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Wilson v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

July 6, 2009

TAJ WILSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
WASHINGTON METROPOLITAN AREA TRANSIT AUTHORITY DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff Taj Wilson ("Plaintiff") brings this action against Defendant Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority ("Defendant" or "WMATA"), pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq. ("Title VII"). He alleges that Defendant violated Title VII on the grounds of Disparate Treatment Based on Race and Color (Count I), Disparate Treatment Based on Gender (Count II), Racially Hostile Work Environment (Count III), and Retaliation (Count IV).

This case is now before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Count I, Disparate Treatment Based on Race and Color [Dkt. No. 77].*fn1 Upon consideration of the Motion, Opposition, Reply, the entire record herein, and for the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff, an African-American male, began his employment as a police officer with Defendant's Metro Transit Police Department ("MTPD") on January 14, 2002. He participated in field training from September to December 2002, when he completed the field training program. During this period, Plaintiff noted that a white officer insisted on putting on gloves before touching him during a drill, even though that officer touched white officers without wearing gloves. Plaintiff also noted that white officers called Anacostia "Animal Costia," that a white officer made racial slurs and gang references to him and other black officers, and that Metro Transit Police Chief Polly Hanson ("Chief Hanson") stated that "people like [Plaintiff] in the department do not change." Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 141.

During his employment with WMATA, Plaintiff was the subject of five disciplinary investigations within a nine-month period. First, on December 3, 2003, Plaintiff displayed his service weapon during an off-duty altercation at a Wal-Mart store. He had stored the weapon in his unlocked glove compartment and failed to identify himself as a police officer during the altercation. Captain George Heilmann ("Heilmann") of MTPD's Office of Professional Responsibility and Integrity investigated the incident and charged Plaintiff with leaving his service weapon in his glove compartment, displaying his service weapon and failing to wear it in his holster while off duty, and failing to identify himself as a police officer. Plaintiff was suspended for one day.

Second, on May 4, 2004, while driving his MTPD scout car, Plaintiff was involved in an auto accident. He and another motorist were injured in the accident, and the scout car sustained $14,000 in damage. Sergeant Helen Acton investigated the collision and found that it was preventable. Because of its preventability, Plaintiff was suspended for one day.

Third, on June 13, 2004, Plaintiff was visiting a friend when he intervened in an altercation, at which point "an unknown person attempted to grab [his] service weapon." Id. ¶ 25. Heilmann investigated the incident and recommended remedial weapons training for Plaintiff.

Fourth, on June 18, 2004, while on duty, Plaintiff left his "assigned sector" to address personal business. Id. ¶ 28. He did so without alerting his supervisor or obtaining permission, and he subsequently turned in an "inaccurate run sheet" (daily activity log) for this period of time.*fn3 Id. ¶¶ 30, 32-34.

Heilmann investigated the incident and charged Plaintiff with nine violations of MTPD General Orders*fn4 : (1) violation of oath of office; (2) making false reports in an official daily activity log with a prior history of doing so; (3) providing false information to a dispatcher regarding his whereabouts while on duty; (4) providing false information to Heilmann regarding his whereabouts while on duty; (5) conducting activities on duty that were "not related to the protection of WMATA customers, personnel, and transit facilities" and failing to call local police at the scene of a traffic accident; (6) failing to disclose his personal involvement and that of his girlfriend in a traffic accident, which endangered the officer responding to the accident; (7) leaving his sector for more than an hour without the authorization or knowledge of his supervisor or the Communications Division; (8) leaving his beat for over an hour to attend to personal affairs; and (9) leaving his sector for more than an hour without the permission of his supervisor or the Communications Division in order to attend to personal affairs. Id. ¶¶ 38-46. As punishment, Plaintiff was suspended for eleven days. Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. at 8.

Fifth, on August 15, 2004, Plaintiff lost control of his MTPD scout car while responding to an incident. His car became airborne and crashed into a residence. At the time of the accident, the weather was clear, and the road was dry and unobstructed. Plaintiff was found unconscious at the scene, and the vehicle's airbag had deployed. Plaintiff later "estimated" his speed to have been between 65 and 70 MPH at the time of the accident. Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 66. Both the car and the residence were severely damaged, and the residence was subsequently closed by county building inspectors. Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 62.

The Prince George's County Police Department investigated the incident and found that "[P]laintiff was at fault for the accident."*fn5 Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 63. On October 5, 2004, Chief Hanson notified Plaintiff in writing that any "future integrity issues" would result in his termination from employment. Id. ¶ 47.

Lieutenant Shawn Doody ("Lt. Doody") conducted the internal investigation, and, as a result, Plaintiff was charged with seven violations of MTPD General Orders*fn6 : (1) violation of oath of office, (2) providing false statements during an investigation, (3) providing a false written report, (4) responding untruthfully to inquiries posed by an official, (5) operating a "scout car at a high rate of speed and fail[ure] to maintain his lane without due regard for safety," (6) operating "his scout car at a high rate [of] speed without regard to life and property," and (7) "failing to wear a seatbelt."*fn7 Id. ¶¶ 69-75.

On November 12, 2004, as cumulative punishment for these charges as well as for the "culmination of several incidents which occurred over a short period of time," Plaintiff was terminated. Id. ¶ 76. In arbitration, the Fraternal Order of Police/DCHA Labor Committee upheld his termination on grounds of "just cause.*fn8

Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 77.

On April 8, 2005, following his termination, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), alleging that he was subjected to racial discrimination and retaliation between October 1, 2004 and November 12, 2004. Def.'s Mem. in Support of its Mot. for Summ. J. at 13-14.

Plaintiff did not include charges of gender discrimination or racially hostile work environment in his EEOC complaint. Id. at 14. However, he observed that "he was [the] subject of intense scrutiny with respect to disciplinary actions and punishments, [and] that his entire class, white and black officers alike, were subject to punishment" because he complained to MTPD officials about the gloved officer incident during training. Def.'s Statement of Material Facts ¶ 147 (citation omitted).

On November 11, 2005, Plaintiff filed his original Complaint in this Court on counts of "Disparate Treatment Based on Race and Color in Violation of Title VII & 1981" (Count I) and "Disparate Treatment Based on Gender in Violation of Title VII" (Count II). Compl. at 2, 3. He sought $300,000 for "compensatory damages, backpay, interests [sic], [and] emotional distress" resulting from the alleged Title VII violations as well as costs, expenses, attorney's fees, and an injunction against Defendant's allegedly discriminatory practices. Id. at 4: ¶¶ ii-iv.

On October 29, 2007, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, which added the count of "Racially Hostile Work Environment in Violation of 1981" (Count III) [Dkt. No. 46]. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22-29. On December 18, 2007, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, which added a fourth count of Retaliation [Dkt. No. 57].*fn9

On April 1, 2008, Defendant moved for Summary Judgment [Dkt. No. 77]. On June 12, 2008, Plaintiff filed an Opposition, in which he withdrew his claims of Gender Discrimination, Hostile Work Environment, and Retaliation in Counts II, III, and IV [Dkt. No. 86].

II. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

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, 473 F.3d at 333 (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, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007), the Supreme Court said,

[a]s we have emphasized, "[w]hen the moving party has carried its burden under Rule 56(c), its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.... Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87... (1986) (footnote omitted). "[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly ...


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