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Lockhart v. Coastal International Security, Inc.

United States District Court, District Circuit

December 14, 2013

MONIQUE LOCKHART et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
COASTAL INTERNATIONAL SECURITY, INC., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

BERYL A. HOWELL, District Judge.

Pending before the Court is defendant Coastal International Security, Inc.'s Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 25, on the sole remaining count in the complaint alleging, in Count II, wrongful discharge in violation of public policy. For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion is granted.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The factual background as alleged in the complaint of this employment dispute is outlined in the Court's prior Memorandum Opinion and will not be repeated here. See Lockhart v. Coastal Int'l Sec., Inc., 905 F.Supp.2d 105, 108 (D.D.C. 2012). In sum, the plaintiffs Monique Lockhart ("Lockhart") and Monique Lockhart, as next best friend of K.C. ("K.C."), allege that the defendant terminated Lockhart's employment as a security guard because she was pregnant and in retaliation for declining to make a false statement supportive of her supervisor, who was accused of sexual harassment. Compl. ¶ 39, ECF No. 1-1.

Discovery in this case revealed that after Lockhart was hired in June, 2004, she received at least seven disciplinary notices, known as Personnel Action Reports ("PARs"), from June, 2006 through September, 2008. Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts Supp. Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Def.'s Facts") ¶¶ 6201237, ECF No. 25-2; Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Def.'s Mem.") at 320125, ECF No. 25-1. These disciplinary citations include: two citations for neglect of duty for sleeping on post, Def.'s Facts ¶¶ 7, 31; a citation for neglect of duty by reading on post, id. ¶ 21; a citation for the unauthorized use of a cell phone while on post, id. ¶ 12; knowingly making a false statement, id. ¶ 15; reporting to work without required credentials, id. ¶ 20; and disorderly conduct, id. ¶ 26. These citations included "four final' warnings, " prior to the seventh PAR and the termination decision. Id. ¶ 42. "Based on this record and the fact that sleeping on duty is itself a terminable offense, " the defendant terminated plaintiff Lockhart's employment effective on September 24, 2008. Id. ¶ 43. According to the defendant, the Vice President of Human Resources who decided to terminate the plaintiff was unaware of the plaintiff's pregnancy or alleged participation in a sexual harassment investigation. Id. ¶ 44.

This summary of the facts is not controverted by the plaintiffs.[2] The defendant correctly points out that the "Plaintiff has [] not put any facts into the record to dispute that Plaintiff was failing to meet Coastal's legitimate work expectations and that the person who decided to terminate Plaintiff had no knowledge of her pregnancy or alleged involvement in a harassment investigation." Def.'s Reply Supp. Mot. Summ. J. ("Def.'s Reply") at 1, ECF No. 28.

B. Procedural History

The plaintiff initially filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights ("DCOHR") "alleging disability discrimination, a hostile work environment and a failure to accommodate." Def.'s Facts ¶ 47. The DCOHR dismissed these claims because they were first raised outside the applicable one year statute of limitations. Id. ¶ 48. Subsequently, the plaintiffs filed the instant complaint in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, id. ¶ 49, and the defendant removed the case to this Court. Id. ¶ 51.

Upon removal to this Court, the defendant answered the complaint and sought a stay to allow the plaintiffs to present their tort claims to the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services ("DOES") for a determination of whether these claims arose from a work-related incident in the workplace and were therefore covered by the District of Columbia Worker's Compensation Act ("DCWCA"). Lockhart, 905 F.Supp.2d at 109. The Court granted the defendant's motion, with the plaintiffs' partial consent, and stayed the case pending the determination by DOES of the applicability of the DCWCA to the plaintiffs' claims.[3] See Minute Order (Jan. 14, 2012). After six months, without any apparent action by DOES or the plaintiffs' filing of documentation showing that the claims had been submitted to DOES as required by the Court, the stay was lifted. See Minute Order (July 13, 2012).

Shortly thereafter, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss all claims, which was construed by the Court as a motion for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), since such motions may be brought "[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial." Lockhart, 905 F.Supp.2d at 112 (internal citations omitted). The Court granted the motion, in part, dismissing all claims other than Count II as conceded because the plaintiffs did "not dispute or even respond to the defendant's argument regarding the exclusivity of the WCA remedies as to plaintiff Lockhart's injuries, as claimed in Counts I, III, IV and V." Id. at 117; Order, ECF No. 21 . The Court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss Count II, explaining that this claim alleging wrongful discharge in violation of public policy "falls outside the scope of the [WCA], as it does not cover injuries during employment, '" and the only basis asserted for dismissal was that the plaintiffs failed to prosecute or comply with the Court's order, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). Id. at 119. The Court concluded that any "failure by the plaintiffs to submit their tort claims to DOES during the stay has no bearing on the viability of Count II, " and to penalize "plaintiff Lockhart by dismissal of Count II, which is separate from her tort claims, would be overly harsh." Id. at 120.

The defendant has now moved for Summary Judgment on Count II, which is the sole count remaining in the plaintiffs' complaint. Def.'s Mem. at 1.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Granting a motion for summary judgment is appropriate if the movant carries the burden of showing "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, " based upon the pleadings, depositions, and affidavits, and other factual materials in the record. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a), (c); Ali v. Tolbert, 636 F.3d 622, 628 (D.C. Cir. 2011); Tao v. Freeh, 27 F.3d 635, 638 (D.C. Cir. 1994). The Court is only required to consider the materials ...


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