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Johnson v. Dar Interstate Management Co., LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 19, 2014

ROBERT LEE JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
DAR INTERSTATE MANAGEMENT CO., LLC, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DEBORAH A. ROBINSON, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Robert Lee Johnson, proceeding pro se, commenced this action against his former employer, Defendant Interstate Management Company, following its termination of his employment. The only remaining claim in this action is Plaintiff's claim that Defendant terminated his employment in retaliation for his filing of a complaint with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC").[1] Pending for determination by the undersigned is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Document No. 48) with respect to the retaliation claim. Upon consideration of the motion, the memoranda in support thereof and opposition thereto, the attached exhibits, and the entire record herein, the undersigned will grant Defendant's motion.

BACKGROUND

The court has discussed the underlying facts and procedural background of this matter extensively in previous decisions, and those discussions are incorporated herein. Johnson v. Interstate Mgmt. Co., 962 F.Supp.2d 244, 246-48 (D.D.C. 2013); Johnson v. Interstate Mgmt. Co., 871 F.Supp.2d 1, 2-3 (D.D.C. 2012).

Plaintiff was employed by Defendant as a cook at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel from July 1996 until March 2011. Defendant's Statement of Material Facts Not in Genuine Dispute ("Statement of Facts") (Document No. 48-6) ¶¶ 1, 8. On October 1, 2010, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"), and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"); the EEOC issued a determination on March 30, 2011, indicating that it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishe[d] violations of the statutes." Johnson, 962 F.Supp.2d at 246 (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Statement of Facts ¶ 2.

On February 21, 2011, a hotel employee "found cooked plastic wrap in a piece of breaded chicken" that was prepared by the hotel's restaurant. Statement of Facts ¶ 3. Following its investigation and determination that Plaintiff had cooked the chicken, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment on March 21, 2011 for "repeated food safety issues." Id. ¶¶ 6-8. Defendant had documented previous "food safety issues" involving Plaintiff, and had given Plaintiff "multiple prior warnings related to food safety and work performance." Id. ¶¶ 8-9. For example, Plaintiff received a written warning in March 2010 for "[u]ndercook[ing] chicken for a 250 person banquet, " received a written warning in January 2011 for "[t]hawing frozen chicken in dish sink, " received a "note to file" in February 2011 for "[f]ail[ing] to cool soup according to ServeSafe requirements, " and received "[c]oaching/counseling" in February 2011 for "[s]et[ting] off fire alarm in kitchen." Declaration of Vanessa R. Peters (Document No. 48-2), Exhibit A. Defendant had previously received written and verbal warnings in 2008 and 2009 for other sanitation concerns. Id.

Following his termination, Plaintiff, on April 22, 2011, filed another complaint with the EEOC, this time, alleging that he was discharged in retaliation for filing his previous EEOC complaint in violation of Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA. Opposition, Exhibit 1 (Document No. 49-1) at 15-19.[2] The EEOC issued a determination on June 13, 2011, indicating that it was "unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes." Complaint, Exhibit 1 (Document No. 1-1) at 13-14. After the EEOC denied Plaintiff's request for reconsideration of its decision, id. at 12, Plaintiff commenced this action.

CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

Defendant contends that summary judgment in its favor is warranted because Plaintiff cannot demonstrate a causal connection between the filing of his EEOC complaint in October 2010 and his termination in March 2011. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Memorandum") (Document No. 48) at 9-10. Defendant contends that Plaintiff cannot rely on "temporal proximity" to demonstrate causation because he was terminated "nearly six months" after he filed an EEOC complaint. Id. at 11. Defendant submits that it terminated Plaintiff for "repeated workplace deficiencies, " culminating in its determination that he cooked breaded chicken with plastic wrap still inside. Id. at 10.

Plaintiff maintains that Defendant terminated him in retaliation for filing an EEOC complaint. Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Opposition") (Document No. 49) at 1.[3] In response to Defendant's allegations of food safety violations, Plaintiff contends that Defendant has not "established" any "misconduct." Id. at 2.[4] Plaintiff further contends that he did not cook the chicken, as alleged by Defendant, and that the "write ups" relied upon by Defendant are "false documents." Opposition at 4, 20.[5]

Defendant argues that the court should deem its Statement of Facts admitted since Plaintiff did not respond with a statement of genuine issues, despite the court's Supplemental Order (Document No. 24) advising pro se Plaintiff of his obligation to do so. Reply Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment ("Reply") (Document No. 50) at 2. Defendant maintains that Plaintiff has not put forth any evidence demonstrating "that the cause of his termination on March 21, 2011, was the filing of his EEOC charge on October 1, 2010, " and has thus not demonstrated that there is a "genuine issue for trial." Id. at 7-8. With respect to Plaintiff's contention regarding the alleged chicken incident, Defendant contends that "plaintiff must prove [the Human Resources Director] did not honestly and reasonably believe that he did cook the chicken at the time [she] made the decision to terminate him." Id. at 5.

APPLICABLE STANDARD

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is genuine if the "evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Whether a fact is material is determined based on whether it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.

The party seeking summary judgment must identify "those portions of the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, ' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "[A] party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleading, but... must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 256 (internal quotation marks omitted). "The mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the [nonmoving party's] position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the ...


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