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Floyd v. Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 19, 2016

AVA FLOYD, pro se, Plaintiff
v.
WASHINGTON SUBURBAN SANITARY COMMISSION, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Ava Floyd (“Floyd”), pro se, has sued Defendants Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (“WSSC”) and Jerry N. Johnson (“Johnson”) (collectively, “Defendants”) as a result of the termination of her employment by WSSC and its failure to select her for an interview for a new position. Floyd originally filed two separate complaints against Defendants in state court, asserting: retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against WSSC, wrongful termination against WSSC and Johnson, and race, sex, and national origin-based discrimination against WSSC. After Defendants removed both Complaints to this Court, the Court consolidated the actions. The Court considers Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment as to all claims. ECF No. 56. For the following reasons, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 56) is GRANTED.[1]

         I.

         Here are the undisputed facts.

         A. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC)

         WSSC was created by the Maryland General Assembly “to provide public water and sewer service to the residents of Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties within Maryland.” Bushek v. Washington Suburban Sanitary Comm’n, 155 F.Supp.2d 478, 481 (D. Md. 2001). It is one of the largest water and wastewater utilities in the United States. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Mem. Supp. 2, ECF No. 56-1. Johnson, an African-American male, is WSSC’s General Manager and Chief Executive Officer. Id. 14 n.12.

         WSSC maintains policies promoting equal employment opportunity[2] and opposing workplace harassment, retaliation, and other forms of employment discrimination.[3] Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 1, ECF No. 56-2, and Ex. 2, ECF No. 56-3. WSSC has a procedure to enforce these policies, called its EEO, Harassment and Retaliation Internal Complaint Procedure. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 3, ECF No. 56-4.

         B. Ava Floyd’s WSSC Employment

         Floyd, an African-American female, worked for WSSC between September 2007 and June 2013. Am. Compl., Civ. No. PJM 14-1751 (hereinafter “Compl. II”) at 2:3-5, ECF No. 4; Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 5, ECF No. 56-6, and Ex. 21; Defs.’ Mot. Summ., Ex. 21, ECF No. 56-22. She was hired as a Business Technology Analyst III (“BTA”) within WSSC’s Engineering and Construction Group. Compl. II at 2:3-5; Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 5.

         While employed by WSSC, Floyd filed several discrimination claims, both internally and with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

         On or about January 14, 2008, [4] Floyd filed a Charge of Discrimination against WSSC with the EEOC, alleging that she had been the subject of race and sex discrimination by Paul Coverstone (“Coverstone”), [5] then Acting Chief Information Officer for WSSC, and Jeffrey Golden (“Golden”), [6] an Application Development Division Manager at WSSC. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 6, ECF No. 56-7. On February 28, 2011, the EEOC informed Floyd that it was unable to conclude that her charge established a violation of the law, and issued her a right to sue letter. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 7, ECF No. 56-8.

         On February 2, 2009 and February 12, 2009, Floyd filed three separate Internal Equal Employment Opportunity (“EEO”) Complaints with WSSC’s Office of Fair Practices (“FPO”). Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 8, ECF No. 56-9. These complaints made various claims of discrimination based on gender, color, and race against Coverstone, Golden, and Sonla Shaw (“Shaw”), [7] a Division Manager. Id. On May 12, 2009, the FPO informed Floyd that it found her allegations to be unsupported. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 9, ECF No. 56-10.

         C. WSSC’s “One IT” Plan of Reorganization

         In September 2011, WSSC announced a “One IT” Plan of Reorganization, which was a consolidation and restructuring of all of its Information Technology (“IT”) positions. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 10, ECF No. 56-11. This plan was to be implemented in several phases, during which all IT positions were either to be relocated to a new department or eliminated. See Id. In a meeting that month, Johnson, Yvonne McKinney (“McKinney”), WSSC Human Resources Director, and Mujib Lodhi (“Lodhi”), WSSC IT Chief Information Officer, notified Floyd and other BTAs that their positions would be eliminated. Compl. II 12:4-5. All, Floyd included, were encouraged to apply for other IT positions within WSSC. Id. 13:15-16.[8]

         On April 17, 2012, Floyd applied for the position of Senior Manager, Systems Acquisition and Process Engineering (hereinafter the “Senior Manager Position”). Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 11, ECF No. 56-12. She did not apply for any other positions within WSSC. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Mem. Supp. 4. The Senior Manager Position involved several leadership responsibilities, including supervising a number of employees and managing system acquisition plans and processing.[9] Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 12, ECF No. 56-13.

