United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Chadha (“Chadha” or “Plaintiff”)
initially filed this action in the Circuit Court of Maryland
for Baltimore City against his former employer, Northrop
Grumman Systems Corporation (“Defendant” or
“Northrop”), alleging violations of the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29
U.S.C. § 61, et seq., the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101,
et seq., and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of
1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000, et seq. (Pl.'s
Compl., ECF No. 2.) Northrop removed the action to this Court
based on this Court's original jurisdiction over these
alleged violations of federal law, as well as this
Court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332. Plaintiff alleges that certain comments and conduct of
his coworkers at Northrop Grumman subjected him to a hostile
work environment and unlawful harassment. Chadha also claims
that his ultimate termination was retaliatory and
discriminatory. Northrop has responded that he was fired as a
result of fraudulent overbilling of his time working on
pending before this Court is Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment “Defendant's
Motion.” (ECF No. 19.) This Court has reviewed the
parties' submissions, and no hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons
stated herein, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED, and Summary
Judgment will be ENTERED in favor of Northrop 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).
Satish Chadha is an Indian-American born in 1944. (Pl.'s
Resp., ECF No. 22 at 2.) Plaintiff began working for
Defendant Northrop Grumman in 2004. (Id.) In 2005,
Plaintiff was transferred to Defendant's Linthicum,
Maryland facility to work in the Vendor Material Disposition
Area (“VMDA”). (Id.) During this time,
Wendy Good (“Good”) was the supervisor of the
VMDA. (Id.) Daryl Lang (“Lang”) and
Charlie Meyer (“Meyer”) were two of
Plaintiff's coworkers at the VMDA, and, like Plaintiff
Chadha, were also over 50 years- old during the time relevant
to this case. (ECF No. 19 at 17.)
Chadha's tenure at the VMDA, Meyer and Lang directed
certain comments towards Chadha referring to him as
“chicken, ” “old man, ” and
“Indian.” (ECF No. 22 at 3.) With some frequency,
Lang and Meyer would refer to Plaintiff by his race stating,
“Hey, Indian” and “Indian.”
(Id.) On a single instance, in the summer of 2011,
Lang placed, in the shared work space, cartoon stickers which
referred to Indians in a derogatory manner. (Id. at
5.) Meyer and Lang would also call Plaintiff “old
man” and discuss retirement with him. (Id. at
3.) Additionally, the coworkers made comments about
Plaintiff's hearing disability, including by asking
Plaintiff to turn up his hearing aid. (Id. at 4.) On
one occasion, Meyer and Lang wrote on an office blackboard
that hearing aids should be worn and turned up; the comment
apparently was directed at Plaintiff. (Id.)
Alongside these taunts, Meyer and Lang, somewhat bizarrely,
referred to Plaintiff as “chicken.” (Id.)
Plaintiff informed his supervisor, Good, of Lang and
Meyer's comments, she apparently took no action against
Lang and Meyer. (ECF No. 22 at 5.) Plaintiff also approached
Good's supervisor, David Handshu (“Handshu”),
and made him aware of Lang and Meyer's derogatory and
annoying comments. (ECF No. 19 at 11.)
spring of 2011, Meyer and Lang informed Good that Plaintiff
was making numerous personal phone calls and was using the
internet for non-work related matters during work hours. (ECF
No. 19 at 4.) Following an additional complaint from another
coworker regarding Chadha's conduct during work hours,
Good began to investigate Chadha's work performance.
(Id. at 5.) The investigation revealed that on
twenty-four (24) of the sixty-four (64) days reviewed,
Plaintiff spent two or more work hours on the internet for
personal use. (Id.) Even though Plaintiff was not
completing work during those hours, Chadha still billed
Northrop's client, the United States Government, for the
time. (Id.) Good informed her superiors of
Plaintiff's internet usage and fraudulent billing
activities. (Id. at 6.) As a result, on September
23, 2011, Chadha was confronted with the information
regarding his overbilling on government contracts.
(Id.) That same day, Chadha went out on medical
leave and remained out on such leave until November 14, 2011.
Upon his return from medical leave, on November 15, 2011,
Northrop terminated Chadha based on the his billing
3, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Charge of Discrimination with the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”).
