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Youngblood v. Vistronix

July 27, 2006

CHRISTOPHER YOUNGBLOOD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VISTRONIX, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the Court on defendant's Motion [26] for Partial Summary Judgment. Having considered the motion, the plaintiff's opposition, and the defendant's reply, the Court will grant the defendant summary judgment with regard to plaintiff's breach-of-contract claim, and partial summary judgment with regard to plaintiff's Fair Labor Standards Act claim. The court will also grant the defendant summary judgment with regard to plaintiff's slander claim. A separate order will follow this opinion.

BACKGROUND

Defendant, Vistronix, Inc., employed plaintiff, Christopher Youngblood, in the course of fulfilling a contract with the Federal Communications Commission ("FCC"). Vistronix terminated Youngblood on February 26, 2004, after he was implicated in the removal of data from a computer belonging to the FCC.

Wytonia Abernathy, a former Vistronix employee who also worked on the FCC contract, previously used the computer in question and requested that Youngblood copy her personal data from the machine so that she could take it with her. On January 6, 2004, after Abernathy left the building for the final time, Youngblood -- along with co-workers Lauren Santiago and Luis Nino -- accessed Abernathy's computer and copied two folders containing Abernathy's personal materials. Youngblood alleges that the only activity he performed was the copying of this data, but several weeks later, the computer was found to have been re-imaged,*fn1 its prior contents destroyed. The FCC began an investigation to determine who may have so tampered with Abernathy's machine, but Vistronix alleges that the circumstantial evidence they were given by the FCC was enough to implicate Youngblood to an extent warranting his termination.

Youngblood's complaint advances these claims. Youngblood alleges that because he was not an at-will employee, Vistronix's termination of his employment breached an express or implied contract. (Compl. ¶ 58.) Further, Youngblood claims that after terminating him, Barbara McNair, the Vistronix Project Manager for the FCC contract, held an "all-hands" meeting of Vistronix employees on the FCC contract. At this meeting, Youngblood alleges that McNair slanderously claimed that "all evidence" in the destruction of the data on the Abernathy computer pointed to Youngblood. (Id. ¶ 43.) Lastly, Youngblood alleges that during his time at Vistronix, he was periodically denied overtime pay in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA"), specifically 29 U.S.C.A. § 207 (West 1998 & Supp. 2006), the D.C. Payment and Collection of Wages Law, D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 32-1301-10 (LEXIS through D.C. Act 16-341), and the D.C. Minimum Wage Act, D.C. CODE ANN. §§ 32-1001-15 (LEXIS through D.C. Act 16-341).

Vistronix seeks partial summary judgment on the FLSA claims, contending that they are largely time-barred. Further, Vistronix requests summary judgment with respect to the breach-of-contract and slander claims. The Court examines each claim in light of the legal standard for summary judgment.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standard for Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is granted to a moving party when a question brought before a court by an opposing party can have but one reasonable answer -- typically not the answer sought by the opposing party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-51 (1986) (declaring equal the standard for summary judgment under Rule 56 and directed verdict under Rule 50); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 50(a). A court must reach this conclusion without making credibility determinations or weighing evidence, and must give the opposing party the benefit of all reasonable inferences. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

To obtain summary judgment on a claim, the moving party need only show that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to that claim. The movant need not entirely foreclose the possibility that there could exist an issue of material fact, he need only claim that the non-movant has failed, or by necessity will fail, to appropriately raise the issue. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986).

The non-movant must show, without resting on only its earlier pleadings, that the claim under attack raises a genuine issue of material fact. Failure to do so will result in summary judgment in favor of the movant. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e). To contest summary judgment successfully, the issues raised in response to the motion must be material: opponents will not succeed by raising only trifling questions or questions irrelevant to the outcome of the dispute. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-50.

Having outlined the burdens placed on a movant for summary judgment and on his opponent, the Court now applies the foregoing standard to the case at bar, beginning with Youngblood's breach-of-contract claim.

II. Breach of Contract

As Vistronix acerbically notes in its reply brief, Youngblood has submitted a large volume of material to supplement his opposition to Vistronix's summary judgment motion. (Def.'s Reply 1.) While useful in buoying some of the plaintiff's claims, nowhere in the epic mound of paper can the Court find a good reason to deny Vistronix summary judgment as to the breach of contract ...


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