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KLIER v. SNOW

June 16, 2004.

DIANA B. KLIER, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN SNOW, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury, THE DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY, and THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HAROLD BAER, JR., District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Defendants move for partial summary judgment on plaintiff's Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII") and Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. § 623 et seq. ("ADEA") claims.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

  Plaintiff Diana B. Klier, a white female born on June 1, 1941, has been employed by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") from April 1979 to the present time. From 1994 to January 12, 2004, Klier was a Manager in the Miscellaneous Case Processing Unit ("MCPU") in one of the IRS' Manhattan offices. This position was originally graded as a General-Schedule ("GS")-9*fn2 position. Klier was given additional responsibilities in 1997. As a consequence, she and her then-supervisor, Stephen Levy, recommended that the National Classification Center reclassify Klier's position as a GS-11 through a "Desk Audit."*fn3 Effective March 15, 1998, Klier's position with the MPCU was upgraded to GS-10 based on the results of this Desk Audit. Klier's new title was Manager, Collection Support.

  Klier learned in January 2002 that Stephen Baxam, a black male approximately 55 years of age, had applied for and received a GS-11. As a consequence, Klier concluded that she had been discriminated against. According to Klier, her position involved greater responsibilities than Baxam's but she was found to merit only a one grade increased to GS 10. Baxam's position was competitively announced on the IRS internet system, although Klier did not apply*fn4 because the position was at a Brooklyn location and would have increased her commute from approximately thirty minutes to approximately one and half hours. Klier initially complained about the alleged discrepancy between the GS-level of the positions she and Baxam held to her then-supervisor, Wayne Garvin, and requested that another Desk Audit be performed. According to Klier, Garvin explained that a Desk Audit could not be performed at that time because of an IRS nationwide restructuring project then in progress. Garvin suggested to Klier that a Desk Audit might eventuate if she filed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint. Klier contacted an EEO counselor on February 14, 2002 and complained that managers in other areas were being paid at a higher GS level for the same or less work. On April 19, 2002, Klier filed a formal EEO complaint and alleged race, color, and age discrimination. She subsequently withdrew her color discrimination claim on July 18, 2002. Klier subsequently withdrew from the administrative process and on June 23, 2003, she initiated this lawsuit.

  On September 3, 2003, Mala Williams, a Human Resources Specialist at the National Classification Center in Atlanta, Georgia, completed a second Desk Audit of Klier's position. Williams determined that Klier's position was properly graded at GS-10 based on organizational charts, documents, and the questionnaire signed by both Klier and Garvin. Klier avers that she was not aware that this Desk Audit was conducted and did not see the entire report, even though she signed the last page. Not surprisingly, Klier claims that there were inaccuracies in the Desk Audit report and that it did not adequately account for her experience and responsibilities. Shortly thereafter, on October 8, 2003, Williams completed a Desk Audit of Baxam's position.*fn5 Williams determined that Baxam's position was properly graded at GS-11.

  On December 14, 2003, Klier was awarded a GS-11 and the title of Integrated Collection Support Quality Analyst following her application for this competitively announced position.

  II. DISCUSSION

  Title VII makes it unlawful for an employer to, inter alia, "discriminate against any individual with respect to his[/her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1). The ADEA makes it unlawful for an employer to, inter alia, "discriminate against any individual with respect to his[/her] compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's age." 28 U.S.C. § 623(a)(1). Here, Klier alleges that she was discriminated against on the basis of her sex,*fn6 race, and age by the defendants' course of conduct, which resulted in her being placed in a lower grade level and paid less than others not in her protected class. For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' motion for partial summary judgment on these claims is granted. Klier has failed to make out a prima facie case of discrimination under either statute, and had she done so, her complaint would nonetheless have likely been dismissed for her failure to rebut the defendants' proffered non-discriminatory rationale for compensating Klier at the GS-10 level during the time in question.*fn7

  A. Standard of Review

  Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Fed.R. Civ. P.") 56(c), a district court must grant summary judgment if the evidence demonstrates 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." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.C. § 242, 250 (1986). "Summary judgment is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to `secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1). To determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences against the moving party. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962) (per curiam); Donahue v. Windsor Locks Bd. of Fire Comm'rs, 834 F.2d 54, 57 (2d Cir. 1987). However, the mere existence of disputed factual issues is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Knight v. U.S. Fire Ins. Co., 804 F.2d 9, 11-12 (2d Cir. 1986). The disputed issues of fact must be "material to the outcome of the litigation," id. at 11, and must be backed by evidence that would allow "a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party," Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). The non-movant "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Id. With respect to materiality, "substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

  As in other areas of litigation, summary judgment is available in discrimination suits. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000). The Second Circuit has, however, urged courts to exercise caution at the summary judgment stage where intent is an issue, such as in discrimination cases. Gallo v. Prudential Residential Svcs., Ltd., 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d Cir. 1994). Nevertheless, summary judgment is appropriate "when an employer provides convincing evidence to explain its conduct and the plaintiff's argument consists of purely conclusory allegations of discrimination," thereby eliminating any material issue of fact. Diaz v. Weill Med. Ctr. of Cornell Univ., No. 02 Civ. 7380, 2004 WL 285947, at *14 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 13, 2004).

  To determine whether plaintiff's Title VII and ADEA claims will survive summary judgment, the Court applies the same burden-shifting scheme set out in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-4 (1973). See Terry v. Ashcroft, 336 F.3d 128, 138 (2d Cir. 2003). Under this scheme, plaintiff must first make out a prima facie case of discrimination. Id. at 137. If plaintiff makes such a showing, the burden of going forward shifts to the defendants to offer a non-discriminatory rationale for its actions. Id. at 138. If such a showing is made, plaintiff must adduce sufficient ...


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