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Bing v. The Architect of Capitol

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 30, 2019

WAYNE BING, Plaintiff,
v.
THE ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOL, Defendant.

         Re Document No.: 39

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RUDOLPH CONTRERAS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Wayne Bing has sued his former employer, the Architect of the Capitol (“AOC”), for racial discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq., and the Congressional Accountability Act (“CAA”), 2 U.S.C. §§ 1301 et seq. With discovery complete, the AOC has now moved for summary judgment as to all claims. Because Mr. Bing has put forward evidence from which a jury could reasonably find in his favor on one claim but not on others, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny the motion in part.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual history

         Mr. Bing worked as a Laborer (Recycler) prior to his termination. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. at 2, ECF No. 39.[1] AOC employees Ronald LeGrand and William Contee supervised Mr. Bing and eight or nine others working as recyclers alongside him. Id. Mr. Bing, his two supervisors, and his fellow Laborers (Recyclers) were all African-American. Id.

         During his time at the AOC, Mr. Bing was occasionally subject to disciplinary action. In November 2009, he was suspended for being absent without leave, and in January 2012, he was suspended for sleeping on the job and failing to perform his duties in a satisfactory manner. Id. at 3. In both instances, Mr. Bing was warned that future misconduct could result in the termination of his employment. Id.

         A further incident occurred on March 31, 2015, when Mr. Bing interrupted a safety briefing led by Mr. Contee and Mr. LeGrand. Id. at 3–4. Specifically, according to an Incident Report dated March 31 and signed by both supervisors on April 2, Mr. Bing “became very disruptive and made outbursts, ” repeatedly used profanity, and finally walked out of the meeting altogether. Id. at 4; see also Incident Report (Mar. 31, 2015), Def.’s Mot. Summ. Judg. Attach. (“Def.’s Attach.”) (Ex. 9) at 91, ECF No. 39-1.

         Around April 29, 2015, Mr. LeGrand sent a memorandum proposing Mr. Bing’s termination to Roy Thomas Jr., the Night Building Superintendent, and Robert Washington Jr., the Facility Supervisor, who subsequently proposed termination to Lawrence Barr, the AOC’s Deputy Superintendent. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. at 4. The basis for the recommendation was Mr. Bing’s “disruptive behavior.” Termination Proposal (Apr. 29, 2015), Def.’s Attach. (Ex. 10) at 94. Specifically, the memorandum stated that, on March 31, 2015, “Mr. Bing displayed disruptive behavior, used inappropriate and offensive language towards his supervision, and refused to follow the directives of a supervisor.” Id. at 96. For support, the memorandum included the March 31 Incident Report, as well as records of Mr. Bing’s disciplinary issues in 2009 and 2012. See Id . at 97–101.

         On June 1, 2015, an Assistant Superintendent, acting on behalf of Mr. Barr, accepted the memorandum’s recommendation and initiated the proposed termination. Id. The proposal was shared with Mr. Bing around July 8, 2015; as justification for the termination, it again cited his disruptive behavior and his failure to follow the directive of a supervisor on March 31, 2015. Id. It also referenced the prior 2012 disciplinary incident. Proposal to Remove (July 8, 2015), Def.’s Attach. (Ex. 12) at 110.

         On August 25, 2015, Mr. Bing met with Stephen Ayers, the Architect of the Capitol, to respond to the proposed removal. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. at 4. At the meeting, Mr. Bing disputed some of the details of the events on March 31, but admitted to becoming angry, saying inappropriate things, and walking out of the safety briefing. Id. at 4–5. Mr. Bing also provided a written statement from a colleague, David Mosier, which detailed workplace episodes in which Mr. LeGrand had allegedly been untruthful. Id. at 5. Mr. Mosier’s statement did not, however, include any mention of the March 31 safety briefing or Mr. Bing’s earlier infractions. Id.; see also Mosier Statement (Aug. 4, 2015), Def.’s Attach. (Ex. 15) at 120. The Superintendent of the Senate Office Buildings, after reviewing the proposed removal and Mr. Bing’s response, ultimately decided that removal was appropriate. Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. at 5. On September 4, Mr. Ayers subsequently issued the final decision to remove Mr. Bing, which became effective on September 18, 2015. Id. Mr. Bing invoked the AOC’s grievance procedures to challenge his removal, but his request was denied. Id.

         Mr. Bing does not challenge these facts, but highlights some additional ones. First, sometime after the March 31, 2015 incident, Mr. Bing initiated a meeting with Mr. Thomas and another AOC employee, Ms. Joyner, who were questioning Mr. Bing’s colleagues about what happened at the safety briefing. See Pl.’s Opp’n Def.’s Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.’s Opp’n”) at 4, ECF No. 42. The precise timing of this meeting is somewhat unclear; at his deposition, Mr. Bing could not “recall the exact date, ” but suggested it was “maybe a month or two after the March incident.” Bing Dep., Def.’s Attach. (Ex. 3) at 38. At that meeting, after Mr. Bing apologized and expressed remorse for his conduct at the safety briefing, Mr. Thomas told him that the matter could be handled “in house.” Pl.’s Opp’n at 6. Mr. Bing understood this to mean that no formal discipline would be forthcoming and that the matter was closed. Id.

         Second, again at some point after the March 31, 2015 incident, Mr. Bing spoke up at a staff meeting, expressing the view that he, as an African-American male, was not treated as favorably as other employees by the AOC’s management. Pl.’s Opp’n at 4–5. At his deposition, Mr. Bing was similarly unsure of exactly when this meeting occurred. At times, he suggested or agreed it took place “a few months” or “a couple of months” after March 31. Bing Dep., Def.’s Attach. (Ex. 3) at 43, 48–49, 52. At other points in the deposition, he stated or agreed that it was in “April or May.” Id. at 44, 46, 52. In his briefing here, Mr. Bing takes the position that the meeting took place before Mr. Bing was internally recommended for termination on April 29, 2015. See Pl.’s Opp’n at 5 (“After making this statement [about discrimination] to AOC management, Mr. Bing was internally recommended for termination on April 29, 2015 by Mr. LeGrande [sic] based upon the incidents of March 31, 2015 which had already previously been addressed by Mr. Thomas and Ms. Joyner.”).

         Finally, Mr. Bing points to two additional Incident Reports, dated July 8, 2015 and July 16, 2015, which, according to Mr. Bing, reflect incidents of misconduct that did not actually occur. See Pl.’s Opp’n at 6.

         B. ...


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