United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
Ellis, III United States District Judge
Sam Sadeghi, an Iranian-born naturalized American citizen who
is Muslim, filed this Title VII action against defendant
Inova Health System, alleging that defendant unlawfully
discharged him because of his race, religion, and national
origin, and also unlawfully retaliated against him for filing
discrimination complaints with defendant's Human
Resources department. Following full discovery, defendant
filed a motion for summary judgment. As this motion has been
fully briefed and argued orally, it is now ripe for
to the summary judgment analysis is whether the record
reflects that the material facts are undisputed or genuinely
disputed. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S.
317, 322 (1986). Thus, the first step in a summary judgment
analysis is to ascertain whether the asserted material facts
are undisputed. As such, Local Rule 56(B) and the Rule 16(B)
Scheduling Order provide a framework to assist in this
to Local Rule 56(B), the movant's brief must
"include a specifically captioned section listing all
material facts as to which the moving party contends there is
no genuine issue and citing the parts of the record relied on
to support the listed facts as alleged to be undisputed,
" and the non-movant's response brief must
"include a specifically captioned section listing all
material facts as to which it is contended that there exists
a genuine issue necessary to be litigated and citing the
parts of the record relied on to support the facts alleged to
be in dispute." E.D. Va. Local Civil Rule 56(B). The
Scheduling Order provides that a motion for summary judgment
must contain a separately captioned section listing in
numbered-paragraph form all material facts as to which the
movant contends no genuine dispute exists, and that the
non-movant's opposition brief must include "a
separately captioned section within the brief addressing, in
numbered-paragraph form corresponding to the movant's
section, each of the movant's enumerated facts and
indicating whether the non-movant admits or disputes the fact
with appropriate citations to the record." Sadeghi
v. Inova Health Sys., No. 1-16-cv-219 (E.D. Va. Aug. 2,
2016). The Scheduling Order further states that the
"Court may assume that any fact identified by the movant
as undisputed in the movant's brief that is not
specifically controverted in the non-movant's brief in
the manner set forth above is admitted for the purpose of
deciding the motion for summary judgment." Id.
complied with Local Rule 56(B) and the Scheduling Order;
plaintiff did not. Plaintiff instead provided his own
alternative statement of undisputed material facts that does
not correspond to the numbered paragraphs in defendant's
statement of undisputed material facts. Plaintiff also
provided a short statement of disputed material facts which
also does not correspond to defendant's numbered
paragraphs. Plaintiffs alternative statement "of
[plaintiffs] own interpretation of the facts" does not
comply with either Local Rule 56(B) or the Scheduling Order,
thereby making "it difficult to determine exactly which
material facts are disputed." Integrated Direct
Marketing, LLC v. May, 129 F.Supp.3d 336, 345 (E.D. Va.
result, the statement of undisputed material facts listed
here is derived from defendant's statement of undisputed
material facts, many of which plaintiff does not specifically
dispute. As for plaintiffs alternative statement of facts,
that statement has been scoured for facts that might
reasonably be viewed as in conflict with the facts stated
here. Where such disputes appear, plaintiffs facts are either
immaterial or not supported by admissible record evidence, as
required by Rule 56(c)(2), Fed.R.Civ.P. For example,
plaintiff supports multiple factual assertions with citations
only to his unverified complaint, which is insufficient at
the summary judgment stage to create a genuine dispute of
material fact. See Higgins v. Scherr, 837 F.2d 155,
156-57 (4th Cir. 1988) ("[T]he opponent of a summary
judgment motion has a burden of showing, by proper affidavits
or other evidence, the existence of a genuine dispute of
material [fact] and cannot simply rest upon his unverified
Plaintiff is an Iranian-born, naturalized American citizen
and a Muslim.
Defendant Inova Health System is a nonprofit healthcare
system based in Northern Virginia. Defendant employs over 16,
In April 2001, Houshang Falahatpour, who, like plaintiff, is
an Iranian-born American citizen and a Muslim, was the
Laboratory Manager for defendant's emergency rooms in
Springfield, Reston, and Fairfax, Virginia.
Falahatpour hired plaintiff Sam Sadeghi, also an
Iranian-American Muslim, in 2001 as a part-time Medical
Technologist at defendant's Reston Emergency Care Center.
