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Monger v. Connecticut Department of Transportation

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

January 31, 2019

ABRAHAM MONGER, Plaintiff,
v.
CONNECTICUT DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION and JAYANTHA MATHER, Defendants.

          RULING RE: MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 75)

          JANET C. HALL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Abraham Monger (“Monger”), brings three claims of employment discrimination against the Connecticut Department of Transportation (“DOT”) and Jayantha Mather (“Mather”) in his individual capacity (collectively, “the defendants”). See generally Second Amended Complaint (“Second Am. Compl.”) (Doc. No. 43). Count One of the Second Amended Complaint alleges that the DOT denied Monger promotional opportunities on the basis of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et. seq., which prohibits disparate treatment, harassment, and the creation of a hostile work environment. See id. at 1-6. Count Two alleges that Mather, who led the DOT division in which Monger worked, violated Monger's rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See id. at 6-9. Count Three alleges that the DOT further violated Title VII by retaliating against Monger for filing an employment discrimination complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”). See id. at 10-11. The defendants now move for summary judgment as to all three Counts. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Mot.”) (Doc. No. 75) at 1.

         For the reasons set forth below, the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         On June 20, 2008, the DOT hired Monger, an African American man, as an Engineer Intern. Defendants' Local Rule 56(a)1 Statement of Facts (“Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1”) (Doc. No. 75-2) at ¶ 1; Plaintiff's Local Rule 56(a)2 Statement of Facts (“Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2”) (Doc. No. 88-1) at 1, ¶ 1, 14 ¶ 30. Initially, Monger worked in the Bridge Safety Unit of the DOT's Bureau of Engineering and Construction. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 5; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 5. In March of 2011, however, Monger transferred to the Bureau of Public Transportation's Office of Rails. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 8; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 8. Monger transferred because, inter alia, (1) his relationship with one of his supervisors at the Bureau of Engineering and Construction had deteriorated; (2) he felt that he was not being given support in performing his job; and (3) he believed that his education and expertise were better suited for the Office of Rails. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 7; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 7.

         When Monger first arrived at the Office of Rails, he reported to Haresh Dholakia (“Dholakia”), a Transportation Engineer 3 (“TE3”). Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 8; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 8. Dholakia, in turn, reported to Lev Laber (“Laber”), a Transportation Supervising Engineer (“TSE”). Id. Laber, in turn, reported to Mather, who led the Office of Rails as its Principal Engineer. Id. Mather was promoted from Supervising Engineer to Principal Engineer in 2000. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 4; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 4.

         On July 15, 2011, Monger was promoted from Engineer Intern to Transportation Engineer 2 (“TE2”). Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 10; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 10. That promotion became permanent after Monger satisfactorily completed a six month probationary period as a TE2 engineer. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 10; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 10. In his evaluation of Monger's job performance during this probationary period, Haresh Dholakia (“Dholakia”), who was Monger's immediate supervisor at the time, rated Monger's job performance as “good” on a scale ranging from “unsatisfactory” to “excellent.” Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶¶ 8, 12; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶¶ 8, 12; Monger Deposition Exhibits (Doc. No. 75-5) at 4-5 (Dholakia's performance review).

         In 2012, Dholakia received a promotion within the Office of Rails, and Rosemary Rodriquez (“Rodriquez”) became Monger's immediate supervisor. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶¶ 11, 13; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶¶ 11, 13. Rodriquez had previously supervised Monger when they both worked at the Bureau of Engineering and Construction. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 13; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 13. In her evaluation of Monger's job performance for September 13, 2012, through August 30, 2013, Rodriquez gave Monger an overall rating of “satisfactory, ” which is less positive than his previous rating of “good.” Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 16; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶ 16; Monger Deposition Exhibits at 87-88. Rodriquez's evaluation also identified several areas in which Monger could improve his performance. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 17; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶ 17.

         In late 2013, Monger asked Mather, who headed up the Office of Rails as its Principal Engineer, to reassign him to worker under Daniel Young (“Young”). Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶¶ 19, 21, 22; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶¶ 19, 21, 22. Monger expressed concern to Mather about progressing his career under Rodriquez's supervision. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 22; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶ 22. According to Mather's undisputed testimony, Mather assigned Monger to work under Young's supervision “because [Monger] wanted to go there.” Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 22; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶ 22.

