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Cruz v. Mattis

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 26, 2017

SAMUEL CRUZ, Plaintiff, Appellant,
v.
JAMES MATTIS, Secretary of Defense, Defendant, Appellee.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Pedro A. Delgado-Hernández, U.S. District Judge]

          Vladimir Mihailovich on brief for appellant.

          Mainon A. Schwartz, Assistant United States Attorney, Mariana E. Bauzá-Almonte, Assistant United States Attorney, Chief, Appellate Division, and Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, United States Attorney, on brief for appellee.

          Before Torruella, Kayatta, and Barron, Circuit Judges. [*]

          BARRON, Circuit Judge.

         This appeal concerns a grant of summary judgment to the defendant in a sex discrimination suit under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-2000e-17, brought by an unsuccessful applicant for two teaching positions at an elementary school run by the Department of Defense ("DoD"). We affirm.

         I.

         To understand the issue on appeal, the following undisputed facts are helpful. The Department of Defense Education Activity ("DoDEA") is a component of the United States Department of Defense. DoDEA operates a system of Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools ("DDESS") for qualifying children of United States military personnel in the continental United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Since 1997, the plaintiff, Samuel Cruz, has been a substitute teacher at both the elementary and the middle school on the Fort Buchanan military base in Puerto Rico. The schools are part of the DDESS system. Since 2009, Cruz has had an active online application to become an elementary school teacher at Fort Buchanan's elementary school.

         When a vacancy arises at a DDESS school, the principal of the school submits a "request for personnel action" to the Area Service Center ("ASC"), which is headquartered in Peachtree City, Georgia. The human resources division of the ASC then compiles a referral list for the vacant position, based on applications in the online Employment Application System ("EAS"), which generates scores for each applicant for the position. The ASC's human resources division's staff then takes account of these scores and compiles a list of candidates that is referred to the school principal. The referral list generally contains approximately twenty-five applicants. The school's principal has no role in the creation of the referral list and is not authorized to hire candidates who are not included on the referral list.

         In July 2010, the ASC issued a referral list for a full-time, fifth-grade teaching position at the Fort Buchanan elementary school. The referral list contained twelve women and seven men. Cruz, who had no nonsubstitute teaching experience, but had many years of substitute teaching experience (including some experience as a "full-time" substitute teacher), was not on the referral list. The school's principal hired a woman from the referral list, Sandra López, who had almost nine years of fulltime, nonsubstitute teaching experience.

         Then, in August 2010, the ASC issued a referral list for a second position -- a part-time fifth-grade teaching position. This referral list contained twenty women and eight men. Again, Cruz was not on the referral list. The school's principal hired Barbara Dixon, a woman from the referral list who had eight years of full-time, nonsubstitute teaching experience.

         In December 2010, Cruz filed a formal administrative complaint with DoDEA, alleging discrimination in hiring on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII. DoDEA's Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity informed Cruz via a letter that it would investigate the ASC's failure to include Cruz on the referral list in the two instances described above. After an investigation, DoDEA forwarded Cruz's request for a hearing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Then, in November 2012, the Administrative Judge ("AJ") appointed by the EEOC determined that there had been no discrimination. In January 2013, DoDEA adopted the AJ's decision in full.

         In April 2013, Cruz filed suit against the Secretary of Defense ("the Secretary") in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, alleging discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of Title VII, in consequence of the hiring decisions made regarding the two 2010 vacancies to which Cruz had applied. Cruz then amended the complaint in September 2013. After discovery, the Secretary filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that Cruz had not established a prima facie case of sex discrimination under Title VII, and that, even if he had, there were legitimate, nonpretextual reasons that Cruz had ...


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