A District of Columbia Courts system employee has lost her race and gender discrimination suit against the courts. U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins found Friday that the court had non-discriminatory reasons for downgrading the pay level of a position the employee was approved to fill.
Mary Ann Satterthwaite, chief capital projects manager for the D.C. Courts, sued the court system and the city in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December 2009. Satterthwaite, who is black, claimed that after she was approved for a promotion, D.C. Courts officials downgraded the position's salary level because of her race and gender.
In Friday's opinion (PDF), Wilkins granted the city's request for summary judgment, finding that Satterthwaite failed to show that the courts system had customs or policies that encouraged discrimination. He also found that Satterthwaite failed to dispute the court system's claim that it downgraded the position for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons.
Satterthwaite’s attorney, Jimmy Bell of Oxon Hill, Md., said this morning that he had yet to review the opinion with his client, but that it was likely she would appeal. A spokeswoman for the D.C. Courts, Leah Gurowitz, wrote in an e-mail that the courts “do not comment on cases to which they are a party.” A spokesman for the District of Columbia Office of the Attorney General, which represented the city, was not immediately available for comment.
According to Satterthwaite’s complaint (PDF), she began working for the D.C. Courts system in 1989 and received “outstanding performance evaluations.” She was promoted to chief capital projects manager in 2002, a position at pay grade 14. In 2008, Satterthwaite was considered for the building operations manager position, which was initially listed at pay grade 15.
After Satterthwaite’s supervisors selected her for the position in December 2008, however, it was downgraded to pay grade 14 after court officials determined that pay grade 15 was no longer appropriate. She was never officially offered the position. In her complaint, she alleged that the downgrade was motivated by her race and gender, since the previous building operations manager had been a white man.
The city, in moving for summary judgment, said the position was downgraded for “organizational and budgetary reasons.” According to the motion (PDF), court officials determined that the division was too small to have multiple senior management positions at pay grade 15 and that it didn’t make sense for the building operations manager to be at the same pay grade as the division’s deputy director.
Wilkins found Satterthwaite presented no evidence to support her claim that the position was downgraded for discriminatory reasons, noting that Satterthwaite’s supervisors knew her gender and race when she was first considered.
“Plaintiff has failed to raise a genuine issue of fact demonstrating that these reasons were pretextual or are unworthy of credence,” Wilkins wrote. “Nor has Plaintiff introduced any evidence demonstrating that discrimination, and not the District’s articulated non-discriminatory reasons, more likely than not motivated the Defendant’s decision to downgrade the position.”