleged discrimination is
manifested by a failure to promote, reduction in wages,
working conditions that differed from similarly situated
employees, harassment, bullying, intimidation, reprisal,
retaliation, demotion, and wrongful discharge from employment
for a period of time. (Id.)
9, 2016, Worthen initiated a second civil action, Case No.
2:16-cv-03181, asserting Title VII claims based on his
fourth-and-final claim before the EEOC (Claim No. 9D1S15011).
On September 13, 2016, the Court consolidated these two
related actions. (ECF No. 26.)
“shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Courts must view the facts and draw
reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378
(2007). A disputed fact is “material” where the
resolution of that fact might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law, and the dispute is
“genuine” where “the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1968). Conclusory or speculative testimony in
affidavits is insufficient to raise genuine issues of fact
and defeat summary judgment. Thornhill's Publ'g
Co. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730, 738 (9th Cir. 1979).
Moreover, though the Court may not weigh conflicting evidence
or make credibility determinations, there must be more than a
mere scintilla of contradictory evidence to survive summary
judgment. Addisu v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 198 F.3d 1130,
1134 (9th Cir. 2000).
the moving party satisfies its burden, the nonmoving party
cannot simply rest on the pleadings or argue that any
disagreement or “metaphysical doubt” about a
material issue of fact precludes summary judgment. See
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986);
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); Cal. Architectural
Bldg. Prods., Inc. v. Franciscan Ceramics, Inc., 818
F.2d 1466, 1468 (9th Cir. 1987). Nor will uncorroborated
allegations and “self-serving testimony” create a
genuine issue of material fact. Villiarimo v. Aloha
Island Air, Inc., 281 F.3d 1054, 1061 (9th Cir. 2002).
The court should grant summary judgment against a party who
fails to demonstrate facts sufficient to establish an element
essential to his case when that party will ultimately bear
the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S.
to the Local Rules, parties moving for summary judgment must
file a proposed “Statement of Uncontroverted Facts and
Conclusions of Law” that should set out the material
facts to which the moving party contends there is no genuine
dispute. C.D. Cal. L.R. 56-1. Additionally, a party opposing
the motion must file a “Statement of Genuine
Disputes” setting forth all material facts as to which
it contends there exists a genuine dispute. C.D. Cal. L.R.
56-2. “[T]he Court may assume that material facts as
claimed and adequately supported by the moving party are
admitted to exist without controversy except to the extent
that such material facts are (a) included in the
‘Statement of Genuine Disputes' and (b)
controverted by declaration or other written evidence files
in opposition to the motion.” C.D. Cal. L.R. 56-3.
bases his claims on four main adverse employment
consequences, including where: (1) the Air Force suspended
him in April 2012, and then delayed paying him; (2) Sergeant
Lewis made negative comments, and then assigned him to Gate 1
duty in June 2013; (3) the Air Force restricted his ability
to take leave in September 2014; and (4) the Air Force
revoked his firearm authorization and subjected him to a
further background check to maintain his security clearance.
The Court will first address the legal framework for
Worthen's Title VII claims and then address each of the
events on which Worthen bases his causes of action.
Legal Framework for Title VII Race Discrimination &
Title VII, an employer may not “discriminate against
any individual with respect to his compensation, terms,
conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such
individual's race.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a).
This provision makes “disparate treatment” based
on race a violation of federal law. See Villiarimo,
281 F.3d at 1062.
Supreme Court's decision in McDonnell Douglas Corp.
v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973) provides the legal
framework for ruling on a summary judgment in a Title VII
case. Under this framework, to show disparate treatment under
Title VII, Worthen must first establish a prima facie case of
discrimination. Id. at 802. Specifically, he must
show that (1) he belongs to a protected class; (2) he was
qualified for the position; (3) he was subjected to an
adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated
individuals outside of his protected class were treated more
favorably. Id. “The requisite degree of proof
to establish a prima facie case for Title VII . . . on
summary judgment is minimal and does not need to rise to the
level of a preponderance of the evidence.” Wallis
v. J.R. Simplot Co., 26 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 1994).
plaintiff establishes a prima facie case, the burden of
production-but not persuasion-then shifts to the employer to
articulate some legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the
challenged action. McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at
802. If the employer does so, the plaintiff must show that
the articulated reason is pretextual “either directly
by persuading the court that a discriminatory reason more
likely motivated the employer or indirectly by showing that
the employer's proffered explanation is unworthy of
credence.” Chuang v. Univ. of Cal. Davis, 225
F.3d 1115, 1123 (9th Cir. 2000) (quoting Tex. Dep't
of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 256 (1981)).
also alleges that he was discriminated against in retaliation
for bringing claims before the EEOC. Under Title VII, it is
unlawful “for an employer to discriminate against any
of his employees . . . because he has opposed any practice
made an unlawful employment practice by this subchapter, or
because he has made a charge, testified, assisted, or
participated in any manner in an investigation, proceeding,
or hearing under this subchapter.” 42 U.S.C. §
2000e-3(a). The McDonnell Douglas framework applies
to a retaliation claim as well. The plaintiff must first
establish a prima facie case of retaliation by showing he
engaged in a protected activity, that his employer then took
adverse employment action, and that a causal link exists
between the two. Cohen v. Fred Meyer, Inc., 686 F.2d
793, 796 (9th Cir. 1982). Once the plaintiff establishes a
prima facie case, the burden shifts to the defendant to
articulate some legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the
adverse action. Id. If the ...