Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Harris v. Wackenhut Services

December 9, 2008

EDWARD E. HARRIS PLAINTIFF,
v.
WACKENHUT SERVICES, INC., DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiff, Edward Harris, brings this action against the defendant, Wackenhut Services, Inc. ("Wackenhut"), pursuant to the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("Human Rights Act"), D.C. Code §§ 2-1401.01(a)(1), 2-1402.11(a)(1), and 2-1402.61(a) & (b) (2001), asserting claims of having been subjected to (1) a hostile work environment because of his race; (2) disparate treatment based on his race; (3) retaliation; and (4) constructive discharge.*fn1

Complaint ("Compl.") at 14-16. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the defendant subjected him "to a hostile work environment and constructively discharged him by discriminatorily demoting him and depriving him of his supervisory responsibilities over approximately 1,000 employees and retaliating against him for opposing senior management's discriminatory treatment of the defendant's African American employees." Compl. at 2. Currently before this Court are the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Def.'s Mot.") and the plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment ("Pl.'s Mot.").*fn2 Upon consideration of the parties' submissions and the entire record, the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment must be denied in part and granted in part and the plaintiff's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment must be denied.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The following facts are undisputed except where otherwise noted.*fn3 "[H]eadquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Wackenhut is a world leader in providing high-end armed and unarmed security personnel, paramilitary protective forces, law enforcement officers, fire and rescue services, aviation operations and support, base operations and facility management, entry level training, and cleared personnel to government and selected commercial customers." Def.'s Mem., Exhibit ("Ex.") 1 (Declaration of David W. Foley) ("Foley Decl.") ¶ 2. Its National Capital Region operations provides management oversight for several security contracts in the greater Washington, D.C. area, which includes the District of Columbia, Virginia, and Maryland. Id., Ex. 2 (Deposition of David Foley) ("Foley Dep.") at 88; Compl. ¶ 12. Wackenhut acquired most of the security contracts in the greater Washington, D.C. area when it purchased the assets of another security contractor, Areawide Security ("Areawide"). Id., Ex. 3 (Deposition of Edward Harris) ("Harris Dep.") at 22, 24-25, 27-28, Ex. 4 (Deposition of James Long) ("Long Dep.") at 46. For a period of time after the purchase, Wackenhut managed the contracts acquired from Areawide under the name Wackenhut Areawide. Id. Later, Wackenhut Areawide was renamed Wackenhut Services Inc. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 22-23, Ex. 4 (Long Dep.) at 46-47.

The plaintiff worked for Wackenhut from September 1998 until December 2003. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 2 (Foley Dep.) at 220, Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 261-262. Wackenhut hired the plaintiff in September 1998, at the a salary of $60,000 per year to manage its interim contract to provide security services at the Ronald Reagan Building located in the District of Columbia.*fn4 Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 15-18 & Attachment ("Attach.") 3 (Wackenhut New Hire Form), Ex. 4 (Long Dep.) at 44-45. Three months later, in December 1998, Wackenhut reassigned the plaintiff to a permanent position as Director of Security Operations for Wackenhut Areawide Operations. Id., Ex. 3 ( Harris Dep.) at 19-20, Ex. 3 at Attach. 4 (Memorandum from Weldon Howard to the plaintiff, dated December 16, 1998). A year later, in November 1999, Wackenhut promoted the plaintiff to the position of Corporate Vice President and General Manager of its National Capitol Region, id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 30-31, 42-43 & Attach. 6 (Letter from James L. Long to Plaintiff, dated November 1, 1999) ("Offer Letter") & Attach. 8 (Memorandum from James L. Long to All District/Area/Branch Offices--Subsidiaries, Facilities, Headquarters Department Heads, dated November 2, 1999), and his annual salary was increased to $80,000, id., Ex. 3 at Attach. 6 (Offer Letter).

Wackenhut increased the plaintiff's annual salary again the following year to approximately $83,600, effective October 2000. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 43. Additionally, Wackenhut awarded the plaintiff a year-end $7,500 bonus. Id. at 47. Effective November 2001, Wackenhut gave the plaintiff another salary increase, raising it to $87,362 per year. Id. at 46-47 & Attach. 10 (Personnel Action Change Form, dated November, 2001). In addition to giving him a pay raise, Wackenhut awarded the plaintiff a year-end 2001 bonus of approximately $17,000. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 47, 55. Effective November 2002, Wackenhut increased the plaintiff's salary to approximately $92,603.*fn5 Id. at 56-57 & Attach. 11 (Personnel Action Change Form, dated by Payroll October 25, 2002). Additionally, Wackenhut awarded the plaintiff a year-end 2002 bonus of more than $31,000. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 57. In November 2003, Wackenhut increased Plaintiff's salary to approximately $95,844. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 58-59 & Attach. 12 (Personnel Action Change Form, dated November 3, 2003). However, the plaintiff did not receive a year-end bonus for 2003 because he terminated his employment before the year expired.*fn6 Id., Ex. 4 (Long Dep.) at 118-119.

