United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
November 2014, Deloitte Consulting LLP ("Deloitte")
hired Ranjith Keerikattil ("Plaintiff") as an
at-will employee with a title of Senior Consultant. Plaintiff
never worked for Deloitte LLP or Deloitte Services LP. At the
time he was hired, Plaintiff had completed a bachelor's
degree in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland
in 2010 and a master's degree from Towson University in
2012. He was specialized in particular technology and
exercised managerial responsibilities.
February 2015, Deloitte Consulting LLP hired Stacy Sawin
("Sawin") as a Business Technology Analyst, which
is the lowest level professional rank at Deloitte. Sawin had
just recently graduated with her bachelor's degree. In
April 2015, Plaintiff and Sawin began working together on a
response to a business proposal reguest from a potential
client. While working on this project, Plaintiff and Sawin
spent a considerable amount of time working together,
including evenings and weekends.
Plaintiff spent more time with Sawin, he began sending her
personal texts that were completely unrelated to their work.
In one of those texts, Plaintiff told Sawin that she was
"cute slim and sexy." In another text, Plaintiff
asked Sawin what she was wearing. Sawin responded to
Plaintiffs personal texts by writing, "Ranjith I really
need for you to back off, " and asking Plaintiff to not
contact her for anything other than work-related matters.
Yet, Plaintiff continued to send personal texts such as,
"Hey! How's your weekend going? Doing anything fun?
Are you free tomorrow night?
In response, Sawin wrote to Plaintiff, "I would like to
keep our relationship strictly professional." Shortly
after this exchange, Plaintiff sent Sawin a "Cease and
Desist Letter, " which was written in a formal tone and
told Sawin to "refrain from contacting me [Plaintiff]
except for legitimate business needs of Deloitte LLP, "
Surprised by this response, Sawin shared her concerns with a
senior colleague, who reported the incident to Deloitte's
Human Resources ("HR") department.
began a formal investigation of the matter. In the course of
this investigation, HR learned that Plaintiff had previously
between accused of stalking while he was a student at the
University of Maryland. HR reviewed the texts, emails, and
instant messages exchanged between Plaintiff and Sawin. HR
also interviewed Plaintiff and Sawin. While being interviewed
by HR, Plaintiff represented that he had never told Sawin
that she was "slim and sexy." He also represented
that Sawin had never asked him to keep their relationship
strictly professional. These statements were both untrue. As
a result, Deloitte fired Plaintiff for lying during an
investigation because lying during an investigation is a
violation of company policy.
investigated a claim from Plaintiff that Sawin had violated
company policy by (1) having romantic relationships with
colleagues; (2) inviting colleagues to her home; (3)
using her Deloitte-issued mobile phone to exchange sexually
explicit text messages with others; and (4) using her
Deloitte issued-mobile phone for "dating and/or
pornography." In his deposition, Plaintiff admitted that
he was unaware of any facts to support these claims. HR
investigated the matter anyways and exonerated Sawin after an
29, 2016, Plaintiff filed in this Court his first Complaint,
which he amended on December 5, 2016. Of the eight-counts in
the Complaint, this Court granted Defendants' motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim on all counts except one
count for sex discrimination under Title VII. In his
Complaint, Plaintiff stated that Deloitte discriminated
against him on the basis of his sex in violation of Title VII
because he was fired and Sawin was not. Upon the completion
of discovery, Defendants' moved for summary judgment on
April 19, 2017.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, a court should grant
summary judgment if the pleadings and evidence show that
there is no genuine dispute 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 Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In reviewing a motion for summary
judgment, the court views the facts in the light most
favorable to the non-moving party. See Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Once a
motion for summary judgment is properly made, the opposing
party has the burden to show that a genuine dispute of
material fact exists. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v.
Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).
plaintiff can prove discrimination through direct evidence,
direct evidence is often unavailable. In the absence of
direct evidence of discrimination, a plaintiff must rely on
the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework. Burns v.
AAF-McQuay, Inc., 96 F.3d 728, 731 (4th Cir. 1996).
There are three phases in the McDonnell Douglas framework:
(1) the plaintiff must establish a prima facie case; (2) if
plaintiff presents a prima facie case, then the Defendant has
the burden to show a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason
for the adverse employment action; and (3) then the burden
shifts to the plaintiff to prove that the reason given by the
Defendant is pretextual. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v.
Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802-04 (1973).
are three elements a plaintiff must prove to present a prima
facie case of sex discrimination in violation of Title VII:
(1) plaintiff is a member of a Title VII protected class; (2)
plaintiffs misconduct was similar in nature to the misconduct
of a similarly situated employee; and (3) plaintiff received
harsher discipline than the similarly situated employee.
Cook v. CSX Transp. Corp., 988 F.2d 507, 511 (4th
Cir. 1993); see also Moore v. City of Charlotte, HC,
754 F.2d 1100, 1106 (4th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff did not and cannot present a prima facie case of
sex discrimination. While it is undisputed that Plaintiff is
a member of a protected class, he cannot show that he is
similarly situated to another employee or that he received
harsher discipline than a similarly situated employee.
Plaintiff has not made a meaningful comparison between
himself and a similarly situated colleague. For it to be
meaningful, the comparison must clearly show the similarity
in misconduct but dissimilarity in consequences between
plaintiff and the comparator-employee. See Bryant v. Bell
Atl. Maryland, Inc., 288 F.3d 124, 134 (4th Cir. 2002).
argues that Sawin is a similarly situated employee who
received no discipline for similar misconduct. This theory
falls apart for two main reasons. First, Plaintiff and Sawin
are not similarly situated. Plaintiff was a senior level
consultant with several years of experience and a graduate
level education. In contrast, Sawin is a business technology
analyst. She has almost no work experience and she does not
have a graduate level education. Plaintiff and Sawin have
different work experience, different educational levels,
different job titles, and different work responsibilities.
Second, Plaintiff and Sawin did not engage in similar
misconduct. Simply put, Plaintiff violated Deloitte's
policies; Sawin did not. Plaintiff lied to HR in an
investigation; Sawin did not. Even the alleged misconduct
committed by Sawin ...