United States District Court, D. Maryland
MICHAEL K. RIGGINS
SYLVIA MATTHEWS BURWELL, ET AL.
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge.
27, 2016, Michael Riggins, representing himself, filed suit
in this court against his former employer, the Department of
Health & Human Services (“DHHS”). He alleges
gender and disability discrimination, and retaliation, under
Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, and the Rehabilitation
Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 791-794. Now pending is a
fully-briefed motion for summary judgment. For the reasons
stated below, the motion will be granted.
Riggins was hired by DHHS on February 27, 2011 as a Customer
Service Representative (“CSR”) and Team Lead for
three female CSRs in a Supply Service Center in Perry Point,
Maryland, subject to a one-year probationary term.
(Notification of Personnel Action, ECF No. 13-6; Steven
Pearson Aff. at ¶ 7, ECF No. 13-7; Steven Pearson Depo.
at pp. 20-21, ECF No. 13-22). Mr. Riggins is male and has a
Veterans' Administration 10% disability rating for
hearing loss and anxiety disorders. (Compl. at §§
III.D & E).
Riggins became the subject of complaints from several
co-workers. On April 28, 2011, his supervisor Steven Pearson
and Irene Grubb held a group meeting with Riggins and the
other CSRs to “clear the air, ” but the meeting
was not successful. (Steven Pearson Aff. at ¶ 15; Irene
Grubb Aff. at ¶¶ 12-16, ECF No. 13-12). On June 30,
2011, after Riggins had a verbal confrontation with Allison
Lempka and Jennifer Walters, (Jennifer Walters Aff. at ¶
14, ECF No. 13-8; Marvyne Stewart Aff. at ¶ 19, ECF No.
13-9; Allison Lempka Aff. at ¶¶ 10, 12-13, ECF No.
13-11), Pearson placed him on paid administrative leave.
(Steven Pearson Aff. at ¶ 27; Irene Grubb Aff. at
¶¶ 27-28; Mem. to Michael Riggins from Steven
Pearson, ECF No. 13-16; Steven Pearson Depo. at pp.101-103).
After investigation, Riggins was directed to report back for
duty in another area on July 25, 2011, (Mem. to Michael
Riggins from Irene Grubb, ECF No. 13-17), but he refused the
new work assignment. He was again ordered to return to work
on August 1, 2011; when he refused he was placed on AWOL
status (absence without leave) and was terminated on August
24, 2011. (Steven Pearson Aff. at ¶ 29; Irene Grubb Aff.
at ¶ 31; Mem. to Michael Riggins from Steven Pearson,
ECF No. 13-18; Steven Pearson Depo. at pp. 111-113).
filed an informal EEO complaint on July 5, 2011, a formal
complaint on August 11, 2011, and an amended complaint on
September 8, 2011. (Formal EEO Admin. Compl., ECF No. 13-3;
DHHS Acceptance of Am. EEO Admin. Compl., ECF No. 13-4).
After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) apparently found on September 10, 2013,
that no discrimination had occurred. (Defs.' Mem. in
Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 15, ECF No. 13-1). The ALJ's
decision was upheld by the Office of Federal Operations on
March 24, 2016, and July 7, 2016. (Id.). This
court will assume without deciding that Riggins has stated a
prima facie claim for gender and disability
discrimination and retaliation, at least in regard to his
termination. He has provided no evidence, however, that his
employer's proffered legitimate reasons for its actions
are a pretext for discrimination. See Laing v. Fed.
Express Corp., 703 F.3d 713, 721 (4th Cir.
2013). The various issues he complains of are
as to the alleged lack of training and the placement of a
camera in the CSRs' workspace, there is no evidence that
the on-the-job training provided for Riggins was different
from the training provided for the non-disabled female CSRs.
(Jennifer Walters Aff. at ¶¶ 6-8; Marvyne Stewart
Aff. at ¶¶ 6-8; Kolene Gaylord Aff. at ¶¶
6-8, ECF No. 13-10; Irene Grubb Aff. at ¶¶ 8-10;
Email to Michael Riggins from Kolene Gaylord, ECF No. 13-21;
Steven Pearson Depo. at pp. 30-35). The security camera was
not the first installed in the Perry Point workplace, nor was
it directed at Riggins to any extent greater than his
co-workers. (Steven Pearson Aff. at ¶ 19; Jennifer
Walters Aff. at ¶¶ 10-12; Marvyne Stewart Aff. at
¶¶ 12-15; GX 8 at ¶¶ 10-12; GX 10 at
¶¶ 19-23; GX 12 at ¶¶ 12-13. Riggins also
complains he was falsely accused of sexual harassment by one
of the female CSRs. Pearson explained that he interpreted the
complaint as one of harassment generally. (Steven Pearson
Aff.at ¶ 12). The female CSR denied alleging sexual
harassment. (Marvyne Stewart Aff. at ¶ 9). Riggins was
not charged with sexual harassment nor was sexual harassment
proffered as a reason for his termination. (Mem. to Michael
Riggins from Steven Pearson). Asked to identify a comparator,
Riggins stated only that a female employee “raised her
voice” and was not fired. He did not show any
substantial similarity between her conduct and the overall
course of events that led to his termination.
termination followed an escalating series of complaints about
his loud, volatile, and disrespectful conduct toward fellow
employees in the workplace. It also followed supervisors'
attempts to “clear the air” by a group meeting,
and offers of other placements within the Perry Point
location, which Riggins declined. Considering the very
thorough record in this case, there is simply no evidence
that his employers' management decisions were motivated
by his gender or disability, or by his July 2011 EEO
complaint. Accordingly, the motion for summary judgment will
separate order follows.
 Plaintiff's motion for counsel
(ECF No. 3) will be denied. The parties have compiled a
thorough record and Mr. Riggins is able to effectively
present his arguments.
 While Laing concerns alleged
retaliation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), claims
of retaliation under FMLA are analogous to discrimination
claims brought under Title VII, see Yashenko v.
Harrah's N.C. Casino Co., 446 F.3d 541, 551 (4th
Cir. 2006), and, as such, are analyzed under the