United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
RICHARD H. DAVIS, JR., Plaintiff,
NISSAN NORTH AMERICA, INC., Defendant.
J HAZEL United States District Judge.
a race discrimination and retaliation case brought by
Plaintiff Richard H. Davis. Jr.. an African-American male,
against his farmer employer. Nissan North America. Inc.
(“Nissan”), tor purported violations of Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2
et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. Nissan's
Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 32. came before the
Court for a hearing on July 15. 2016. For the reasons that follow,
Nissan's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, and this
action is dismissed.
is an automobile manufacturer that sells vehicles throughout
the United States. ECF No. 1 ¶ 4; ECF No. 15 ¶ 4.
Davis was employed by Nissan beginning in 1996 and continuing
until his termination in August 2013. ECF No. 1110; ECF No.
15 ¶10: ECF No. 32- 3 at 29. Davis started in the company
as a technical support specialist and was later promoted to
the position of dealer technical specialist
("DTS"). The obligations of a DTS include assisting
in resolving vehicle repairs that dealer technicians were
unable to diagnose and repair; analyzing dealer service
department operations and providing constructive feedback to
dealership management and Nissan regional staff; performing
incident investigations and preparing related reports;
conducting evaluations of customer "'buy-back"
vehicles when repairs were unsatisfactory; and acting as
Nissan's representative in Better Business Bureau
arbitrations and "Lemon Law" cases. ECF No. 32-3 at
33: ECF No. 32-4 at 3-4.
roughly 2009 and 2011. Davis worked as a DTS under the
supervision of Rhonda Calico. See ECF No. 35-5 at
14; ECF No. 40-1 at 2. In addition to Davis. Calico was
responsible for supervising six other DTS employees, all of
whom were Caucasian. ECF No. 35-5 at 3. According to Calico.
Davis, who is African-American. ECF No. 32-3 at 3, was a
professional employee who had a good rapport with customers
and colleagues, ECF No. 35-5 at 5. During her deposition, she
could not recall Davis ever having attendance problems, nor
did she ever receive complaints from other employees or from
Nissan dealers about him. hi. at 6. Calico described
Davis as a "star performer." whose work was
comparable to or better than the other DTS employees whom
Calico supervised. Id. at 7. In her annual
evaluations of Davis" performance. Calico explained that
Davis was "a skilled and seasoned professional" who
""displays and maintains an effective and
consistent level of performance with results that meet and
sometimes exceed position expectations." ECF No. 35-6 at
2. She further explained that Davis ""displayed] a
thorough knowledge of technical aptitude." Id.
at 3. In each category of her performance appraisal. Calico
rated Davis' performance as meeting or exceeding
Nissan's expectations. Id. at 2-3.
the course of his employment with Nissan. Davis received
various letters recognizing and commending his work.
See ECF No. 35-4 at 4-30. For instance, in November
2010, the Regional Vice President and Regional General
Manager for the Northeast Region of Nissan wrote to Davis
stating this his "efforts in the field have a
significant impact on [Nissan's] customers and dealers
alike" and that his "training and professionalism
distinguish [the] franchise as truly Tier 1!" ECF No.
35-4 at 4.
October 2011. Calico was demoted and Davis began reporting to
a new supervisor. Cristin Adinolfi who is Caucasian. ECF No.
35-7 at 4; ECF No. 40-1 at 3. Adinolfi took over the
supervisory duties of the same DTS employees that Calico had
previously supervised. ECF No. 35-7 at 9-10. Shortly after
she began working as the DTS supervisor. Adinolfi and Calico
met to discuss the performance of the DTS employees. Adinolfi
recalled that Calico had a favorable view of the group as a
whole, but could not recall any impressions Calico had of the
individual employees. Id. at 27-28. Although Calico
no longer had supervisory power over the DTS employees, in
her new role, she maintained daily contact with the DTS team.
See ECF No. 35-5 at 14: ECF No. 40-1 at 2-3.
Additionally, although Calico reported to a different
manager. Adinolfi oversaw Calico's day-to-day
responsibilities, as well. ECF No. 40-1 at 4.
incident in November 2011. Adinolfi disciplined Davis for
what she perceived to be an improper use of a corporate
credit card. See ECF No. 32-3 at 6-8. Davis
had been out on personal leave in California and used his
company card to put gas in a vehicle that he was driving.
See Id. at 54. According to Davis, he was driving a
buy-back vehicle for a fellow DTS. Id. at 54;
see also ECF No. 35-7 at 33. thus, in his view, he
was on a work assignment when he used his corporate card,
despite the fact that he used it while on approved leave.
See ECF No. 35-5 at 12-14; see also ECF No.
35-1 at 15. Adinolfi agreed that DTS employees are permitted
to use the company credit card when putting fuel in a
buy-back vehicle as long as it was being driven during the
normal course of business, and she also agreed that it was
possible for employees to do business work while out on
approved leave. ECF No. 35-7 at 31, 34. Adinolfi contacted
the manager in California, however, who had no knowledge of
Davis being in California. Id. at 34. Adinolfi
ultimately rejected Davis" expense report for that
charge, as well as for other instances in which Davis made a
fuel purchase on weekends. See Id. at 44. Davis
subsequently reimbursed Nissan for those fuel expenses.
