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Lee v. Computer Sciences Corporation

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

February 24, 2015

EARL LEE, Plaintiff,


JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Computer Sciences Corporation's Motion for Summary Judgment. [Dkt. 35.] For the following reasons, the Court will grant the motion and enter judgment in Defendant's favor.

I. Background

On May 20, 2014, Plaintiff Earl Lee ("Plaintiff") filed suit against his former employer, Defendant Computer Sciences Corporation ("Defendant" or "CSC"), alleging three causes of action: (1) retaliation for engaging in protected conduct under the False Claims Act in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h); (2) wrongful termination on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a); and (3) retaliation for engaging in protected conduct under Title VII, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-3. (Compl. [Dkt. 1] at 9-13.) Defendant moves for summary judgment on all three counts. (Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 35]; Def.'s Mem. in Supp. Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 36].)

II. Legal Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate only if the record shows that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); see also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986); Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv., Co., 80 F.3d 954, 958-59 (4th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). In reviewing the record on summary judgment, "the court must draw any inferences in the light most favorable to the non-movant [and] determine whether the record taken as a whole could lead a reasonable trier of fact to find for the non-movant." Brock v. Entre Computer Ctrs., 933 F.2d 1253, 1259 (4th Cir. 1991) (citations omitted).

Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986); see also Ray Commc'ns, Inc. v. Clear Channel Commc'ns, Inc., 673 F.3d 294, 299 (4th Cir. 2012) (stating the opposing party must "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.") (citations and internal quotations omitted). Specifically, in this Court on summary judgment, the parties are required to list the undisputed material facts in their briefs. E.D. Va. Local Civil Rule 56(B). "In determining a motion for summary judgment, the Court may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its listing of material facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the motion." Id . Indeed, "[i]f a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2).

III. Undisputed Material Facts

Even though Plaintiff's opposition brief was untimely, the Court will consider the substance of the brief in opposition to Defendant's motion for summary judgment.[1] In consideration of Plaintiff's opposition, the Court still finds that Plaintiff has failed to identify a genuine issue of material fact that must be decided by the jury. The Court's findings of undisputed material facts are summarized as follows:

Defendant contracts with the Department of Defense to provide "next-generation information technology services" in Iraq and Afghanistan. Relevant here, Defendant provided these services, including the maintenance, repair, and logistical accountability as the prime contractor for the Gyrocam Vehicle Optics Sensor System ("VOSS project") at the Forward Operating Base ("FOB") Sharana, in the Paktika Province of Afghanistan. Lockheed Martin served as the subcontractor on the VOSS project.

After previously serving as a logistician for Defendant in Iraq, on May 23, 2012, Plaintiff, an African-American male, accepted the position of Logistics Senior Associate with Defendant under the VOSS project at FOB Sharana in Afghanistan. Prior to arriving in Afghanistan, Plaintiff reviewed Defendant's Employee Handbook and Human Resources policies online.

As a VOSS logistician, Plaintiff was responsible for property accountability for the Gyrocams on the vehicles. Plaintiff reported to Luis Mercado ("Mercado"), the Regional Support Center Manager. Neville Reid ("Reid") was the VOSS Operations Manager who operated out of Kandahar, Afghanistan. The VOSS department at Sharana was staffed with logisticians and forward support representatives ("FSRs"). Several FSRs worked for Defendant's subcontractor, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the VOSS Gyrocam.

Around January 10, 2013, in anticipation of his future transfer, Mercado appointed new program leaders at FOB Sharana. Plaintiff was appointed as the lead of the VOSS project shop. As of this date, four African-American Lockheed Martin subcontractors - Daniel Turner, Adam Powell, Sherwin Wade, and McKenzie St. Lot - worked in FOB Sharana's VOSS department ("the Lockheed Martin employees"). The Lockheed Martin employees did not have the power to give assignments, discipline, or terminate Plaintiff, or otherwise change the terms and conditions of his employment.

Plaintiff started to experience trouble with the Lockheed Martin employees. Specifically, Plaintiff complained to Mercado and Reid[2] that the Lockheed Martin employees (1) refused to sign property in and out and would not deliver property as instructed, (2) refused to clean up the work shop, and (3) "cannibalized" or reused repaired parts from damaged field cameras. Reporting these issues were part of Plaintiff's job, he was not the first person to identify these problems, he did not report or threaten to report these problems to Army personnel, and he never filed a qui tam suit on behalf of the government as to these claims. Plaintiff also told Mercado that he overheard the Lockheed Martin employees referring to him as a "snitch" and other racially derogatory terms. Mercado called all of the VOSS shop employees together for a meeting, where Mercado instructed employees to refrain from such behavior. Immediately preceding this meeting, derogatory terms were written on a white board, but it is unclear who wrote the derogatory terms or at whom the terms were directed.

On February 3, 2013, Lockheed Martin's senior program manager, Nate Power, notified Defendant that the Lockheed Martin employees submitted a formal complaint against Plaintiff. The subcontractors made the following formal allegations against Plaintiff:

(1) he discriminated by race, replacing white employees and repeatedly telling the Lockheed Martin employees that his goal was to make the site an "all black, black ran" site and "we have to get rid of whitey;"
(2) he manipulated employees against each other and made false statements about employees regarding their performance behind their backs creating a hostile environment;
(3) he used the corporation or his connection with Mercado as an excuse for his violations of policy, and often used the phrase "the powers that be" as who allowed him to take time off for church;
(4) he misused the company vehicles for personal use and failed to consider the needs of the other employees for transportation; and
(5) he failed to hold regular meetings and refused to communicate with the employees even extending to locking his door and sleeping in his office.

(Def.'s Mem. at 5.) Defendant considered this to be "high profile" because it was a formal complaint that alleged Plaintiff was creating a hostile work environment and ...

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