In 2003, Falahatpour moved plaintiff to a full-time Medical
Technologist position, a position for which he was
From 2002 to 2006, Falahatpour was plaintiffs direct
supervisor and conducted plaintiffs annual performance
Defendant's employee performance evaluations have two
components. First, the supervisor rates the employee's
job performance based on the requirements in each
employee's job profile. Plaintiff received scores in
seven different categories, such as reporting accurate data
and providing quality specimens for lab testing. Second, the
supervisor rates the employee with respect to defendant's
Standards of Behavior, which are part of every employee's
job description. The Standards of Behavior include traits
such as professionalism, positive attitude, ethics, and
courteousness. Supervisors rank employees on a 1 through 5
scale in each category. A score of 1-1.99 is
"unsatisfactory, " a score of 2-2.99 is
"provisional" or "new employee, " a score
of 3-3.99 is "competent, " a score of 4-4.49 is
"commendable, " and a score of 4.5-5 is
"distinguished." Def. Ex. E. The job performance
scores are then weighted as 60% of the total score, and the
behavioral score is weighted as 40% of the total score.
Defendant uses the evaluations to assess strengths,
weaknesses, and areas for improvement; the evaluations are
not used to determine salaries or raises.
Defendant received a total score of 3.5 on his first
performance evaluation in August 2002. PL Ex. F. The record
does not disclose his behavioral score on this evaluation.
Plaintiff received a total score of 4.219 on his April 2003
performance evaluation. Def. Ex. E. Plaintiffs scores on his
job performance categories ranged from 3.5 to 4.7, and his
behavioral score was a 4.5. Id.
Plaintiff received a total score of 3.514 on his April 2004
performance evaluation. Def. Ex. F. Plaintiffs scores on his
job performance categories ranged from 3.0 to 4.2, while his
behavioral score decreased to 3.2. Id.
In January 2005, Falahatpour issued plaintiff a written
warning regarding plaintiffs behavior. Falahatpour's
warning informed plaintiff that the "primary concerns
have been the poor working relationship you have exhibited
with clients and the improper response to performance issue
notices from the staff and myself." Def. Ex. G.
Falahatpour's warning to plaintiff included six examples
of plaintiff s inappropriate behavior: (i) sending a client
an inappropriate note, (ii) an unacceptable response to an
inquiry from a hospital regarding the labeling of stool
specimens, (iii) failing to respond to criticism, or
responding in an unacceptable fashion, (iv) complaining about
a heavy work load, even though plaintiff spent a lot of time
on the phone for personal phone calls, (v) taking discussions
too personally, being argumentative and disrespectful, and
having a negative attitude, and (vi) becoming angry,
argumentative, and disrespectful in a counseling session.
Plaintiff received a total score of 3.08 on his May 2005
evaluation. Def. Ex. H. Plaintiffs scores on his job
performance categories ranged from 3.0 to 3.8, while his
behavioral score again decreased, this time to 2.7.
Id. The evaluation cited several examples of
plaintiff s poor behavior, including being disrespectful,
argumentative, and sending an inappropriate note to a client.
Id. The evaluation stated that plaintiff needed to
improve his professional conduct by (i) exhibiting greater
courtesy and respect, (ii) exercising "emotional control
and communicating in a calm manner, " (iii) having a
"positive and constructive relationship with the
management team, " and (iv) engaging in
"[e]ffective conflict resolution." Id.
Plaintiff received a total score of 3.389 on his May 2006
evaluation. Def. Ex. I. His scores on his job performance
categories ranged from 3.4 to 4.2, and his behavioral score
increased slightly to 3.0. Id. The evaluation noted
that Falahatpour had seen "significant improvement"
in plaintiffs behavior. Id.
Falahatpour testified that, overall, plaintiffs job
performance through 2006 was acceptable, but his behavior was
not. Def. Ex. C at 30-31. Falahatpour had to speak with
plaintiff many times about plaintiffs behavior with
In 2006, defendant promoted Falahatpour to Administrative
Director for Emergency Rooms. In turn, Falahatpour promoted
his laboratory coordinator, Ann Osborn, to Laboratory
Supervisor. Falahatpour retained the authority to discharge
employees; Osborn did not have that authority.
Because Osborn was promoted to Laboratory Supervisor, she was
now responsible for supervising plaintiff. Osborn had never
managed employees before her promotion to Laboratory
Supervisor. Plaintiff testified that Osborn was direct and
had a loud voice.