A. Club Memberships

The plaintiff contends that Wackenhut provided certain employees -- Larry Luper, Jack Faulkner, Sam Brinkley, and Paul Donahue -- with memberships in exclusive clubs and organizations while not affording such memberships to him. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 63; Compl. ¶16. The plaintiff, however, cannot identify the clubs or organizations to which the aforementioned employees were provided memberships by Wackenhut. Id. at 68-69, 72-73. Further, the plaintiff never heard Luper, Faulkner, Brinkley, or Donahue say that Wackenhut had sponsored or paid for their memberships in any club or organization. Id. at 73. In addition, the plaintiff has not read any documents indicating that Wackenhut paid for such memberships. Id. Instead, the plaintiff bases his allegations about Wackenhut's role in these employees' purported club or organization memberships on portions of conversations he overheard Luper, Faulkner, Brinkley, or Donahue having about their evening activities, id. at 72, which the men would discontinue whenever he approached them. Id. at 69, 72-73.

B. The Condition of the Plaintiff's Office Space

Most National Capitol Region employees are security personnel who work in the field at specific contract sites. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 183. However, the plaintiff's central work station was at the National Capitol Region's office located in a Camp Springs, Maryland.*fn7

Id. at 13-14, 25. In addition to the plaintiff, approximately sixteen other employees worked at the Camp Springs location. Id. at 183-184. The plaintiff contends that he expressed concerns to Wacknehut regarding maintenance problems at the building, including, but not limited to, a leaking roof, which caused flooding on the seventh floor, inoperable elevators, power outages, and broken water and sewer pipes. Compl. ¶ 21. Although it is not clear from the record who was responsible for working with the landlord to remedy the alleged problems, the defendant contends that it was the plaintiff's responsibility as the National Capitol Region's Vice President and General Manager. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 6 (Faulkner Dep.) at 59-60. Nevertheless, after the plaintiff raised his concerns, the defendant considered moving the plaintiff to a new location in downtown Washington, D.C. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 197, 204. However, the plaintiff declined the defendant's offer to move him because he believed it "made[] no sense" for him to be separated by 30 miles from the office employees he was required to supervise. Id. at 204, 206. Rather, he believed that the entire staff should have been moved to the Washington, D.C. office. Id.

C. The Plaintiff's Company Car

Senior Wackenhut employees who need cars to perform their work receive them from the company. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 1 (Foley Decl.) ¶ 14. The plaintiff contends that the company vehicles of white general managers and vice presidents were of significantly higher quality than the vehicles provided to him. Compl. ¶ 19.

Wackenhut's practice is to allow employees to use the cars until they are fully depreciated, whereupon they are sold at auctions. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 1 (Foley Decl.) ¶ 14. Wackenhut advised the plaintiff that he would be provided an "existing company vehicle" during his tenure as Vice President and General Manager. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 186-187 & Attach. 6 (Offer Letter). When he assumed the Vice President and General Manager position in 1999, the plaintiff was assigned a 1994 Ford Taurus. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 187-188. The following year, Wackenhut assigned the plaintiff a 1998 Buick Century.*fn8 Id. at 189-190. And, in 2002 or 2003, Wackenhut assigned him a new Ford Taurus.*fn9 Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 193-194. The plaintiff concedes that his assigned vehicles functioned and served his business needs. Id., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 188, 194-195, 197. He further concedes that he complained to no one about the vehicle he was assigned. Id. at 195.

D. Holiday Budget and Purchasing Authority

There is a dispute as to the plaintiff's purchasing authority and the holiday budget that was allocated to him by Wackenhut for the National Capitol Region. Specifically, the plaintiff contends that Wackenhut "required [him] to ask permission [to purchase] small items, such as holsters, while general managers and vice presidents were given freedom to decide what was best for their organization." Compl. ¶ 18. Wackenhut, however, contends that it imposed the same spending limitations on the plaintiff's white successor as it imposed upon the plaintiff. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 1 (Foley Decl.) ¶ 16. In addition, the plaintiff contends that Wackenhut allocated to the National Capitol Region a smaller holiday budget than it allocated to some offices headed by the white employees. Compl. ¶ 24. Wackenhut contends, however, that it allocated essentially the same amount of funds to the plaintiff's white successor as the Company allocated to the plaintiff. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 1 (Foley Decl.) ¶ 17.

