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Burke v. Inter-Con Sec. Systems, Inc.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 4, 2013

Michael BURKE, Plaintiff,
v.
INTER-CON SECURITY SYSTEMS, INC., Defendant.

Page 353

Michael J. Hoare, Dennis Chong, Michael J. Hoare, P.C., Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

Michael J. Murphy, Christopher E. Humber, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., Washington, DC, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GRANTING THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a discrimination case. The plaintiff claims that he was temporarily suspended and laterally transferred due to gender discrimination, and that he was later suspended for five days as a form of retaliation for initiating this lawsuit. The defendant argues that the plaintiff was initially suspended and transferred due to reports that he physically threatened a coworker, and that his later suspension was ordered because the plaintiff failed to show up to work. Because the plaintiff

Page 354

has failed to submit enough evidence to convince a reasonable jury that the defendant's reasons for acting are mere pretext, the court will grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

II. FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. The Parties

Defendant Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc. (" Inter-Con" ), a California company that provides security services to buildings used by the U.S. Department of State. Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶¶ 1-2. The plaintiff has been employed by Inter-Con to guard the State Department's buildings in Washington, D.C. since July 2008. Id. ¶ 6.

B. An Incident on New Year's Eve

Around November 2009, Burke entered into a consensual relationship with a co-worker, Tonya Jackson. Id. ¶ 7. Jackson alleges that, during the course of her brief relationship with Burke, he was verbally abusive, engaged in threatening behavior, and made threatening statements. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 3 (Jackson Depo.) [1] at 88, 91-95. Burke denies these allegations. Id., Ex. 2 (Burke Depo.) at 195-97. It appears that things came to a head on December 31, 2009. That night, Burke drove Jackson to work. Burke Depo. at 203-04, 219. Jackson alleges that he made threatening statements to her. Jackson Depo. at 38, 90-92. Jackson also alleges that, as their conversation got heated, Burke snatched a cell phone from her hand. Burke Depo. at 224-25. Burke claims that her allegations are largely unfounded. Pl.'s Mot, Ex. 4 (Burke Decl.) ¶¶ 14-15.

Shortly before 10:00 p.m., Burke dropped Jackson off. Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 24. After driving away, Burke called Jackson's office repeatedly, but she did not pick up the phone. Burke Depo. at 228. Burke then returned to Jackson's building and used his security key card to gain entry through a rear door. Id. at 232-34. Once he found Jackson, Burke resumed their conversation. Id. at 234. Jackson did not reciprocate; she left the room and Burke followed her down the hall. Jackson Depo. at 106-07. There, Jackson found another individual who was on duty, Officer Washington. Id. at 236. When he saw the two, Officer Washington sensed that something was wrong. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 6 (Washington Depo.) at 35-36. He observed that Jackson appeared to be " nervous" and that " her body was shaking." Id. at 33. Jackson eventually called a supervisor and asked to be moved to a new location for the remainder of her shift, as she did not feel safe. Jackson Depo. at 86-87, 108. Jackson's request was relayed to Senior Vice President of Operations Gerard Neville. Def.'s Mot., Ex. 5 (Neville Depo.) at 51-52; Jackson Depo. at 87. Based on the information he received, Neville concluded: " there was concern for potential for future workplace violence and until I could meet with Mr. Burke and get his side of the story, I had no other option but to remove him from the [work] schedule." Neville Depo. at 9.

C. Neville Suspends Burke for a Week and Gathers the Facts

Neville demanded that Burke be suspended and that he report for an interview on the morning of January 4, 2010. Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 56. Burke asked to be interviewed the following week, as that was the earliest time that he could secure union representation for the interview, which took place on January 11, 2010.[2]

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Burke Depo. at 246. Burke did not work any shifts between January 1 and January 10. Id. After interviewing Burke, Neville concluded that the confrontation between Burke and Jackson was an isolated incident and was therefore unlikely to recur. Neville decided to put Burke back to work soon after the interview. Neville Depo. at 60-62. Burke did not receive any back pay for the shifts that he lost. Id. at 10-11; Burke Depo. at 134-35.

D. Burke is Reinstated and Relocated

After reinstating Burke, Neville ordered a full investigation into the New Year's Eve incident. Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 74. After the investigation ran its course, Neville concluded that there was no reason to believe that Burke had committed any threatening behavior. Neville Depo. at 60-62. Jackson was disciplined for conducting personal business while on duty, carrying an unauthorized personal handbag, using an unauthorized cell phone, and failing to selfissue a weapon. Def.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ 77. She also was demoted from sergeant to officer with a reduction in pay. Id. Neville decided to assign Jackson and Burke to separate areas so their paths would no longer cross. Id. ¶ 81. Although Jackson was relocated to Virginia, Burke was permitted to remain in his assigned geographic area. Id. ¶ 85. The plaintiff claims that Jackson requested this transfer. Pl.'s Opp'n, Ex. 7.

Burke was asked to work at a different location, and that resulted in his having to work on different days of the week. Id. ¶ 88. Burke claims that this schedule makes it harder for him to enroll in courses for a Certified Information Systems Security Professional ...


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