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Kilgore v. Commonwealth, Department of Transportation

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Big Stone Gap Division

March 31, 2014

HARMON KILGORE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.

This case is presently before the court on the defendant's motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the defendant's motion.

Factual Background

The following facts are presented in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (noting that on a motion for summary judgment, "the evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor"); see also Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc. , 530 U.S. 133, 151 (2000) ("[T]he court should give credence to the evidence favoring the non-movant as well as that evidence supporting the moving party that is uncontradicted and unimpeached, at least to the extent that that evidence comes from disinterested witnesses.'").

Harmon Kilgore, a Caucasian man, began working for the defendant, Virginia Department of Transportation ("VDOT"), on February 16, 1990. He is currently employed by VDOT as a Maintenance Operations Manager. As part of his job duties between April 2010 and July 2010, Kilgore supervised B.J. Wolfe, an African-American man, who was working for VDOT as a manager. At that time, Jackie Christian supervised the plaintiff.

The events giving rise to the instant action took place between July and November of 2010. During a morning safety meeting on July 15, 2010, Wolfe cursed at another employee in the presence of his crew and several others. According to the plaintiff, Wolfe had a history of disruptive behavior in the workplace. In response to this outburst, Christian issued Wolfe a "Needs Improvement Notice." Shortly thereafter, Wolfe filed an internal complaint with the department, claiming that he had been "subjected to a hostile work environment and unfair treatment based on his race"; that he did not have any support from management, namely Kilgore and Christian; and that Kilgore and Christian made him feel demeaned. The complaint was accepted for investigation in August 2010. The investigators found insufficient evidence of racial discrimination. However, they also concluded that Wolfe's allegations of demeaning and unsupportive treatment by Christian and Kilgore were well founded. In response to these findings, the investigators recommended that Human Resources conduct a compensation analysis for Wolfe.

The compensation analysis revealed that Wolfe was the lowest paid employee in his band despite his above average length of service, and that he earned less than some of the VDOT employees under his supervision. To correct this disparity, VDOT awarded Wolfe an in-band adjustment equal to a 28.82% salary increase. In accordance with Department of Human Resource Management ("DHRM") Policy 3.05, which requires approval for any in-band adjustment above 10%, DHRM reviewed Wolfe's qualifications and approved the exceptional salary increase. Goldstein Decl. ΒΆ 4, Docket No. 33-4.

Kilgore, by contrast, did not receive a salary increase in November 2010. Instead, VDOT issued Kilgore a written notice as discipline for his mistreatment of Wolfe. After considering the plaintiffs good employment history, VDOT required Kilgore to complete additional training instead of suspending him from work, "as would normally accompany discipline of this magnitude." Written Notice, Docket No. 33-1 at 19.

Procedural History

Kilgore filed the instant action on July 18, 2012, asserting claims of pay discrimination and discriminatory discipline. The defendant subsequently moved to dismiss the complaint, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(4), 12(b)(5), and 12(b)(6). On February 27, 2013, the court dismissed the plaintiffs discriminatory discipline claim. The court denied the defendant's motion with respect to the plaintiffs claim of pay discrimination.

Following the completion of discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment on the pay discrimination claim. The court held a hearing on the motion on February 24, 2014. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for review.

Standard of Review

An award of summary judgment is appropriate "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). In determining whether to grant a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the record in the light most favorable to the non-movant. Anderson , 477 U.S. at 255. To withstand a summary judgment motion, the non-movant must produce sufficient evidence from which a reasonable jury could return a verdict in his favor. Id. at 249-50. "Conclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a mere scintilla of evidence' in support of [the ...


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