United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
O'Grady, United States District Judge.
matter came before the Court on Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment on All Claims. Dkt. 74. Having reviewed the
pleadings, the Court concluded summary judgment for Defendant
was appropriate. In recognition of the pending trial date,
the Court issued a short order to this effect on June 10,
2019, with a memorandum opinion to follow. See Dkt.
94. Plaintiffs time for appeal will run from the date of this
Memorandum Opinion and Order.
Michael Billingsley, an African-American man, applied for
employment as a Senior Producer with Defendant Federal Home
Loan Mortgage Corporation ("Freddie Mac"). He was
interviewed for that position by hiring manager Ms. Annie
Gong and her supervisor Director David Cardwell, despite
having just five months of relevant experience. Freddie Mac
contacted Plaintiffs former manager while considering him for
Mac pursued another individual for the Senior Producer
position, not Plaintiff. Ms. Gong recommended to Director
Cardwell that Freddie Mac hire Plaintiff as a Producer, a
position lower than Senior Producer. Freddie Mac made him an
offer of employment and Plaintiff accepted the Producer
position. He began work at Freddie Mac on September 5, 2017.
Mac also offered Plaintiff a $4, 000 cash sign on payment.
That payment was subject to a number of terms set out in the
Cash Sign-On Payment Letter Agreement. Plaintiff agreed to
those terms and received the money.
terms provided for repayment of the full payment amount upon
Plaintiffs termination or resignation within one year of
starting employment. They further provided that, if Plaintiff
failed to reimburse the company under the terms agreed upon,
Plaintiff would be liable for Freddie Mac's reasonable
expenses incurred in obtaining repayment.
Plaintiff began work, Director Cardwell, Ms. Gong, and a
Freddie Mac Vice President named Stephen Johnson, each
received customer complaints regarding Plaintiff s job
performance. Director Cardwell and Ms. Gong also received
complaints from coworkers about Plaintiffs attitude and
behavior towards them in the workplace. These interpersonal
conflicts and Plaintiffs poor performance prompted management
to counsel Plaintiff, and on January 23, 2018-less than five
months after Plaintiff started work at Freddie Mac-Ms. Gong
and Director Cardwell together counseled him.
the joint counseling session, Ms. Gong received an email from
Plaintiff which she perceived as insubordinate, and she
thereafter met with the human resources department. She was
told that Plaintiff could either be placed on a performance
improvement plan or terminated. A short time later, Ms. Gong
learned that Plaintiff was not regularly attending the
weekly, multi-region conference calls of Producers and Senior
after sending Ms. Gong the insubordinate email, Plaintiff
emailed Director Cardwell and asked for a private meeting. At
this February 1 meeting, Plaintiff complained about Ms. Gong.
The same day or the next day, Director Cardwell, Ms. Gong,
and Vice President Johnson determined that Plaintiffs varied
issues-in job performance, customer and coworker
interactions, and apparent unreceptiveness to counseling-were
not well suited to being addressed by a performance
February 6, Ms. Gong and Director Cardwell sent human
resources a memorandum which described the reasons for
Plaintiffs termination. On February 19, Plaintiff filed a
"Misconduct Report" with Freddie Mac, complaining
of "a hostile work environment" created by Ms. Gong
(an Asian American woman) and Mr. Claudell Ellis (an
African-American man). The complaint did not raise an issue
of race-based discrimination. Ms. Gong and a human resources
employee met with Plaintiff on February 20, 2018, and they
notified Plaintiff of his termination.
Freddie Mac Ethics Investigator subsequently investigated the
"Misconduct Report." The investigator has no record
of Plaintiff raising an issue of race or racial
discrimination. The investigator ultimately upheld Plaintiffs
has failed to reimburse the sign-on payment. He filed a
Complaint on June 20, 2018, alleging intentional race-based
discrimination (Count I) and retaliation (Count II), both in
violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Dkt 1. Defendant moved
for summary judgment on all of Plaintiffs claims. Dkt. 74.
judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions,
answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together
with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). A party
moving for summary judgment has the initial burden of
establishing the basis for its motion and identifying the
evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of
material fact. Id. Once the moving party satisfies
its initial burden, the opposing party may show, by means of
affidavits or other verified evidence, that there exists a
genuine dispute of material fact. See Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87
(1986). "[T]he mere existence of some
alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat
an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment;
the requirement is that there be no genuine
issue of material fact." Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)
(emphasis in original).
reviewing a summary judgment motion, the court must
"draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party." United States v. Carolina
Transformer Co., 978 F.2d 832, 835 (4th Cir. 1992).
"But there must be 'sufficient evidence favoring the
nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that
party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not
significantly probative, summary judgment may be
granted.'" Holland v. Washington Homes,
Inc., 487 F.3d 208, 213 (4th Cir. 2007) (quoting
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50). "[A] party
opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may
not rest upon mere allegation or denials of his pleading, but
must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256.
"A genuine question of material fact exists where, after
reviewing the record as a whole, a court finds that a
reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party." Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673
F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).