United States District Court, D. Maryland
Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge
Augusta Thomas, Jr. (“Thomas” or
“Plaintiff”) brings this employment
discrimination action against defendant Delmarva Power &
Light Company (“DPL” or “defendant”)
alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq.
(“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 1981
(“§ 1981”), and Title 20 of the State
Government Article, Md. Code Ann., State Gov't §
20-101, et seq. (“Title 20”) based on a
series of events which resulted in his termination from his
position at DPL.
pending before this Court is defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 45) (“Defendant's
Motion”). The parties' submissions have been
reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local
Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below,
Defendant's Motion is GRANTED, and Summary Judgment shall
be ENTERED in favor of defendant on all counts.
ruling on a Motion for Summary Judgment, the Court reviews
the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party. Scott v. Harris,
550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007); Hardwick ex rel. Hardwick v.
Heyward, 711 F.3d 426, 433 (4th Cir. 2013).
Augusta Thomas, Jr., an African-American male, began working
for DPL in 1983, performing work in a series of positions
including Groundsman, Lineman, Journeyman Lineman, Lead
Lineman and Serviceman. (ECF No. 45-2 at ¶¶ 1-4.)
impetus for the instant suit was an incident that began in
April 2013. That month, Thomas alleges that an employee of
DPL, Amy Swanger (“Swagger”), informed DPL that
he had made sexually inappropriate comments to Shelia Bednar
(“Bednar”), a custodian of the building where
Thomas made a service call for DPL. (ECF No. 45-2 at
¶¶ 8-10.) Thomas “asked Ms. Bednar if she
‘had a boyfriend' and stated [that] he ‘was
available.'” (Id.) Bednar apparently
rebuffed Thomas' advances. (Id.)
Notwithstanding, Thomas later returned to the location where
he had encountered Ms. Bednar and gave his personal cell
phone number to another woman who worked there. (Id.
at ¶ 16.)
being notified of the incident, Paul Simon
(“Simon”), DPL's Human Resources Business
Partner, and Edward Bennett (“Bennett”),
Thomas' Supervisor, began an investigation into
Thomas' conduct. (ECF No. 45-2 at ¶¶ 12-14.)
Before the investigation concluded, DPL suspended Thomas on
April 14, 2013. (Id. ¶ 17.) During the
investigation, Thomas admitted he made the reported remarks
to Ms. Bednar. (Id.) DPL continued to investigate
Thomas' conduct and learned that four Caucasian females
had accused Thomas of workplace misconduct between 2000 and
2011. (Id. at ¶¶ 20-22.) The investigation
also revealed that in April 2011, DPL received a customer
telephone complaint that Thomas had “flirted with [the
customer's] wife, ” and made her uncomfortable.
(Id. at ¶ 26.) Thomas was admonished for his
conduct towards the customers and specifically warned not to
discuss sexually suggestive matters with customers.
(Id. at ¶ 27.)
on these findings, on June 12, 2013, DPL sent Thomas a letter
terminating his employment based on his inappropriate
comments and conduct with employees. (Id. ¶
34.) At some point between suspension and termination, Simon
and Bennett met with Thomas's union representative to
address possible personnel actions; one proposed action was
to permit Thomas, who had worked for DPL for many years, to
retire rather than be subject to termination. (Id.
at ¶¶ 38-39.) Simon and Bennett's statements in
these conversations that Thomas was “old enough to
retire” form the basis of Thomas' age
his termination, Thomas pursued two separate remedies. First,
Thomas filed a grievance through his union, asserting that
DPL discharged him without following the union's
progressive discipline procedure. (ECF No. 45-2 at
¶¶ 38-40.) Neither Thomas nor his union challenged
the truth of the sexual harassment allegations against
Thomas. (Id. at ¶ 36-37.) The grievance
proceeded to an arbitrator, who concluded that discipline of
Thomas for the sexual harassment was appropriate, but that
termination was unwarranted under the collective bargaining
agreement. (Id. at ¶ 40.) The arbitrator
ordered DPL to reinstate Thomas, but without back pay.
(Id.) Thomas was reinstated on June 16, 2014.
(Id. at ¶ 41.) Second, and pertinent to this
case, Thomas filed a charge of discrimination against DPL in
September of 2013, alleging age, sex and race discrimination.
(ECF No. 25 at ¶ 35.) The Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (“EEOC”) dismissed Thomas' Charge
and issued him a Notice of Right to Sue on November 17, 2014.
filed his original Complaint in this Court on a pro
se basis on February 13, 2015. (ECF No. 1.) After DPL
filed its Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 6), Thomas obtained
counsel, who filed on Thomas' behalf a Motion for Leave
to File an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 17). DPL's Motion
was denied, and Thomas' Motion was granted by Memorandum
Opinion and Order dated February 1, 2016 (ECF Nos. 23, 24),
and the now-operative Amended Complaint was docketed that
day. (ECF No. 25.)
discovery, DPL filed the now-pending Motion for Summary
Judgment. (ECF No. 45.) This case was referred to Magistrate
Judge Gesner to address the Motion to Seal filed with
DPL's Motion and Thomas' Motion to Seal filed with
his Response in Opposition. (ECF No. 43.) Magistrate Judge
Gesner issued an Order on the Motions to Seal, and those
rulings remain in effect. (ECF No. 56.)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a court
“shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows 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(c). A material fact is one that “might
affect the outcome of the suit under the governing
law.” Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718
F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)).
Thus, summary judgment is proper “only when no
‘reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmoving party.'” Monon Corp. v. Stoughton
Trailers, Inc., 239 F.3d 1253, 1257 (Fed. Cir. 2001)
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255)). When
considering a motion for summary judgment, a judge's
function is limited to determining whether sufficient
evidence exists on a claimed factual dispute to warrant
submission of the matter to a jury for resolution at trial.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249.
undertaking this inquiry, this Court must consider the facts
and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to
the nonmoving party. Libertarian Party of Va., 718
F.3d at 312; see also Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372,
378 (2007). However, this Court must also abide by its
affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported
claims and defenses from going to trial. Drewitt v.
Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993). If the
evidence presented by the nonmoving party is merely
colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary
judgment must be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at
249-50. On the other hand, a party opposing summary judgment
must “do more than simply show that there is some
metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986); see also In re Apex Express
Corp., 190 F.3d 624, 633 (4th ...