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Edmonds v. Engility Corp.

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

March 6, 2015

TAMIKA EDMONDS, Plaintiff,
v.
ENGILITY CORPORATION, Defendant

For TAMIKA EDMONDS, Plaintiff: Alan Lescht, Constance Travanty, LEAD ATTORNEYS, ALAN LESCHT & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC.

For ENGILITY CORPORATION, Defendant: Michael J. Murphy, LEAD ATTORNEY, OGLETREE, DEAKINS, NASH, SMOAK & STEWART, P.C., Washington, DC.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Tamika Edmonds filed suit for pregnancy discrimination and retaliation after she was fired by her employer, Engility Corporation, while on maternity leave. Engility contends that it terminated Edmonds--along with numerous other employees--as part of a corporate reorganization that included replacing Edmonds' payroll specialist position with a higher-level cost accountant position requiring additional skills and experience. Because Edmonds has not provided sufficient evidence to support a reasonable inference that the company's explanation for terminating her was pretextual, the Court will grant summary judgment in favor of Engility.

I. Background

International Resources Group (" IRG" )--which undertakes international reconstruction and development projects--hired Tamika Edmonds in 2004 as a payroll specialist in the company's accounting department. Decl. of Pl. Tamika Edmonds (" Edmonds Decl." ) ¶ ¶ 1--4. In 2010, IRG was acquired by aerospace and defense contractor L-3 Communications. Id. ¶ 1. Two years later, Engility Corporation was formed out of five L-3 Communications business segments, including IRG. Id.

Following its formation, Engility " implemented a cost-cutting strategy by restructuring its operations and eliminating many overhead positions across each of its business segments." Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Material Facts ¶ 3. Nearly 300 employees left the firm through a combination of layoffs and voluntary exit packages. Id. Fourteen of the departed employees were formerly at IRG, including Edmonds' direct supervisor in the accounting department, Delana Faison, and IRG's controller, Josephine Nemmers. Id. ¶ 4; Dep. Tr. of Josephine Nemmers (" Nemmers Dep." ) at 8--10. Edmonds herself was offered a voluntary exit package in November 2012, but she declined it. Edmonds Decl. ¶ 16.

That same month, Edmonds was granted maternity leave to care for her newborn child. Id. ¶ ¶ 11--12. Soon after Edmonds took leave, as part of the business consolidation, Engility changed its accounting, timesheet, and job coding software systems. Dep. Tr. of Karri Brown (" Brown Dep." ) at 10, 18--19. The company combined the accounting systems of each business segment into one centralized time and expense system called Unanet. Nemmers Dep. at 16--23. Employees entered their time and expense reports into Unanet, which then exported the data to the company's financial system, Costpoint. Brown Dep. at 13--14. Prior to adopting Unanet, IRG used a software package called Deltek to process and route timesheet data to the Costpoint system. Nemmers Dep. at 55. Nemmers, the controller, had designed controls in the old system that reduced employee error by limiting the number of organization, project, and account codes employees could enter in their timesheets. Id. at 54. The new consolidated system lacked these controls, which immediately resulted in a raft of coding errors. Id. at 55.

Due to the extent of the mistakes and the risks created by the new accounting system--including the risk of sending erroneous bills to government customers--Nemmers decided Engility needed to hire an employee to manage the transition. Id. at 19--21. She recommended that the company hire a more experienced accountant with " the analytical background to understand the rate structure in place and the complexity in place of IRG's codes." Id. at 74. Accordingly, in February 2013, Nemmers received approval to eliminate Edmonds' payroll specialist position and advertise for a job costing accountant with the requisite experience and skills. Id. at 21, 74.

Engility advertised the new position as an exempt, manager-level role in the company's finance and business services division, reporting directly to the controller. Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 2. The job posting explained that the new hire should have a bachelor's degree and would perform professional-level accounting work and prepare and analyze cost reports and costing audits. Id. Edmonds, who did not have a bachelor's degree, did not apply for the position. Dep. Tr. of Tamika Edmonds (" Edmonds Dep." ) at 244--46.

On March 25, 2013, Edmonds received a telephone call from Engility's Human Resources Manager Shelley Nixon. Edmonds Decl. ¶ 15. Nixon informed her that her position had been eliminated effective that day. Id. Nixon elaborated in an email, explaining to Edmonds that her position had been eliminated as a result of a company-wide reorganization based on a new business strategy and realigned corporate structure. Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10. Nixon offered Edmonds eight weeks of severance pay, provided she execute a separation agreement and release. Id. Edmonds declined to sign the agreement. Edmonds Dep. at 239.

Edmonds responded that it " kind of feels like [I] have been terminated by the company" and asked " if so can you tell me if my performance was the deciding factor." Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 10. Nixon replied:

Unfortunately, the changes Engility made to our accounting system, timesheets, and job coding have created so much confusion and so many mistakes on a weekly basis, that we now need a Job Costing Accountant who has extensive experience with various payroll systems and cost accounting in order to get the correct information to Engility payroll for processing. So, this was definitely not a performance termination--your position simply no longer exists.

Id. Nemmers reiterated this explanation in an email informing other Engility employees of Edmonds' last day. Id. Ex. 12 (explaining that the company required " an individual who possess [sic] the necessary skill as a job costing analyst/project accountant with a BA in accounting as well as intensive knowledge with time and labor management working." ).

Engility offered the new position to Crystal Currin. Nemmers Dep. at 22. Currin has a bachelor's degree in economics from Virginia Tech. Pl.'s Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 9. Her background included 14 years of job costing experience, specializing in government contracts, as a senior program control analyst at Computer Sciences Corporation. Id. As part of Engility's ongoing restructuring of the accounting department, Currin was later transferred from Engility's Washington, D.C. office to its headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia. Brown Dep. at 16--19.

Edmonds filed this suit in January 2014. She claims that Engility violated her right to maternity leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq. and the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act, D.C. Code § 32-502, et seq.; retaliated against her for exercising her right to maternity leave; and unlawfully discriminated against her pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e(k), which makes it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex, including pregnancy. Edmonds alleges that Engility's stated reasons for firing her were pretextual. As evidence of pretext, she mainly contends ...


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