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Brown v. Akima, LLC

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

April 4, 2019

KENYA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
AKIMA, LLC, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CLAUDE M. HILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgement.

         This case arises from Plaintiff Kenya Brown's employment with Akima, LLC. Plaintiff is African American and began working for Akima as an independent contractor in November 2014. Akima offered Plaintiff full-time employment as an IT Solutions Analyst on or about May 18, 2015. Plaintiff was an at-will employee at Akima.

         Initially Plaintiff worked for Akima's Finance Department, with Scott Bohinc as her supervisor. Plaintiff was then transferred to a Akima's IT department and Navid Falconer became her supervisor. Plaintiff frequently sent emails to Falconer but did not receive a response in a timely manner. Falconer would eventually respond to her emails. Plaintiff received performance reviews in which her supervisors gave her positive reviews. She did not receive a pay increase. There were other Akima employees who received pay raises. There is no evidence showing that anyone who reported to her supervisor, Falconer, or held the same role as her as an IT Solutions Analyst received a pay raise.

         In May 2017, Plaintiff requested that she be permitted to attend the annual Deltek Users Conference, which she was previously permitted to attend when she worked for the Finance Department. On September 30r 2017, Akima informed her that she would not be allowed to attend the conference. Ms. Quam, who had the same supervisor and Plaintiff occasionally assisted in her work, was permitted to attend the conference. Ms. Quam held a higher-level manager position than Plaintiff. Plaintiff names three other Akima employees who were permitted to attend the conference as well, all who were level director or manager employees performing different positions than Plaintiff. One of the employees permitted to attend the conference was African American.

         Plaintiff complained to her former supervisor, Bohinc, about not being able to attend the conference. She felt she was being treated differently than other employees by not being able to attend. Plaintiff did not use the word "race" when she was informally complaining to Bohinc. She did not indicate any concern that it was because of her race.

         At some point during her employment with Akima, some of Plaintiff's colleagues made unfavorable comments to her. The comments were: ``I know how to do my job."; "You're not going to tell me how to do my job."; "There's not a problem. I don't know why you're here." Plaintiff reported the comments to management. Plaintiff does not know why the comments were made. Two of the individuals who made the comments are also African American.

         In the summer of 2017, Defendant looked for ways to consolidate positions or fill work needs in a more cost-effective way. After analyzing Plaintiff's duties, Falconer discovered that Plaintiff's job did not have enough work to warrant a full-time position. In July 2017, Falconer spoke with Akima's Human Resources Department about making Plaintiff's position part-time.

         Plaintiff was notified on October 6, 2017 that her position was no longer needed as a full-time role. Plaintiff was offered a part-time, on-call position. Plaintiff was told by her supervisor, Falconer, that if she took the on-call position, Akima would send her to the User Conference. Plaintiff did not take the on-call position because it was not full-time and did not offer any benefits.

         Plaintiff did not file a formal internal complaint with Akima regarding race discrimination at any point in her employment. The employee separation agreement between Plaintiff and Akima states that the parties agreed to "mutually sever the employment relationship" on October 20, 2017.

         When Plaintiff left Akima, her duties were initially assumed by Macky Wilson and his team, which included Jason Yu and Joanna Weaver. Wilson is African American. Akima currently contracts with an African-American to do the work previously performed by Plaintiff.

         On November 8, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") alleging discrimination based on race. On November 20, 2017, EEOC notified Plaintiff that it was closing its file on her charge based on the assertion that Akima was exempt from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

         Plaintiff filed suit in this court on February 20, 2018 against Defendant Akima, alleging five counts: 1) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et. seq. - discrimination based on race; 2) violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; 3) violation of Fairfax County Code §11-1-1 et seq.; 4) retaliation; and 5) hostile work environment.

         Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on January 17, 2019. Plaintiff responded in opposition. The Court finds ...


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