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Jones v. Foxx

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 5, 2018

ANTHONY FOXX, in his official capacity as Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, Defendant.



         Plaintiff Gloria Jean Jones brings this employment discrimination action pro se against her employer the Federal Aviation Administration (“FAA”). Plaintiff claims that her supervisor discriminated against her based on her protected class characteristics during a number of different incidents, ultimately denying her placement in a job that she wanted. The case is before the court on defendant's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment (Doc. 24). For the following reasons, the court grants defendant's motion.

         I. Legal Standards

         Defendant moves to dismiss some of plaintiff's claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Dismissal pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) is appropriate when the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a claim. Plaintiff claims that subject matter jurisdiction exists and has the burden of establishing it. Port City Props. v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 518 F.3d 1186, 1189 (10th Cir. 2008). Because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, however, there is a strong presumption against federal jurisdiction. Sobel v. United States, 571 F.Supp.2d 1222, 1226 (D. Kan. 2008).

         Defendant also moves for summary judgment on the claims against it. Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates that there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact” and that it is “entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adler v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 144 F.3d 664, 670 (10th Cir. 1998) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

         Where, as here, the plaintiff proceeds pro se, the court construes the pro se filings liberally. Hall v. Doering, 997 F.Supp. 1445, 1451 (D. Kan. 1998) (citing Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9-10 (1980)). On the other hand, a plaintiff's pro se status does not relieve her from complying with this court's procedural requirements. Barnes v. United States, 173 F. App'x 695, 697 (10th Cir. 2006) (citations omitted); see also Santistevan v. Colo. Sch. of Mines, 150 F. App'x 927, 931 (10th Cir. 2005) (holding that a pro se litigant must follow the same rules of procedure as other litigants).

         II. Factual Background

         Plaintiff does not controvert any of defendant's proposed statement of material facts. The court adopts all of the facts set forth by defendant, and recounts those relevant to the court's decision below.

         Plaintiff's claims range in time from October 2012 through February 2013. During this time period, plaintiff worked as a 334 Computer Specialist at the Airways Facilities sector of the Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center (“KCARTCC “) in Olathe, Kansas. Born in 1959, plaintiff is a black female who has sickle cell anemia. She is a Christian and had a sixteen-year-old son in 2013.

         Plaintiff's Job

         Plaintiff's supervisor from 2010 through 2014 was Brian Smith. Plaintiff claims that Smith discriminated against her on the basis of her race, sex, age, religion, disability, and genetic information (sickle cell anemia). Smith, however, was unaware of plaintiff's protected class characteristics (other than plaintiff's sex and race). Although plaintiff told Smith in 2000 that her oldest son died of sickle cell anemia, plaintiff never mentioned her sickle cell anemia during the 2010 through 2013 time period. During the relevant time period, Smith did not know plaintiff's age, religion, disability status, or genetic information.

         Computer Specialists were responsible for all computer program load operations for the realtime National Airspace Systems HOST computer system, which enables Air Traffic Controllers to perform their daily job duties and responsibilities for the FAA and the flying public. Duties of Computer Specialists revolved around the HOST computer. In October 2012, plaintiff worked the midnight shift.

         In early 2002, the FAA began work to upgrade its computer system at all twenty air traffic control centers nationwide. The project was called En Route Automation Modernization (“ERAM”), and it replaced the HOST computer system. KCARTCC began using ERAM in January 2013 and its Operational Readiness date was April 4, 2013, which meant its HOST computer was turned off and KCARTCC could remove it.

         Plaintiff learned in the early 2000s that the FAA planned to replace the HOST computer system. Once ERAM was fully operational, plaintiff knew she would no longer perform the functions of a Computer Specialist and she would have three options: she could transition to a technician (“2101”) position, transition to an IT specialist position, or take early retirement. Plaintiff's supervisor developed an Individual Development Plan (“IDP”) in 2001 that authorized plaintiff to take courses necessary to transition from her Computer Specialist position to a 2101 position. There were five prerequisite courses for the 2101 position. Plaintiff completed three of the five courses. In 2002 and 2004, plaintiff received an incomplete in two required courses for the 2101 position. She still had not completed them by January 2013. But in 2008, plaintiff completed all 34 courses that were prerequisites for transitioning to an IT position.

         Alleged Discriminatory Actions

         There are five incidents about which plaintiff complains: (1) October 13-14, 2012 system failure and verbal reprimand; (2) November 9, 2012 notice of schedule change, effective November 16, 2012; (3) November 16, 2012 assignment to log tapes on day shift; (4) December 13, 2012 notice of schedule change, effective January 7, 2013; and (5) February 5, 2013 email. Although plaintiff did not distinctly delineate these events in the pretrial order, defendant did. Plaintiff did not controvert defendant's characterization of her claims, and the court believes that defendant's characterization is accurate. The court therefore analyzes plaintiff's claims using these incidents.

         October 13-14, 2012 System Failure and Verbal Reprimand

         On October 13, 2012, a system failure occurred on plaintiff's shift that caused the loss of some flight data. Plaintiff discussed the system failure on the phone with Smith the next day. According to plaintiff, Smith verbally reprimanded her over the phone. Plaintiff filed a union grievance about the system failure, ...

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