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Davis v. Smithy

November 29, 2007

WILLIAM T. DAVIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GABLES RESIDENTIAL/ H.G. SMITHY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pro se Plaintiff, William T. Davis, brought the above-captioned action against his former employer, Defendant Gables Residential Services, Inc. (hereinafter "Defendant" or "Gables"), regarding his July 2003 termination. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that his termination constituted retaliation for: (1) filing and successfully pursuing a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"); (2) voicing numerous complaints to Defendant's management regarding working conditions; and (3) calling the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA") to report exposure to hazardous materials. While Plaintiff does not delineate particular legal grounds for his Complaint, he appears to assert a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., as well as a wrongful discharge claim pursuant to District of Columbia common law.

On July 24, 2007, Defendant filed a Revised Motion for Summary Judgment, asserting that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on all of Plaintiff's claims.*fn1 Following several extensions of time in which to oppose that motion, Plaintiff filed a letter notice with the Court indicating that he opposes Defendant's motion for summary judgment, but does not consider himself able to file a substantive response to Defendant's motion. The Court has now conducted a searching review of Defendant's Revised Motion for Summary Judgment, the transcript of Plaintiff's deposition in this matter, and the relevant statutes and case law, and concludes that no genuine questions of material fact exist, such that Defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. While the Court is sympathetic to pro se Plaintiff's request that the Court deny Defendant's motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff's own deposition testimony makes clear that there is no causal connection between Plaintiff's July 2003 termination and either his previous EEOC charge or his numerous complaints. Furthermore, Plaintiff admits that Defendant had a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for terminating him in July 2003. The Court shall therefore grant Defendant's Revised Motion for Summary Judgment on the merits.

I. BACKGROUND

The Court begins its discussion by noting that this Court strictly adheres to the text of Local Civil Rule 56.1 (identical to Local Civil Rule 7(h) (formerly Rule 7.1(h)). The local rules for summary judgment "assist[] the district court to maintain docket control and to decide motions for summary judgment efficiently and effectively." Jackson v. Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garret & Dunner, 101 F.3d 145, 150 (D.C. Cir. 1996). "Requiring strict compliance with the local rule is justified both by the nature of summary judgment and by the rule's purposes. . . . The procedure contemplated by the rule thus isolates the facts that the parties assert are material, distinguishes disputed from undisputed facts, and identifies the pertinent parts of the record." Id. (quoting Gardels v. CIA, 637 F.2d 770, 773 (D.C. Cir. 1980). "[A] district court should not be obliged to sift through hundreds of pages of depositions, affidavits, and interrogatories in order to make [its] own analysis and determination of what may, or may not, be a genuine issue of material fact." Id. (quoting Twist v. Meese, 854 F.2d 1421, 1425 (D.C. Cir. 1988)).

As noted above, the Court struck Defendant's initial statement of material facts for failure to strictly comply with the Local Civil Rules, and Defendant has filed a compliant Revised Statement of Material Facts Not Genuinely at Issue (hereinafter "Def.'s Stmt."), based primarily on Plaintiff's deposition transcript. That document does not include a clear chronological account of the relevant facts. The Court therefore sets forth such relevant facts as can be discerned from Plaintiff's Complaint and the transcript of Plaintiff's deposition. Plaintiff has not substantively responded to Defendant's motion, and thus does not actually attempt to contravene the factual assertions included in Defendant's Statement. As such, consistent with the Local Civil Rules, the Court "assumes that facts identified by the moving party in the statement of material facts are admitted." LCvR 56.1; 7(h). However, the Court notes that the import of this assumption is tempered in the instant case because Defendant's Statement only relies upon Plaintiff's deposition transcript and his July 21, 2003 EEOC Charge Questionnaire.

A. The Parties and Plaintiff's Employment by Defendant

Defendant, Gables Residential Services, Inc., inter alia, "owns, develops and manages multi-family communities and mixed-use developments, as well as provides furnished corporate and short-term apartment accommodations nationwide." See Gables Residential, "Company Overview," available at http://www.gables.com/aboutus/company-overview.aspx (last visited November 21, 2003). In November 2002, Gables took over management of the Marbury Plaza apartment complex located at 2300 Good Hope Road SE, Washington, DC, from a predecessor firm--H.G. Smithy. Def.'s Stmt. ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff was hired by H.G. Smithy at some point prior to November 1999, and was employed as chief engineer at the Oxford Manor apartment complex. Id. ¶ 10; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 1 (Tr. of 4/26/07 Dep. of William T. Davis) (hereinafter "Davis Dep. Tr.") at 24:1-25:5. In November 1999, an H.G. Smithy supervisor named Mr. Jurney terminated Plaintiff's employment at Oxford Manor. Def.'s Stmt.¶ 10. Plaintiff filed an EEOC charge regarding that termination on December 8, 1999, and the charge was settled through mediation on February 9, 2000. Id. Plaintiff's employment with H.G. Smithy was reinstated with no loss of pay, seniority, or vacation time, although Plaintiff's job location was changed from the Oxford Manor complex to Marbury Plaza. Id.; Davis Dep. Tr. at 21:15-22:1. Plaintiff was employed as a maintenance technician at Marbury Plaza until Gables took over management of the Marbury Plaza property. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 11; Compl. at 1.