         On September 15, 2014, Young issued his evaluation of Monger's job performance for the prior year, giving Monger an overall rating of “satisfactory.” Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 32; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3, ¶ 32. On March 20, 2015, Young issued Monger a written warning for insubordination on the grounds that Monger failed to follow Mather's order to not move furniture within his assigned area. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 34; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3, ¶ 34. The warning was later rescinded and reduced to a written counseling. Id. Approximately six months after this incident, Young issued a review of Monger's job performance for the period of September 2014 to September 2015. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 37; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3, ¶ 37. Young, again, rated Monger's overall performance as “satisfactory.” Id.

         During his time at the Office of Rails, Monger applied for several promotions from his TE2 position to a Transportation Engineer 3 (“TE3”) position. See, e.g., Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 54; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 54. In particular, his instant lawsuit for employment discrimination is based on several TE3 promotional opportunities that were given to Monger's co-workers. See Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (“Pl.'s Opp'n”) (Doc. No. 88) at 6 (listing the TE3 vacancies at issue in this case).

         A. Reclassifications

         According to the undisputed written testimony of Vicki Arpin, DOT's Human Resources Administrator, DOT employees can be promoted through either (1) the formal job posting and selection process, or (2) a reclassification of the position of an incumbent employee. See Arpin Exhibits (Doc. No. 75-9) at 2, ¶ 8. Ordinarily, for an employee to be promoted by reclassification, DOT management must submit a formal reclassification request on behalf of the employee, and the reclassification must be approved by the Human Resources Administrator, the Division Head or Bureau Chief, the DOT Chief Fiscal Administrative Officer, and the Department of Administrative Services and Office of Policy Management. Id. However, employees can also obtain reclassification through a reclassification appeals process that is administered by the Department of Administrative Services. See id. at 3, ¶ 10. This appeals process may result in reclassification to a higher position if the Department of Administrative Services finds that the employee is, in fact, performing the duties required by that higher position. See id.

         Monger's lawsuit identifies three DOT employees who were promoted from TE2 positions to TE3 positions through reclassification. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 6. First, in 2011, Eric Lloyd (“Lloyd”) filed a formal reclassification appeal with the Department of Administrative Services, seeking to be promoted from a TE2 position to a TE3 position based on the claim that he was performing TE3 job duties. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 29; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶ 29. The Department of Administrative Services conducted an audit of Lloyd's duties and determined that he was performing the duties of the TE3 position. Id. On January 12, 2012, Lloyd entered into a stipulated agreement with his union, the DOT, and the Department of Administrative Services that temporarily reclassified Lloyd to a TE3 position. Id. Pursuant to this agreement, Lloyd could apply to make his reclassification permanent if he passed the Department of Administrative Services' merit system examination for TE3 positions (“the TE3 examination”). Id. This condition reflected DOT's general requirement that, before an employee could become a TE3 engineer, that employee must pass the TE3 examination. See Arpin Exhibits at 9, ¶ 33; Pl.'s Opp'n at 4. Monger did not pass the TE3 examination until June 27, 2014. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 31; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 3, ¶ 31.[1]

         Second, the Rail Administrator for the Bureau of Public Transportation formally requested on February 7, 2014, that Gustavo Melo (“Melo”) be reclassified from a TE2 engineer to a TE3 engineer. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 26; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶ 26. The request, which was subsequently approved, justified the reclassification on the grounds that (1) the Office of Rails needed to fill a TE3 vacancy in order to comply with federal regulations regarding bridge inspection; and (2) Melo was qualified because he possessed a degree in Civil Engineering, had passed the requisite TE3 examination, and was performing the duties of a TE3 bridge inspector. Arpin Affidavit at 3, ¶ 11; Finally, on March 19, 2014, the DOT reclassified Ashish Patel (“Patel”) to a TE3 position that involved overseeing certain electrification projects. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 28; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 2, ¶ 28. According to Arpin's undisputed written testimony, Patel, who had an Electrical Engineering Degree and had passed the TE3 examination in December 2013, had been performing the duties of a TE3 engineer. Arpin Affidavit at 4, ¶ 12; id at 12 (dated letter informing Patel that he had passed the TE3 examination).

