United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
S. ZILLY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant King County's
Motion for Summary Judgment, docket no. 32 (the
“Motion”). Having reviewed all papers filed in
support of, and in opposition to, the Motion, the Court
enters the following order.
an employment discrimination case alleging racial and
disability discrimination. Plaintiff Claude Brown
(“Plaintiff” or “Brown”) seeks
damages from his employer, King County
(“Defendant” or “King County”) to
redress a series of allegedly unlawful employment practices.
King County moves for summary judgment on each of Brown's
seven (7) claims asserted in Plaintiff's First Amended
Complaint, docket no. 16 (the “Complaint”): (1)
racial discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (2)
retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981; (3) discrimination
under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
42 U.S.C. §§ 12112(a) and 12112(b)(6); (4)
violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA);
(5) retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964; (6) racial discrimination under the Washington
Law Against Discrimination (WLAD); and (7) retaliation under
Brown's Race and Disabilities
is an African American who “was originally hired at
Seattle Transit in 1972 as a Transit Operator.”
Declaration of Claude Brown in Opposition to Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, docket no. 43 (“Brown
Declaration”), at ¶¶ 1, 3. He is currently
“a Light Rail Operator for the King County Department
of Transportation Division Rail Section.” Complaint at
¶ 7; Brown Declaration at ¶ 5.
suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD),
chronic asthma, and chronic mobility issues. Brown
Declaration at ¶¶ 28, 48. Brown began developing
the symptoms underlying his COPD and chronic asthma in late
2012. Id. at ¶ 28. Brown states that he is
“physically disabled as a result of [his] ambulatory
problems and [his] asthma or COPD.” Id. at
Defendant's Three Refusals to Promote Brown to
attempted to obtain a promotion from Defendant on three
different occasions in 2011 and 2012. The first time was in
2011 when Brown applied for the Rail Supervisor in Training
(“RSIT”) position. Brown Declaration at
¶¶ 13, 15. Brown was informed that he was not
qualified to test for the position. See Id. at
¶ 15. Upon protest, Brown and several other minority
employees were given “less than 24-hours [sic] notice
to prepare for the [RSIT] exam.” Id. Five of
the employees wrote a letter to Transit Operations Manager
Jim O'Rourke to protest the insufficient time they had
been given to prepare for the exam. Id.
Caucasians-Rail Operations Chief Terry Rhoads and Rail
Operations Training Chief Amanda Nightingale-interviewed
Brown for the RSIT position. Id. at ¶ 13. Brown
states that Rhoads was impatient and ignored Brown during
portions of the interview. Id. Defendant did not
select Brown for the position and instead chose Hazel
Henderson, a Caucasian employee who Brown contends “was
unqualified . . . and . . . not properly trained . . .
.” Id. at ¶ 13. Brown complained to the
King County Office of Civil Rights that Defendant's
selection process for the RSIT position discriminated against
Brown by not giving him the opportunity to compete because of
his race. Brown Declaration at ¶ 14.
states that Mr. Rhoads “has always interacted with
[Brown] in a harsh and disrespectful manner[, ]”
including calling Brown a “packrat” and
“spastic.” Brown Declaration at ¶ 16. A
fellow train operator for Sound Transit Link Light Rail
submitted a declaration in support of Brown's Opposition
stating that, from 2008 through 2016, he “experienced
repeated racial discrimination by . . . rail chief Terry
Rhoads, who would question my former co-workers in an effort
to find reasons to discipline me.” Declaration of Frank
King, docket no. 45 (“King Declaration”), at
¶ 2. Mr. King's declaration does not indicate that
he witnessed Brown being discriminated against.
April 2012, Brown again applied online for an RSIT position.
Brown Declaration at ¶ 18. This time he was given a
computer test, during which “a Caucasian female stood
by [his] desk and watched [him] take the test and then
physically stopped [him] from writing further and yelled
‘time.'” Id. Brown could hear other
people in the room still typing their answers. Id.
Mr. Rhoads informed Brown that no one had passed the computer
test and refused to show Brown his score. Id.
then interviewed for the RSIT position. Id. at
¶ 19. “[T]he same Caucasian female that stopped
[his] test asked [him] questions during the interview. She
then left and did not stay to interview anyone else.”
