United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. BRINKEMA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
civil action, plaintiff Albert Quaye ("Quaye" or
"plaintiff) alleges that defendant Washington Gas Light
Company ("Washington Gas" or "defendant")
violated Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 when it
terminated him because of his race and national origin and in
retaliation for having previously filed EEOC charges against
defendant. Defendant has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment
[Dkt. No. 28], to which plaintiff has responded. For the
reasons stated in open court and in this Memorandum Opinion,
defendant's Motion will be granted.
an African American of Ghanaian origin, began working at
Washington Gas in 1991. Def. Mem. [Dkt. No. 28-1] Statement
of Undisputed Facts ("SUF") ¶ 1. When he was
terminated in 2013, Quaye was working as a Service
Technician, which meant that he was responsible for
investigating and repairing gas leaks from Washington
Gas's systems and performing various types of maintenance
and construction work on Washington Gas facilities and
instruments. Def. Mem. SUF ¶ 2; Def. Mem. Ex. 2.
2008, Quaye was assessed a Step 4 disciplinary violation,
suspended for ten days, and demoted from a Grade 7
("Senior Operations Technician") to a Grade 5
("Operations Mechanic") after he improperly
responded to a residential gas leak. Def. Mem. Ex.
Two months later, Quaye voluntary resigned and filed a charge
of discrimination with the EEOC. Def. Mem. SUF ¶¶
7-8. The parties participated in mediation and reached a
settlement, under which Quaye was reinstated as a Grade 6
("Service Technician") employee with a Step 3
discipline record. Id. ¶ 8; Def. Mem. Ex. 5.
February 2011, Quaye was again suspended for ten days under
Step 4 of the disciplinary ladder for failing to
appropriately investigate a residential gas leak. Def. Mem.
Ex. 6. According to the discipline form, Quaye was dispatched
to a house where a gas odor had been detected; although he
completed some repairs outside the home, he improperly failed
to go into the home to investigate the odor. Id.
July 2012, Quaye filed a second charge with the EEOC,
alleging (among other things) that the 2011 suspension was in
retaliation for his filing the 2008 EEOC charge. Def. Mem.
Ex. 7. The EEOC charge was transferred to the Fairfax County
Office of Human Rights and Equity Programs
("OHREP"), which ultimately found that there was
not sufficient evidence to support the charge. Def. Mem. Ex.
8. In January 2017, the EEOC adopted the findings of the
OHREP, closed the charge, and provided Quaye with his
right-to-sue letter. Def. Mem. Ex. 10. He did not file a
lawsuit involving this suspension.
October 2013, Quaye repaired a gas leak inside a Washington
Gas customer's home while he was off-duty. Def. Mem. Ex.
1 ("Quaye Dep.") 61:7-:21. The customer paid Quaye
$200, which Quaye says was reimbursement for parts he bought
for the repair. Id. at 69:21-70:15. Shortly after
Quaye repaired the leak, the customer again detected a gas
odor and called Washington Gas, which dispatched another
technician to investigate the odor. Def. Mem. Ex. 11 ¶
4. While the technician was at the customer's house, the
customer told him that Quaye had recently performed work at
the residence. Id. The technician reported this to
Washington Gas, which launched an investigation and suspended
Quaye pending the outcome of that investigation. Id.
¶¶ 4-5. During the course of Washington Gas's
investigation, Quaye admitted that he had performed the work.
Quaye Dep. 79:3-: 19.
November 20, 2013, following Washington Gas's
investigation, Quaye was terminated for violating a provision
of defendant's Code of Conduct, which prohibits all
employees from engaging in any "transaction affecting
Company business that conflicts or appears to conflict with
the best interests of the Company" and from "taking
opportunities for themselves personally that are discovered
through the use of corporate property, information or their
position." Def. Mem. Ex. 11.
December 2013, Quaye filed a third EEOC charge, in which he
alleged that Washington Gas had suspended and then terminated
him because of his race and national origin and also in
retaliation for his previous EEOC complaints. See Def. Mem.
Ex. 13. This charge was also transferred to the OHREP, which
issued a determination in September 2017 that there was not
sufficient evidence to support the charge. Def. Mem. Ex. 14.
In October 2017, the EEOC adopted these findings and sent
plaintiff his right-to-sue letter. See PL Response to Order
[Dkt. No. 39] Ex. 2.
March 24, 2017, before receiving his right-to-sue letter,
plaintiff filed the original Complaint in this civil action,
which he amended on June 5, 2017. In the Amended Complaint,
plaintiff asserts claims for "race discrimination,
national origin discrimination, and retaliation" in
violation of Title VII and § 1981. Am. Compl. [Dkt. No.
13] ¶¶ 13-15. He seeks reinstatement, back pay,
and $3 million in compensatory damages for pain and suffering
and punitive damages, as well as attorney's fees and
costs. Id. ¶¶ 16-21. In the instant Motion
for Summary Judgment, defendant argues that it should be
granted summary judgment on both the Title VII and the §
1981 claims because plaintiff has not introduced sufficient
evidence to allow a reasonable jury to infer that he was
suspended or terminated because of his race, national origin,
or previous charges filed with the EEOC.
Standard of Review
is entitled to summary judgment if the party can show
"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). A genuine dispute of material
fact exists "if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249
(1986). In general, bare allegations or assertions by the
nonmoving party are not sufficient to generate a genuine
dispute; instead, the nonmoving party must produce
"significantly probative" evidence to avoid summary
judgment. Abcor Corp. v. AM IntT. Inc., 916 F.2d
924, 929-30 (4th Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson. 477
U.S. at 242). That being said, in ruling on a motion for
summary judgment, a court should accept the evidence of the
nonmovant, and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in
her favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
Section 1981 and Title VII ...