In December 2006, Osborn and another employee, Karen Hara,
had a conversation in which Hara told Osborn that Hara had
concerns with the violence and unrest in Iran. In this
conversation, Hara did not make any comments about Muslims or
plaintiff. Osborn nevertheless advised Hara to refrain from
commenting on Iran because Osborn did not feel such comments
were appropriate. Osborn ended the conversation with Hara and
did not hear Hara make any similar comments in the future. As
a result, Osborn felt that she had adequately addressed the
problem and did not discipline Hara.
On December 11, 2006, Osborn met with plaintiff to counsel
him verbally in relation to his violations of defendant's
Standards of Behavior.
Osborn prepared an agenda for this meeting that included
several examples of plaintiff s unprofessional behavior in
late 2006, such as raising his voice to colleagues, being
rude and argumentative, and making a "sexist"
comment about a "girls club" in an argument with a
supervisor. Def. Ex. K.
The meeting lasted about two-and-a-half hours. Plaintiff was
not receptive to the issues listed in the agenda, and Osborn
described his attitude as "defensive." Def. Ex. J.
Falahatpour testified that plaintiff "had a problem with
authority, " was not "coachable, " and that
these problems continued after Osborn became plaintiffs
supervisor. Def. Ex. Cat 45.
On January 17, 2007, plaintiff filed a complaint with
defendant's Human Resources department, alleging
discrimination on the basis of race, religion, and national
origin. Plaintiff alleged that Osborn had made "serious
accusations" against him, referring to the December 2006
meeting. Def. Ex. L. Plaintiff further alleged that another
employee had made "outrageous assertions" against
plaintiff by telling Falahatpour that patients were not being
taken care of during plaintiffs shift. Id.
In his January 2007 complaint, plaintiff listed two instances
in which employees had made allegedly racist remarks: (i) the
December 2006 conversation between Hara and Osborn,
(ii) another conversation in December 2006 between Hara and
an employee named Robert Benedotto in which Hara made
"some unflattering racist remarks" about plaintiff,
which Benedotto reported to plaintiff. Def. Ex. L.
Plaintiff did not make any accusations of discrimination
against Falahatpour, who was copied on the complaint.
Plaintiff concluded his January 2007 complaint by stating
that "[i]t seems to be very popular these days for other
employees to jump to conclusions. They see all the negative
news about the Middle East and want to make us
Human Resources Director Katy Reeves met with plaintiff about
his complaint and told him that she would personally
investigate it. Human Resources contacted Osborn about her
conversation with Hara. Human Resources ultimately determined
that plaintiffs complaint did not have any validity.
On March 2, 2007, plaintiff filed another complaint with
Human Resources, alleging that Osborn was retaliating against
him for reporting discrimination in his January
Plaintiff stated in his March 2007 complaint that he had
"been getting a large number of unnecessary write-ups
from Ms. Osborn, " which began at the time he submitted
his January complaint. Def. Ex. N. As an example of a
write-up, plaintiff referenced a letter he received from
Osborn on February 9, 2007 instructing plaintiff to enter his
extra time into defendant's time system.
Although plaintiff characterized Osborn's letter as a
"write-up, " Osborn was acknowledging that
plaintiff had worked overtime and asked him to fill out the
appropriate documentation in accordance with company policy.
Def. Ex. O. Osborn did not object to plaintiffs overtime
work, telling him that "[t]he extra time you worked is
legitimate since you needed to stay because your replacement
was late." Id. Plaintiff nevertheless believed
that Osborn sent him the letter in order to document his
On March 5, 2007, Falahatpour and Osborn met with plaintiff
and issued plaintiff a performance improvement plan
("PIP"), dated February 27, 2007, which detailed
plaintiffs behavioral deficiencies and set forth steps for
Osborn prepared the PIP before plaintiff filed his March 2007
complaint, and she was unaware that he had filed his March
2007 complaint with Human Resources when Osborn and
Falahatpour met with plaintiff on March 5, 2007 to discuss
the PIP. Falahatpour also reviewed the PIP and removed some
of the documentation Osborn attached.
Plaintiff received the PIP because he violated
defendant's Standards of Behavior. Def. Ex. Q at 1. In
particular, plaintiff violated the following Standards of
Behavior: (i) "Commitment to Colleagues, " which
plaintiff violated by being rude and disrespectful toward
co-workers, making sexist comments, and becoming angry and
losing his temper; (ii) "Professionalism, " which
plaintiff violated by writing unprofessional letters to
supervisors when requesting vacation time; and (iii)