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Elhusseini v. Compass Group USA

September 17, 2008

RAMI ELHUSSEINI PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMPASS GROUP USA, INC. ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

On November 12, 2004, the plaintiff, Rami Elhusseini, proceeding pro se, filed this action in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ("Superior Court") against the defendants, Compass Group USA, Inc. and Restaurant Associates, Inc. ("RA"). Subsequently, this matter was removed by the defendants to this Court on January 19, 2006.*fn1 Notice of Removal. Then, on January 26, 2006, the defendants filed an unopposed motion for a more definite statement requesting that "the Court [issue] an Order directing [the] [p]laintiff . . . to file a more definite statement of his claim" because the complaint filed by the plaintiff in the Superior Court "consist[s] of two sentence fragments and is practically illegible." Defendants' Unopposed Motion for More Definite Statement at 1. After this Court granted the defendants' motion, on January 31, 2006, the plaintiff filed a statement alleging that he was subjected to racial discrimination in promotions and termination*fn2 when he "was denied [a] promotion and advancement in the company . . . despite [his] competitive qualifications on both the applied and academic levels,"and also when his employment was terminated. Plaintiff's Elaborate Statement ("Pl.'s Stmt."),*fn3 Docket Entry 6 at 3. Although the plaintiff does not specifically state under which statutory authority he is bringing his employment claims in either his Complaint or Statement, he testified during his deposition that he is bringing his claims pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (2000).*fn4 Defs.' Mem, Ex. A ("Elhusseini Dep") at 38. Currently before this Court is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mot.") and their Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Defs.' Mem.").*fn5 Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the record, the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted by the Court.*fn6 The plaintiff was first interviewed for employment with RA by Tara Peralta, the sous chef, in late August or early September 2004.*fn7 Defs.'Mem., Exhibit ("Ex.") A (Deposition of Rami Elhusseini) ("Elhusseini Dep.") at 68-70. The plaintiff acknowledges that no discriminatory remarks were made by Ms. Peralta during the plaintiff's interview. Id. at 70. Several days after his interview with Ms. Peralta, the plaintiff was interviewed by Richard Hetzler, the head chef. Id. at 70-71. The plaintiff also admits that Mr. Hetzler also did not make any discriminatory remarks during his interview of the plaintiff. Id. at 72. Mr. Hetzler subsequently decided to hire the plaintiff as a line server. Id. at 131-132; Ex. B (Declaration of Richard Hetzler) ("Hetzler Decl.") ¶ 2.

The plaintiff began working as a line server trainee for RA at the National Museum of the American Indian ("Indian Museum") on or about September 8, 2004, Defs.'Mem., Ex. A (Elhusseini Dep.) at 73-74, with a starting salary of $10 per hour. Id. at 74. Plaintiff's duties as a Line Server were to clean and prepare the food station at the start of his shift, serve food to customers, maintain the food station during his shift, and clean the food station at the end of his shift. Id. at 102-03. While the plaintiff worked at RA, he asked for and received some training in the kitchen. Id. at 124-25.

The plaintiff received a copy of RA's Employee Handbook when his employment commenced. Id. at 95-96. The plaintiff had the opportunity to read the handbook, and it was Mr. Hetzler who the plaintiff believes explained the policies contained in the RA Employee Handbook to him and other RA employees before he signed an Acknowledgement of Receipt of the Handbook. Id. at 96-98 & Ex. D ("Receipt for Restaurant Associates Employee Handbook").

The plaintiff was therefore made aware of the RA's Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, the Open Door Policy, its Workplace Violence Policy, and the Standards of Behavior outline in the Employee Handbook. Id. at 97-98 & Ex. C ("Restaurant Associates Employee Handbook" and excerpts therein). During his employment with RA, the plaintiff also saw and had the opportunity to read documents that explained RA's Equal Employment Opportunity, its Zero Tolerance Discrimination and Harassment policies, and he also was aware of its BeAware hotline. Defs.'Mem., Ex. A (Elhusseini Dep) at 99-101 & Ex. E (Compass Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policies Postings). In addition, the plaintiff received an Interoffice Memo regarding RA's Open Door Policy. Defs.' Mem., Ex. A (Elhusseini Dep.) at 101-02 & Ex. F (Interoffice Memo to All Employees from Robin Cerrati regarding RA's Open Door Policy dated August 3, 2005).

A. RA's Hiring of Two New Cooks

In March 2005, RA hired Derek Pipher and Janette O'Sullivan as cooks. Defs.'Mem., Ex. A (Elhusseini Dep.) at 126. Although the plaintiff never submitted an application or did anything else to apply for the position, id. at 124-25, he nonetheless believes he should have been promoted to one of the cook positions, id. at 121.

