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Steele v. Mae

United States District Court, D. Columbia

September 29, 2015

CHRISTOPHER STEELE, Plaintiff,
v.
FANNIE MAE, Defendant

Page 192

          CHRISTOPHER STEELE, Plaintiff, Pro se, Abingdon, MD.

         For FANNIE MAE, Defendant: Damien G. Stewart, FANNIE MAE, Washington, DC.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION

Page 193

         TANYA S. CHUTKAN, United States District Judge.

          Before the court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff Christopher Steele filed a motion for partial summary judgment on his promissory estoppel claim. Defendant Fannie Mae, formally known as the Federal National Mortgage Association, filed a cross-motion for summary judgment on all of Steele's claims--breach of contract, promissory estoppel, fraudulent misrepresentation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Because Steele did not respond to Fannie Mae's arguments with respect to breach of contract and intentional infliction of emotional distress, those claims are dismissed as conceded.[1] As to the remaining two claims, upon consideration of the parties' motions, as well as the responses thereto and the replies in support thereof, and for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and Defendant's motion is DENIED as to the promissory estoppel claim and GRANTED as to the fraudulent misrepresentation claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff was hired for a position at Fannie Mae under the name Christopher Ferguson. (Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ 1). He chose the position with Fannie Mae over a similar position with W.R. Grace. (Pl.'s Reply Mem. Supp. Mot. Partial Summ. J. Ex. 14 ¶ 15). As part of the application process, Plaintiff entered his name in Fannie Mae's recruiting database as Christopher Ferguson. (Gillingham Decl. ¶ 3(b)). Plaintiff's recruiter later sent him instructions for his formal application, including to " provide your full legal name including your full middle name. (This name should be the same name which will be on the documents you will be providing for I-9 verification such as the driver's license and/or social security card)." ( Id. at ¶ 3(e)) (emphasis omitted). The recruiter also instructed Plaintiff to provide all previous aliases. ( Id. ). After Plaintiff indicated that his name was Christopher Ferguson and that he had no middle name, his recruiter followed up to confirm his legal name.

Page 194

(Def.'s Cross-Mot. Ex. 6). In the written offer of employment, Fannie Mae explained that Plaintiff would " be required to complete an Employee Verification Form (I-9) and provide current documents that establish your identity and eligibility to work in the United States. This offer of employment is contingent upon you providing those documents." ( Id. at Ex. 8).

         On his first day at Fannie Mae, May 6, 2013, Plaintiff notified human resources during the I-9 employment eligibility process that the name on his passport (Christopher Steele) did not match the name on his driver's license (Christopher Ferguson). (Gillingham Decl. ¶ 10). Because the person Fannie Mae hired--Christopher Ferguson--could not prove his identity, Fannie Mae was not able to verify his eligibility for employment. ( Id. at ¶ 15). Per Fannie Mae policy, Plaintiff had 72 hours from the time he started work to prove his eligibility. (Def.'s Cross-Mot. Ex. 11). On each of May 6, 7, and 8, Fannie Mae sent Plaintiff an e-mail stating that if he could not prove his employment eligibility within 72 hours of his first day of employment, he would be terminated at the close of business on May 8. ( Id. ).

         The principal dispute in this case involves a meeting on May 8 between Plaintiff, his supervisor Farley Price, and Shandell Harris, a representative from human resources. According to Plaintiff, " during the meeting . . . Defendant promised to place Plaintiff on administrative leave, perform a second background investigation using the names Christopher Ferguson and Christopher Steele, and allow Plaintiff to continue his employment with Fannie Mae if the second background investigation identified no new issues." (Pl.'s Mot. at 4). Plaintiff followed up in the ensuing two days to check on the status of the second background check. ( Id. at 4-5).

         Fannie Mae, unsurprisingly, tells a different story. According to Fannie Mae,

Shandell Harris and Farley Price met with Plaintiff at or around noon on May 8 and informed him of the Company's decision to rescind the offer of employment because he had not produced valid work authorization documentation. Ms. Harris informed Plaintiff that Fannie Mae may reconsider its decision if he could produce such documentation and provide an explanation for why he failed to disclose his legal name on the application or to the recruiter. Harris informed Plaintiff that the Company would perform a background check under his alleged legal name " Steele," which would streamline things if the Company were to hire him back.
In that May 8, 2013 conversation, neither Ms. Harris nor Mr. Price " promised" or otherwise indicated to Plaintiff that he would be placed on administrative leave or otherwise re-employed by Fannie Mae upon the completion of the background check.

(Def.'s Statement of Undisputed Facts ¶ ¶ 21-22) (emphasis added) (citation omitted).

         Whatever may have happened at the May 8 meeting, the parties agree that on the morning of May 14, Fannie Mae received notice that the second background check resulted in the same information as the first. ( Id. at ¶ 28; Pl.'s Mot. Attach. 5). That same day, Fannie Mae sent Plaintiff a letter stating that a preliminary decision had been made " to rescind your conditional offer of employment and not employ you" based on the discrepancies with his name. (Def.'s Cross-Mot. Ex. 16). Fannie Mae requested that Plaintiff respond, and stated that any information he provided " will be used in consideration to reinstate your employment with Fannie Mae." ( Id. ). On May 17, 2013, after not receiving an adequate explanation for the difference in Plaintiff's names, Fannie Mae

Page 195

sent another letter to inform Plaintiff that it had " made the decision to rescind your conditional offer of employment and not employ you." (Pl.'s Mot. Attach. 3A).

         Plaintiff originally brought this suit in D.C. Superior Court. (Notice of Removal). After Fannie Mae removed the case to district court, it filed a motion to compel arbitration pursuant to Fannie Mae's dispute resolution policy. (Mot. to Compel). Judge Lamberth denied the motion, finding that because Fannie Mae did not treat Plaintiff as an employee, there was no valid and enforceable agreement between the parties. See Steele v. Fannie Mae, No. 13-01089, 2013 WL 5205898, at *2 (D.D.C. Sept. 13, 2013).

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         a. Motion for ...


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