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Awofala v. Central Parking System of Virginia

July 2, 2009

FOLARIN AWOFALA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CENTRAL PARKING SYSTEM OF VIRGINIA, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Re Document No.: 18

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter comes before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff alleges that the defendant, Central Parking System of Virginia, Inc. ("the defendant" or "Central Parking"), in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), 42 U.S.C. § 2000 et seq. and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, discriminated against him on the basis of his race and national origin and retaliated against him in response to his complaint of unlawful discrimination.

The court concludes that the statute of limitations bars the plaintiff's claims premised on the defendant's failure to promote him in 2001 and 2003 and that the plaintiff failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination for his 2005 failure to promote claim. The court further concludes that the plaintiff failed to create a triable issue of material fact as to whether the defendant's asserted non-retaliatory reasons for his termination were pretextual. Accordingly, the court grants the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff, an African man of Nigerian descent, worked for the defendant as a valet parking attendant in Washington, D.C. from September 1999 until August 2005. Compl. ¶ 33; Pl.'s Supplemental Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Supplemental Opp'n"), Ex. 8 ("Pl.'s Aff.") ¶¶ 2, 8, 39. He began as a parking attendant at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and later applied for and was promoted to the position of Lead Attendant at the Melrose Hotel. Def.'s Statement ¶ 7; Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶ 3. The defendant later transferred the plaintiff from the Melrose Hotel to the Mayflower Hotel and reassigned him from the Lead Attendant back to a parking attendant. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 8-9; Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶¶ 4-5.

At some point in 2001, 2003 and 2005, the plaintiff applied*fn1 for promotions for managerial and/or supervisory positions. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 56-63; see Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶¶ 58, 60-62. He was never promoted. Compl. ¶¶ 18.

While working at the Mayflower Hotel on June 18, 2004, the plaintiff was involved in an incident in which a key to a vehicle was lost. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 11-12; Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶ 7. The plaintiff engaged in a phone conversation regarding this incident with Brian Rettinger, the defendant's Project Manager at the Mayflower Hotel at the time, during which Rettinger allegedly referred to the plaintiff a "you monkey." Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶ 11. As a result, on June 22, 2004, the plaintiff filed an internal, confidential complaint against Rettinger. Def.'s Statement ¶ 18; Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶ 13. Jason Salamon, the defendant's Human Resources Manager at the time, investigated the complaint but could not locate a corroborating witness nor did he discover other complaints of discrimination against Rettinger. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 3 ("Salamon Decl.") ¶ 4. Salamon concluded that the most likely scenario was a misunderstanding due to the fact that the conversation occurred over the phone and the similarity of the words "black monkey" and "lost key" or "car key," and he closed the investigation without any formal action against Rettinger. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Pursuant to Central Parking policy, Salamon kept the complaint and grievance files in his office, separate from the plaintiff's personnel file. Id. ¶ 7.

Rettinger was subsequently transferred to another location and Shimelis Akalu became the defendant's Project Manager at the Mayflower Hotel. Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 27-28; Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶¶ 25, 27. The plaintiff was "written up"*fn2 twice by Akalu in the twelve months prior to his termination; the second write up contained a "final warning."*fn3 Def.'s Statement ¶¶ 30, 32; Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶¶ 30, 32.

On August 7, 2005, the plaintiff was involved in a dispute with another attendant while parking a car. Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 33. The plaintiff brought the issue to Abdoula Dewa, the Lead Attendant on duty, and witness statements attest to an argument between the two that included cursing in the lobby of the Mayflower Hotel. Id.; Def.'s Mot., Ex. 3 ("Akalu Dep."), Attach. 1 ("Dewa Statement") & Attach. 2 ("Membere Statement"). After this incident, Akalu suspended the plaintiff, investigated the incident and ultimately decided to terminate the plaintiff. Akalu Dep. at 49-50, 52. The plaintiff asserts that he merely joked around with Dewa about the parking dispute, that termination over such an incident was unreasonable and that the real reason for his termination was retaliation for the confidential complaint against Rettinger. Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶ 37; Pl.'s Opp'n at 16.

On February 14, 2006 the plaintiff submitted an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") Questionnaire Form ("Questionnaire") alleging discrimination, failure to promote and retaliation against the defendant. Pl.'s Aff. ¶ 45. Tracy Smalls, the EEOC secretary who attended to the plaintiff, completed the necessary paperwork and the plaintiff signed the EEOC Charge of Discrimination Form ("EEOC Charge") prepared by Smalls. Id. The EEOC Charge does not include allegations of retaliation or failure to promote, but instead asserts discrimination for color and national origin with a statement of the plaintiff's belief that he was terminated for discriminatory reasons. Pl.'s Supplemental Statement ¶¶ 67-68; Pl.'s Dep., Attach. 22 ("EEOC Charge"). The Questionnaire and the EEOC Charge were sent to the defendant.*fn4 Pl.'s Opp'n at 5. On September 21, 2006, the EEOC issued a "Notice of Right to Sue" letter to the plaintiff who subsequently filed his claims in this court asserting that the defendant failed to promote him for discriminatory reasons and that he was terminated in retaliation for his earlier confidential complaint. Compl. ¶ 1; EEOC Charge.

The defendant now moves for summary judgment, maintaining that the plaintiff has not provided evidence to support his claims. See generally Def.'s Mot. The defendant also argues that the plaintiff failed to exhaust administrative remedies for his Title VII claims. Id. at 3. The plaintiff opposes the motion, see ...


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