While the plaintiff was unsure about Mr. Pipher's, id. at 127-30, and Ms. O'Sullivan's experience as cooks before becoming RA employees, id., Ex. A (Elhusseini Dep.) at 132-33, Mr. Pipher had more than 15 years experience in the food industry and had worked as a chef or a cook at four restaurants over the course of eight years, id., Ex. G (Resume of Derek Pipher), and Ms. O'Sullivan had worked as a chef at five restaurants over the course of more than six years and had graduated from culinary school, id., Ex. H (Resume of Janette O'Sullivan). The minimum qualifications for the cook positions awarded to Mr. Pipher and Ms. O'Sullivan were: "(1) one year cooking experience in a high volume kitchen; (2) [the] ability to use [a] knife and demonstrate basic knife skills; (3) [the] ability to work independently with speed and accuracy; and (4) [the] ability to read and understand basic menu techniques." Id., Ex. B (Hetzler Decl.) ¶ 3. Thus, according to Mr. Hetzler, "the plaintiff was not qualified for nor considered for either of the cook positions filled by Mr. Pipher and Ms. O'Sullivan.," id. ¶ 4, when he decided to hire Mr. Pipher and Ms. O'Sullivan," id. ¶ 5. When the selections were made the plaintiff did not complain to anyone at RA about not being selected for one of the positions or allege that he was not selected because of discrimination. Id., Ex. A (Elhusseini Dep.) at 134-35.

B. The Plaintiff's Arguments With His Co-worker In August 2005

On August 12, 2005, the plaintiff had an argument with a co-worker named Chris Spangler, id. at 143, while they were working at the same food station, id. at 144. The encounter occurred when the plaintiff was critiquing Mr. Spangler's work performance as a new RA employee, and Mr. Spangler allegedly made disparaging remarks about the plaintiff being a homosexual and threatened to physically assault the plaintiff. Id. at 144-45. Other RA employees working at the food station and customers waiting in line at the food station allegedly heard Mr. Spangler's remarks. Id. at 148. The plaintiff reported the argument with Mr. Spangler to either Ms. Peralta or Mr. Hetzler that day, id. at 149, and on the same day of the argument the plaintiff and Mr. Spangler met with Mr. Hetzler and Mr. Pipher, id. at 149-50. During the meeting, Mr. Hetzler told the plaintiff and Mr. Spangler that they could not let their difference interfer with their ability to work with each other. Id. at 150-51. The plaintiff and Mr. Spangler then returned to their work station and completed their shifts. Id. at 153-55. The following day - on August 13 - the plaintiff and Mr. Spangler had another argument while they were again working at the same food station. Id. at 56. The plaintiff was again critiquing Mr. Spangler's work performance and Mr. Spangler again allegedly made disparaging remarks about the plaintiff being a homosexual and threatened to physically assault the plaintiff. Id. at 156-59. As was the situation the day before, other RA employees working at the food station and customers waiting in line at the food station allegedly heard Mr. Spangler's remarks. Id. at 158. This event was not reported to anyone at RA that day. Id. at 168-69.

C. Plaintiff's Fist Fight With His Co-worker

Sometime around 4:00 pm on August 13, 2005, both the plaintiff and Mr. Spangler "checked out" for the day and the plaintiff accompanied Mr. Sprangler down to the work site locker room. Id. at 171-75. Mr. Spangler had been given permission to leave early, id. at 173-74, while the plaintiff admittedly did not have permission to leave work early that day, id. at 196 & 202.*fn8 Upon entering the locker room, Mr. Spangler told the plaintiff that his locker had been damaged, id. at 172-73, and the plaintiff believed Mr. Spangler caused the damage because he had borrowed the plaintiff's key earlier to enter the locker room, id. at 168. After the two exited the locker room, the plaintiff followed Mr. Spangler outside of the building and across the street to the Air & Space Museum. Id. at 175-77. The plaintiff then grabbed Mr. Spangler's arm and a fight between the two ensued. Id. at 177. After the fight ended, the plaintiff picked up Mr. Spangler's sunglasses, which had fallen to the ground, threw them back on the ground and stepped on the sunglasses causing them to break. Id. at 178.

Following the altercation, the plaintiff returned immediately to the Indian Museum and told Mr. Pipher that his locker had been damaged. Id. at 170-71, 181-82. However, the plaintiff did not tell Mr. Pipher about either the August 13 argument or the fist fight. Id. Mr. Pipher took pictures of the damaged locker and allowed the plaintiff to store his personal belongings in the office. Id. at 170. The plaintiff clocked back ...


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