         B. Office of Rails

         Monger applied for two TE3 vacancies in the Office of Rails that the DOT posted in January 2016. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 73; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 73. The initial posting for these positions indicated that these jobs required a degree in either Civil Engineering or Structural Engineering. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 78; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 78; Pl.'s Ex. 15 (Doc. No. 88-5) at 43 (initial job posting). However, a February re-posting of these vacancies modified the educational criteria, indicating that a Civil or Structural Engineering degree was “preferred, ” as opposed to “required.” Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 80; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 80; Pl.'s Ex. 16 (Doc. No. 88-5) at 45 (job re-posting). Both versions of the posting called for applicants with, inter alia, “[c]onsiderable knowledge of [the] principles and practices involved in transportation engineering such as bridge design, foundations, highway design, transportation facilities design, transportation planning, drainage or hydraulics, research, pavement design, pavement management and traffic[.]” Pl.'s Exs. 15 & 16.

         On March 9, 2016, Mather submitted an “Interview Selection Report” to the DOT Human Resources in connection with these two TE3 vacancies in the Office of Rails. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 84; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 84. The Interview Selection Report summarized the name of each job applicant; their race and gender; the interview date; and the three-member selection committee's explanation for why a particular candidate was recommended or not recommended for the position. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 84; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 84; Arpin Exhibits at 5, ¶ 19; id. at 30 (Interview Selection Report).

         Of the 24 candidates who applied for the two TE3 positions, 17 were not interviewed, including Monger. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 88; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 6, ¶ 88. The Interview Selection Report indicated that Monger was denied an interview because he did not have a degree in Civil or Structural Engineering. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 89; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 6, ¶ 89. Monger had a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering Technology at that time, although he later obtained a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering in September 2016. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶¶ 2, 3, 90; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 1, ¶¶ 2, 3; id. at 6, ¶ 90. Eight other applicants were also not interviewed because they did not possess a degree in Civil or Structural Engineering, including three who, like Monger, held degrees in Civil Engineering Technology. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶¶ 89, 90; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 6, ¶¶ 89, 90. The Interview Selection Report further indicated that all of the candidates who were interviewed for these vacancies possessed a degree in Civil or Structural Engineering, including the two applicants who were ultimately selected for the position: Brett McKiernan (“McKiernan”) and Jason Vincent (“Vincent”). Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶¶ 83, 86, 87; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 6, ¶¶ 83, 86, 87.

         C. Division of Bridges

         On October 30, 2015, the Bureau of Engineering and Construction posted several TE3 vacancies in its Division of Bridges. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 54; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 54. The job description outlined an array of responsibilities relating to bridge design and inspection, including, inter alia, managing consultants, overseeing bridge repair and replacement projects, responding to bridge emergencies, and acting as a liaison between towns and the state. See Bhardwaj Exhibits (Doc. No. 75-12) at 8 (job posting). The posting called for candidates with, inter alia, knowledge of highway and bridge construction materials and methods; the ability to analyze bridge and structural design problems; and the ability to work cooperatively with other Department units, consultants, towns, and state and federal agencies. Id.

         The interview selection panel tasked with filling these vacancies consisted solely of members of the Bureau of Engineering and Construction. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 54; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 54. Accordingly, Mather, who was employed in the Office of Rails, had no role in selecting applicants to fill these vacancies. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 64; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 64.

         According to the Interview Selection Report produced in connection with these TE3 job openings, Monger was among the ten applicants who applied for the positions. Bhardwaj Exhibits at 9-12 (Interview Selection Report). Although Monger was interviewed for the vacancies on December 11, 2015, he was not offered a position. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 54; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 54. Instead, the interview selection panel selected the following five applicants: Gustavo Melo (“Melo”), Rosemary Rodriquez (“Rodriquez”), Ryan Martin (“Martin”), Gregory Funk (“Funk”), and Michael Waite (“Waite”). Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 56; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 56.

         Melo and Rodriquez were already TE3 engineers in the Office of Rails when they applied for the TE3 vacancies in the Division of Bridges. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 54; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 54. Martin and Funk, on the other hand, were both TE2 engineers seeking to be promoted to TE3 engineers. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 56; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 56. Finally, Waite was a new hire who had previously worked at a consultant engineering company. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 61; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 61.