(ECF No. 2 ¶ 8.) Over three years later, the EEOC opted
not to bring suit on behalf of Chadha, and issued him a
Notice of a Right to Sue on October 29, 2015. (Id.
¶ 10.) Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the Circuit
Court of Maryland for Baltimore City on January 12, 2016.
(ECF No. 2.) On April 12, 2016, Northrop removed the case to
this Court. (Id.) Following discovery, Defendant
filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims. (ECF No.
19.) This Motion is now fully ripe for this Court's
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)). A
genuine issue over a material fact exists “if the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a
verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson,
477 U.S. at 248. 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. Id. at 249. In 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). This Court “must not weigh evidence or make
credibility determinations.” Foster v. University
of Md.-Eastern Shore, 787 F.3d 243, 248 (4th Cir. 2015)
(citing Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499
F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 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.
Hostile Work Environment
test for hostile work environment is the same under the Age
Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and
Title VII. See Causey v. Balog, 162 F.3d 795, 801
(4th Cir. 1998)(Title VII); Fox v. Gen. Motors
Corp., 247 F.3d 169, 177 (4th Cir. 2001)(ADA); Wells
v. Gate, 336 F. App'x. 378, 387 (4th Cir.
2009)(ADEA). This test sets a very high bar for establishing
that a work environment is a legally actionable hostile one.
See Tawwaab v. Virginia Linen Serv., Inc., 729
F.Supp.2d 757, 776 (D. Md. 2010). To demonstrate a prima
facie case of a hostile work environment a plaintiff
must show: “(1) that [plaintiff] was subjected to
unwelcome conduct; (2) the unwelcome conduct was based on
[race, age, or disability]; (3) it was sufficiently pervasive
or severe to alter the conditions of employment and to create
a hostile work environment; and (4) some basis exists for
imputing liability to the employer.” Rachel-Smith
v. FTData, Inc., 247 F.Supp.2d 734, 749 (D. Md. 2003)
(citing Smith v. First Union Nat'l Bank, 202
F.3d 234 (4th Cir. 2000)). In weighing the “severe and
pervasive” factor, courts look at the totality of the
circumstances and consider: (1) the frequency of the
discriminatory conduct; (2) its severity; (3) whether it is
physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive
utterance; and (4) whether it unreasonably interferes with an
employee's work performance. Wells, 336 F.
App'x. at 388 (quoting Harris v. Forklift Sys.,
510 U.S. 17, 23 (1993)). In addition, courts are instructed
that “the objective severity of harassment should be
judged from the perspective of a reasonable person in the
plaintiff's position.” Oncale v. Sundowner
Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 81 (1998) (internal
the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has
explained that protected characteristics under Title VII may
be considered together in assessing hostile work environment
claims, that court has not addressed whether characteristics
protected under distinct statutes may be considered as a
whole in assessing whether an employee was subject to a
hostile work environment. Guessous v. Fairview Prop.
Investments, LLC, 828 F.3d 208, 226 n.9 (4th Cir. 2016).
In this case, the evidence cited in support of
Plaintiff's race discrimination claim is sufficiently
distinct from the evidence underpinning his age- and
disability-based claims such that they should not be
considered together. On the other hand, the factual bases for
Chadha's age and disability (hearing impairment) claims
are not so easily parsed. That is, given the familiar
correlation between advanced age and hearing loss, the
alleged discriminatory comments regarding hearing loss
reasonably may be construed both in the context of his
disability discrimination and age discrimination claims.
Ultimately however, established precedent does not permit
this Court to consider all of Plaintiff's separate
discrimination claims as a whole in determining whether
Chadha was subjected to a hostile work environment. See
id. Indeed, while Title VII prohibits particular types
of discriminatory conduct, it is not a general “bad
acts” statute. Hart v. Broadway Servs., Inc.,
899 F.Supp.2d 433, 441 (D. Md. 2012) (quoting Bonds v.
Leavitt, 629 F.3d 369, 384 (4th Cir. 2011)). As such,
each claim is addressed separately below.
The “Chicken” Comments Do Not Target a ...