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Johnson v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 16, 2014

ROOSEVELT JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NORFOLK SOUTHERN RAILWAY CO., Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendant Norfolk Southern Railway Company's Motion for Summary Judgment [Document 27] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary.

I. BACKGROUND

At all times relevant hereto, Plaintiff Roosevelt Johnson ("Johnson"), an African-American male, was employed by Defendant Norfolk Southern Railway Co. ("Norfolk Southern") as a locomotive engineer.[1] Johnson contends that Norfolk Southern discriminated against him on the basis of his race, particularly on September 23, 2011 when he received a 73-day time-served suspension for conduct unbecoming an employee. He presents claims in two Counts:

Count One Race Based Discrimination (federal claim - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq.)
Count Two Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (Maryland state law claim)

By the instant Motion, Norfolk Southern seeks summary judgment on all claims pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A motion for summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings and supporting documents "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).

The well-established principles pertinent to summary judgment motions can be distilled to a simple statement: The Court may look at the evidence presented in regard to a motion for summary judgment through the non-movant's rose-colored glasses, but must view it realistically. After so doing, the essential question is whether a reasonable fact finder could return a verdict for the non-movant or whether the movant would, at trial, be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See, e.g., Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322-323 (1986); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Shealy v. Winston , 929 F.2d 1009, 1012 (4th Cir. 1991).

Thus, in order "[t]o defeat a motion for summary judgment, the party opposing the motion must present evidence of specific facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find for him or her." Mackey v. Shalala , 43 F.Supp.2d 559, 564 (D. Md. 1999) (emphasis added). However, "self-serving, conclusory, and uncorroborated statements are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact." Int'l Waste Indus. Corp. v. Cape Envtl. Mgmt., Inc. , 988 F.Supp.2d 542, 558 n.11 (D. Md. 2013); see also Wadley v. Park at Landmark, LP , 264 F.Appx. 279, 281 (4th Cir. 2008).

When evaluating a motion for summary judgment, the Court must bear in mind that the "[s]ummary judgment procedure is properly regarded not as a disfavored procedural shortcut, but rather as an integral part of the Federal Rules as a whole, which are designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action.'" Celotex , 477 U.S. at 327 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 1).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Count One - Racial Discrimination Claims

In the Complaint, Johnson alleged that Norfolk Southern discriminated against him by:

• Failing to approve a request for leave to attend a medical appointment on July 14, 2009, when "White co-workers... routinely have days off approved;"
• Failing to adequately address a September 21, 2009 assault on Johnson by a Caucasian employee when "White coworkers are not subjected to such an environment, nor expected to tolerate such behavior;"
• Issuing a "disciplinary letter" to Johnson on March 16, 2011 and failing to investigate the matter, when no "White co-workers have been placed in that position by these supervisors, or similarly disciplined;"
• Issuing a "letter of reprimand" to Johnson on March 30, 2011 without conducting an investigation, when no "White co-workers have been deprived of investigations when they have properly requested the same;" and
• Assessing a 73-day time-served suspension against Johnson on September 23, 2011 for "conduct unbecoming an employee" when "White co-workers have not been similarly sanctioned for behavior that, under Defendant's Rules and Standards, should constitute more major or serious offenses."

Compl. ¶¶ 9-23.

In the Memorandum of Law Supporting Motion for Summary Judgment, Norfolk Southern asserted that it is entitled to summary judgment on all claims of racial discrimination. See [Document 27-1].

1. Claims Based Upon the Pre-September 23, 2011 Incidents

As to Johnson's claims based upon the incidents occurring prior to the September 23, 2011 suspension, Norfolk Southern asserted that:

• Limitations bars the claims based upon the incidents ...

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