United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
M. HILTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MATTER comes before the Court on Defendants' Motion for
Larry McDougald, an African-American, was jointly employed by
Defendants Quad/Graphics, Inc., Quad/Graphics Marketing, LLC,
and QG Printing II, LLC (collectively
"Quad/Graphics") from January 2013 until his
termination on March 3, 2015. Plaintiff worked as an Imaging
Pre-Press Technician at a printing plant located in Manassas,
Virginia, originally owned and operated by Vertis
Communications, Inc. ("Vertis"), and later acquired
in January 2013 by Quad/Graphics, a printing services
job duties entailed producing digital page files and creating
physical "plates" which would then be used to print
images to client specifications.
working at the Manassas plant, Plaintiff had previously been
employed by Vertis at a facility in Atlanta, Georgia.
Plaintiff began working there in March 2008 and was
ultimately laid off approximately one year later. After he
was laid off from his position at the Georgia facility,
Plaintiff received an e-mail from Mark Senavitis, who was
employed by Vertis as the supervisor of the Pre-Press
department at the Manassas Facility, inviting him to
interview for a position at that facility. Plaintiff stated
in his deposition that Mr. Senavitis was the individual who
ultimately hired Plaintiff for the position in Virginia, and
that they had a generally good working relationship before
the Manassas facility was acquired by Quad/Graphics.
Throughout the time Plaintiff was employed at the Manassas
facility, he was directly supervised by Mr. Senavitis.
alleges that he received disparate treatment due to his race.
Specifically, he alleges that his performance was more
closely scrutinized than his Caucasian coworkers and that he
was unfairly singled out for criticism and discipline.
Plaintiff's employment was ultimately terminated on March
3, 2015, which he alleges was in retaliation for his
expressed belief that he was being discriminated against on
the basis of his race.
record reflects that Plaintiff had a documented history of
performance issues and discipline leading up to his
termination. In the year preceding his termination, Plaintiff
had been disciplined seven times. This included verbal
warnings, written warnings, performance reviews, temporary
disciplinary layoffs, and eventually a Last Chance Agreement
signed by Plaintiff in November 2014. Plaintiff was placed on
the Last Chance Agreement pursuant to Quad/Graphics'
progressive discipline policy, after Plaintiff committed a
production error that resulted in the erroneous production of
380, 000 books and required the recreation of 26 plates. The
Last Chance Agreement explained that Plaintiff "could be
terminated [on the date of the Agreement] for performance
issues ..." but "[t]he Company has, however, agreed
to give [Plaintiff] one last chance to successfully perform
[his] job duties." It further stated that if Plaintiff
continued to display substandard performance within 120 days
of entering the Last Chance Agreement, he would be terminated
the time Plaintiff was subject to the Last Chance Agreement,
on February 24, 2015, an error was committed while Plaintiff
was on shift during the processing of a printing job for the
client Kroger (the "Kroger Error"). This error
required the recreation of 9 plates. As a result of this
error, a meeting was scheduled for March 2, 2015, between
Plaintiff, Mr. Senavitis, and a Ms. Linda Snider, the Human
Resources Regional Manager. The intent of the meeting was to
discuss the Kroger Error and to gather information for an
investigation of the error. At the meeting, Plaintiff alleged
that the Kroger Error had actually been caused by a coworker,
Mr. Rothwell, who had worked the previous shift on the same
job. Plaintiff alleged that, on his shift, he had merely
continued processing the job which Mr. Rothwell had begun on
the earlier shift.
to Plaintiff, he also stated at the March 2 meeting that he
believed he was being treated unequally and discriminatorily
in the disciplinary and investigatory process, due to the
fact that the responsibility for the Kroger Error lay with
one or mere of Plaintiff's Caucasian coworkers and yet
none of them were called to account for it as he was.
Plaintiff alleges that it was after he made this statement
that Ms. Snider abruptly told Plaintiff he would be placed on
suspension. Defendants do not contest the fact that Plaintiff
was placed on suspension following the March 2 meeting, but
they allege that the suspension was enacted pending review of
Plaintiff's allegations regarding the Kroger Error.
to Defendants, after the March 2 meeting, Ms. Snider
conducted an investigation of the Kroger Error and determined
that Plaintiff was at fault, not Mr. Rothwell. At that point,
Ms. Snider moved forward with the finalization of
Plaintiff's termination pursuant to the Last Chance
Agreement already in effect. Plaintiff's termination was
effective March 3, 2015.
originally filed this action on December 14, 2016, and filed
an Amended Complaint on June 8, 2017. In his Amended
Complaint, Plaintiff asserted five counts: disparate
treatment under Title VII, retaliation and retaliatory
discharge under Title VII, disparate treatment and discharge
under ADEA, disparate treatment pursuant to § 1981 of
the Civil Rights Act of 1866, and retaliation pursuant to
§ 1981. Plaintiff later voluntarily dismissed the ADEA
claim (Count III}, leaving only the discrimination and
retaliation claims brought under Title VII and § 1981.
Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on
November 1, 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). The
Court finds there is no genuine dispute of material fact and
this case is ripe for summary judgment.
plaintiff does not have direct evidence to prove
discrimination under Title VII, the Supreme Court has
provided a burden-shifting framework to prove discrimination.
McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792,
802-05 (1973). The Fourth Circuit has held that this
framework applies to § 1981 actions as well. Hawkins
v. PepsiCo, Inc., 203 F.3d 274, 278 (4th Cir. 2000).
Under that framework, the claimant bears the initial burden
of establishing a prima facie case of racial discrimination.
McDonnell, 411 U.S. at 802. If the plaintiff
establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the
defendant to demonstrate a legitimate, non-discriminatory
reason for the adverse employment action. Id. The
burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to prove that the
defendant's stated reason is pretextual. Id. at
present a prima facie case of racial discrimination under
Title VII, a plaintiff must prove: (1) membership in a
protected class; (2) satisfactory job performance; (3)
adverse employment action; and (4) similarly situated
employees outside the protected class received more favorable
treatment. Coleman v. Maryland Court of Appeals, 626
F.3d 187, 190 (4th Cir. 2010). The elements for a claim of
discrimination under § 1981 are the same as the elements
for a claim of discrimination under Title VII. Gairola v.
Com, of Va. Dep't of Gen. Servs., 753 F.2d 1281,
1285 (4th Cir. 1985). A plaintiff's self-serving