         Ten persons applied for the Senior Manager Position, including Floyd: seven external to WSSC and three internal employees. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 13, ECF No. 56-14. In the hiring process, WSSC used a point system to evaluate each applicant’s background, skills, and expertise (hereinafter the “Scoring Sheet”). Id. Applicants could earn points in each of the following categories: “BS [Bachelor of Science] degree” (up to 5 points); “10 yrs IT experience” (up to 5 points); “3 yrs Technology Mgt. [experience]” (up to 5 points); “Large-scale systems acquisitions [experience]” (up to 10 points); “BPR & Systems Requirements [experience]” (up to 10 points); “Enterprise systems/applications lifecycle [experience] “(up to 10 points); “MS [Masters] degree” (up to 5 points); Water/Wastewater Utility [experience] w/ operational systems” (up to 5 points); and “Oracle applications Suite [experience]” (up to 5 points). Id.

         A panel of three WSSC employees (the “Interview Panel”) evaluated the applications: Coverstone, Shaw, and Troy Wilkerson, an African-American male. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 19, ECF No. 56-20.

         In total, Floyd earned 35 out of 65 possible points on the Scoring Sheet. Six of the nine applicants scored higher than she, one scored the same as she did, and one scored lower. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 13. Floyd’s score suffered because she did not earn any points for two of the specialized technology experience categories: “Large-scale systems acquisitions [experience], ” and “Enterprise systems/applications lifecycle [experience].” Id. The Comments by the Interview Panel with respect to Floyd’s application specifically state: “Lack of experience on acquisition process and technology management experience.” Id.

         In or around July 2012, the Interview Panel designated for interview four out of the six applicants who scored higher than Floyd. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 14, ECF No. 56-15. Three out of the four interviewees were Caucasian and three were male. Id. Michael Price, an African-American male, was the highest-rated applicant after the interview, and WSSC ultimately hired him for the Senior Manager Position on or about September 10, 2012. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Mem. Supp. 5.[10]

         On October 3, 2012, Floyd sought to appeal the selection of the Senior Manager Position, Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 16, ECF No. 56-17, but on October 19, 2012, WSSC denied the appeal, Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 17, ECF No. 56-18.

         On November 8, 2012, Floyd filed another internal EEO Complaint as a result of not being interviewed for the Senior Manager Position. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 18, ECF No. 56-19. The FPO found the EEO Complaint to be unsubstantiated. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 19, ECF No. 56-20.

         On or about May 31, 2013, WSSC placed Floyd on administrative leave until June 29, 2013, when her position would be abolished pursuant to the “One IT” Plan of Reorganization. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 20, ECF No. 56-21. WSSC gave Floyd twelve weeks of severance pay until September 22, 2013. Defs.’ Mot. Summ. J., Ex. 21, ECF No. 56-22.

         After her position was abolished, Floyd filed another EEOC Complaint. On January 31, 2014, the EEOC informed her that it was unable to conclude that Floyd’s charge established a violation of the law, and she was issued a right to sue letter. Compl. II, Ex. 4 at 25.

         D. Procedural History

         On or about May 1, 2014, Floyd filed two separate complaints (“Complaint I” and “Complaint II”) in the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County related to her employment at WSSC and her eventual termination. WSSC removed both cases to this Court on May 30, 2014. They were docketed as separate cases, Civ. No. PJM 14-1749 (Complaint I) and Civ. No. PJM 14-1751 (Complaint II).[11]

         In Complaint I, which she originally styled as a “Class Action Complaint, ” Floyd brings claims against WSSC for Violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended (Count 1); Unlawful Employment Practices (Count 2); and what she fashions as “Race, Sex, and National Origin Based Employment Discrimination” (Count 3). Specifically, Floyd alleges that WSSC did not comply with its own Equal Employment Opportunity and Employee Right Policies. She also alleges that the Interview Panel discriminated against her in connection the Scoring Sheet used in its hiring process. In Complaint II, Floyd brings claims of retaliation against WSSC (Count 1) and wrongful termination (Count 2) against both individual Defendants. These claims are based largely on the same factual predicate present in Complaint I.

         On March 27, 2015, WSSC filed a Motion for Order Denying Class Certification with respect to Complaint I. Civ. No. PJM 14-1749, ECF No. 28. On June 1, 2015, Floyd filed a Notice of Dismissal with respect to Complaint I. Civ. No. PJM 14-1749, ECF No. 35.

         On July 21, 2015, the Court consolidated Floyd’s lawsuits (hereinafter, the “Consolidated Complaints”), designating Civ. No. PJM 14-1749 as the Lead Case. ECF No. 42. Since Complaint I included not only purported class allegations but also Floyd’s individual ...


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