Congress

Appeals court orders trial in discrimination suit involving Capitol architect's office

Employee alleged his name was mocked by hiring team considering his promotion

Acting Architect of the Capitol Christine Merdon. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A racial discrimination lawsuit filed by an Architect of the Capitol employee who was passed up for a promotion will move forward to trial after the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a district court that had dismissed the case.

The appeals court found that Javier Mayorga, who emigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua in 1990, presented evidence that could lead a jury to infer he was the victim of discrimination. An electronic industrial controls mechanic in the Capitol Superintendent’s Office, Mayorga has been an AOC employee since 2007. He has received numerous awards and his work was rated “outstanding” in his previous two evaluations, the court ruling said.

After Mayorga sued, the district court granted the AOC’s motion to dismiss the case on summary judgment, but the appeals court reversed that ruling Friday. 

Mayorga applied for two job openings in 2014 that would be considered a promotion. He was on a list of approximately 35 candidates, compiled by a human resources specialist, that was presented to the hiring manager, Scott Bieber, a white male. Bieber chose Cliff Wallace, a white male, and Terry Watson, a white female, to participate on the selection panel, the court said.

According to the court, Mayorga alleged that Bieber and Wallace made fun of his Hispanic first name, Javier, and regularly called him “Caviar.” Also, Mayorga alleged that Bieber mocked his accent and would interrupt him in meetings. Bieber and Wallace disputed this, and Bieber denied ever working with Mayorga.

From the list from human resources, Bieber selected six candidates, including Mayorga, for first-round interviews. Mayorga was not chosen for a second round of interviews. Bieber claimed Mayorga seemed confused during the interview and that Mayorga didn’t have particular technical experience. The Architect of the Capitol ultimately chose two white males.

The Architect of the Capitol serves Congress and the Supreme Court, building and maintaining the structures and landscape on Capitol Hill.

The ruling Friday questioned the reason Mayorga was denied, citing in part questions about his lack of experience with the Building Automation System Network at the Capitol.

“Bieber justified his decision in part by explaining Mayorga did not have BASnet experience, which was limited to only his shop – yet the panel recommended and the AOC hired a candidate for the ‘network’ role who also did not work in Bieber’s shop,” the ruling said.

“Bieber’s claim that Mayorga did not have the requisite BASnet experience is further contradicted by that of Bieber’s deputy in the EMCS Branch, who testified that Mayorga is an ‘operator’ on the BASnet. Bieber then falsely accused Mayorga of not knowing what job he was applying for,” the ruling said.

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