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Checka v. Rite Aid of Washington

March 11, 2008

MICHAEL P. CHECKA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
RITE AID OF WASHINGTON, D.C., INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gladys Kessler, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Michael Checka, a former employee of Rite Aid of Washington, D.C., Inc. ("Rite Aid"), brings this action against Rite Aid pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq. This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 15]. Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, and the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

Michael Checka, a white male, was hired as a pharmacist by Rite Aid in 1997. Starting in 1998, he worked at the Rite Aid pharmacy located at 1815 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. in Washington, D.C. In 1999, he was promoted to the position of Pharmacy Manager.

On February 5, 2005, an incident occurred at the pharmacy between Checka and another employee, Ashenafi Legesse Alene. The parties offer two very different versions of what happened that day. Defendant contends that Alene taunted Checka in the front part of the store. Shortly thereafter, Checka went to a storage room at the back of the pharmacy where Alene was already present. Checka allegedly said something to the effect of: "What do you have to say to me now?" Alene had no way to exit the storage room, except through the door that Checka had just come through. Alene began to move towards the back of the room as Checka continued to approach him.

According to Checka, Alene then tripped over some crates and fell down. According to Alene, Checka punched him in the face. Under either version of events, Alene's nose was bleeding and some blood was splattered on Checka's clothing. Checka was arrested by the police, although the United States Attorney's Office later declined to prosecute him.

Rite Aid commenced an investigation regarding this incident, which was conducted by Scott Zavinski, a regional human resources manager. Like Checka, Zavinski is white. Zavinski reported to Rite Aid's Regional Vice President, Bill Jackson, who is also white.

Zavinski interviewed nine employees at the Rite Aid pharmacy where the incident occurred, including Alene. Alene told Zalinsky that Checka punched him in the face. A number of other employees told Zavinsky that Alene told them the same thing shortly after the incident occurred. David Green, a pharmacy intern, told Zavinsky that Checka told him he had lunged at Alene. Zavinski also interviewed Checka, who claimed that Alene's injury was the result of tripping over boxes in the storage room. According to Zalinski, Checka admitted to him that the incident was his fault and offered to pay Alene's medical expenses. Checka admits that he offered to pay the medical expenses, but denies that he told Zalinksi that he was at fault for the incident.

Zavinski discussed the findings of his investigation with Wayne LeClair, Rite Aid's Vice President of Human Resources Administration, who is also white. Both agreed that Checka had violated Rite Aid's policy prohibiting violent and other inappropriate conduct. They recommended that Checka be terminated, and Zavinski conveyed this recommendation to Regional Vice President Bill Jackson. Jackson agreed with the recommendation, and Checka's employment was terminated on February 11, 2005.

Four months later, on June 15, 2004, a separate incident occurred at another Washington, D.C. Rite-Aid pharmacy on Georgia Avenue, N.W. Chukwuemeka Obidike, an African-American pharmacist, allegedly grabbed Angela Nwosu, a pharmacy technician, by the arm and then pushed her. Obidike was also arrested by the police, and the United States Attorney's Office declined to prosecute. Zavinski also conducted Rite-Aid's investigation of this incident, to which there were no other eyewitnesses. Obidike denied that the incident occurred, and Zavinski did not find any evidence of wrongdoing on his part.

On December 1, 2005, Plaintiff filed a discrimination complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCOHR"). On August 28, 2006 DCOHR found no probable cause to believe that Plaintiff had been subjected to disparate treatment on the basis of race. Plaintiff then filed suit in this Court.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary judgment may be granted "only if" the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), as amended December 1, 2007; Arrington v. United States, 473 F.3d 329, 333 (D.C. Cir. 2006). In other words, the moving party must satisfy two requirements: first, demonstrate that there is no "genuine" factual dispute and, second, that if there is it is "material" to the case. "A dispute over a material fact is 'genuine' if 'the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'" Arrington, (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the case under the substantive governing law. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 248.

In its most recent discussion of summary judgment, in Scott v. Harris, __ U.S. __, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776 ...


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