Id. at 42: see also ECF No. 32-3 at 9, 55.
then reported the fuel charge issues to a Nissan human
resources representative and. on January 4. 2012. issued
Davis a Final Written Warning, informing him that "[a]ny
future actions by [him] during the balance of [his]
employment that reflect substandard judgment, integrity
concerns, violation of policy or behavior that would warrant
corrective action will be grounds for immediate termination
....” ECF No. 32-3 at 54-55. On January 8. 2012, Davis
wrote a letter to Adinolfi explaining his position with
respect to the credit card charges, specifically, that he was
unaware of any Nissan policy preventing an employee from
using a company card to pay for fuel put in a company vehicle
on weekends. Id. at 56. He noted, however, that he
was willing to "work as hard as [he] can to improve
communication, provide feedback, and help [Adinolfi] bestow
the best service that we can to Nissan and Nissan's
customers." Id. at 57. Shortly thereafter,
however. Davis wrote an email to Adinolfi arguing that
"[t]his hazardous and hostile series of events must be
explained and stopped." though he did not indicate in
that email that he believed he was being singled out because
of his race. Id. at 58.
also accused Davis of not completing a work assignment in
December 2011. On November 2. 2011, Adinolfi informed all of
the DTS employees she supervised that they were required to
visit certain Nissan dealers by December 2. 2011. ECF No.
35-8 at 4. Davis, however, was on his approved leave in
California for part of that time, so Adinolfi granted him an
extension to complete the dealer visits until December 22,
2011. ECF No. 35-7 at 45-46. In her deposition. Adinolfi
testified that Davis did not complete the assignment. ECF No.
40-2 at 11, but in an email from Davis to Adinolfi dated
December 22. 2011, Davis reported that he completed the
necessary dealer visits. ECF No. 35-9 at 2.
March or April of 2012. when Adinolfi was preparing to give
annual performance reviews to the DTS employees, she spoke
with Calico to get her input, considering that Calico had
been the DTS supervisor for the first half of that fiscal
year. ECF No. 35-7 at 16-17. Adinolfi recalled that Calico
had a favorable view of Davis' performance, but Adinolfi
had a different impression of the quality of his work and,
among other issues, had concerns about Davis' time
management. hi at 27-28. Despite these perceived
performance issues and the reported misuse of his corporate
credit card, for the 2011 performance year. Adinolfi gave
Davis a performance rating of 2.5. indicating that his
performance "meets expectations." ECF No. 32-3 at
62. A rating of 1.75 or below is one that would result in an
employee being placed on a 90-day performance improvement
plan ("PIP"). See ECF No. 35-7 at 22; ECF
No. 35-5 at 9. In that performance appraisal. Adinolfi
While [Davis] seems to be very knowledgeable about his job.
the focus on completing] tasks and closing the loop leaves
room for improvement. [Davis] has missed customer
appointments or rescheduled appointments] frequently. He does
not always communicate these changes in a timely manner to
internal and external customers. [Davis] does not regularly
provide feedback emails as requested. Manager also feels
[Davis] does not always understand the importance of
tasks/duties assigned. [Davis'] performance will be
monitored closely during the next fiscal year.
ECF No. 32-3 at 62.
August 2012. according to Adinolfi, Davis was late to a
meeting with a customer at a dealership in Tysons Corner.
Virginia. An employee of the dealership called Adinolfi to
inquire about Davis' whereabouts, because, although Davis
had confirmed the appointment, he was unreachable. Adinolfi
attempted to contact Davis, as did other Nissan employees, to
no avail, but Adinolfi eventually learned that he arrived
late for the scheduled inspection. ECF No. 40-2 at 16-17; ECF
No. 35-7 at 47; ECF No. 35-8 at 5. Then, in March 2013. Davis
was instructed to inspect a vehicle owned by the general
manager of one of Nissan's dealers who had complained
that the vehicle smelled of mold after it had a water leak.
Although Davis reported that he uncovered no issue, after the
general manager complained that he felt his concerns were
being dismissed, a second DTS was sent to inspect the vehicle
and found evidence of mold. ECF No. 40-2 at 18-21. 27: ECF
No. 35-8 at 5. Adinolfi. however, could not recall or confirm
whether an inspection by an independent third party company
verified that there was indeed mold or mildew in the vehicle.
ECF No. 35-7 at 53.
Adinolfi was completing her performance evaluation of
Davis" work for the 2012 fiscal year, she did not
consult with Calico, and she ultimately gave him a rating of
1.75. meaning that his performance was below expectations.
ECF No. 32-3 at 82 83. Adinolfi placed Davis on a PIP in
April 2013. Id. at 64-65.
to the PIP. the issues on which Davis needed improvement
included that he lacked appropriate time management, his
written work was of substandard quality, and that he engaged
in "unprofessional and insolent behavior" toward
Adinolfi. Id. at 64. The PIP required that Davis
meet with Adinolfi once per week, typically by telephone
conference, to discuss Davis' progress on the PIP
objectives. Id. Davis was also required to provide a
weekly summary of his work, including a brief description of
each dealer visit. Id. The PIP warned that Davis was
required to "demonstrate immediate and sustained
improvement in the areas ...