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BENNETT v. VA MED. CTR.

December 28, 1988

CAROLYN BENNETT
v.
VETERANS ADMINISTRATION MEDICAL CENTER and VETERANS ADMINISTRATION, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VANARTSDALEN

 DISCUSSION AND ORDER

 Findings of Fact

 DONALD W. VanARTSDALEN, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 1. Plaintiff, Carolyn Bennett is a black female. She is employed at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (VAMC). She has a civil service grade of GS-5, and her job classification is a purchasing agent in the Prosthetics Service. The Veterans Administration is the employing agency.

 2. Plaintiff commenced government civil service in June of 1974 as a clerk-typist with the Internal Revenue Service. Her entry level was GS-3.

 3. In August, 1976, plaintiff was employed as a clerk-typist at VAMC in the Medical Administrative Services. Her job duties included interviewing and screening patients and families of patients to determine patient eligibility for various veterans' medical services and benefits.

 4. In August, 1978, plaintiff was promoted to the position of Clinic Clerk, GS-4. This position was also in Medical Administrative Services, and her job duties included explaining to patients the doctors' orders and setting up appointments for patients for various other services, such as EKG. Plaintiff held this position from August 1978 to April, 1979.

 5. In April, 1979, plaintiff was promoted to the position of Correspondence Clerk, GS-5, in the Medical Administrative Services. Her job duties included handling patients' requests for release of information to private doctors, lawyers, insurance companies and social security; she was also responsible for contacting these outside sources on patients' behalf.

 6. Plaintiff remained a GS-5 correspondence clerk until April of 1982. For personal family reasons she transferred for a period of time to a medical facility of the Veterans Administration in Ohio, and then later transferred back to VAMC. In order to affectuate these transfers she accepted a reduction in grade to GS-4 as a clerk-typist in Prosthetic Services as of April 1982, and held that position until November 1985. Her job duties included handling patients' requests for the receipt and repair of certain prosthetic devices. Plaintiff had direct contact with patients, medical personnel and sellers of prosthetics in carrying out her duties.

 7. In November, 1985, plaintiff was promoted to her present position of Purchasing Agent in Prosthetic Services, GS-5. Her job responsibilities include the allocation and monitoring of five clerks and a quarterly budget of over $ 200,000 for the acquisition of prosthetics. She deals daily with patients and vendors; she handles inquiries from family members and on rare occasions from congressional offices. Plaintiff held this position at the time she applied for the Medical Administrative Assistant (MAA) position in March, 1987.

 8. Plaintiff's work experience and records establish that she worked in different areas of the Medical Administrative Services for five years and eight months, with progressively more responsible positions, although at present she is in Prosthetic Services, which is distinct and separate from Medical Administrative Services.

 9. Plaintiff's position in Prosthetic Services as purchasing agent requires her to exercise some authority over the work of others and monitor their job duties.

 10. Plaintiff's performance appraisal for the period ending April 28, 1986, which was the last appraisal she received prior to applying for the promotion to MAA rated her performance "highly satisfactory", although this was entered only after some disagreement between her and Ms. Joyce Mantel, the Associate Director, followed by a grievance review. See Exhibit P-1-C(10).

 11. In January 1987, VAMC posted a "1987 Open Continuous Vacancy Announcement." Among the long list of potential job openings was that of MAA within the Medical Administrative Services. Plaintiff filed her application for an MAA position in January, 1987. There were a total of eighteen applicants for a single MAA opening to be filled in March of 1987. Personnel Services conducted an initial screening and determined that sixteen applicants met the minimum requirements for the job. Both plaintiff and Michael Menzen, the person ultimately selected for the job, were among the sixteen qualified applicants. A rating panel was then convened for the purpose of referring a limited number of qualified applicants to the selecting officials. The panel was composed of six black females, two of whom were Medical Administrative Assistants. The panel reviewed the applications and records without identification of the applicants by race, and referred to the selecting officials eight persons whom the panel determined were the most highly qualified for the job.

 12. Both plaintiff and Michael Menzen were referred by the panel to the selecting officials. Of the eight thus referred, one was a white male, one was an hispanic male and six were black females. One of the black females withdrew her application. The panel gave Michael Menzen and plaintiff the same numerical score in making the reference to the selecting officials. The panel performed its duties fairly, properly and in accordance with applicable regulations and procedures.

 14. Michael Menzen commenced work at VAMC in 1978 as a clerk GS-3. He had previously served about 4 years in the Navy as a disbursing clerk, and also had been a civilian file clerk GS-3 for about 3 months. His services at VAMC have been with the Medical Administration Services. He progressed to clerk-typist GS-4, claims clerk GS-4/5, medical data clerk GS-5, and supervisory file clerk GS-5. The last job was an important job and he was credited by his superiors with having done a good supervisory job in what was described as a very difficult assignment. However, his last performance appraisal rated him as "fully satisfactory" a lower rating than "highly satisfactory."

 15. Neither Patrick Appignani nor Patricia Weigand took any notes that were preserved of the interviews or of the questions asked or the answers given. Neither interviewer wrote the questions that were asked. Although the same general categories of questions were asked of the applicants, not all candidates were asked the same questions, and some interviews took longer than others. There was no objective method for scoring the interviews, nor of weighing the interviews against the record of the applicants as established in their respective personnel files.

 16. It is customary, although not mandatory, that an applicant complete and fill out an "Employee Supplemental Qualifications Statement." The form document states in part: "This form will be the primary source document used to evaluate your qualifications and to rate and rank you for a specific position. If you decline to provide the information requested, it may not be possible to evaluate your qualifications fully." Administrative Record at exhibit C-6(a) *fn1" (emphasis in original). Plaintiff filled out the form and filed it.

 Michael Menzen never provided such a form prior to his selection for the job. There is no evidence that the selecting officials considered Carolyn Bennett's statements contained in the document, or in any way questioned why Mr. Menzen did not supply the information requested in the form.

 17. The Veterans Administration Position Report describes the MAA's principal duties and responsibilities in part as serving

 
as the principal representative of the Hospital Director and Chief, Medical Administration Service during all administrative non-working hours of the day, weekends and holidays. In this capacity, [the Medical Administrative Assistant] has been delegated complete authority and responsibility to exercise the Hospital Director's prerogatives in all medical administrative matters occurring during his tour of duty. He serves as a principal advisor to the Medical Officer of the Day having responsibility for all legal determination[s] relating to the admission and disposition of patients.

 Administrative Record at exhibit C-5.

 18. The position report description for MAA further provides that the incumbent would ...


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