E. Request for Pay Raises for the National Capitol Region's Administrative Employees

During at least one conference call before the November 2003 General Manger's Conference in which Jack Faulkner, Wackenhut's Executive Vice President at the time, was one of the participants, the plaintiff expressed concerns about the low wages his staff at the National Capitol Region office were receiving. Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 3 (Deposition of Jack Faulkner) at 16-19; Compl. ¶ 26. Mr. Faulkner believed the plaintiff was going to prepare a document concerning the wage situation for the purpose of trying to secure higher wages for the National Capitol Region staff. Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 3 (Deposition of Jack Faulkner) at 17-19. It is unclear what was exactly said about the wages issue, although Mr. Faulkner testified that Mr. Foley would have been the individual responsible for addressing the matter. Id. at 17.

At Wackenhut's November 2003 General Managers Conference, the plaintiff presented to Mr. Foley a memorandum proposing pay increases for the National Capitol Region's administrative employees. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 226-228, 238, 240-41 & Attach. 14 (Memorandum from National Capitol Region employee Sheldon Salter to the plaintiff, dated November 5, 2003) ("Compensation Memorandum").*fn10 The administrative employees in the National Capitol Region office were predominately African-American.*fn11 Pl.'s Mot., Ex. 1 (Second Deposition of David Foley) ("Foley Dep. II") at 126. The plaintiff's memorandum proposes pay increases for National Capitol Region employees, Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 228, 232, 236, explaining that the recommended changes were necessary for that office to stay competitive and retain its personnel. Id. at 239-240. Specifically, the memorandum submitted to Mr. Foley indicated that in order to retain the National Capitol Region's highly skilled and devoted specialists, it was necessary to increase their salaries. Id. Attach. 14 (Compensation Memorandum). Mr. Slater further indicated in his memorandum that "after reviewing the current Federal Wage Determination, the current wages for comparable positions [for] both on and off contracts, and the scarcity of certain skills and knowledge," coupled with the high cost of living in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, warranted salary increases for the National Capitol Region's administrative employees. Id. However, no action was taken by Mr. Foley on the plaintiff's pay increase proposal when it was presented to him. Id. at 242. Instead, Mr. Foley said he would have to review the proposal at a later time. Id. at 242, 250.

F. Alleged Offensive Remarks

The plaintiff alleges that Wackenhut subjected him to the following racial jokes and other racially offensive statements. Compl. ¶ 17; Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 85, 88.

1. Larry Luper's "Ohm Boy" Riddle

The plaintiff contends that Larry Luper once told the plaintiff the following riddle: What do you call a black electrician in West Palm Beach, Florida? An Ohm Boy. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 85-86; Compl. ¶ 17. Mr. Luper allegedly communicated the riddle during a fall 2002 telephone conversation, Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 90-91, resulting in the plaintiff terminating the call. Id. at 92-93. Later that day, the plaintiff telephoned Mr. Faulkner, then Wackenhut's Executive Vice President, and explained that the plaintiff did not appreciate Mr. Luper's humor. Id. at 95. Mr. Faulkner purportedly apologized for the comment and said that he would "get with" Mr. Luper. Id. at 95-96; Compl. ¶ 26. Approximately two days later, the plaintiff told Luper that the Plaintiff disliked the riddle. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 93-95. Luper allegedly apologized, and never made any statement of that nature again. Id.

2. Michael Gallagher's "Black Bitch" Remark

The plaintiff contends that during a fall 2002 telephone conversation, Michael Gallagher called the plaintiff a "black b[i]tch." Id. at 85- 87, 99-100. After hearing Mr. Gallagher's statement, the plaintiff hung up the telephone. Id. at 85, 87, 99-100. The plaintiff did not report the matter to anyone, id. at 102-103, but represents that he told Mr. Gallagher about 30 minutes later that he disliked the remark, id. at 101-102. The plaintiff asserts that he basically told him:

Mike, I didn't appreciate that joke that you just shared with me or that comment that you just shared with me and I don't want to hear that crap. We don't go there. We can go a lot of places, but again, we're not talking about race, religion or ethnic origin.

Id. at 102. Mr. Gallagher purportedly apologized immediately, id., and, the plaintiff never heard him make another racist comment, id. at 103.

3. Mr. Long's Ghetto Remark

The plaintiff contends that during a fall 2003 manager's conference James Long, then Wackenhut's President and Chief Executive Officer, stated that Richard Allen lives in the ghetto.*fn12 Id. at 114; Compl. ¶ 28. Mr. Allen is African-American. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 1 (Foley Decl.) ¶ 10.

The defendant contends that the comment is race-neutral because Mr. Allen lives in the Woodside Plantation neighborhood of Aiken, South Carolina, which is the city's most exclusive community. Def.'s Mem., Ex. 3 (Harris Dep.) at 115, Ex. 5 (Allen Dep.) at. 23-24. The defendant notes that it is a gated community, contains three world-class 18-hole golf courses and an additional nine-hole golf course, a premier club, spacious lots, and quiet streets, all in a comfortable setting that has a security patrol 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Id., Ex. 5 (Allen Dep.) at 37- 38. And it is allegedly commonly referred to the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.