         As documented in its Interview Selection Report, the selection committee determined that Monger was less experienced and less qualified than the successful applicants. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 62; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 62; Bhardwaj Exhibits at 9-11 (Interview Selection Report). In particular, the panel noted that Monger had received “satisfactory” ratings on his job performance reviews. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 62; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 62. It further noted:

[Monger] provided very brief answers to all the questions and although [he] hit a couple of key points on some of them, he did not provide detailed or comprehensive responses to any of the questions.

         Bhardwaj Exhibits at 11; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 62; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 62.

         As for the five successful applicants, the Interview Selection Report noted that all but one of them received “excellent” ratings on their job performance reviews. Bhardwaj Exhibits at 9-10; Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 62; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 62. The exception was Waite, a new hire who had 15 years of experience working for a consulting firm on bridge inspection. Bhardwaj Exhibits at 10; Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 61; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 61.

         For each successful candidate, the Interview Selection Report also documented the specific knowledge or experience that, in the panel's opinion, made the candidate qualified for the position. Bhardwaj Exhibits at 9-10. For Melo, the selection committee highlighted, inter alia, his extensive experience in managing consultants, and his responses to interview questions, which responses “demonstrated a clear understanding of all phases of bridge engineering, including both design and inspection.” Id. at 9; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 57; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 57. With respect to Rodriquez, the panel noted, inter alia, her “extensive background in DOT materials testing, ” her “extensive experience in designing bridges and managing consultants, ” and her problem solving abilities, as demonstrated by her “handling of a difficult emergency declaration project[.]” Bhardwaj Exhibits at 9; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 57; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 57. In the case of Martin, the panel cited examples of Martin's interview responses that demonstrated his “thorough understanding of both the design and inspection of bridges, ” including, inter alia, “his responses to the question for the NBI bridge ratings/element level inspection.” Bhardwaj Exhibits at 10; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 59; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 59. The panel also noted that Martin had recently acquired a Principal Engineer License; that he had won the DOT Teamwork award; and that his previous experience working as a consultant made him a “valuable candidate.” Bhardwaj Exhibits at 10; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 59; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 59. With respect to Funk, the panel noted, inter alia, that he had extensive knowledge of “the purpose and types of bridge joints and bridge procedures”; that he “was instrumental in writing [ ] the new Load Rating Manual”; that he had “good field experience in inspecting bridges due to his previous experience working for a consultant”; and that he had demonstrated his leadership and management skills by training co-workers in a new software used for load rating bridges. Bhardwaj Exhibits at 10; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 60; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 60. Finally, regarding Waite, the panel noted, inter alia, that he had demonstrated extensive knowledge and experience with DOT bridge inspection procedures, including 15 years of experience as a bridge inspection team leader working for a consultant engineering company. Bhardwaj Exhibits at 10; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 61; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 61. The panel also highlighted Waite's knowledge of “the types of bridge joints, performance shortfalls, [and] the ‘NBM' Component Rating System.” Bhardwaj Exhibits at 10; see also Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 61; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 4, ¶ 61.

         D. Division of Hydraulics and Drainage

         On November 13, 2015, the Bureau of Engineering and Construction posted a TE3 position in its Division of Hydraulics and Drainage. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 68; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 68. The position “required, among other things, ‘considerable knowledge' of hydrologic and hydraulic engineering related to storm drainage systems, culverts, highway or railroad bridges over waterways, dams and related facilities.” Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 68; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 68; Masayda Exhibits (Doc. No. 75-15) at 7 (job posting). Mather was not involved in the selection process for this TE3 position. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 72; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 72.

         As summarized in the Interview Selection Report produced in connection with this TE3 vacancy, there were five applicants, including Monger. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 70; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 70; Masayda Exhibits at 9 (Interview Selection Report). Two of the applicants, Eric Buckley (“Buckley”) and Michael Mastroluca (“Mastroluca”), were given offers, which they ultimately declined to accept. Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 70; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 70. The selection committee noted that both of those applicants “[d]emonstrated a thorough knowledge of hydrology, hydraulics, storm drainage design, environmental permitting and software applications.” Masayda Exhibits at 9; Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 70; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 70. With respect to the three applicants who were not offered the position, including Monger, the Interview Selection Report noted that they lacked “minimal experience in Hydraulics and Drainage.” Masayda at 9; Defs.' L.R. 56(a)1 at ¶ 71; Pl.'s L.R. 56(a)2 at 5, ¶ 71.

         E. Division of ...


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