When it took over management, Gables retained Plaintiff as an at-will employee. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 2; Davis Dep. Tr. at 52:7-14. Gables also retained most of H.G. Smithy's management; however, Mr. Jurney--the individual who terminated Plaintiff in 1999--was not retained. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 11; Davis Dep. Tr. at 24:13-18. During his deposition Plaintiff testified that his supervisors remained the same after Gables took over management of Marbury Plaza. Davis Dep. Tr. at 33:19-34:4; 37:4-11. However, shortly after taking over, Gables hired Maurice Williams as chief engineer, and promoted Plaintiff to the position of assistant chief engineer.

Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 12. Mr. Williams became Plaintiff's supervisor. Id. At the time of Plaintiff's termination in July 2003, the Marbury Plaza property manager was Deandra Fooks. Ms. Fooks became the property manager at some point after Plaintiff was transferred from Oxford Manor to Marbury Plaza, i.e., after Plaintiff filed his 1999 EEOC charge Id. ¶¶ 2, 13. During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that he received two commendations while employed by Gables, that his last evaluation at Marbury Plaza was excellent, and that he had never been written up or reprimanded. Davis Dep. Tr. at 63:15-21; 64:6-16.

B. Events Leading to Plaintiff's Termination

On July 7, 2003, Ms. Fooks terminated Plaintiff's employment on the grounds of insubordination in connection with an incident that occurred between Plaintiff and Mr. Williams. Id. ¶¶ 2-3; Davis Dep. Tr. at 82:19-21. Specifically, on July 3, 2003, Plaintiff disagreed with Mr. Williams' decision to name another employee as employee of the month, and challenged Mr. Williams. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 3; Davis Dep. Tr. at 80:7-85:1. According to Plaintiff:

[Mr. Williams] told me he didn't have to answer anything that I said. And when I kept on, he asked me, he said, why don't you stop crying? He said, you want some tissue? That's what he said and I got upset at him. But I never -- what they said I said, I'll kick your behind all around here, and I'll put my foot here and MF this and MF that. . . . It was all fabricated just to get rid of me. It was all personal.

Id. at 81:13-82:7. Plaintiff admits that the argument got "a little loud . . . He raised his voice a little and I raised my voice a little," but maintains that he never threatened Mr. Williams. Id. at 84:3-17; 89:11-90:9. Plaintiff testified that before terminating Plaintiff, Ms. Fooks investigated the incident by discussing it with Plaintiff, Mr. Williams, and other witnesses. Id. at 48:10-50:10; 90:10-91:17. During his deposition, Plaintiff testified that the incident with Mr. Williams was one of the key reasons for his termination. According to Plaintiff, immediately following the incident, Mr. Williams "told the entire crew that if I wasn't out of there by the end of the day, he was going to quit. And I believe that also put pressure on the manager because [Mr. Williams was] the chief engineer." Id. at 18:4-18; Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 5.

In addition, Plaintiff testified that he had an intimate relationship with Ms. Fooks, which ended three months prior to Plaintiff's termination when Plaintiff questioned Ms. Fooks' authority in front of other people at a staff meeting. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 8; Davis Dep. Tr. at 46:5-48:9. According to Plaintiff, Ms. Fooks quit her job following that staff meeting, but returned to work the next week. Def.'s Stmt. ¶ 8; Davis Dep. Tr. at 46:5-48:9. Nevertheless, Plaintiff testified that It was very uncomfortable having me around because some of the maintenance techs and things -- she had questioned how she would be able to discipline me with our relationship. When our relationship ended, I believe that it made her very, very uncomfortable which may not have been the primary reason that she fired me, but I think that that has a lot to do with her decision.

Id. at 48:2-9.

Thus, according to Plaintiff's own deposition testimony, Mr. Williams and Ms. Fooks fired him "for their own personal reason. It had nothing to do with the betterment of the company. It was because both of them were uncomfortable having me around." Id. at 82:12-15. Specifically, Plaintiff testified that he was terminated because Ms. Fooks was uncomfortable working with him following their break up, id. at 65:12-17, and that Mr. Williams claimed that Plaintiff threatened him during the ...


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