Id. Mr. Rhoads informed Brown that she was
“not needed for anyone else's interview.”
Id. Brown did not receive the RSIT position.
Id. He finished fourth behind three Caucasian
employees. Id. at ¶ 20. Only one of those three
employees-Brian Matthews-“had equivalent qualifications
to [Brown].” Id. at ¶ 21. Matthews
resigned a few weeks later, but Brown was not selected to
fill the position “despite being contractually next on
the list.” Id. at ¶ 22.
October 2012, Brown again applied for the RSIT position.
Brown Declaration at ¶ 29. “In December of 2012,
[he] was informed that [he] was not selected to compete or
interview for the position.” Id.
“Management declared that there were no qualified
candidates on the property and moved to open the recruitment
to the outside . . . .” Id. at ¶ 30.
Brown complained to his union that Defendant was going
outside of the organization “to keep from having to
hire qualified minorities for the RSIT positions.”
Id. at ¶ 31.
Defendant's Selection Criteria
explains that Brown was not selected to participate in the
next stage of the RSIT position application in 2012 because
he had scored lower than the other candidates in areas
including skills, knowledge, and education. Nightingale
Deposition at 68:9-69:21. The “Application Scoring Criteria
for External Posting October 2012” confirms that
applicants were given weighted scores in on criteria
including education, lead experience, computer skills, and
rail operations. Exhibit D, Overbey Declaration. Ultimately,
Defendant selected three other applicants to fill the open
RSIT positions-at least two of whom were minorities.
See Brown Deposition at 233:10-13, 492:3-10,
Brown Files Complaint With KCOCR
March 24, 2013, Defendant filed a complaint with the King
County Office of Civil Rights (“KCOCR”)
“after being passed over” for the RSIT position
in 2011 and 2012. Brown Declaration at ¶ 32.
Defendant Promotes Brown to-But then Removes Him From-the ATT
28, 2013, Brown was appointed to an Acting Technical Trainer
(“ATT”) position. Brown Declaration at ¶ 34,
Exhibit B. Brown received a memorandum explaining the details
of the ATT assignment, stating among other things that the
assignment was to continue “no later than
10/11/13” and “may be revoked at any time.”
See Brown Declaration, Exhibit D. Brown began his
ATT assignment on July 2, 2013, but was removed from the
position ten days later on July 12, 2013, by Amanda
Nightingale. Id. at ¶¶ 38,
Within this ten day window, Brown states that Ms. Nightingale
was “openly hostile” toward Brown, see
Id. at ¶ 40, and engaged in “efforts to
demean” him. See Id. at ¶¶
41-43. Upon removing Brown, Defendant filled the
ATT assignment with Kevin Gumke. See Id. at ¶
Nightingale testified during her deposition that she and
another employee, Tom Jones, had discussed the possibility of
splitting the ATT position between Brown and Mr. Gumke before
giving the initial assignment to Brown. See
Nightingale Deposition at 71:2-72:4.
Brown Receives a Serious Infraction
October 30, 2013, Brown received a Serious Infraction from
Defendant “allegedly for failing to call Link Control
Center prior to departing the Beacon Hill Station.”
Brown Declaration at ¶ 47. Mr. Rhoads, who recommended
and imposed a one-day suspension for the infraction, explains
Mr. Brown admitted that he violated a train order, which is
defined in his union contract as a Serious Infraction. This
was Mr. Brown's first Serious Infraction. The discipline
I recommended was based entirely on Mr. Brown's admitted
conduct and the union contract.
of Terry Rhoads in Support of King County's Motion for
Summary Judgment, docket no. 39 (“Rhoads
Declaration”), at ¶ 8.
Brown Undergoes Hip Surgery
December 3, 2013, Brown “underwent hip replacement
surgery, after which [his] Physician required that [he] not
work longer than three hours at a time.” Brown
Declaration at ¶ 48. When Rhoads scheduled Brown for an
eight-hour shift and Brown reminded him of the
physician's limitation, Rhoads “became angry and
argued with [Brown]” about returning to work after
Brown Begins ...