United States District Court, D. Columbia
DAVID DEJESUS, Plaintiff: Mayer Morganroth, LEAD ATTORNEY,
MORGANROTH & MORGANROTH PLLC, Birmingham, MI.
COMPANY LLC, doing business as WASHINGTON POST, Defendant:
Eric S. Dreiband, Jacqueline M. Holmes, Jennifer C. Everett,
Meghan E. Greenfield, LEAD ATTORNEYS, JONES DAY, Washington,
BATES, United States District Judge.
DeJesus was a successful ad seller at the Washington Post.
But according to his supervisor, he was also insubordinate.
And when he delivered a study to the wrong client, she set
his termination in motion. Believing that his supervisor had
discriminated against him on the basis of his race and age,
DeJesus sued. But because he has failed to demonstrate a
triable issue on the reasons for his termination, the Court
will grant the Post's motion for summary judgment.
a sixty-three-year-old African-American man, has worked in
advertising sales at the Post since 1993. Def.'s Ex. 10
[ECF No. 36-11] at 9, 11. During his tenure at the Post,
DeJesus was responsible for accounts worth millions, and won
more than forty awards. See Pl.'s Ex. 6 [ECF No. 39-2] at
189, 191. Despite his success, however, at least one manager
has suggested that he had communication issues. See
Def.'s Ex. 20 [ECF No. 36-20] at 3.
in 2008, he began reporting to Noelle Wainwright. See
Def.'s Ex. 4 [ECF No. 36-5] at 3. Their professional
relationship was particularly difficult: Wainwright
complained of DeJesus's " overall lack of sales
professionalism, lack of focus, lack of proper sales call
preparation, and lapse in communication skills, both
internally and with clients." Def.'s Ex. 7 [ECF No.
36-8] at 2. Wainwright criticized DeJesus for a number of
incidents over the years, and certain aspects of his
performance reviews suffered. See, e.g., Def.'s Ex. 3
[ECF No. 36-4] at 6 (rating DeJesus in his 2008 performance
appraisal as " below standards" in time management
and taking the initiative); Def.'s Ex. 23 [ECF No. 36-23]
at 12 (noting in DeJesus's 2010 performance appraisal
that " [t]here are cycles where Dave is 'off',
falling behind in his follow up with clients and on
[o]pportunities," and that " during these cycles,
he also tends to make junior mistakes" ).
relationship between DeJesus and Wainwright reached its
breaking point in 2011. Allstate Insurance Company's
advertising agency, Starcom, requested an advertising impact
report (known as a " RAM study" ) regarding a
recent ad it had placed in the Post. Because Wainwright was
out of the office, DeJesus did not consult with her before
ordering the RAM study. See Def.'s Ex. 10 at 26-27. When
she learned that he had done so, Wainwright told DeJesus that
she " should have been aware of this before [they]
decided to move forward," and asked him to " please
communicate with [her] on th[o]se types of requests."
Def.'s Ex. 6 [ECF No. 36-7] at 3. Wainwright later
testified that she had an unwritten policy requiring that all
RAM studies be approved by a manager. See Def.'s Ex. 4 at
13. But her explanation is murky. Compare id. at 14 ("
It [the policy] was stated. Everybody knew it." ), with
id. (" I don't know that I ever said it. I don't
know that I ever had to." ). And, in any event, she
ended the e-mail chain by saying " No worries."
Def.'s Ex. 6 at 2.
saga of the RAM study did not end there. The two had a
meeting in which Wainwright explained that " the
information [from the study] should be given to the client
and not to the agency." Def.'s Ex. 10 at 30.
According to Wainwright, she specifically mentioned Karen
Hornberger, Allstate's marketing manager. See Def.'s
Ex. 4 at 23-24. But DeJesus says that Hornberger's name
never came up. See Def.'s Ex. 10 at 31. Later, Wainwright
reiterated to DeJesus by e-mail her " expect[ation] that
[he] only deliver the results [of the RAM study] in
person." Def.'s Ex. 14 [ECF No. 36-15] at 3. She
then asked him to confirm that he had set a meeting with
" the client" for the next week. Id.
DeJesus agreed, id., understanding " the client" to
mean Allstate, see Def.'s Ex. 10 at 30. According to
Wainwright, however, " client" meant something more
specific, see Def.'s Ex. 4 at 26-it meant Hornberger,
whom DeJesus had met only once before, see Def.'s Ex. 10
at 58-59. Later in the e-mail chain, Wainwright pointed out
again that this meeting should be a priority. Def.'s Ex.
14 at 3. And DeJesus responded by stating that he was merely
waiting for confirmation of a time. Id. at 2.
days later, Wainwright followed up, again reminding DeJesus
to deliver the RAM study results in person. See Def.'s
Ex. 15 [ECF No. 36-16] at 3. And DeJesus again expressed his
understanding of that directive. Id. at 2. He noted
that the " client meeting" was confirmed for June
8. Id. But that meeting was with Starcom, not
Allstate. See Def.'s Ex. 30 [ECF No. 36-30] at 2. And
DeJesus neglected to mention a meeting with Allstate's
Vice President for Federal Legislative and Regulatory
Affairs, Stacy Sharpe, scheduled to precede it. He gave the
RAM study to Sharpe at that earlier meeting, and met with a
positive reaction from her. See Def.'s Ex. 10 at 34.
when Wainwright found out that DeJesus had presented the RAM
study to Sharpe, rather than Hornberger, her reaction was
" explosive." Def.'s Ex. 10 at 36. Wainwright
was particularly " angry" that DeJesus had
delivered the results to Sharpe because Sharpe lacked budget
approval authority, id., even if she "
influence[d]" the budget, id. at 35. In an attempt to
" defuse the . . . yelling," DeJesus falsely told
Wainwright that he had presented the information to
Hornberger as well. Id. at 36. DeJesus retracted
that statement later the same day. Id.
angry Wainwright brought her concerns to her supervisor,
Ethan Selzer, and in late June, Wainwright gave DeJesus a
proposed separation agreement. A month later, the Post
formally terminated DeJesus's employment. The termination
memorandum stated the cause as " willful neglect of duty
and insubordination," referencing the aftermath of the
RAM study. Pl.'s Ex. 51A [ECF No. 39-4] at 140. The memo
explained that DeJesus " fail[ed] to follow
[Wainwright's] specific instructions regarding the
delivery of this already unauthorized RAM study," as he
" did not meet with the client," but " only