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Sampson v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Authority

April 12, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler U.S. District Judge


Plaintiff, William E. Sampson, brings this suit alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of his First Amendment rights based on actions taken against him after he notified several of his supervisors and managers at Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("WMATA") of, inter alia, potential safety hazards in the workplace. Defendants are WMATA and eight individual current or former WMATA employees.*fn1

This matter is before the Court on Motions for Summary Judgment by Defendants WMATA [#42] and Barber [#44].*fn2 Upon consideration of the Motions, Oppositions, Replies, controlling authority, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant WMATA's Motion for Summary Judgment [#42] is granted and Defendant Barber's Motion for Summary Judgment [#44] is granted.


On or about August 16, 1999, Plaintiff began working for WMATA as a mechanic's helper in communications with the Radio Maintenance Department. Plaintiff's troubles at WMATA began shortly thereafter.

Some of Plaintiff's responsibilities related to the "safety of both bus operations and patrons through radio and other means of communication." Pl.'s Amend. Compl. at ¶ 14. Late in 1999, Plaintiff complained to his supervisors, Defendants Gairy Johnson and Herbert Bullock, about falsified work tickets and inadequate "Y2K" preparations. His supervisors ignored his complaints, and he believes he was subjected to random drug testing in April and May of 2000 in retaliation for bringing these issues to their attention. Pl.'s Opp'n [#53], Exhibit 1 at ¶¶ 11-16.

In March of 2001, hostilities developed between Plaintiff and one of his co-workers, Defendant Moseley. According to his Declaration, Plaintiff reported to Johnson that Moseley had been sleeping on duty, and Johnson told Moseley about the accusation. Id. at ¶¶ 17-19. Plaintiff claims that Moseley responded by screaming obscenities at him, threatening him, and attempting to provoke a fight. Id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff further claims that Moseley's behavior towards him was not an isolated incident, and he alleges that Johnson did not take efforts to remedy the situation. Id. at ¶ 24.

Around the same time, Plaintiff also had a disagreement with Johnson over installation of WMATA's radio system. According to his Declaration, Plaintiff complained to Johnson that the radio system had not been adequately tested, and alterations to the system had not been recorded on engineering plans and schematics. Id. at ¶¶ 30-32. Plaintiff unsuccessfully attempted to bring an internal Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") complaint based on Johnson's alleged refusal to adequately respond to Plaintiff's concerns. Id. WMATA's EEO officers refused to accept the complaint because they felt the issue did not involve an EEO matter. Id. Plaintiff also complained to the EEO officers about Defendant Moseley's behavior towards him.

Between March and April of 2001, Plaintiff repeatedly contacted the EEO Office to follow up on his complaints about Defendant Moseley. Plaintiff claims that the EEO Office was unresponsive and ultimately concluded his claims were unsubstantiated. Id. at ¶¶ 34-49. Plaintiff subsequently began applying for jobs in other WMATA departments, but he claims that Johnson subverted his efforts by failing to submit his applications and by failing to advise him of a scheduled interview. Id. at ¶¶ 34-49, 56-58. According to his Declaration, Plaintiff brought his concerns to his union representative, Defendant Earnest Barber. Id. at ¶ 41. Barber allegedly told Plaintiff that the union could not help him. Id.

In November of 2001, one of Plaintiff's co-workers, Larry Holbeck, accused Plaintiff of stealing his wedding ring. Transit Police responded and investigated the incident, but the responding officer determined that Holbeck was mistaken. Plaintiff asked Defendant Brown to note the exoneration in his personnel file, and he requested an apology from Holbeck. Plaintiff claims Brown told him that he could not accommodate the request and stated that the incident had been blown out of proportion. Id. at ¶ 59. According to Plaintiff's Declaration, a co-worker told him that Brown subsequently "squashed" his application for a clerk's position at WMATA. Id. at ¶ 61.

During the Spring and Summer of 2002, WMATA received nearly one hundred new buses. None of the buses had radios. Plaintiff questioned Johnson, Bullock, and the street supervisor, Gary Speicher, regarding whether the lack of radios in the new buses posed a safety hazard. None of them provided a satisfactory response. Id. at ¶ 67.

In August 2002, Plaintiff wrote a "bus safety memorandum" and distributed it to the head of safety at WMATA, Frank Goodine, as well as Johnson, Defendant Barber, and several others. Plaintiff alleges that WMATA retaliated against him for voicing his safety concerns. For example, Plaintiff claims he was told to "drop the matter," he was subjected to "verbal abuse," and in November 2002, he was improperly disciplined for "defacing" WMATA property after he indicated on a safety meeting "sign up sheet" that nobody had attended. Pl.'s Amend. Compl. at ¶¶ 19-26.

Plaintiff again sought union help, but claims that Barber attempted to dissuade him from pressing the issue by noting that he could get hurt if his co-workers lost their jobs. Pl.'s Opp'n [#53], Exhibit 1 at ¶¶ 83-85. Barber also refused to file a grievance on Plaintiff's behalf and allegedly told him that nothing could be done unless WMATA fired him. Id. at 95

In November of 2002, Plaintiff left a message on the general manager's hotline that handled retaliation, oversight, and mismanagement. He also told the executive assistant to the head of WMATA's safety department, Ruth O'Hara, that he thought WMATA was retaliating against him. He later e-mailed O'Hara information relevant to his complaint. WMATA initiated an investigation, and Plaintiff was eventually introduced to WMATA's Auditor General, James Stewart. In addition to information about the alleged retaliation against him, Plaintiff provided information to the auditors about employees improperly using WMATA resources.

On February 6, 2003, Johnson posted a notice about an "administrative investigation" that was initiated as a result of Plaintiff's complaints. Pl.'s Amend. Compl. at ¶ 33. Defendant Moseley began telling other employees that Plaintiff was responsible for the investigation. Moseley also made comments in reference to Plaintiff such as "what we should do about the terrorist in here" and the "war in here," and began warning other employees about getting involved with Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 33-36. On at least two occasions thereafter, according to ...

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